It needn’t be moonshine

May 08, 2019

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THERE is nothing surprising about a government minister for science and technology proposing a scientific solution to the old issue of how to determine the lunar calendar. There are many in the country who would believe that the clergy could have summoned science to their side over the matter a long time ago. In this respect, Minister Fawad Chaudhry’s step to end decades of lunar uncertainty is to be commended and would have earned him greater praise, had it not been overshadowed by an unfortunate slip of the tongue when he recently credited Suparco with sending the Hubble telescope into space. In the making for decades and launched into orbit in 1990, this solar-powered telescope has brought the universe to our doorstep through its spectacular images of distant galaxies, collapsing suns, and stars leaping into life. It has both captured the timelessness of space and contributed to scientists’ understanding of its origins. Tragically, the credit for this explorer of the skies must go to Nasa, as Suparco is still some light years away from unlocking the secrets of the universe.

But, there is always a silver lining — just as there are genuine mistakes. Clearly, all the energy that Mr Chaudhry devoted to the ministry of information before being shown the door by an unappreciative government can now be concentrated — sensibly — on his new responsibilities. His task is a difficult one: not only has he to improve the state of science and technology in the country, he must also lead the way in promoting respect for the subject and building an environment where it can thrive in educational institutes. He has already tried to assert his ideas undaunted by a powerful clergy that has been irked by his practical suggestion about moon-sighting. However, there is a need to consult senior experts and collaborate closely with the education authorities to encourage scientific knowledge in general. After all, the PTI’s promise to this country was rooted in the idea of change.

Published in Dawn, May 8th, 2019