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IIT-Madras convocation speech: Ignorance is cause of racism, bigotry and fundamentalism, Nobel laureate David Gross says

CHENNAI: Drawing attention to , theoretical physicist David J Gross who won the Nobel prize in physics in 2004 said on Sunday that the cause for many of these problems is sheer ignorance.

While speaking at the 57th convocationIIT-Madras held virtually from the US, Gross said, “The ignorance of basic facts such as that we all of us had a single mother only a few thousand generations ago that make racism and bigotry still possible. The ignorance of other cultures that promotes radical nationalism.” \

He further pointed out that the graduating students have the responsibility to be the forces of enlightenment and asked them to strive to dispel the ignorance.

“The reason that fundamentalists are so dangerous is not that they are so dangerous, but they are so certain that they possess the absolute truth. It is this certainty that can lead to oppression, bigotry, racism and fanaticism. The main lessons of science are not partial truths that we labour to reveal. But, an attitude of scepticism towards these truths. We must always remain sceptical, always question our beliefs and confront them with nature,” he told the graduating students.

On Covid-19 pandemic, he said many scientists predicted that such a pandemic would inevitably arrive and yet their warnings were largely ignored.

“Similarly, many scientists warn of impending disasters due to global warming, climate change. Yet these warnings have not been sufficiently addressed. I take this occasion to warn all of the continuing and indeed worsening danger of nuclear weapons whose use could destroy all life on the planet. We must not ignore it,” he further said.

David Gross was awarded the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics along with H David Politzer and Frank Wilczek for the discovery of asymptotic freedom in the theory of the strong interaction. He has been a central figure in particle physics and string theory. His discovery, with his student Frank Wilczek, of asymptotic freedom—the primary feature of non-Abelian gauge theories—led the duo to the formulation of quantum chromodynamics, the theory of the strong nuclear force.

Pawan Goenka, chairman, Board of Governors, IIT-Madras, said, “While Covid-19 is without doubt, the biggest health and economic crisis mankind has faced, I would want to share a slightly different perspective. The pandemic has given us the opportunity to define a new normal for how we work and how we live – and once we are out of the fear of catching the virus, the new normal in fact may be better than what we will be leaving behind. Covid has accelerated the rate of tech adoption across streams of life. Changes which would have taken 5-6 years have happened in just about 3-4 months,” said

While presenting a report about the academic performance of last academic year, IIT-Madras director Bhaskar Ramamurthi said the institute had filed for 191 patents and were granted 58.

“In 2019-20, the Institute received sanction for 294 ministry-sponsored projects for a total value of Rs 333 crore, and 649 consultancy and industry-sponsored research projects amounting to Rs249 crore,” he added.

As many as 1,909 students, including 353 PhD scholars, were awarded degrees on Sunday. Rajat Vadiraj Dwaraknath from electrical engineering branch got got President of India price for higher CGPA in B Tech and Dual Degree and Bharat Ratna M Visvesvaraya memorial prize for the highest CGPA in B Tech.

The director awarded prize to an animated avatar of Rajat and Hari Ramachandran using virtual reality technology.