Lawrence Krauss – You are all stardust

It really is the most poetic thing I know about physics. You are all star dust.

You couldn’t be here if stars hadn’t exploded because the elements the carbon nitrogen oxygen iron and all the things that matter for evolution were created at the beginning of time.

They’re created in the nuclear furnaces of stars and the only way they can get into your body is if the stars were kind enough to explode so forget Jesus; the stars died so that you could be here today.

– Lawrence Krauss

Claim: Wonders of Indian Architectural & Crafting Technology?

One of the forwards I received from couple of WhatsApp groups as follows:

This is one of the wonders of Indian Architectural & Crafting Technology.

This is a brass handicraft of Bhagwan Shri Krishna sitting on his father Vasudev’s lap, made in ancient India. There is a hole in the bottom of the cup. Water does not flow out of the cup till it touches the feet of Shri Krishna.

The moment the water touches the Lord’s Feet, water starts flowing out & drains out completely from the bowl.

Engineers are still baffled at how it is made in those days without any proper engineering techniques or equipment.

So, no one is really baffled here and it seems that the principle at work is Pythagoras Cup: Working and Principle

If above is the explanation, then this is credited to Pythagoras ( c. 570 – c. 495 BC) See Pythogoras cup

Emo Philips – à la Indian

In India, once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!” He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”

He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh or Christian?” He said, “A Hindu”

I said, “Me, too! Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaishya or Shudra?” He said, “Brahman.” I said, “Me, too! Which region of India?” He said, “North.” I said, “Me, too! Which Gotra?”

He said, “Atri” I said, “Me, too! ? Which Veda? Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samveda or Atharv veda? ” He said, “Yajurveda.”

I said, “Me, too! Madhyayani branch or Madhuri branch?” He said, “Madhyayani”

I said “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.

With sincere apologies to Emo philips

Claim: A 15th century poem, Hanuman chalisa, mentions Sun to Earth distance.

On sites like Quora and in many of the whatsapp forwards in Indian communities, it is frequently claimed that Tulsi Das mentioned the distance between the sun and the earth in the Hanuman chalisa, a devotional poem. Many a times, this particular “fact” is touted as a proof that India had this particular “ancient wisdom” in 15th Century.

So, let us look at the actual verse.

जुग सहस्र जोजन पर भानू।
लील्यो ताहि मधुर फल जानू॥ १८ ॥

(The Sun that is at a distance of Juga (Yuga) Sahsra Yojana
You thought it to be a Sweet Fruit.)

And based on above verse, this is the calculation

1 Juga/Yuga = 12000 years
1 Sahasra = 1000
1 Yojana = 8 Miles

Juga x Sahasra x Yojana = 12000 x 1000 x 8 miles = 96 000 000 miles (96 million miles) and claim is that he knew of this fact in 15th century ahead of astronomers like Cassini who only attempted such calculation in 17th century.

  • Assuming maths is correct, then at first glance, this is impressive claim. 96 million miles is quite close to 92 million miles as is known at this time. Cassini et. al approximated it at 87 million miles which was also considered excellent measure with knowledge & instruments available at the time.
  • One could easily dispute this by citing that 1 Juga = 12000 years is incorrect. As per Puranas, 1 Mahayuga = 12000 divine years and 1 divine year = 360 human years as chalisa doesn’t mention Mahayuga but just yuga.
  • It is not stated how the author would have arrived at such calculation. For example, Aristarchus, a Greek mathematician & astronomer, who is credited with the authorship of heliocentric model, is also credited with first known attempt to calculate this distance in 300 B.C using naked eye observations & geometry which was known to Greeks at the time. in 17th century, Cassini & Flamsteed is said to have used parallax and got a value of 87 million miles. There is nothing in the works of Tulsidas that suggests any scientific methods he is alleged to have adopted to arrive at such calculation.
  • Tulsidas was a very learned person who is also considered a renowned poet. He is known to have studied vedas and other facets of Hindu philosophy. He was also a multilingual with several acclaimed compositions in sanskrit and awadhi languages. However, there is no evidence that suggests that he was a scientist or an astronomer. Tulsidas himself has never claimed to have any scientific knowledge.
  • Why would author cite one scientific fact in just one verse when none of the other 39 verses suggest any other scientific facts ? No one has claimed any other scientific claim in his other literature either.
  • Hanuman chalisa is a devotional poem addressed to “lord Hanuman”. While this particular verse has reference to a story in Valmiki Ramayana where Hanuman tried to jump at sun thinking it was a fruit, there is nothing to suggest that this is anything other than a poetic construct inspired by author’s own devotion to the deity.
  • Let us assume that there is some science inside this poem even if we can’t explain how. This is perfectly plausible as we keep on discovering new facts unknown to earlier generation. But then are we to believe that ghosts & evil spirits exist ? Because 24th verse of this poem says that “Ghosts and evil Spirits will not come near, when one listens/says the name of Hanuman (Mahavir)”
  • This poem is fairly popular in many households and considering the Indian oral tradition of transferring such poems to next generation, it is possible that this was well known to many households in northern India since 15th century. So, why did no scientists/astronomer those days make use of such information so easily available in a poem? Why didn’t they put this verse and their knowledge together to get ahead of Cassini et. al ?

My opinion. This claim is fairly new, made within last 10-15 years and getting more aggressively visible (especially in whatsapp forwards) within last 5 years. This coincides with the growth of smartphone market in India. There is no documentation as to the origin of this particular claim.

A quick google search points to same set of “scholars” that seem to be interested in pushing forward a religious superiority narrative. By instilling a false sense of pride in some “ancient wisdom”, propagating such claims must make them popular within their own communities. And it conveniently supports their political affiliations.

For the real science, please go to

How do scientists know the distance between the planets?

Creation stories – why do we believe?

Today, let us take a trip down Greek “history” lane, approximately dated thousands of years ago. In the beginning (of universe) was Hecatoncheires (Greek for thousand headed, thousand eyed creature). From him formed the universe and he formed the human society. His mouth formed the Athens (upper class), Metics were his arms (middle class), freedmen (lower class) from his thighs and slaves were born from his feet.

What do you make of this brief creation story of our universe and creation of modern day society? If you were born Greek/a keen student of Greek mythology, certain names would be familiar but not the story. For a non-Greek person who has never heard of this, it would feel completely balderdash. And complete balderdash it is. I just made this story right now.

But consider this. Substitute Hecatoncheires creature with Purusha and substitute Greek society classes with castes existing in India and we have what is termed as “पुरुषसूक्त” (Purusha-Suktam). And I quote 2 verses below.

ॐ सहस्रशीर्षा पुरुषः सहस्राक्षः सहस्रपात् |
स भूमिं विश्वतो वृत्वा अत्यतिष्ठद्दशाङ्गुलम् |
Purusha has thousand heads, thousand-eyes and thousand legs. He encircles the earth from all sides and transcends it by ten finger length

ब्राम्हणोस्य मुखमासीत् बाहू राजन्यः कृतः ||
ऊरू तदस्ययद्वैश्यः पदभ्यां शूद्रो अजायत ||
The Brahmana was his mouth; the Kshatriya were his arms. His thighs were the Vaisya and from his feet Sudra were born

I promise. Above creation story is completely real. This is the first mantra of the Purusha-suktam. As per Vedas, this is exactly how the universe was formed and this is how the society classes (castes) were derived.

Do we believe what we believe because of where we are born? Are we just a geographical construct?

Krishna – Why the wait?

यदा यदा हि धर्मस्य ग्लानिर्भवति भारत । अभ्युत्थानमधर्मस्य तदात्मानं सृजाम्यहम् ॥
परित्राणाय साधूनां विनाशाय च दुष्कृताम् । धर्मसंस्थापनार्थाय सम्भवामि युगे युगे ॥

(Whenever there is decay of virtue and prevalence of wickedness, I manifest myself. To establish virtue, to destroy evil, to save the good (people), I come in different ages. )

I vividly remember this shloka. This shloka along with shankh-naad (conch shell sound) reverberated in most homes every Sunday. TV serial Mahabharata was on. This shloka brought soothing comfort to me umpteen number of times; it reassured me that whatever bad I see or hear will be rectified one day, good men will be protected and all shall be right with the world. Eventually.

After all, what reason was there to doubt this prophecy? None. When Lord Krishna heard details of scandalous disrobing from Draupadi herself, he assured her that all one hundred Kauravas would be dead in the battlefield. Krishna’s vow is here. And he kept his vow as Kauravas were annihilated so surely, he would keep his vow to Arjuna?

Fast forward 30 years. Reality has bitten by now. Half a million people get murdered in a year; possibly 1 million suicides in same time span; millions of women raped. Millions die due to poverty, countless countries ravaged by bloodshed.

Is this still not comparable to one disrobing event? Is this not wicked enough? Is this not evil enough?

Soul – Dragon in my garage

I recently came across Carl Sagan’s book: The Demon-Haunted World. Sagan hypothesizes a claim of a person that he has a dragon in his garage.

On further challenging the person about test-ability of such a claim, it is then clear that this dragon cannot be seen or detected by any means possible. Sagan then says “Now, what’s the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all? If there’s no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists?”

On reading this, first thought that came to my mind was a shlok from Geeta (2.23) which describes the soul as

नैनं छिन्दन्ति शस्त्राणि नैनं दहति पावकः ।
न चैनं क्लेदयन्त्यापो न शोषयति मारुतः ॥

(No weapon can cut it into pieces nor can it be burned by fire,
nor moistened by water, nor can it be withered by the wind.)

Is the soul something like Sagan’s dragon?

Something to think about.

Hear  The Dragon in My Garage in Carl Sagan’s voice.

BJP – Like king like subjects ?

Way back in 2014, Indian prime minister Modi claimed that India had foundations of plastic surgery & genetic science. If you do not believe me, watch him speak here. Translation says “We worship Lord Ganesha. There must have been some plastic surgeon at that time who got an elephant’s head on the body of a human being and began the practice of plastic surgery. ” (Source)

To top it all, he had the gall to spout this nonsense at 106th annual meeting of the prestigious Indian Science Congress Association (ISCA). That there was some applause at ISCA gathering should have worried many.

Other ministers joined in. Enter Satyapal Singh. As a minister of state, he would first claim that planes were ancient Indian invention. His evidence? Puspak viman is referred in Ramayana. He explains it here.

He would then move on to be the junior minister of higher education and would say Darwin’s theory evolution is false because, hold your breath, no one “ever saw an ape turning into a human being” (Source)

Former Uttarakhand chief minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank would chime in with “Astrology is the biggest science. It is in fact above science. We should promote it.” and gems such as “Sage Kanad conducted nuclear test one lakh years ago.” (Source)

Some of the real scientists did protest but their voice was drowned in the cacophony of supporters. What was saddening to note that there was hardly condemnation from any one in the government. And why would there be?

“यथा राजा तथा प्रजा” (As is the king so are the subjects) ?