Frustrating but useful

With the solar eclipse just a little over 2 days away, my personal excitement is building up, what with the monsoons threatening to break, and the thought that all I might get to see is a thick set of clouds... Like Hardy, maybe I should take along an umbrella and a set of manuscripts to correct... the reference here being to the number theorist, G H Hardy known among other things, for the Hardy Weinberg law, for his "discovery" of Ramanujan, and for his exquisitely sad autobiography, A Mathematician's Apology. Hardy is a central character, maybe the central character of David Leavitt's The Indian Clerk, essentially a romantic historical novel of Ramanujan, Hardy, and the times. A gripping read, it is more imagined than Kanigel's The man who knew Infinity, but then, it is a novel, not a biography.

Hardy famously said "I have never done anything 'useful'. No discovery of mine has made, or is likely to make, directly or indirectly, for good or ill, the least difference to the amenity of the world." That was, like all hyperbole, not quite the case- the Hardy Weinberg law is enough to ensure his name in history. Nevertheless, it is telling that an individual as accomplished as this would want to remain so pure and unapplied.

To remain pure and untouched is an aspiration that seems to be shared by our very own Vigyan Prasar... unfortunately. As an independent body with close links to the Department of Science and Technology, Vigyan Prasar brings out a wealth of useful material- books, journals, CDs, video programmes, and so on. Getting these is, for the most part, an exercise in futility since they have just the one outlet in Noida. There used to be another in Delhi, but this is now defunct... Their online store is in preparation... And so on.

It would appear that Vigyan Prasar follows the motto No Pain, No Gain, and having paid with pain in full, we can personally vouch for the fact that there is indeed much to gain. Take for instance the Astronomy Kit (Rs 70 plus postage, incredibly useful and actually fun, as my 9 year old will testify), a number of CDs on diverse topics for Rs 50 each, books such as The Rustless Wonder by T R Anantharaman (on the Iron Pillar in Delhi) , the Haldane titles, Myths & Legends Related to Eclipses by the tragically short lived N C Rana, and others...