Wednesday, December 03, 2008

SCIENCE FICTION: THE PIED PIPER OF SCIENCE

(Summary: The paper explains, science fiction, historical background, and its importance in the field of science.
This paper was to be read by Justice Yatindra Singh at Varanasi on 13.112008 in the first ever national discussion on 'Science Fiction: Past, present, Future' organised by National Council of Science and Technology Communication (NCSTC) New Delhi. However due to unavoidable circumstances it could not be read but was circulated.)
 

In the thirteenth century, 130 children disappeared in Hamlin, Germany.  It is not clear,
  1. If this was in 1212 or 1260, or 1284 or any other year;
  2. If they died or were killed or just went away to another place;
  3. What was the reason for their disappearance.
However, Hamlin town  records this incident. The 'Donat', the Hamlin book of statutes, contains  references to it. The tragic incident was also recorded in the stained window of the market church. It was destroyed in 1660 but on the basis of surviving descriptions, it has been reconstructed by Hans Dobbertin (historian).  Around sixteenth century, a  tale was added to it:
From Wikipedia
'The town of Hamlin was suffering from a rat infestation. A man dressed in pied garments (the pied piper) appeared, offering them a solution. The people promised to pay him for his services. He played a musical pipe to lure away the rats and drowned them into the Weser river. However  the people refused to pay him. The man left the town angrily. 
The pipe piper returned on St. John's Day.  While the inhabitants of Hamlin were in the church, he played his pipe again. This time, instead of rats, the tune attracted the children. One hundred and thirty boys and girls followed him out of the town and were never seen again. Two children, a lame, and a deaf were left behind to tell the tale.'

Some say that the pied piper was the devil himself; some accept this story as an explanation to the tragic incident. Leaving the dark aspect of the tale, the pied piper  was a master musician, who could attract anyone with his tunes.  So is the case with science fiction: they not only create interest in science but make us aware about different possibilities.

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