THE SQUARE ROOT OF A SONNET
The Strange History of Black Holes
In the summer of 1930, a nineteen year old Indian boy boarded the steamship SS Pilsna to sail from Bombay to Cambridge. During the sea voyage, he formulated the fundamental equations that govern the ultimate fate of the stars in our Universe. To his surprise, the calculations showed that contrary to accepted belief, certain stars were destined to meet a violent end, collapsing into nothing to become those mysterious objects that we now call black holes.
The boy’s name was Subramanyan Chandrasekhar, the brilliant Indian-American astrophysicist who continues to remains relatively unknown in India inspite of winning the Nobel Prize in 1983. Chandra’s discovery of black holes and vanishing stars opened the gateway to the strange new science of black holes which flourished in the 1960’s and 70’s under the likes of Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose.
But Chandra himself had to wait for over 40 years for his work to be given the recognition that it deserved – because his extraordinary discovery of black holes had been suppressed almost as soon it had been made in 1930. And the person responsible for this was Chandra’s own guru and mentor – Sir Arthur Eddington, the foremost astrophysicist of the age. Why did Eddington try to destroy Chandra?
For a man renowned for his dispassionate commitment to the cause of science, Eddington’s actions have been a long-standing mystery in the annals of science. Was it because of his deeply religious beliefs, professional rivalries or deep rooted racial prejudice? Or were there other forces at work? “The Square Root of a Sonnet” is an attempt to answer these questions by exploring the intriguing and complex relationship between two giants of modern astrophysics – Chandra and Eddington.
A story of ambition, friendship and betrayal set against the back drop of the epoch-making events events of the twentieth century – the two great world wars, the Indian freedom struggle and above all, the birth of the strange new sciences of relativity and quantum mechanics.
PRAISE FOR THE PLAY
“Top marks for portraying such nuanced characters on stage along with distilling their complex scientific work.” – The Week
“An excellent exemplar. Presented lucidly...nothing pleases the mind more than ideas and feelings expressed in intelligent conversation.” – The Telegraph
“A credible production that must be applauded, particularly as it involves complex science. Theatre proved a winner yet again for being a powerful medium of portraying a story of a complicated friendship, betrayal and larger than life ideas. The script, peppered with insightful humour, was the star of the show.”– The Hindu
"Masterfully crafted ... a perfect amalgamation between science and the performing arts." - American Kahani
“It is refreshing to celebrate the actual achievements of an Indian scientist in a time when too many imaginary achievements of ancient Indian science are being propagated.” – Naseeruddin Shah.
"We were amazed by the very strong and sensitive text of the play. I believe that this will come to be regarded as a major piece of dramatic literature from India. In spite of some difficult dialogues with non-trivial physics, the brilliant teamwork of the actors kept the audience completely captivated for two hours” – Prof. Arnab Rai Choudhuri, JC Bose Fellow & Professor (Astrophysics), Indian Institute of Science. Bangalore.