Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mythology: Does it have scientific answers?


When one talks about religion, it's scientific aspect is never discussed. A scientist would probably define religion or a religious ritual as some act which is performed without understanding the exact reason for doing so. It is not necessary for the performer (of a particular ritual) to understand the reason for using different steps involved in that ritual. The exact reason may be only known to the developer of that ritual. As time passes, the reason or the exact meaning is lost and what we are left with is just 'a ritual". This is more likely or very old religions like Sanatan (सनातन) or Hinduism. Let us take an example of the fabrication of a microelectronic chip in a semiconductor (or similar) industry. Hundreds of steps are involved during this fabrication which is performed by a process engineer (or a team) without knowing the exact reason for a particular step. He only follows the steps written in the fabrication protocol. 

Next comes the mythological stories, normally treated as a literature material or sometimes a science fiction. Possibly, mythological stories in any religion not merely be a story or a piece of science fiction. I personally believe so because of correlation between some Hindu mythological stories and well established scientific facts. A few stories in Hindu mythology may be of scientific importance if analyzed closely. If we are lenient enough to start a discussion and exploration using these stories, we can get answers of a few of the scientific issues.

To start a discussion, let me elaborate this point a little more with the example of the birth of Lord Hanuman (The monkey God as said commonly). Brief story is as follows. Once Lord Shiva released his sperm and wanted it to be transplanted into a womb so that a child can take birth with powers of Shiva. The responsibility of carrying the sperm was given to Pawan (god of Air) who successfully did it and Lord Hanuman was born with Anjani and Kesari as his parents (Details about this story can be found in various Purans which are religious scriptures in the Hinduism).

Keeping aside all the religious matters for a while, here comes the scientific issue related to the sperm, a liquid, being transported by Pawan, which is gas. This story suggests that a liquid can be transported using a gas. In current science, the same concept is actually used very widely and successfully for transporting a liquid reactant (hydrocarbons etc.) for thin film deposition by "Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD)" technique using a carrier gas (Nitrogen, argon etc.). This correlation between Hindu Mythological story and scientific method is not trivial because the inventor of CVD method possibly was not aware of these stories.

Even if one does not want to get excited with the above-mentioned analogy, some time can be devoted on this issue. It can be helpful in understanding  the structure of life long long ago in its earlier stage. Other Mythological story says that "human body is made up of soil". This is usually explained by saying that after death our body is transformed into various forms and gets decomposed into the earth. Looking at a different angle it also indicates that a live human body is possible with silicon (major component of soil) other than carbon, which we see now. Of course this will happen under different environmental conditions as of now. There are some studies on this issue with the consideration of the mixing capabilities of silicon with other elements in nature. Prof. E. Reynolds in his article published in Nature in year 1893 says that the possibility with silicon as building block for life can be explored. Discussion on possibility of silicon based life are available in literature also. Keeping these two points in mind, I think mythological stories can be helpful in getting answers of some of the scientific problems if not all. It is worth giving a thought.