Sunday, March 13, 2005

Kerala yielding another ‘Scientific Hoax’ !

(a brief summary of the issue on the 'Nanotechnology Center' project and its huge pitfalls )

The 300 crore ‘Nanotechnology Centre’ project announced by the Kerala Government’ under ‘Non-resident Keralite Affairs Department (NORKA)’, based on a trivial proposal submitted by two young medical doctors (Drs. Ajith Kumar and Arunkumar) is now facing serious “Scientific Credibility” issues. The project under controversy is included in the ‘one year Action Plan’ of the UDF ministry, with an aim to attract ‘non-resident keralite (NRK) investments’ to Kerala for establishing a high tech centre for ‘nanotechnology’ in Trivandrum. Given below are some points which will give an idea about the proposal and the controversy.

What is this ‘Nanotech Centre’?

As per the Government version, it is an initiative to develop ‘nanotechnology’ based knowledge as well as products, which will eventually gather a lot of business from the ‘world nano’ industries. Simply speaking, it’s like a ‘multidimensional company’ which aims a world market with its novel products. The Government will be giving background support for the 300 crore project while the NRK investment will be used for the scientific installations. The project aims to get at least 1% of the world nano business in 10 years which will be a great achievement. The proposal claims to get an ‘early bird’ advantage on the world business.
What is the reality?

Many multinational companies in US and Europe are already in this field with ‘nano’-related busines for many years by investing billions of dollors. In India itself, the project is not the first one of its kind and the idea of starting such a project is not ‘early’ at all. Department of Science and Technology (DST) under the Central Ministry started ‘Nanotechnology Initiative’ in 2003 and now is fully functional with 5 national centres and more than 75 working projects. It is really a ‘Himalayan Task’ to get into the ‘nanotech industry’, starting basic research in this field this ‘late’.

How novel is this Proposal?

As I mentioned earlier this project proposal have been put forward by two young doctor brothers (Drs. Ajith Kumar and Arun Kumar) and most of their ideas and claims are copied from internet (Google based research!). The credibility of this doctor duo will be discussed later in this article. I have seen a post in the internet from these doctor brothers, requesting funds for this proposal some time back (2001) which in fact was full of baseless assumptions and claims. It is still available in the net at
An ordinary reading of this proposal is enough to judge the ‘Scientific Validity’ of this internet conceived idea. Somehow, the Kerala Government officials selected this proposal to be included in the 1 Year action plan of the UDF ministry (is it due to the scarcity of real scientific proposals and ideas ?!!!). The decision was really surprising not only to the doctor duo, but also to the scientific community of Kerala and adroad. The research professors at the various Universities of Kerala, who get disappointed by the state government every year on their demands for funds to establish better research facilities at university centres might have really surprised to hear this announcement of the ‘300 crore initiative’.

What is the scientific Background of these doctors?

According to them, they have started research in the ‘nanotechnology’ field at the age of 16 when they started in college. After more than 10 years of research (using a computer and some instruments such as a ‘clinical microscope’ !!!), they have made some important inventions in the field of ‘nanotechnology’. These include a super ‘nano chip’, which can do the sequencing of the entire ‘human genome’ in less than 2 hours with 99% accuracy at a cost of less than Rs. 3000 and a three dimensional nano-helical laser, which have potential uses in the analysis of the above mentioned ‘nano chip’ as well as in a new generation brain scanner. This new brain scanner costing 10 lakh rupees have the potential to replace the widely used MRI scanners (which costs 3 crore rupees). These doctors also claim that they have more than 100 patents (of 90 countries) to their credit and scientific areas like ‘nanobiophotonics’ and ‘nanobiomechanical system’ have been emerged based on their inventions. The new centre is supposed to nourish their research efforts in these areas.

What is the reality?

All these claims are their dreams, which don’t have any scientific research evidence. Either they are in ‘Fool’s Heaven’ regarding their claims or they are purposefully cheating the Media, Government and the Public of Kerala. A direct correspondence with them through e-mail revealed that they don’t have any published scientific articles or approved patents in this field. They have applied for few patents (5-6 not 100) in India (‘not in 90 countries’) last year and all of them are still pending for approval. Coming to their so called inventions like the ‘nano chip’ and ‘helical laser’, most of them are internet copied ideas only (not developed products), which they plan to experiment in their new ‘initiative’. I suspect that, they are yet to see a ‘nano chip’ or ‘sophisticated laser used in ultramodern detection systems’ in real life. If their claim of having such a super’ nano chip’ is real, they may be nominated for the next 'Noble Prize' !!! Any researcher working in this field can easily recognize the hollowness of their claims, as all these ideas are trivial and don’t have a scientific logic. As far as I know, nobody will issue any ‘patent’ for internet copied trivial ideas like this. The argument like ‘research areas such as nanobiophotonics emerged based on their inventions’ is good enough to launch a ‘laugh’ among the scientific world. Are they that stupid to make such a bogus claim ?!!! Furthermore, they have boasted in an interview to The Hindu that the focuss of the "Nanotech centre" will be be discovery of cheap precision drugs and vaccines. This is equally naive because most of the Indian Biotech and Pharma companies are not dare to invest in such finacially risky ventures owing to the stiff competition from Pharma giants in US and Europe.

What about publicity? (Scicence by Press Releases!)

Right now these young doctors are the new ‘celebrities’ in our media, as the scientists who made such important inventions within the constraints of age, facilities (as mentioned using a computer and small instruments such as a microscope) and support. The public relations department and YMCA recognized their talents in a public meeting at Trivandrum !!! Since the Government decided to go with their proposal and giving recognition in public meetings, the media believe that there is some content in these young brothers. As “nanotechnology’ is a rather new field, the number of available experts in this area are limited. And many scientists and professors who know the truth, are yet having the inertia of making public statements. As long as the scientific community keep silence on this issue and the government supports these ‘funny’ claims which aptly fall into the category of "science by press releases" (a term coined by Nobel Laureate John Shulston), we will be lucky to hear more stories on this celebrities !!!

What about tomorrow?

Of course one cannot go long with this type of baseless claims and arguments !!! Time will demonstrate the powerful 'truth' with its all faces and these celebrities have to bow their head then. I sincerely wish that the Government will do a rethinking on this project before wasting lot of Tax payers money.
What the Government should do?
1) The government has to check the 'scientific credibility' of these doctor brothers with the help of a scientific committee before proceeding with this trivial proposal. The public has the right to know whether they are genuine or not in their ideas and patent claims !!!
2) The 'nanotech centre' proposal should be re-evaluated with the help of experts in this field and the government has to make needed changes to their bogus ideas, before implementing the project.


Blogger ETV said...


When we have the NASA talent search exam topper from India, Why can't we have two Nano technlogists from Kerala?, By the way is Kerala short of scientific community to make a cry about this? I think there should be scientific departments under the kerala government who can officially challenge the government decision. Why are they hesitating in doing that? Also is it a plan to get some money out of the public exchequer into the concerned minister's pockets. As you said it would be a matter of time when there would be questions about these doctor's credibilities if the claims made by you are true since it is not easy to survive with scientific frauds.

All the best for your efforts.

12:45 PM  
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