Window Glass Marks a Turning Point in the History of Human Civilization

So said Prof. Praveen Chaddah, former Director of of UGC-DAE Consortium for Scientific Research, Indore, who was speaking as the Guest of Honor in the fifth lecture in the series ‘Nobel Prize Lectures’ being conducted by the Society for Promotion of Science & Technology in India (SPSTI), in association with Chandigarh Chapters of National Academy of Sciences India, Indian National Science Academy & Indian National Young Academy of Sciences and Punjab Engineering College (Deemed to be University), Chandigarh, with support from the Department of Science and Technology, Chandigarh Administration. The lecture, on “Physics of Disordered Systems, Works of Giorgio Parisi, Nobel Prize Winner in Physics – 2021” was delivered by Prof. Smarajit Karmakar, Associate Professor at TIFR, Hyderabad who was a Post-Doctoral research fellow working under the guidance of the Nobel Laureate. Prof. Arun K. Grover, former Vice Chancellor of Panjab University while introducing the speaker said that after having worked with several statistical physicists of great repute, he reached the laboratory of Giorgio Parisi and worked with him.

Prof. Chaddah, a renowned Physicist of the country, opined that transparent silicate glass was a turning point in our civilization because we can now sit in isolation from the vagaries of nature and still have a beautiful vision, in contrast to the situation few centuries ago when wood and metal was used to keep the elements out when they chose to unleash harshness. This explains why it is important to Study the Physics of Glasses. Our general understanding is that glass is formed when a liquid is cooled faster that a critical cooling rate and then it undergoes solidification without undergoing the first order transition of freezing. He also felt that in order to achieve excellence in international arena, we should establish new benchmarks for the youngsters to chase other than impact factor and H-index.

Prof. Karmakar in his talk discussed the achievements of Giorgio Parisi on understanding of spin glasses. He differentiated spin glasses and structured glasses based on quenched disorder and self-generated disorder respectively. Prof. Parisi is credited with initiating the swap Monte Carlo method and for carrying out enormous amount of work using the replica method. His theories resulted in contribution to understanding the science of fields as far apart as climate modeling (the one-lakh year cycle of continental ice volume) and collective migratory behaviour of birds. While explaining the importance of studying the physics of glasses, Prof. Karmakar quoted the example of glasses used in branded mobile phones and how they break form cracks on hitting. Other type of glass gaining importance in todays world is the transparent polycarbonate type of polymer which has been used as partitions during the current pandemic. Talking about the interactions of Nobel Laureate Parisi, the speaker opined that in him he found one of the most amicable and patient of Physicists, who collaborated with about 400 scientists at one time and managed to find time for meaningful discussions!

The lecture was coordinated by Prof. Keya Dharamvir, General Secretary, SPSTI, Dr. Pooja Sharma and Dr. Ramendra S. Dey, Members of INYAS.

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