By Chairman and Managing Editor of The Daily Tribune P UNNIKRISHNAN

A Cosmic Conversation with Dr. Siva Thanu Pillai

While savouring the exquisite pleasure of a sip of coffee, I inquired, “Dr. Pillai, you mentioned the increasing intensity of sun rays. Could you elaborate on its consequences?” While ordering his food, he continued.

“If you observe the sun through a telescope, you can see the sun is becoming dynamic and intense, and it started influencing the Earth, altering its magnetic field. A celestial body amidst us has set in motion, foretelling a cascade of earthquakes.”

A contemplative pause ensued as he gazed at me. Before I could respond, he continued, “Naturally, the ambient temperature will ascend, rendering life arduous. We are hurtling towards when residents may be restrained indoors during the zenith of daylight.

In 2022, 37.15 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide were released from burning fossil fuels and industrial activities. In 2023, these emissions are expected to increase by 1.1 per cent, reaching a new high of 37.55 billion metric tons. Since 1990, the world’s carbon dioxide emissions have increased by over 60 per cent.”

“What path should Bahrain traverse?” “Bahrain is on the correct trajectory,” he asserted. The leaders of Bahrain have recognised these impending challenges. The Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Bahrain, His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, emphasised the role of innovation and technology in developing impactful green solutions.

Also, during the recent 28th meeting of COP28 held in the UAE, the King of Bahrain, His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, outlined a $750 million climate technology fund and established the Safa Carbon offsetting platform to finance regional and international projects.

Before he could speak, I hastened with my subsequent query. What about the sea level? “The water levels shall surge, challenging myriad nations along the coasts. Think about a future where coastal regions lay submerged. If we do not act now, the future generations will drive a boat instead of a car.”

He chuckled, preempting any interjection, asserting, “I jest not; these are the harsh realities.” Taking a brief break, I took a bite from my food, focusing on the intensity of his discussion. I was in conversation with the distinguished scientist Dr Siva Thanu Pillai, renowned as the progenitor of the Brahmos Missile, who was on a short visit to Bahrain to attend one of the events organised by the Indian Society of Engineers. While we finished our first course of food, I decided to grab more time from him, losing track of time and venue. “Doctor, what could be the best way for Bahrain to move forward?”

“Bahrain, an island, could harness the seas to erect floating solar panels. The power generated could fuel hydrogen production, poised to emerge as a preeminent energy source. Hydrogen is helpful as a fuel because it has a high energy content per unit of weight, which is why it is used as a rocket fuel and in fuel cells to produce electricity on some spacecraft. “Do you believe Bahrain faces challenges accommodating more industries because of its high pollution rate and being a smaller country with many vehicles?”

He paused for a moment before responding. “I heard the Metro is coming. Such public transport facilities can reduce the increasing number of vehicles in Bahrain. Bahrain has the potential to burgeon into a haven for education, research, space research centres, incubation facilities, and start-ups devoted to pioneering technological paradigms. Invest in knowledge, and knowledge is money.” He smiled.

“How can we prepare our new generation for this change?” I asked with a laugh. “First, you should instil a purpose in each soul. Young minds must be inspired to leave an indelible mark during their vacation in this magnificent universe. Every human possesses a brain, a repository of over 100 billion neurons.

We seldom endeavour to fathom the boundless potential in our cerebral capacity. In antiquity, sagacious minds sought to comprehend the cosmos through meditation, unveiling profound truths about the sun’s radius and the earth. Even luminaries such as Albert Einstein and Ramanujan unearthed brilliant ideas and innovations by exploring the vast terrain of their minds. So why can’t we?”

“When informed about our initiatives to bring the Indian Institute of Technology to Bahrain, he responded, ‘That will be a great proposition. IIT has produced prominent CEOs like Sundar Pichai, Narayana Murthy, Sachin Bansal, Parag Agrawal, Arvind Krishna, and Raj Subramaniam. So, who knows, tomorrow you might find a Bill Gates or Elon Musk emerging from Bahrain?’”

While we finished our food, he looked at me as if it was time to leave; I asked him the last question before he could get up from the chair. “As part of the Indian space research centre, what is our purpose in exploring the Moon?

The purpose of a scientist’s life is to explore and understand the unknown facts of this universe. India, as a country, managed to launch our Chandrayaan Mission successfully. The Moon has many precious metals and minerals. Right now, the focus falls on Helium-3, which is rare on Earth but abundant on the moon.

The price of Helium-3 could be as much as $2000 per litre. On the other hand, Helium-3 is used in a process called nuclear fusion that combines Helium with a substance called Deuterium. When combined, energy is produced, but no harmful waste is created.” “Sir, what happens to human life when the sun dies?”

“Scientists worldwide started thinking about this seriously, and it is time for us to find ways to transfer human beings to the nearest galaxy like Proxima b. Proxima Centauri is known to host one planet for sure, roughly the size of the Earth, which completes one orbit every 11 Earth days. This could be the best place for a habitable zone with the right range of orbital distances where liquid water could exist on a world’s surface.”

“Before I could ask more questions, he said with a smile, ‘You have asked almost everything, Sky, Water, Earth, Air, and space, which we call Pancha Bhutas (Five elements that represent the physical and energetic qualities of the human body and the physical world.) I think that is enough for today.” While walking him towards the car, I said, “His Majesty has invited scientists and entrepreneurs to explore Bahrain’s infrastructure and energy innovation at COP 28.” “Yes, I know. I will revisit Bahrain soon.

The welcoming people, strategic location, and leaders’ care for expatriates are impressive.” As the car glided, he lowered the window and remarked, ‘Look, it has started drizzling. If you plant more trees, you might experience this more frequently.’ While waving, he reciprocated and said, “Wish you all a Happy National Day.”