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Eminent theoretical physicist and cosmologist Thanu Padmanabhan was born on 10 March 1957 in Thiruvananthapuram to Thanu Iyer and Lakshmi. He had a high level of scholarship in many areas of theoretical physics. His publications were mostly in Quantum and Classical Gravity, Cosmology and Structure Formation in the Universe. Thanu Padmanabhan experiments with gravity had fetched him prizes in nine years in the prestigious annual Gravity Essay contest conducted by the Gravity Research.
In this blog we will discuss the contributions, awards received, famous quotes and other important facts of the great theoretical physicist and cosmologist Thanu Padmanabhan. This article will be very informative in GK parts for aspirants who are preparing for various competitive exams.
|Born||10 March 1957|
|Died||17 September 2021
|Birth Place||Trivandrum, Kerala|
Tata Institute of Fundamental Research
|Known for||Gravitation, structure formation in the universe and quantum gravity.|
|Institutions||Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics|
The award is set up to honour distinguished scientists of Kerala origin. Gravitation, structure formation in the universe and quantum gravity are his major fields of research, whose research spanned a wide variety of topics in gravitation, structure formation in the universe and quantum gravity.
World famous Malayalee physicist Prof. Thanu Padmanabhan passed away on 17 September 2021, He was 64.
History of Thanu Padmanabhan
He was born on March 10, 1957, in Thiruvananthapuram. After completing his early schooling in Thiruvananthapuram, he completed his bachelor’s degree in science and master’s degree in science from the University College, Kerala University in the year 1977 and 1979 respectively.
At the age of just 20 years, he published his first paper on General Relativity being just a B.Sc. student.
Professor Thanu Padmanabhan is an internationally acclaimed Theoretical Physicist and Cosmologist whose research spans a wide variety of topics in Gravitation, Structure formation in the universe and Quantum Gravity. He has published more than 240 papers and reviews in international journals and nine books in these areas. Many of his contributions, especially those related to the analysis and modeling of dark energy in the universe and the thermodynamics of spacetime horizons, have made significant impact in the field.
He was honoured with a Padma Shri by the President of India in 2007.
Born in 1957, Padmanabhan took his B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in Physics from Kerala University and was a Gold medallist in both. Subsequently he joined TIFR, Mumbai where he did his Ph.D. in Physics. He held various positions at TIFR during 1980-1992 and also spent a year (in 1986-87) at the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge for his postdoctoral research. He moved to the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune in 1992 and became Dean, Core Academic Programmes of that Centre in 1997, which is the position he is currently holding. He has been a visiting faculty at several places abroad including Caltech, Princeton University and Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge.
Contribution of Thanu Padmanabhan
- He made several contributions related to the analysis and modelling of dark energy in the universe and the interpretation of gravity as an emergent phenomenon.
- Padmanabhan’s research was in the fields of gravitation and cosmology which includes quantum gravity and nature of dark energy. During 2002–2015, he provided a clear interpretation of gravity as an emergent phenomenon (like elasticity or fluid dynamics) and showed that this paradigm extends to a wide class of theories of gravitation including, but not limited to, general relativity.
- Padmanabhan could show that several peculiar aspects of classical gravitational theories find natural interpretations in this approach. Such an interpretation also provides a novel solution to the cosmological constant problem. He gave two lectures at the Oxford–Cambridge collaborative conference on “Cosmology and the Constants of Nature” about this.
- In the earlier part of Padmanabhan’s career (1980–2001), he made important contributions to quantum cosmology, structure formation in the universe and statistical mechanics of gravitating systems. In the 1980s, he came up with an interpretation of the Planck length as the ‘zero-point length’ of spacetime based on very general considerations.This result, established by theoretical considerations and well-chosen thought experiments,finds an echo in more recent results in several other candidate models for quantum gravity.
- He developed the complex path method (in 1998) to study black hole thermodynamics which was a precursor to the ‘tunneling paradigm’ that became quite popular later on. He was a recognized authority in the subject of the statistical mechanics of gravitating systems and was a pioneer in the systematic application of these concepts to study the gravitational clustering in an expanding universe.
Dark energy in the universe
It has been known for decades that the universe is expanding. But until the late 1990s, it was believed that the expansion rate of the universe was slowing down, much like a car that is decelerating. Studies in the late 90s disproved this and showed that the expansion rate of the universe was, in fact, increasing — that is, the universe is like an accelerating car! This accelerated expansion demanded that nearly 70 percent of the energy driving the expansion must have very peculiar properties. This peculiar component was dubbed as dark energy.
In physical cosmology and astronomy, dark energy is an unknown form of energy that affects the universe on the largest scales. The first observational evidence for its existence came from measurements of supernovas, which showed that the universe does not expand at a constant rate; rather, the universe’s expansion is accelerating. Understanding the universe’s evolution requires knowledge of its starting conditions and composition. Before these observations, scientists thought that all forms of matter and energy in the universe would only cause the expansion to slow down over time.
Measurements of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) suggest the universe began in a hot Big Bang, from which general relativity explains its evolution and the subsequent large-scale motion. Without introducing a new form of energy, there was no way to explain how scientists could measure an accelerating universe. Since the 1990s, dark energy has been the most accepted premise to account for the accelerated expansion.
Interpretation of gravity as an emergent phenomenon
In philosophy, systems theory, science, and art, emergence occurs when an entity is observed to have properties its parts do not have on their own, properties or behaviors which emerge only when the parts interact in a wider whole.
Emergence plays a central role in theories of integrative levels and of complex systems. For instance, the phenomenon of life as studied in biology is an emergent property of chemistry, and many psychological phenomena are known to emerge from underlying neurobiological processes.
Every resultant is either a sum or a difference of the co-operant forces; their sum, when their directions are the same – their difference, when their directions are contrary. Further, every resultant is clearly traceable in its components, because these are homogeneous and commensurable. It is otherwise with emergencies, when, instead of adding measurable motion to measurable motion, or things of one kind to other individuals of their kind, there is a co-operation of things of unlike kinds. The emergent is unlike its components insofar as these are incommensurable, and it cannot be reduced to their sum or their difference.
Awards conferred by Thanu Padmanabhan
His research work won prizes nine times (in 1984, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2018 and 2020) including the First Prize in 2008 from the Gravity Research Foundation, USA.
A Stanford study in 2020, listing top scientists in different fields, ranked Padmanabhan as 24th in the world in his research area. He’s the recipient of Padma Shri in the year 2007 for his contributions in the field of theoretical physics.
- Kerala Sastra Puraskaram, 2021
- M. P. Birla Memorial Award, 2019
- Homi Bhabha Lecturer at UK (IoP-IPA award), 2014
- TWAS Prize in Physics (2011)
- Infosys Science Foundation Prize for Physical Sciences (2009)
- J. C. Bose National Fellowship (Science and Engineering Research Board, DST) (2008)
- INSA Vainu Bappu Gold Medal (2007)
- Padma Shri (from the President of India, 2007
- Miegunyah Fellowship Award (University of Melbourne, Australia, 2004)
- Homi Bhabha Fellowship (2003)
- G. D. Birla Award for Scientific Research (2003)
- Al-Khwarizmi International Award (2002)
- The Millennium Medal (CSIR, 2000)
- Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award (1996)
- The Birla Science Prize (1991)
- Young Scientist Award, (Indian National Science Academy) (1984)
Quotes of Thanu Padmanabhan
“Attempts to understand extragalactic objects and the universe by using the laws of physics lead to difficulties that have no parallel in the application of the laws of physics to systems of a more moderate scale”.
Thanu padmanabhan has contributed a lot to India and to the world and whose research spanned a wide variety of topics in gravitation, structure formation in the universe and quantum gravity. He passed away on 17 September 2021 at his residence Pune.
Throughout his career, he has been the author of over 300 research papers and several books in the field of gravitation, quantum gravity, structure, formation of the universe etc. He held the 24th rank among the top scientists in the world, as per a list maintained by Stanford University, for his research in Theoretical Physics.
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