Black Holes do not exist. He was the first to say what scientists the world over are now beginning to accept. Hyderabad-based renowned astrophysicist Dr BG Sidharth has questioned the existence of Black Holes for over a decade and his theory has been confirmed recently by globally renowned scientists, including famed physicist Stephen Hawking himself.
Tucked away in a small cubicle that is lined by piles of books and away from the chaos of everyday life in a metro city, Sidharth is busy at work. Founder, director-general of the BM Birla Science Centre in Hyderabad, Sidharth is also the convenor and co-chairman (with Nobel laureates professor DD Osheroff and professor C Cohen-Tannoudji) of the prestigious Frontier of Fundamental Physics International Symposium series that has been held in Asia, Europe North America and Australia.
“Black Holes do not exist and I have been writing on this for several years,” says the 66-year-old scientist. “Now, what’s interesting is that Stephen Hawking is himself saying that Black Holes do not exist. If they exist at all that would have to be of the supermassive type, millions of times as massive as the Sun. Such supermassive Black Holes are believed to be at the centre of galaxies,” he explains.
Sidharth, who has also played host to 26 Nobel laureates and a galaxy of eminent physicists, has co-ordinated several international projects including three prestigious long-term projects under the European Union-India Economic and Cross Cultural Program. These projects focused on fields such as information technology, probabilistic and optimization techniques, and so on, with around 20 international workshops held across India, Italy and Austria.
The soft-spoken scientist’s love affair with science began at a young age. “My passion for science started in high school. I read lots of books written by famous scientists and was exposed to interesting developments in spacecrafts and science,” says Sidharth.
He was conferred with the Einstein-Galilei Laureate and Gold Medal of Institute for Theoretical Physics and Advanced Mathematics and Galileo Telesio of Italy 2013, which he shared with Nobel laureate professor DD
Osheroff. He also received Italy’s highest honour to non-Italians, Knight-Commander of the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity in 2006.
In 1997, when the standard Big Bang model was the accepted theory with the universe believed to be slowing down due to dark matter, Sidharth put forward his theory that the universe was actually accelerating and was dominated by something called dark energy. Today dark energy is the new paradigm and the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics went to three astronomers for this discovery. And yet, Sidharth’s contributions were left unnoticed. “As one researcher said to me, I was born with the wrong name and the wrong address. BG Sidharth from Hyderabad is judged differently from someone who hails from MIT and the likes,” he points out. “When I look back, I always feel satisfied with that achievement,” he adds.
The founding director of BM Birla Science Centre and its subsidiary centres such as GP Birla Observatory and Astronomical Research Centre, Sidharth says they are working to popularise science and astronomy. “We have had 15 million visitors from across the world till date, and around 5 million of these have been schoolchildren. We have had a few challenges along the way, but I think we have been fairly successful in reaching out to the public,” he adds.
The scientist, however, laments the present state of the scientific scenario in India and feels that the West is miles ahead. “Unfortunately, Indians do not excel at what they do. We are very lax and have a ‘Chalta Hai’ attitude. This is the case across the country. As Bernard Shaw says ‘If it is worth doing a thing at all, then it is worth doing it well’,” he says.
For scientists, who may have worked on a theory for 20 years or more, there always is the fear of their work may not being accepted or judged harshly. Asked if he fears his life’s work would be rejected, Sidharth smiles and says, “Whatever I’ve done, whether it is accepted or not, I enjoyed doing it and I derived immense satisfaction from it. In the end, that’s all that matters.”