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'World not ready for life beyond'


TNN | Feb 16, 2016, 10.16 AM IST

Kochi: College education should become more flexible so that students


can choose their subjects of interest, opined noted astrophysicist Jayant
Narlikar, who was in Kochi recently.
"If a student of arts wants to study astronomy, why shouldn't he or she be
given that option? They have to be given a chance to learn a different
stream of specialisation," says Narlikar. He was in the city, accompanied
by his wife Dr Mangala Narlikar, to interact with school students.
"Mangala is working with the Maharashtra government to revamp the
state syllabus in schools," he says of his wife's new assignment which
brought them to the state.
"We are checking textbooks of different states to see the level of mathematics being taught. We hope to incorporate some
interesting modules from these textbooks," she says.
Narlikar said that the West had adopted a more open system of education based on choice. "This, of course, could be at the
basic level. For specialisation, it is a different issue altogether," he says.

On where Indians stood in the world of astronomy and space science, he narrated an incident that happened while visiting the
famed California Institute of Technology (Caltech). "They had some problem which they were unable to solve. One of them said
that they were expecting somebody from the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA). The team was
hoping that they could get some lead from the Indians. I suppose, you could say that this was an indication of the level of work
done at IUCAA," Narlikar said.
On whether interest in space studies have gone up among the younger generation, Narlikar says that Nasa's programmes to
popularise space science had a definite impact on the world. "The youngsters seem to know more about space now than
before."

When asked why publishing papers in astrobiology was so difficult when one considers its popularity in movies and science
fiction, Narlikar says that most peer reviewers do not accept the existence of extra-terrestrial forms of life as the world as such
has not been convinced. "It's very difficult to convince them. Even when we published papers about organisms in the
stratosphere, we were asked to word it carefully. We were told to use the term microbes and not extra-terrestrial life form. The
world is still not ready for life beyond."