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Posted by on May 30, 2011 in Some reminiscences | 0 comments

A Moon Struck Awakening in India.

Moon in MahabalipurumOn Sabbatical in 1997 I visited the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT-Madras) to do research with my former student who is a prof at IIT, Mangala Sunder Krishnan.  Strange things happened to me in India.

At that time I was winding down research into NMR and was thinking about new areas that involved spin.  As an undergrad, I had read, but not digested, the 1966 paper of Bell that showed von Neumann had been wrong on an important theorem about the interpretation of quantum mechanics. Physicists had been misled for 30 years.   I returned to those papers again, and then went on to read about the Aspect experiments and the Bennett et al paper on quantum teleportation.  I also found especially intriguing was a letter to Nature letter by my former squash partner at York University,  Tony Sudbery, which summarized the Bennett paper–Instant Teleportation! Nothing was making sense and the more I read the more confused I got. I could see no physical basis.  It couldn’t be the math which had been scrutinized by many. Something must have been missed.

It was the evening of March 24th when Sunder suggested we go down to the Bay of Bengal to have a drink on the beach.  As I looked over the Bay, I saw what I initially thought was the sun setting.  It was large, gold and full, half hidden by the sea’s horizon.  I was struck for a few seconds by its beauty and felt a surge of good energy flow through me.  I suddenly realized that it was not the sun setting but the full moon rising.   After a night of vivid dreams, I started to see through things and muddles became clear.  As this continued, and with the newness and intrigue of India around me, I started to think this feeling must be what Nirvana is like: brief glimpses of the simple truth, not just in science but also in life.

It was at that time I decided a few things, and one was that Bell’s theorem must be wrong. I did not know why, but that is what I wanted to find out. It has played a major part in my research ever since.

Mahabalipuram, India

I took a long weekend at Mahabalipuram, a resort village with ancient statues, an active trade of granite carvers, and a 1960’s hippy-like atmosphere along the beach.  I helped fishermen pull in their catch; had a fish and rice meal in the hut of the village head man; and found an old woman who told me about the auspicious significance of saffron. I got up at dawn as the crows crowed, had a swim in the pounding 25 C (77 F) surf, walked to the temple, where the priest asked,

“What is your good name?”

He poured water on my head, put flowers around my neck, and placed a spot of red on my brow, and said,

“For Brahma the creator.”

“The creator of ideas too!” I thought.

I passed him a few rupees and I went for breakfast. I wondered how long this spiritual state would last.

No, I wasn’t smoking anything.  But a few months after returning home, I found out that the anti-malaria pills I was taking, Mefloquine, had interesting side effects.

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