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Reading A Biography of World’s Most Famous Equation

Deepak Subedi

When we started to conduct a regular series of popular lectures on Einstein’s life and achievement to mark the World Year of Physics 2005 in connection with Einstein Centenary Year, I was looking for a book which consisted of historical description of Einstein’s monumental work in Physics. To my surprise, I found a book entitled A Biography of World’s Most Famous Equation written by David Bodanis. After going through the book, I was encouraged to write a review on its praise.  
 
The book presents a very good description of the development of basic conservation laws in Physics. The author has skillfully presented the physical theories in extremely simple and interesting way so that readers without the background of Physics and Mathematics can also grasp the theme. The book has been successful to become popular among the popular science books. The Times magazine wrote about the book: “with skill and plenty of colorful anecdotes Bodanis traces the intellectual ancestry of E=mc2 “. 
 
The book is divided into five parts. In the first part, the author introduces the birth of the equation. It gives glimpses of the childhood of the equation which surrounds around 1905 when the three revolutionary papers by Einstein were published. One of these papers was on special theory of relativity which consisted of the ever popular equation. 
 
The second part of the book discusses the development of the law of conservation of energy and highlights the contribution of Michael Faraday in this work. It says that Faraday discovered his law of Electromagnetic induction showing a link between electric and magnetic fields which once seemed totally different. An extraordinary vision of energy concept was created by Faraday’s work. It helped to formulate the law of the conservation of energy. The scientific community was more confident that every other form of energy could similarly be shown deeply inter-connected.
 
In the third part of the book, the author presents a detailed history of the development of the law of conservation of mass.  For a long time the concept of mass had been like the concept of energy before Faraday. With his meticulous experiments, Lavoisier showed that matter could convert from one form to another, yet it will not burst in and out of existence. This law of conservation of mass was as much important as Faraday’s work on energy. The substances that fill our universe can be burnt, squeezed or hammered to bits but they won’t disappear. This finding worked as building block for a more general law of conservation which was put forward by Einstein at the beginning of 20th Century.  Einstein later proved in an extraordinary way that there was a link between these two domains. So, a more general law of conservation of mass and energy taken together was formulated. The most remarkable aspect of the discovery was to show that mass and energy are equivalent. It unleashed a secret that tremendous amount of energy can be released from a very small amount of matter.
 
The next part of the book covers period around the second world war when the first experimental results of nuclear fission of heavy elements were reported. In fact these were the experimental evidences to validate the equation. 
In the final part of the book, the author switches away from war and describes several areas where the equation has been applied. This period has also been termed as the adulthood of the equation.
 
I liked this book very much. So far as I know there is also a documentary available based on this book. I recommend this book to anyone who would love to peer into the history of the amazing world of physics.
 
Works consulted
 
F. Macdonald, Albert Einstein, Orient Longman Limited, Mumbai, 1994.
D. Bodanis, A Biography of the World’s Most Famous Equation, Pan Books,
 
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Posted by on September 10, 2017 in Criticism

 

महाकाव्य सम्बन्धी पाश्‍चात्य परिभाषा



– रामचन्द्र पौडेल

पश्चिममा काव्यलाई बुझाउन पोएम (poem), पोएट्री (poetry), भर्सेज (verses), पोयसी (poesy) शब्दहरू प्रचलित रहेका छन्। परम्परागत मान्यता अनुसार महकाव्य न्याराटिभ (narrative) न्‍ने बुझिन्छ। यसरी हेर्दा न्याराटिभ (narrative) को अर्थ कथात्मक हुन्छ । खास गरी महाकाव्यलाई बुझाउन लङ्गर न्याराटिभ भर्सेज (longer narrative verses) शब्दको प्रयोग गरेको पाइन्छ। पाश्चात्य साहित्यको फाँटमा दीर्घतर कवितालाई दीर्घतर आख्यानात्मक कवितालाई महाकाव्य भनिन्छ।

यसै सन्दर्भमा प्रा. कृष्ण गौतमले पाश्‍चात्य महाकाव्य भत्रे ग्रन्थमा महाकाव्य सिद्धान्त र परिषाका  बारेमा लामो चर्चा गरेका छन्। त्यसलाई यहाँ उद्धृत् गर्नु उपयुक्त हुन जान्छ।

महाकाव्यको उत्पत्ति वीरहरूका कृत्यको अभिनन्दनबाट भएको हो। पश्मिमा त्रासदीको उत्पत्ति धार्मिक विधानबाट भएको मानिन्छ। अतीतमा केही महाकाव्य देवताको वंशसित पनि सम्बन्ध राख्छन् तापनि धेरैजसो प्रसिद्ध महाकाव्य अतिमानवीय वीरको गौरवगानकै निम्ति लेखिएका छन्। महाकाव्य देवता, मानव र दानवको समष्टिमा नै आफ्नो आफ्नै भाषामा महाकाव्य पाउन थाले तब ती महाकाव्यका रूप र विषयमा केही परिवर्तन त आयो किन्तु तिनीहरू ग्रीकोरोमन छायाबाट अलग हुन सकेका थिएनन्। पश्चिमी महाकाव्यको विकास ग्रीक र रोमन सँस्कृतिकै छायामा भएको हो।

नेपालीमा भनिदैँ आएको महाकाव्यलाई पश्‍चिममा एपिक (epic) भनिन्छ, जसको अर्थ ग्रीकमा बोली, शब्द, गीत (स्पीच, बर्ड, ङ्‍ग) आदि हुन्छ। यो भव्य शैलीमा गरिमामय विषय र गम्भीर पात्रहरू राखेर उदात्त प्रयोजनको सिद्धिका निम्ति तयार गरिने लामो वर्णनात्मक कविता हो। तलका परिभाषाबाट यो कुरा अझ छर्लङ्ग हुन्छ:
१.    भव्य र सौजन्यपूर्ण शैलीमा एक वा अनेक कथात्मक नायकका ठूला कामको अभिनन्दन गर्ने लामो वर्णनात्मक कविता महाकाव्य हो (क्रिस बाल्डिक, दि कन्साइज अक्सफोर्ड डिक्सनरी अफ लिटरेरी टर्मस, पृ.७०)। यसरी महाकाव्यलाई नायकले गरेका महान् कार्यको अभिनन्दन गर्ने कार्यको रूपमा लिइएको पाइन्छ ।

२.    उच्च शैलीमा अतिमानवीय पात्रहरू राखेर लेखिने लामो वर्णनात्मक कविता महाकाव्य हो (मार्टिन ग्रे, ए डिक्सनरी अफ लिटरेरी टर्मस, पृ.१०३)। यो परिभाषाबाट के बुझ्न सकिन्छ भने महाकाव्यमा अतिमानवीय पात्रको चयन गरिन्छ भने त्यो वर्णनात्मक शैलीमा लेखिन्छ ।

३.    गरिमा र महत्वले युक्त खास गरी युद्ध जस्तो विषको निरुपण गर्ने लामो वर्णनात्मक कविता महाकाव्य हो (बाबरा, फ्रम भर्जिल टु मिल्टन, पृ.१)पश्‍चिममा कविताको व्यक्तिपरक रूपलाई गेयवर्गमा र वस्तुपरक रूपलाई प्रबन्ध, कथात्मक वा वर्णनात्मक वर्गमा राख्ने चलन छ । यस वर्गको कविता कतैकतै लामो कविता भत्रे नामले पनि अहित हुन्छ । प्रबन्धात्मक कृति त्यो हो जसमा कुनै कथा हुन्छ र त्यसको वर्णन गरिएको हुन्छ । लामो  कविता कथात्मक हुन र नहुन पनि सक्छ । जसमा कथा छैन त्यसको बनोट कोलाजको रूमा हुन सक्छ । प्रबन्धकाव्यका वीर कविता (हिरोइक पोइट्री), लोकगाथा (ब्यालेड) रोमांश तथा अन्य भेदहरू हुन्छन् ।

लोकगाथा: वीर कविता वा महाकाव्य जटिल हुन्छ, लोकगाथा अपेक्षाकृत सरल हुन्छ । आर जे रीजको भनाइ छ कि यी शान्त गाउँमा जन्मेका दुई दिदीबहिनी जस्तै छन् तर एउटी (लोकगाथा) आफ्नो प्राकृतिक सरलताको सौन्दर्य राखेर गाउँमै बसेकी छ, अर्की (महाकाव्य) खर्चिला परिधानका निम्ति चलाखी र पैसा खोज्दै शहर पसेकी छ भने लोकगाथा वर्णनात्मक कविता हो । प्रेम, साहस तथा करुणाका, बोक्सी जादू, अन्धविश्वास तथा भूत आदिका विषय यसमा आउँछन् । बेलायतमा रविन हूडका ब्यालेडहरू खूब परिचित छन् । राजा आर्थर झैँ जनप्रिय यिनी शायद ऐतिहासिक नै थिए र बाह्रौँ शताब्दीमा बाँचेका थिए। यिनको सम्बन्धका ब्यालेडहरू कम त्रासद र ज्यादा हास्यप्रद छन् । जसरी मौखिक महाकाव्यबाट साहित्यिक महाकाव्यको विकास हुन्छ त्यसै गरी मौखिक ब्यालेडबाट साहित्यिक ब्यालेड विकसित हुन्छ । नेपालमा पश्चिमतिर घमारी, ढुस्को, भैनी, फाग चैत आदि लोकगाथा प्रचलित छन् ।

रोमांश:
रोमांस भन्‍नाले गद्य वा पद्यमा लिखित मध्यकालीन आख्यानको बोध हुन्छ । रोमांसको उत्पत्ति फ्रान्समा बाह्रौँ शताब्दीमा भयो। पद्यको स्थान क्रमशः गद्यले लिंदै गयो । वीर महाकाव्य (हिरोइक एपिक) युद्धमा केन्द्रित हुन्छ तर रोमांसमा दरबारिया बहादुरीको चित्रण हुन्छ । शूर (नाइट) हरूका खोज, खेल, जादू, प्रतिस्पर्धा, राक्षस, अजिंगर, बाउन्‍ने, राम्री युवती आदिसित गाँसिएका विषय यसमा आउँछन्। बेलायती आर्थरसम्बन्धी, फ्रेन्च शार्लिमनरोलाँसम्बन्धी तथा क्लासिक अलेग्जेण्डरहरूसम्बन्धी सामग्रीको उपयोग रोमांसमा हुन्छ । बाह्रौँ शताब्दीका फ्रेन्च कवि क्रेशन डि ट्रोयेस रोमांस कृतिहरू प्रभावकारी छन् । आनुप्रासिक पद्यमा लिखित चौधौँ शताब्दीको‘‘सर गवेन एण्ड दि ग्रीन नाइट’’ र गद्यमा लिखित सिडनीको ‘‘आर्केडिया’’ टमस मेलोरीको ‘‘मर्ट डि आर्थर’’ रोमांस हुन् । इटालियन अरियोस्टोको ‘‘ओल्र्याण्डो फ्यूरियोसो’’ स्पेन्सरको ‘‘फ्रेयरी क्वीन’’ रोमांश हुन् र टेनिसनको ‘‘आइडिल्स अफ दि किंग’’ शास्त्रीयता र रोमांशको मिस्कट हो । सर्भेण्टिसद्वारा लिखित उपहास रोमांस (मक रोमांस) ‘‘डन क्विक्सट’’ १६०५) आएपछि यसले पुरानो ढंगको दरबारी रोमांसलाई कमजोर पा¥यो । पछिका गद्यरोमांस याथार्थिक, सामाजिक निरिक्षणमाभन्दा रूपक र मनोवैज्ञानिक खोजमा जोड दिन्छन् । आजका वैज्ञानिक आख्यान सामान्यत:  रोमांस नै हुन्।  वर्णनात्मक वा वस्तुपरक कविताका अन्य रूप पनि हुन सक्छन् जसमा कुनै कथाको वर्णन हुन्छ । जियोफ्री चसर (१३४०१४००) को क्याण्टबरी टेल्स वर्णनात्मक कविताको आकार नै हो । चसरमा हास्य, यथार्थ, दार्शनिक सूक्ष्मता र कविताको अपूर्व मेल  छ । वस्तुपरक कविताको अर्को रूप नाटकीय कविता पनि हो,जस्तो टेनिसनको ‘‘युलिसिस’’१८४२) इलियटको ‘‘दि लभ संग अफ जे अल्फ्रेड’’ आदि ।

महाकाव्यः
वीर कविता भन्नाले यहाँ त्यस्ता काव्यकृतिको बोध हुन्छ, जो लामा र गम्भीर हुनाले छोटा वीर कविताभन्दा फरक छन् र महाकाव्यको श्रेणीमा पर्छन् । ‘‘इलियड’’, ‘‘बेउल्फ’’, ‘‘सँग अफ रोलाँ’’ यसै प्रकारका काव्य हुन् । यस्ता सादा, मौखिक, लोकप्रचलित विकसनशील वीर कविता वा महाकाव्यको युगपश्चात् लिखित, साहित्यिक वा कलातक महाकाव्यहरू आए, जुनकिसिमका कृति अहिलेसम्म निर्मित हुँदै छन् ।  महाकाव्यको शुरुवात वीर भावनामा भयो । यसैले आरमभका मौखिक महाकाव्यहरू वीर कविताको नामले पनि अभिहित हुन्छन् । वीर भावना गौण भएका, प्रकारान्तरित भएका वा हुँदै नभएका लामा, वर्णनात्मक कविता पनि महाकाव्यको संज्ञा भिरेर देखापर्दै आएका छन् । वस्तुत यस विधाको केन्द्र वीरभाव हो र अन्य भाव यसका सहायक हुन् ।

कविताको एक वृहत् भेदको रूपमा महाकाव्यको छुट्टै अस्तित्व छ तापनि लोकगाथामा र रोमांस तथा अन्य किसिमका विधाहरूसँग पनि यसको कतै टाढा र कतै नजिकको सम्बन्ध छ । गीतिजस्तो नितान्त वैयत्तिक विधासित गेय स्तरमा यसको सुसम्बन्ध छ। मौखिक महाकाव्यका कविताहरू गाउनका लागि र सुत्रका लागि सिर्जित हुन्थे न कि लेखनका लागि र पढ्नका लागि । कतिपय रोमांसकृतिहरू महाकाव्यकै अभियानले भुषित छन्, जस्तो वायर्डो, अरियोष्टोका ठूला कविता ।  पद्यसित मात्र त के, गद्यसित पनि यसको निकटता छ । निकटतामात्र छैन कि केही इतिहासविषयक कृति र औपन्यसिक कृतिहरू महाकाव्यको गरिमा राख्छन् ।

(महाकाव्य सम्वन्धी पूर्वीय परिभाषा अघिल्लो अङ्‍कमा प्रकाशित छ।)


(अन्त्यारम्भ महाकाव्यको कृतिपरक अध्ययन शीर्षकको शोधपत्रको अंश)
 
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Posted by on November 8, 2011 in Criticism

 

Hypocrisy for Survival: Redefining Terrorism in SHALIMAR THE CLOWN

– Khagendra Acharya

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Published in 2005, Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie is made up of two narratives: one a love story in a beautiful setting, the other an assassination of the American ambassador in brutal manner. The first story depicts Kashmir as a paradise with, multi-cultural, multi-faith tolerance and harmony. Boonyi Kaul, who is the beloved in the story, is a dancer and the daughter of a Hindu pandit. Shalimar the clown, who is the lover in the story, is a performer and tightrope walker whose father is the Muslim headman. The space they live is Kashmir and there is no antagonism. Enjoying the condition of co-existence, the lovers get married and also receive the approval of society.
Boonyi-Shalimar love story is a node through which another story opens onto a wider domain of importance –an act of ‘terrorism’. The second story, which culminates into an assassination of the ambassador, starts with the coming of Maximilian Ophuls, an American Ambassador to Kashmir. Getting access to Max as his driver, he finds a comfortable space to accomplish his intention i.e. to slaughter the ambassador very brutally. In this sense, the murder story entails alternative definition of terrorism, which in turn provides significant domain for analysis due to two important reasons. Firstly, it supplies the content that is against the spirit of his earlier novel Satanic Verses (1988) and in tune with pro-Islam statements that he made later; and secondly, his statements post to the publication of Shalimar the Clown again reiterate the statements in the Satanic Verses. Taking into the entire history of Salman Rushdie’s definition and redefinition of the term terrorism, I would argue that Rushdie’s redefinition of terrorism in Shalimar the Clown is hypocrisy for survival.
No doubt, whether the novel is studied by foregrounding its setting or the storyline, we find the prime concern of critics to be territoriality. Taking into account a major aspect in Rushdie’s life i.e. the (hi)story behind Fatwa imposition by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989 over him. In Satanic Verses, Rushdie has presented what Khomeini called “a calculated move aimed at rooting out religion and religiousness, and above all, Islam and its clergy”. As the novel was labeled an ‘apostasy’, he was condemned to death by Khomeini. Consequently, a $2.5 million bounty was put on his head, forcing Rushdie to go into hiding. In his attempt to escape from the decree, Rushdie announced and published apologies as a strategy for survival. In one of his announcement to apologize, Rushdie expressed regret as the publication hurt sincere followers of Islam.
Any of his apologies, however, were of no use; he had no any option to go hiding. One planned attack on Rushdie failed when the would-be bomber, Mustafa Mahmoud, blew himself up along with two floors of a central London hotel. Similarly, Hitoshi Igarashi, the Japanese translator of the book, was stabbed to death in July 1991, and many others were made targets of attack. Italian language translator, Ettore Capriolo and William Nygaard, the publisher in Norway, were among others who survived an attempted assassination. It was good that Rushdie could survive unharmed to hear Iranian government’s statement about the lifting of fatwa in September 1998. But, some fundamentalist Muslim groups declared that a fatwa cannot be lifted.
The corollary of Fatwa and Rushdie’s apology to lift it in 1989/90 reappears in 2005 and reveals an interesting fact behind the publication of Shalimar the Clown. Khomeini’s  fatwa against Rushdie was reaffirmed by Iran’s spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in early 2005 in his message that read the day will come when they will punish the apostate Rushdie for his scandalous acts and insults against the Koran and the Prophet. With it followed the publication of Shalimar the Clown. The novel, like his essay “In Good Faith” does not attack Islam in the spirit of Satanic Verses: there is neither the criticism of recent Muslim political figures such as Ayatollah Ali Khamenei nor the questioning to the authority of the very root of Islam: Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad. The only compelling instance in the novel that describes ‘fundamentally Islam’ a characteristic is ‘jihadi training camps’. But here too, he is not straightforward as before.
Another instance in which Shalimar assassinates Max (viewed by many of the westerners as terrorist attack) is shown to be the case of personal revenge. The intention here is clear: by explicitly castigating western historical specificity about terrorism, he implicitly makes plea again to lift Fatwa. But the novel fails to function as such. In 2007, Fatwa was again reaffirmed. Leading Iranian cleric Hojatoleslam Ahmad Khatami declared that the revolutionary fatwa issued by Imam Khomeini remains valid and cannot be modified. What followed Khatamis statement was Rushdies reaction in an interview with Pamela Connolly. Rresponding to her question, why he adhered to Islam and spoke in favor of the religion, he answered that it was deranged thinking.
Rushdie’s answer is clearly non-pro-Islam. His response shows that he lives in between the guilt for the past (criticizing Islam) and faith in the statements manifested in Satanic Verses. Shalimar the clown dramatizes the guilt in the form of resistance to western discourse of terrorism as a consequence of Islamic fundamentalism. His faith, which is blasphemous for Islam, remains palimpsest here. By foregrounding his guilt, he attempts to appear true to Islam among the Muslim and thus make an apology to lift Fatwa. But once he knows that there is no such possibility, his anti-Islam mind resurfaces and does not hesitate to claim that he adhered Islam as strategy to escape ‘the pressure’. Hence, his redefinition of terrorism in the novel at the backdrop of the whole story from Khomeini’s Fatwa to his response to why he adhered to Islam cannot be dissociated. The close nexus compels any reader to conclude that Rushdie’s anti-western definition of terrorism in Shalimar the Clown is another hypocritical effort to survive from the Fatwa reaffirmed over him.     

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2011 in Criticism