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Education - Free your mind.
 
Dec 6, 2007

Swedish Nobel prizes inspire Indian children

by: Cari Simmons
The Swedish Nobel Prize is awarded for outstanding scientific achievements. But how many people really understand discoveries such as giant magnetoresistance, which won the 2007 physics prize? A couple in India are doing their share to enlighten people.
Sudhir and Nandini Thattey were so fascinated by the Swedish Nobel Prize that one day, they decided to make the ground-breaking science for which the honor is awarded more accessible. Sudhir and Nandini Thattey were so fascinated by the Swedish Nobel Prize that one day, they decided to make the ground-breaking science for which the honor is awarded more accessible.
Sudhir and Nandini Thattey were so fascinated by the Swedish Nobel Prize that one day, they decided to make the ground-breaking science for which the honor is awarded more accessible. Photo: Chintan Thattey

Every year since 1996 Sudhir and Nandini Thattey have written three stories in the Marathi language about the research behind each year’s scientific Nobel prizes. Their stories are published in a book, together with colorful illustrations.

“The Nobel Prize is well known in India, and it’s considered to be a very important recognition of one’s research work,” Sudhir says. “It’s regarded as a great honor.”

Curiosity awakened

The Thatteys’ books came to light when the couple, who were engaged in a program to bring science to rural parts of India, recognized a desire among the children to find out more about the Nobel-Prize-winning research.

“These research projects represent significant achievements on the expanding horizons of human knowledge, and many of these discoveries lead to new technologies in the future,” Sudhir says. “It struck us that although people may enjoy the fruits of these discoveries later on, they are quite unaware of the research work that lies behind this progress.”

Nandini adds that another driving force for writing the stories is the intellectual pleasure that she and her husband derive from them. “I don’t have a science background, yet even I experience a thrill from learning about and explaining the research.”

Science made simple

The Thatteys’ stories explain advanced research and complicated theories in an imaginative yet simple way, making them accessible to young people as well as  adults. “Teachers also like our books because they help them to understand advancements in science,” says Nandini.

Take an important discovery, add a fairytale and some colorful illustrations and, hey presto, you’ve made children enjoy science - far away from the geographic origins of the Swedish Nobel Prize.
Take an important discovery, add a fairytale and some colorful illustrations and, hey presto, you’ve made children enjoy science.
 

Through magic and dream imagery, and sometimes featuring detectives, the books unravel the prize-winning scientific mysteries. The 2007 awards — for the discovery of giant magnetoresistance, for studies of chemical processes on solid surfaces, and for the discovery of principles for introducing specific gene modifications in mice by using embryonic stem cells — were as challenging to write about as always. But the Thatteys say the winners have something in common: “All three discoveries have either already started impacting our everyday lives, or are likely to do so very soon.”

The couple generally use allegories from their daily lives to help readers visualize the abstract research work, something which proved to be extra challenging when writing about the 1998 physics prize for the fractional quantum Hall effect. Sudhir says: “It was very tough to relate this discovery to our day-to-day experiences.”

He and Nandini are reluctant to pick a favorite tale, but say they received a great deal of positive feedback for A tour to concept island, which describes the research work honored with the 1999 Nobel Prize in Physics for elucidating the quantum structure of electroweak interactions in physics. “A newspaper editor told us, ‘If somebody had taught me physics like this, I would have become a research physicist instead of a journalist,’ ” says Sudhir.

Popularizing science

Writing the stories is a true family affair. Sudhir, who is a scientist at the Bhabha Atomic Research Center in Mumbai, discusses the prize-winning research with Nandini, who writes the stories. Once the stories have been checked for scientific accuracy, the couple hand them over to their two sons, Chintan and Chinmay, who provide feedback from a reader’s perspective. When everyone is satisfied, the stories are sent to the Mumbai-based publisher Granthall, a non-governmental organization.

Any family disputes have to be settled quickly so the books can be published by the December 25 deadline, which is Readers’ Day in Mumbai.

DNA may be complex, but the Thatteys - big fans of the Swedish Nobel Prize - make it seem simple. DNA may be complex, but the Thatteys - big fans of the Swedish Nobel Prize - make it seem simple.
DNA may be complex, but the Thatteys make it seem simple.

Although the books have not yet reached an international audience, they hold wide appeal for children in India, a country with a long tradition of storytelling.

The tales not only entertain and inform, but also play a role in encouraging children and equipping them for a career in science. “Many children, even those from remote areas in the state of Maharashtra, call us to ask how they can become scientist,” say the Thatteys, who then suggest various alternatives and advise the callers to keep their curiosity alive.

One student who usually had little patience for scholarly pursuits actually asked his teacher for the latest copy of the Nobel Prize book. His teacher later told the Thatteys: “If your book is able to awaken an interest in science in the mind of a boy who doesn’t like his studies, then I think it’s a great success.”

 

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Freelance writer Cari Simmons has always had a preference for language and the arts rather than science, which made her nervous in school. She welcomes the Thatteys’ gentle initiative to help people crack the physics, chemistry and medical codes.

The author alone is responsible for the opinions expressed in this article.

Classification: A225EN

Comments on this article

There are 10 comments on this article:
Raj R
Country:  Sweden, Feb 23, 2009
A very interesting writeup. This is also sure to inspire those from the Swedish-Indian community.
http://www.garamchai.com/europe/sweden.htm
asad
Country:  pakistan, Dec 3, 2008
we are proud of both u ur doing big job , god will success.

atta ul mujeeb
AM I A HINDU?
Country:  usa, Jun 28, 2008
What Thattey family is doing really great. Their publications will inspire a generation of youngsters to seek new inventions and discoveries in science.
Dr.Ashvath.V.Kulkarni
Country:  Bangalore INDIA, Jan 22, 2008
A truly splendid effort by the Thatteys !!!
emotionally moving and encouraging to all scientists around the world.
a true tribute to all forms of science.
congratulations.!!!
this is for sure, a source of inspiration to all scholars of language and literature around the world to translate this work into other languages...
still better ... do similar original work in other languages.
sheik allabashu
Country:  sweden, Dec 30, 2007
iam very impressed about this Noble work on Nobel prize discoveries by the Thattey couple. I salute them for what they are doing now. I would really appreciate if they translate their books in all indian languages so that all people and children will be aware of the Nobel discoveries and i would appreciate them ,,,i am very much intrested to work on this can i join this community
Ruth
Country:  USA, Dec 17, 2007
There is another web site which might be of interest to children. This is in honour of Linneus and his 300th birthday. Each week a different subject in science is introduced.
Pushpal Narasimhalu
Country:  Canada, Dec 14, 2007
My deep appreciation of the Thattey family for popularising scientific discoveries by the Nobel prize winners. Bravo for their thoughtful publications.
Maridhasan Duraivelu
Country:  India, Dec 13, 2007
I am very impressed about this Noble work on Nobel prize discoveries by the Thattey couple. I salute them for what they are doing now. I would really appreciate if they translate their books in all indian languages so that all people and children will be aware of the Nobel discoveries.

HATS OFF to the couple !
Padma Nilaya
Country:  India, Dec 12, 2007
The Thattey couple need to be congratulated whole heartedly for their contribution towards popularising Science among the student world in cities and villages alike. I wish translations of their work is also available to benefit a larger cross-section of children. Wish them success in their future endeavours .
Mahesh Arabole
Country:  India, Dec 11, 2007
Its a true "Nobel" efforts for growth of science.

Nobel prizes were always great and will remain great.

It will be nice, if anybody can make movies on Nobel prize stories.

 
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