Sometimes in 2004, at around 9.00 a.m., I telephoned a Professor-friend of mine who was working in the Department of Chemical Sciences of a premier institute. I asked him if he could analyse and find out, with at least 95% level of accuracy (being very practical-minded), the chemical composition of an organic solution that I was ready to provide him. His first reaction was: “What you are going to do with that?”. I told him that, we could commercially produce that solution by using the known composition and, by placing it inside a simple electronic device, we might be able to arrange for attracting (rather than repelling) the mosquitoes and kill them inside such a device; and that would be a great relief for all of us, including security, forest and defence personnel on duty. After listening to me, he gave a big laugh and started responding like “Are you O.K.?”, “Have you taken some intoxicants early in the morning?” etc. etc. Every time I wanted to impress upon him with the original question, his making fun with me started increasing. So, I had to give him the ultimatum by saying that I was going to put down the telephone. Then he told me that it was not possible due to non-availability of the required equipment in his institute. Although I did not accept it in my heart and continued to believe that it could have been possible maximum within 18 months with whatever equipment were available in that institute, being not a subject expert I had no alternative but to keep mum.
Again in 2006, I had an opportunity to meet him in his chamber. This time he wanted to impress me by showing his many achievements in the field of research. I again raised the issue that I placed before him in 2004. He told me that he now was not in a position to recollect what exactly I said at that time. So, I had to repeat the proposition once again. This time he seemed to be interested and asked me “What is that solution, and when you will be able to hand me over that?” I told him that it was “human sweat” and I would hand him over by next day afternoon. He also promised that he would start his works from next day itself.
Next day morning (very cold December morning) at around 7.00 a.m. – being a late riser I being still on bed, I got a telephone call from that Professor-friend asking me if I had gone through that day’s morning newspaper “The Telegraph” – a newspaper published from Kolkata. He was so obsessed with the situation that he almost forgot that everybody might not be subscribing that particular newspaper. When I said that I subscribed a different newspaper and asked him to explain the matter, he virtually with a shaken voice told me that, as per report in that newspaper, a university in the U.K. (I am preferring not to mention the name here) recently worked out that analysis we discussed the previous day and that a well-known multinational corporation (I am preferring not to mention the name here) a few days’ back signed a patent agreement with the concerned university on the subject! For me it was a cool affair – as cool as that December early morning; and therefore I responded by telling him not to be depressed and thenceforth to be ready to utilize any such opportunity in time!
Next day my Professor-friend sent me a photocopy of the published news item and after going through it, unless my memory failed me now, I could understand that they first did the chemical analysis of the “human sweat” with as best a level of accuracy as possible and, after knowing the composition, did a reverse engineering to work out another chemical composition for a substance that would repel (not attract) mosquitoes; and the concerned MNC was to produce apparel stuff like buttons etc., so that wearers of such products would not be approached by mosquitoes!
Regarding reverse engineering, my casual discussions with Mr. Scharwaechter – a brilliant German student of computer science and engineering (who also maintained high interests in computational climatology), in 2014, however was very fruitful. He gave me an account as to how German scientists unearthed the technology that gave an amazingly smart and smooth surface to the lotus leaf – which did not allow gathering of water or dirt on it, and how that was used for manufacturing of vehicle windscreens and glass-panels for modern high-rise buildings that otherwise had a lot of cleaning problems!
I also feel that the approach of reverse engineering inter alia can be undertaken for finding out solutions for many medical science related problems like immunological disorders, cancer etc.
Hope you liked my “science-dream” related write-up of today!
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