Thursday, September 11, 2008

The fear of fear - The Big Bang Experiment

Popular American ex-President Franklin D Roosevelt once said, 'The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.'

And while he could very well have applied it to the philosophies of governing a perennially paranoid country, FDR has summed up a major parenting philosophy as well. As parents, we all try to raise, brave kids, god-fearing yes, but not bug-fearing. We swallow the mortal fear that comes rising like bile in the throat when faced with a black and yellow heinous gecko - and describe it as a work of art of nature, a smart and independent creature for the kid who's basing his/her reaction on ours. It's how parents who are petrified of dogs, raise animal-friendly kids. It's how parents who are fatality-phobic, raise kids who whoop with joy while jumping from one precariously positioned chair to another. It's how we raise our kids to be able to choose what they want to fear - and not what their parents taught them to fear. It's also how we break free of our own paranoia and relieve some childhood moments where if guided differently, we would have walked away with a different view all-together, and perhaps a few lesser fears.

Unfortunately, this girl, will never get that chance.

Chayya, 15, killed herself on Wednesday (September 10), after being traumatised by media reports that the 'Big Bang' experiment that's currently being conducted on the borders of France and Switzerland, could bring about the end of the world. The experiment will look at how the universe was created, whether it is three dimensional and could lead to the hallowed substance, referred to as 'God's particle' or 'anti-matter', depending on which novel or author you've read.

'In the past two days, Chayya had asked me and other relatives about the world coming to an end on Sept. 10,' her father Biharilal said.

Every single Indian news channel has been airing discussions, with most of them regarding doomsday predictions over the machine. Hindi and Vernacular media have gone so far as to suggest religious options that viewers can undertake to 'save the world'.

Reuters said that in east India , thousands of people rushed to temples to pray and fast while others savoured their favourite foods in anticipation of the world's end.

Many women and children rushed to temples and observed fasts as they prayed for deliverance, officials and witnesses said.

"Assurances by scientists and the media that nothing would happen counted for nothing for housewife Rukmini Moharana.

'I visited temple, prayed to god,' Moharana said. 'I am observing the fast for safety because god can only save us.' "


On September 10, my colleague's daughter called her up, bawling over the phone. The seven-year-old had reached home and frantically called up the mother. 'Come home,' she said. 'Teacher said we are all going to die.' Her science teacher had told the students that God would punish everybody for allowing this experiment to continue, and the end of the world was coming.

Several colleagues at work - and we are all journalists, the definition itself usually guarantees a certain cynicism and disdain for mass thinking and also, by default, an education that teaches you to question what is being told - brought up the experiment again, in a very disturbing way. A power-failure in a normally no-electricity-cuts city, prompted some to suggest the experiment was causing havoc. Another one spoke about how his prayer group had talked about Man trying to become God, and how we could all die of radiation or obliviate into black holes. These are people who read news, hell, who create them. They ought to know the facts. Because people read/hear them. Kids like Chayya do too. And while the Big Bang will not kill us, it is not our fear that is killing us, it is theirs.


To read more about the particle accelerator experiment, popularly referred to as the Big Bang experiment, try this.

Of the 2000 scientists working on the project, nearly 200 are Indian, including a feted scientist couple from Jaipur - Sudhir and Rashmi Raniwala

'Cosmic rays in the universe send particles with much greater energies than those being achieved in the lab. So there is nothing to worry about,' Sudhir told PTI, allaying safety fears about the high-speed collisions in the tunnel.

'No matter what the results are, either it confirms certain things that we believe today or it refutes certain things that we believe today.'

'It is an intellectual stimulation that goes on as we try to unravel what the nature had unfolded for us.'

Isn't curiosity what marks our evolution as humans? Isn't it one of the most endearing aspects about children?

1 comment:

momstir said...

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