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Incomplete Alchemy Why does Pakistani science lag behind despite all our talent and ingenuity? 20


Cover Story 20 Incomplete Alchemy Why is there such a paucity of Pakistani inventions translating into commercially viable projects?

Comment 26 The Science of Scriptures Science and religion don’t need to be antithetical — just separate

Context 32 On the Shoulders of Giants A look at the hefty contributions Muslim scientists in the past have made to knowlege and science



36 Optics and Optimism When life gave him lemons, Asad Mehmood made lemonade . . . and a telescope 42 Checkmate Pakistan’s chess queen spills the beans on the soap opera that is the local chess scene


Advice 46 Every Drop Counts The 101 on rainwater harvesting — and why we need it now

Regulars 6 People & Parties: Out and about with Pakistan’s beautiful people 50 Dadi’s Diary: natural remedies for that sore throat 54 Reviews: What’s new in films 58 Ten Things I Hate About: Distant weddings


Magazine Editor: Zarrar Khuhro, Senior Sub-Editor: Batool Zehra, Sub-Editors: Hamna Zubair and Dilaira Mondegarian. Creative Team: Amna Iqbal, Jamal Khurshid, Essa Malik, Anam Haleem, Tariq W Alvi, S Asif Ali, Samad Siddiqui, Mohsin Alam, Sukayna Sadik. Publisher: Bilal A Lakhani. Executive Editor: Muhammad Ziauddin. Editor: Kamal Siddiqi. For feedback and submissions: 4


A musical evening ‘Ishq ka Safar’ was held in Lahore

Rubab Hsana Lamia and Sahar

Mehreen, Aamir, Natasha and Hamza

Khuban and Mehar

Abbas and Zaman

Shahmeer and Ayesha

Rahat Fateh Ali


Last week, the caption for

Tehnii’s event should have read: “Tehnii presents Designers’ Extravaganza in Lahore, showcasing

Zahra Malik, Kusum, Butlers Chocolate Cafe and


Komal, Bisma, Zaynab, Fizza and Sana AUGUST 28-SEPTEMBER 3 2011

All Tied Up.” The error is regretted - EDITOR


Jalal S and Iman Ali



Amina and Malaika


ith his mothe

Omar Satti w

Sadaf and Safoora Almaas, Shabina and Yousuf

Naveen and Hu m


Asifa, Anem and Maryam Mr and Mrs Feroze Salahuddin

Nina and Nickie


Jennifer and Tristram AUGUST 28-SEPTEMBER 3 2011

Emania and Zubair



Ghazala, Shumaila and Sherjan

Misha and Shafaq


Zahra and Namvar

Hinan and Anum Rida Qazi and Misbah Momin

Carmella and


d Omer

Randana an


Faiza and Qamar AUGUST 28-SEPTEMBER 3 2011

Ahmed and Anum

Shahid and Naveen



Men’s designer wear Republic was inaugurated at Modeville in Islamabad

Maria and Asim

Arsalan and Hassan

Samir and Joao Belloc Kamal


Zo and Azlan AUGUST 28-SEPTEMBER 3 2011

Guests at the launch


Nasir and Fayeza Amin



Zara and Fatima Farzana with a friend

Omar Faro

Shella with friends

oq and San


ith a guest

Fabrizzio w

Abbas with a friend




Blinck International Youth Day was celebrated in Karachi

Farhad Karam Ali, Sidra Iqbal and Komal Rizvi

Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy


Palwasha Bashir

William J Martin


Mustafa Kamal , Julie and Anthony








Albert Einstein once famously remarked that genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. That one percent is the much-sought after ‘eureka’ moment: the flash of inventive inspiration that can strike anyone from a PhD to a Postman, from a scientist to a superintendant of police. But let’s face it, that level of inspiration strikes only a few of us, and even fewer manage to turn it into something real. So let’s talk about the perspiration. More specifically, the un-

sung scientists and students who work and slog in an effort to

expand the boundaries of science and invention. These are the

guys who actually build a better mousetrap, or figure out ways to make more fuel-efficient cars. It is their inventions that make

your lives easier (or sometimes more dangerous) and it’s the fruits of their labour that drive global economies.

Hovercraft Developed by Pakistani Students Mohammad Naeem Khan, Zaki Hussain and Mohammad Qasim, three intermediate students from the Sir Syed Science College in Rawalpindi, developed Pakistan’s first hovercraft in 2009. This is an amphibious vehicle that is supported by a cushion of slightly pressurised air; it floats on a cushion of air that has been forced under the craft by a fan which causes the craft to rise.

20 12 AUGUST 28-SEPTEMBER 3 2011

Solar Car by Pakistani Students — SSUET In 2011, Farhan and Shafiq, two students from Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology in Karachi, invented a solar-powered car. There are solar panels attached to the top of the car which store the sun’s energy. Along with solar energy, electricity can also be used to charge the car. The average speed of the car is 40-45 km/h. It gives a mileage of 60 km per charging which means that if the battery is fully charged one can easily travel 60 kilometers.. It is a cost-effective, environmentfriendly system for transportation invented in 2011.

Gas Fan Invention by Wahee Waheed Babar, a resident of L which is powered by domestic been attempting to make the and eventually succeeded in 2 of funds he has been unsucce The fan can run up to 400 hou fan, as per domestic gas, cost hours and one rupee for every

Now for the bad news: try Googling ‘Pakistani inventions’

and the first hits you’ll get are from Wikipedia. Click the link and you’ll find a mention of Dr Abdus Salam and another about

entists are exceptionally brilliant. That can be seen by how well they do in foreign countries.”

The Associate Professor of Bahauddin Zakariya University’s

a process developed by a Pakistani scientist called the Ommaya

Chemistry department, Najamul Haq, has seen batches of stu-

oped by a couple of Lahore-based software whizzes. That’s pretty

Pakistan’s youth lack skill. “Foreign professors are on the lookout

method. There’s also the ‘Brain’ computer virus which was develmuch it.

The question is: why? Why is there such a paucity of Pakistani

inventions and innovations translating into actual, usable and

commercially viable projects? It’s not as if we, as a people, are

dents come and go, and he reacts strongly to a suggestion that for HEC Pakistani students due to their track records. In many

cases I saw Pakistani students leading the whole research group in foreign universities,” he adds.

So where’s the problem? Well, according to Rauf, a large part

strangers to innovation. ‘Jugaar’ or improvisation is practically a

of it is the way the educational system itself works. “Someone

Dr Suleman Ashraf is the director of Satuma, a private com-

cure a place in a good university if his scores in all other subjects

national trait after all.

pany involved in the manufacture of UAVs which are used by the

Pakistan Air Force. According to him, the lack of legal protection is one of the major hurdles facing scientific advancement

in Pakistan today. “In the West it was realised very early on that due recognition should be given with legal protection to someone who invents or introduces new ideas. Thus the concept of patent

was born,” he says. Ashraf admits that patent laws also exist in

Pakistan but says that, due to a lack of trust in the legal system,

people are still reluctant to share knowledge. This, in turn, leads to stagnation. “Globally speaking, where we stand now is due to

who has talent, passion and great scores in physics cannot seare average,” he says. According to him, this keeps a lot of good

students away from advancing in their requisite fields. Lack of funding and government interest also factor in. Najamul Haq is

also disdainful of the way research is conducted, saying “Most of the research being conducted is in the very basic sciences, with very few people involved in practical applied research.”

But applied research would only receive a boost if there was an

industrial sector capable and willing to consume the fruits of our students’ labours. And therein lies the Shakespearean rub.

the cumulative knowledge gathered over the millennium and


only because we have stood on the shoulders of giants, but here

multinational corporations, defence industries or the govern-

passed on to the next generations.” Indeed, we have seen further

The world over, student researchers have their work funded by

every researcher has to start from scratch.

ment. Scouts scour universities looking for usable projects which

“We thus keep inventing the same thing over and over or keep

making the same mistake over and over because no one will guide us,” says Ashraf.

TONS OF TALENT If there’s one thing that everyone agrees on, it’s that there isn’t a shortage of talent. “In fact,” says Dr. Ashraf, “our young sci-

ed Babar Lahore, invented a “Gas fan” c gas and/or LPG. He has ese fans for the past 25 years 2009. However, due to lack essful in producing it in bulk. urs on one kilo of fuel. This ts just one rupee for four y two hours on LPG.

are then translated into lucrative products. Industry and academia work hand in hand. In Pakistan, this just doesn’t happen.

It’s not as if there aren’t usable ideas out here either. Take even

a cursory look at the projects some of our young Einsteins work on and you’ll find touch screen computers, remote controlled ro-

botic limbs and even unmanned ground vehicles that can be used for a variety of purposes.

Hybrid Car by Students of NUST University A group of 11 students from National University of Science and Technology (NUST) made Pakistan’s firstever hybrid car, named DAVRIM II, in 2010. The vehicle combines a combustion engine with an electric motor to increase its efficiency; it also harvests energy lost during breaking and reuses it for running. It uses super capacitor banks to store energy; the petrol engine produces a constant energy of 3.5 British horsepower and the remaining power comes from the super capacitor banks. The group came up with the idea at a birthday party back in July 2009.

UGV (AYAAN ROVER) The Ayaan Rover is a rock climbing robot which was developed by Waqar Hussain, Syed Fawad Ali, Muhammad Furqan, Aqeel Ahmad, Ahasn Siddiqui and Muhammad Shaheer in 2010. The use of Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs), in both Military and Civilian markets, has skyrocketed since the last two decades. On the battlefield, commanders have unprecedented capability to perform Intelligence, Surveil Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions.


COVER STORY Unfortunately, a great number of interesting projects from

students that might have been funded have been overlooked.

Rauf claims that many research projects with positive feasibility


Some of the ones that he saw uselessly tossed aside included proj-

In 2009, a group of young scientists and scholars decided to set up an organisation called the National Academy of Young Scientists (NAYS) aimed at bridging the gap between academia and industry and facilitating sharing of information between various scientific disciplines. NAYS is also attempting to link Pakistani researchers with foreign researchers in order to facilitate scientific research. NAYS is working to create a network of coordinators in various universities who can help students get access to the latest research work, scholarship information, admissions, conferences, workshops and jobs etc. With a current membership of 1800, NAYS is hopeful that they can play a role in lifting Pakistani science from the current morass.

reports were done but sadly none of them were funded or used.

ects on plants that can sustain high salinity, a project that could have been a boon for areas of the country affected by salinity.

“We have failed to develop a consortium between the research facilities that develop technologies and the industries that use

them,” he says. “But the most important reason [for scientific stagnation] is that Pakistan’s industries are reluctant to respond

positively to research that is feasible and can be implemented.”

This is why, says Rauf, Pakistani science and Pakistani industry seem to exist in two separate worlds.

Rauf explains that the few indigenous success stories that had

been visible up till now — like the first antivirus made in Paki-

stan– were all personal efforts. Sadly, our industry is still unable to assimilate talent such as this.

Najam also believes that there is a lack of coordination between

the academia and industry of Pakistan. “The real culprit is the psychology of Pakistani industrialists. They are perfectly happy

to import and process raw materials, rather than engage scien-

tists for product development. Some 80 per cent of the industry is not conducting active research, preferring to remain within the field of basic processing. It’s a vicious cycle.”

Ashraf agrees that there are some great universities that are

doing some good research, but he concedes that their work is not

being used, simply because industrialists are not research-ori-

ented and do not fund research. The students, with their meagre resources, may demonstrate an idea but they cannot make it into a viable product without funding. Our industry, he says, simply does not want to take that risk.

In the recent past, says Rauf, efforts were being made by Dr At-

Recycled Plastic Bottle Solar Water Heater Abdul Rauf made a solar water heater from recycled water bottles with the help of his friends Saad, Hassan and Tipu, in 2010. It heats water up to 90°C and also serves as a makeshift desalination plant. The idea behind it was to allow people in the northern areas to heat water using this mechanism rather than burning firewood.

Unique Energy Producing machine Syed Adnan Subzwari, a young scientist from Karachi, completed the theoretical concept of a unique engine, capable of producing huge amounts of energy, which can run electric generators and machineries without using any fuel. The idea behind it was to provide a solutionbased technique to resolve the energy crisis in Pakistan.

Brain controlled Robotic Arm A group of Pakistani students from NUST University invented a Brain Controlled Artificial Robotic Hand named MYOElectric Prosthetic Upper Limb. It has been specially designed for handicapped people, by connecting some sensors to the arm. The robotic arm detects the brain’s signals and responds accordingly.


ta-ur-Rahman to make a consortium of industries and research faculties to develop and make need-based research. “But he had to surrender and quit his post, and the whole story is well covered by the media.” Rauf explains that, up to an extent, some indus

tries did sponsor some research projects. “But these projects were not up to international standards.” Moreover, he says that some sometimes, students cut down on their research in order to maintain their GPA’s and put more time in study than research.

Given the historical aspect of the situation, Ashraf strikes an

optimistic note, saying that up till the late ‘80s there were very few good engineering universities in Pakistan, and most of those

were in the public sector. “The professors of those institutions were discouraged from extra activities other than their teaching

assignments, but now there are closer ties between academia and industry. The students now take mandatory internships in the industrial sector and are found to be good contributing as assets.”

And in this sense, Suleman Ashraf does not believe that there

is a divide within the academia and the industry. “I always give

internships to students in my company and find no problem with this aspect of the industry-academia relationship. Some of the universities are very organised in finding placement for their

students. They have coordinators who start contacting different

Industrial setups ahead of time to find their needs and offering them interns.”

VOX POPULI According to a GALLUP PAKISTAN survey, 38% per cent of Pakistanis polled consider scientific excellence to be the single most important factor contributing to the power of a country. The economy (37%) came in a close second, while military strength was considered the most important factor by only 24% of the respondents.

So yes, the science scenario is bleak at the moment, along with

so much else. But baby steps are being taken to try and bridge the gap between academia and industry. Recently, both NUST and NED have held conferences and workshops aimed at bringing researchers together with the captains of industry.

Hopefully, this long sought after alchemy will help transform

the lead of research into gold that may well swell Pakistan’s coffers. And hopefully it’ll happen in our lifetimes. a

Brain computer Virus One of the first ever computer viruses was invented in Lahore. Brain was the brainchild (no pun intended) of two brothers named Basit and Amjad Farooq Alvi in 1986. It affects the IBM PC computer by replacing the boot sector of a floppy disk with a copy of the virus. The real boot sec sector is moved to another sector and marked as bad. The brothers told TIME magazine that they had written it to protect their medical software from piracy and it was supposed to target copyright infringers only.

Pakistan’s First Anti-Virus “Instant Virus Killer” Two Pakistanis Hafiz Usman and Imran claim to have made the only anti-virus in the world which can fix the Microsoft windows re-boot issue once viruses infect system files. They claim that if the precautions for Windows safety are carefully followed, the anti-virus can give 90% protection against viruses entering the computer via the web, USB disks and pirated CDs.

13 23 AUGUST 28-SEPTEMBER 3 2011

COMMENT Why searching for scientific miracles in the Holy Book is neither good science nor good religion.

What is the relation between science and religion? This is an important question. The world we inhabit today is shaped by modern science and its practical applications. The way we perceive nature is deeply informed by our understanding of the vastness of the cosmos and the complexities of the sub-atomic worlds as revealed by science. At the same time, religion is an integral part of Pakistani society, and shapes the identity of millions of its citizens. For a place like Pakistan, both science and religion are essential. It is no surprise then that the question of the relation between

science and religion often comes up in conversations. From a

historical perspective, there is no single narrative that defines this relation. There have been times when religious authorities stymied science. On other occasions, holy books have provided

the inspiration, and religious institutions the support, to help

discover the secrets of the universe. There have been religious scientists: Ibn al-Shattir was a muwaqqit at a mosque in Damascus, Mendel was a priest. And there have been scientists who have

been vocal in their opposition to religion. Thus, it is hard to define the relation between science and religion in any other way than complex.

In Pakistan today, there seems to be consensus that science

and religion are not opposed to each other. This signals a positive approach, as Pakistan needs to develop a strong scientific culture

to meet the challenges of the 21st century. However, for a large majority, this view is shaped by the pseudoscience of finding scientific miracles in the Qur’an (also known as I’jaz). This is nei-

ther good science nor good religion! If many of our bright, young minds are being introduced to science this way, then the practice

of I’jaz is perhaps a major impediment to the development of a vibrant scientific culture in Pakistan.

Science is driven by curiosity about the natural world. Unsolved

problems attract the attention of its practitioners. The harder the problem, the more attention it gets.

For example, one of the hottest areas in astronomy today is ex-

ploring the nature of “dark matter” — we know it exists but we cannot see it, nor does it interact with ordinary matter. Some of

the brightest minds are searching for dark matter in the largest

particle accelerators in the world as well as in observatories looking for evidence in large galaxy clusters. We do not know when


or where we will find the evidence. It is also possible (though

unlikely) that someone will show that dark matter does not exAUGUST 28-SEPTEMBER 3 2011

the scie script


ence of tures

ist and that our inference about its existence was deeply flawed. Science will go wherever evidence will take it.

On the other hand, those who are seeking scientific miracles

in the Qur’an are driven neither by curiosity about the natural

world nor by the desire to find explanations of unsolved prob-

lems. Instead, they know that they already know the answer.

For them, the primary goal is to seek validity of one’s own belief through the authority of science.

This search for science in scriptures is a relatively new phe-

nomenon. It is the religious response to the advent of modernity and the rise of modern science as the most powerful method for

Those who are seeking scientific miracles in the Qur’an are driven neither by curiosity about the natural world nor by the desire to find explanations of unsolved problems.

explaining the natural world. Muslims are not alone in seeking validity from science. Christians find science in the New Testa-

ment, Jews find it in the Torah, Hindus find it in Bhagavad Gita, and Mormons find it in the Book of Mormon. Everyone is convinced that their holy book contains snippets of modern science.

Take the specific case of dark matter: you can find websites and

even books that claim that dark matter is already mentioned in the Qur’an (for Muslims), the Bible (for Christians), the Torah (for Jews), and Bhagavad Gita (for Hindus). Of course, everyone

will be scrambling to change his or her respective interpretations if the dark matter idea turns out to be wrong. Make no mistake. None of this is science.

It is ironic that when medieval Muslim scholars dominated

natural philosophy (what we may loosely call science today), they did not seek ‘scientific miracles’ in the Qur’an. Instead, the

Qur’an served as an inspiration to understand the natural world through reason.

So what can we do to rekindle the spirit of scientific culture in

Pakistan? This is a large question, but we can take the small step of appreciating the joy of finding things out. From the condensation of water into rain here on Earth, to the detection of lakes of

liquid methane on the Saturn’s moon, Titan. From understanding the way leaves change colours in the winter, to figuring out the how stars form in galaxies.

Science seeks answers about how the universe works. Reli-

gion provides inspiration to explore the natural world. The late American biologist Stephen J Gould called science and religion

two equal but separate spheres of life, or Non-overlapping Magis-

teria, in his own words. The former deals with the physical world

and the latter with questions of ethics and the meaning of life. The building blocks of a scientific culture in Pakistan will have to

be laid upon this mutual respect and separation of these two vital spheres of life. a




on the


of giants

Given the state of science in the Muslim world today, one could be forgiven for imagining that Muslim scientists have made no contributions to the accumulated knowledge of the world. Nothing could be further from the truth. BY OVAIS MANGALWALLA

Ibn-e-Sina COUNTRY: Iran

INTEREST: Medicine, Astronomy, Chemis-

introduction of quarantine to limit the spread of infectious diseases and the introduction of experimental medicine.

His most important mathematical work

try, Geology, Psychology, Theology, Log-

is the 20-volume Kitab al-Shifa (The Book of

WORKS: Ibn-e-Sina, known in the west as

and music as branches of mathematics.

ic, Mathematics and Poetry

Avicenna, memorised the Qur’an and a

great deal of Arabic poetry by the age of ten. At the age of thirteen, he began to

study medicine and mastered the subject

in just three years after which he began treating patients.

Healing) in which he included astronomy LEGACY: Ibn-e-Sina is considered the most

famous Muslim scientist. He is remembered in the West as a major figure who

made important contributions to medicine and eventually the European Renaissance.

In his honour, a lunar crater on the far

His most famous work is the 14-volume

side of the moon has been named after

for medical science in the West from

that all new directories of education in-

Al-Qanun fit Tibb that served as a chief guide the 12th to the 17th century. The book is

known for the discovery of contagious

and sexually transmitted diseases, the


him. In March 2008 it was announced stitutions for health care professionals worldwide would now be called Avicenna Directories.

Al Khwarizmi

the Middle East and Europe.

COUNTRY: Iraq (Baghdad)

nomical tables of Sind and Hind) marked


astronomical research. It contains tables

INTEREST: Mathematics, Astronomy and WORKS: Al Khwarizmi and his colleagues

were scholars at the House of Wisdom in Baghdad where their tasks involved the translation of Greek scientific manuscripts

and studying mathematics, geometry and astronomy. He wrote that given an equation, collecting the unknowns on one side

His masterpiece, Zij Al Hind Sind (astro-

the turning point in the field of Islamic for the movements of the sun, the moon

and the five planets known at the time. Al Khwarizmi also composed a major work

on geography listing latitudes and longi-

tudes, cities, mountains, seas, islands, geographical regions, and rivers.

His minor works cover topics such as the

of the equation is called al-Jabr and collect-

astrolabe, the sundial and the Jewish cal-

equation is called al- Mukabalah. It is the

LEGACY: Al Khwarizmi is considered the

ing the knowns on the other side of the

title of this book that became the foundation of the modern word ‘Algebra’.

Al Khwarizmi also helped introduce

Arabic numerals, the decimal position system, and the concept of zero. He was


Father of modern Algebra. It was he who

developed the sine, cosine and trigono-

metric tables, which were later translated in the West.

His work in the field of geography be-

principally responsible for spreading the

came the basis for the development of a

Al Battani

astronomical instruments. Al Battani also

Indian system of numeration throughout

COUNTRY: Born in Harran in Upper Meso-

world map.

catalogued 489 stars.

In mathematics, Al Battani produced a

potamia (Turkey)

number of trigonometric relationships.

WORKS: Al Battani, like his father Al Hat-

and scrutinising their motions led to a

INTEREST: Astronomy and Mathematics

tani, was skilled in making astronomical instruments.

LEGACY: His work in observing the stars

number of discoveries in the field. The renaissance Astronomer Copernicus men-

His major work is the 57-chapter Kitab-

tioned his indebtedness to Al Battani and

of the solar year as being 365 days, 5 hours,

Copernican Revolution. He is also quoted

al-Zij, in which he determines the length 46 minutes and 24 seconds. The book also

describes the division of the celestial sphere into the signs of the zodiac and into degrees. Moreover, it discusses the construction of a sundial and a number of

quoted him in the book that initiated the

by Tycho Brahe, Riccioli, Kepler and Galileo, among others.

The crater Albategnius on the Moon is

named after him.




terpreting history largely in a political context, he emphasised environmental,

COUNTRY: Tunisia

INTEREST: Sociology, History, Economics, Philosophy and Theology

WORKS: Ibn-e-Khaldun is the originator of

modern sociology and politics; he gave political science a whole new outlook.

He wrote a world history preamble with

sociological, psychological and economic factors governing historical events.

LEGACY: Ibn Khaldun’s books have been translated into many languages, both in

the East and the West, and have inspired subsequent development of these scienc-

es.Muqaddimah is considered to be superior

the first volume aiming to analyse all his-

to Machiavelli’s The Prince in the sphere of

1377, known as Muqaddimah or Prolegomena,

J Toynbee called it “a philosophy of history

torical events. This volume, written in was based on Khaldun’s unique scientific

approach towards the subject and became

a masterpiece in literature on the philosophy of history and sociology. The last

political science. British historian Arnold which is undoubtedly the greatest work of its kind that has ever yet been created by any mind in any time or place.”

Khaldun’s methodology of recording

volume deals largely with the events of

history also laid the groundwork for the

was also written in a scientific manner

nication, propaganda and systematic bias

the art of writing autobiographies.


his own life and is known as Al-Tasrif. This and initiated a new analytical tradition in Unlike most of the earlier writers in-

Al Haytham or Al Basri INTEREST: Physics, Anatomy, Astronomy, Mathematics,

Psychology and Philosophy.

in history, leading to the development of

like shadows, eclipses and the rainbow

COUNTRY: Basra, Iraq (then Persia) Engineering,

observation of the role of state, commu-


WORKS: Al Haytham wrote on a theory of

and described accurately the various parts of the eye and gave a scientific explanation for the process of vision. His studies of optics led him to propose the use of a camera obscura.

In mathematics, he developed analyti-

light, a theory of vision, astronomy, math-

cal geometry by establishing a linkage be-

The seven volume work on optics, Kitab

LEGACY: Al Haytham is considered the

ematics, geometry and a number theory.

al-Manazir, is Ibn Al-Haytham’s most im-

tween algebra and geometry.

Father of modern Optics. The Latin trans-

portant contribution. It was translated

lation of his main work, Kitab-al-Manazir,

1270. He also made a thorough exami-

science, especially on the works of Roger

into Latin as Opticae Thesaurus Alhazeni in

nation of the passage of light through various media and discovered the laws of refraction. He dealt at length with the

theories of various physical phenomena


has exerted great influence on Western Bacon and Johannes Kepler.

The crater Alhazen on the moon is

named in his honour, as is the asteroid ‘59239 Alhazen’. a

FEATURE Asad Mehmood’s story is one of ingenuity and improvisation. A pre-engineering student in the District Public School and College Okara, Mehmood has been fascinated with optics ever since he was introduced to the subject in Class 6. “I used to play with convex and concave lenses and perform a lot of experiments, just for fun,” he reminisces. “At that time, I didn’t even know about telescopes, their working or their internal structures.” While many of us grow out of our childhood fancies, Mehm-

Asad with his telescope

ood’s interest in optics only grew with time, and he started doing some serious reverse engineering. “I not only bought lenses from optics shops but more frequently I got magnifying glasses from

bookstores. Then I bought a toy telescope, checked out its internals and made another one identical to it.”

The success of this first invention spurred him on. Not content

with toy telescopes, he says, “that was when there rose in me the

ambition to build a telescope to view the sky and the moon, the stars and planets.”

But dreaming was one thing, actually building a working tele-

scope quite another. Mehmood had never seen a real telescope in his entire life. There was no astronomy society in Okara that he

could turn to; he didn’t even have an internet connection that he could use for research. Still, though he loathed reading, he pored

over the books in his school library, reading every scrap of information he could find on astronomy, lenses and optics.

“Fortunately I found a book that dealt with the topic ‘light’,

which was exactly what I wanted. I gathered a lot of information about telescopes.”

After a year of failed prototypes, he made a Galilean Telescope,

consisting of two convex lenses placed at a specific distance to each other. At that time, he was in Class 8.

optics and o Al Battani would be proud. The 9th Century astronomer, who determined the length of the solar year, was also a skilled maker of astronomical instruments and gave us a blueprint of the sundial. The same ingenuity is reflected in Asad Mehmood, an unlikely inventor who has made the sixth most powerful telescope in Pakistan – all from items available in his native town of Okara. BY OWAIS JAFRI

Holed up in his room for days on end, he toyed with the mag-

nification and resolution of his telescope, taking great pains to

bring small improvements to his design. The same year he also built a low-cost microscope that had the magnifying power of a

lab microscope, despite never having seen a lab microscope in his life.

Soon, he found himself fascinated with Newtonian telescopes

that consist of a primary parabolic mirror, a plane mirror strip and an eyepiece — all in his head, of course, since there was no

question of gaining access to an actual Newtonian telescope in Okara. These reflecting telescopes offer the possibility of high

quality images with very little blurring. And Mehmood was already raring to make one — now the challenge was to get a parabolic mirror. Mehmood was ready to do anything to get such a


mirror, but parabolic mirrors for Newtonian telescopes were not to be had in Okara.


A view of the moon’s craters

Mehmood had never seen a real telescope in his entire life. There was no astronomy society in Okara that he could turn to; he didn’t even have an internet connection that he could use for research.


Finally, he got his lucky break. The Khwarizmi Science Society,

a Lahore-based astronomical society, arranged a space observing

event at Mehmood’s school. For the first time in his life, Mehmood saw a reflecting telescope, and observed the heavenly bod-

ies. Wonderstruck by that experience and freshly inspired, his resolve to build a similar telescope only grew stronger. This was also the time when he met Ali Khan, a member of the Khwarizmi

Science Society. After a barrage of questions from the fledgling

astronomer, Khan was impressed by the boy’s zeal but told him

that to build his telescope he would have to make his own optics and the task seemed impossible to him. Still, Khan was obliging

enough to rake the markets of Lahore for the material required to make the telescope.

In his first year of F.Sc pre engineering part 1, Mehmood start-

ed work on the Newtonian Telescope.

First, he had to grind a thick glass and convert it into a concave

lens. This was tricky and laborious business but he kept at it day

and night, grinding the glass with his own hands, YouTubing

videos (he now had an internet connection), making mistakes,

and starting over. The failures he faced during this time would have discouraged anyone, but at no point did Mehmood even consider the possibility of failure. His family encouraged him,

particularly his father, who would try to provide Mehmood any materials he needed for his experiments. Six months later, he was done with the first phase of his telescope.

Now the next step was to polish the mirror. The concave lens

that he had ground and refined had to be converted into a smooth

and polished surface. This was a delicate task but finally, a year and 9 months after he first embarked on the project, the glass had gained a fine parabolic concave curve.

He then fashioned the body of his Newtonian telescope with

a PVC pipe: installing the mirror, adjusting the plane mirror strip and installing an eyepiece. He designed a stand on which to mount his creation, one which would not only bear the weight

of the telescope but would also allow for up-down and left-right

movement. Then he lovingly painted it. Asad Mehmood, FSC student from Okara, had just made the 6th most powerful telescope in the country!

Mehmood’s telescope is capable of viewing clear, magni-

fied images of the moon’s craters, Jupiter, (along with its four

moons), Saturn and Venus. This telescope magnifies images to 300 times the size visible to the naked eye. Incidentally, Mehmood is the first to build a telescope of this kind in Pakistan.

So is he now basking in his glory? No, the ‘Junior Scientist’

— as he has affectionately been nicknamed by his teachers and classmates — already has his eyes set on his next project: buildHere’s looking at you kid

ing Pakistan’s largest telescope and he is quite confident that he can do it. And so are we! a




checkmate The dramas of Pakistani cricket pale in comparison to the soap opera that is Pakistani chess, according to women’s chess champion Nida Siddiqui.


Kings and the Queen: Nida with Nigel Short and Gary Kasparov

I open by moving my king’s pawn forward by two spaces. Nida Siddiqui does the same. I think for a second, before bringing out my knight, and Nida responds almost mechanically with a classic opening. We have forgotten the interview, and are concentrating on the well-worn chessboard in silence.

Pakistan, but sadly the person who organises most of the cham-

I am sitting across the table from Nida Siddiqui, the women’s

chess. The next women’s championship is, apparently, due to

chess champion of Pakistan, at her home in Karachi. A chatty 23-year old, she laughs a lot, her eyes shining with intelligence.

national championship, Zinobia. Who wouldn’t want his wife to keep the title for 10 years?”

And you thought Pakistani chess would be a relatively sedate

sport — seems like you can’t escape politics in Pakistan, even in take place next year.

Nida’s chess talent was discovered early on in her childhood,

Nida won the national women’s chess championship in July 2010.

and she tells me how grateful she is to her family for supporting

continue playing and my hands reach for my embattled knight.

But that is not Nida’s only talent — she also recently graduated

“So, is that the first time you won the women’s title?” I ask, as we “Well, there have only been two national championships,” she

replies. “There was one in 2000, and the last one was in 2010.”


pionships happened to be the husband of the winner of the 2000

She tilts her head, and goes on half-jokingly, “There was a 10

year gap in between tournaments. There was lots of interest in AUGUST 28-SEPTEMBER 3 2011

her, by sending her to international chess camps at an early age. from Sindh Medical College as a doctor. Juggling her demanding

medical career with this cerebral pursuit can be a bit tricky at times, but Nida says, “I start practicing for an hour a day about 15 to 30 days before a tournament. While the chess didn’t affect

my studies very much, my grades did go down a little. But I don’t regret my chess at all.”

When I study the chessboard, she is up by several pieces.

Nida talks readily and excitedly about her experiences abroad,

and generally she has been received well internationally. “They

really encourage the fact that there is a female from Pakistan. But they often ask me if I am allowed to leave the house without covering my head, given the Taliban threat. They really admire

the fact that I have the courage to come overseas and play on my own.”

“There is a particular group of people, who discourage chess amongst women. They will taunt you by saying, only women can play such terrible chess”

Back in Karachi, the local chess scene is active, if not exactly

thriving. At the Karachi Open tournament anyone who can pay the entry fees can take part. But this outspoken player has found

This lack of professionalism rightly disturbs her. For a wom-

herself embroiled in a controversy with the tournament organis-

an to hold her own in such an intimidating environment is an

was during a TV interview — that the Karachi tournament or-

during the qualifiers once, and one girl was losing, and everyone

ers. She was told by journalists on two separate occasions — one

ganisers claim that she told them that she doesn’t take part in “kachra tournaments”. Nida claims she never said anything of the sort. In fact, she says, no one bothered to call her or send an

invitation. “Excuse me, I don’t have an ego problem, but I am

achievement in itself. Many, in fact, break down. “I was playing could hear her sobbing. Bichari,” says the confident, opinion-

ated player, for whom the possibility of ever breaking down in such a manner seems unlikely.

I look at the chessboard, and realise that I’ve been clearly

the women’s champion. They just have to call me with a formal

beaten. I put my king down in surrender, as our conversation

Other than the national championship in 2010, the last local

Nida praises the Pakistan chess federation for sending players to

invitation, and I will come.”

tournament Nida played was in 2005. While such tournaments

do help her game, the atmosphere can often be far from ideal.

“I like playing in local tournaments, except for the fact that they

don’t provide you with a very healthy environment. For example,

you are concentrating on your game, and someone is shouting over your head asking when they will get some chai,” says Nida.

I make my move on the chessboard, confident that it is a good

returns to the competitive world of the women’s chess circuit. the Olympiad in Russia, despite being underfunded and barely

active. “When I wrote to the president, Altaf Ahmad Chaudhary,

he supported me competing in Lebanon,” says Nida. “And when I

said that it was time Zinobia defended her title after 10 years, he

organised the tournament in a very small budget, with significant prize money. I really appreciate that.”

A patriotic woman, Nida considers anyone representing Paki-

one, because her hand is on her chin, and she is staring at her

stan to be an ambassador for the country. During the Olympiad

hers. But chess is not just about complex strategies and patient

talks about how Ghazala, Pakistan’s number 3 flouted the rules:

pieces. When she responds, I end up losing two pieces for one of contemplation — the atmosphere in the tournaments, according

to Nida, can be dauntingly testosterone-charged, and often blatantly sexist.

“There is a particular group of people, who discourage chess

amongst women. They will taunt you by saying, only women

can play such terrible chess, and even if you make the right move

in Russia, where there were chess teams from the world over, she “The game was over, and the captain told her to stop playing but

she kept making her moves. When the captain dropped her from

the next game, she went to the other teams and told them that

she hoped Pakistan would lose, and that her team was jealous of her. So, people were laughing at Pakistan in that tournament.”

Nida raises her voice “It’s like in cricket, if for example, Shahid

during a game, you start doubting yourself,” says Nida.

Afridi drops Shoaib Akhtar, and then Shoaib Akhtar goes to the

ments where there is no talking and by no means are you al-

jealous of me.”

Compare that to the rules followed in international tourna-

lowed to distract your opponent. In 2008, Nida took part in the

Indian team and says, I really hope they lose, because they are If Nida is fearless in her criticism, it is because she is confident

38th chess Olympiad in Germany, and scored six of the 10 points

about her game: “I call it like I see it. If I don’t, then how would

for chess was put under check. “I was playing at a local Karachi

concerned, I do carry my weight; I do score points for Pakistan in

made by team Pakistan. When she came back, her enthusiasm club against an experienced player, and he taunted me by saying, ‘You learned this from Germany?’” says Nida. “And I was

still playing. Show some class! And I am talking about good local players here.”

I be different from anyone else? But as far as my performance is tournaments.”

According to Nida, “You are only a high class player, when you

deal with time, bad positions, good positions, your opponent, and if you can play under pressure.”a




The practicalities of rainwater harvesting systems tend to be brushed aside by people who really should know better. The vast majority of our increasingly water-starved population refuses to factor in the vagaries of climate change that, according to global experts, is going to transform much of the country’s agricultural heartland into a desert over the next few decades. Urban dwellers appear to be under the impression that water

shortages are easily solved by phoning for a tanker, increasingly expensive as it is, to come and fill their tanks as and when re-

quired. But, as ground water levels diminish, rivers shrink and feeder streams run dry, such a service is no longer a guaranteed option and, for the less well off, never was feasible in the first

place. Despite perennial water shortages throughout the country, the number of people prepared to help themselves by install-


drop counts Forget water tankers, advises Zahrah Nasir who dismantles misconceptions about rainwater harvesting in the country TEXT & PHOTOGRAPHS BY ZAHRAH NASIR

ing rainwater harvesting systems is abysmally small and when asked why they haven’t done it, they often reply:

1. There isn’t enough rainfall in our locality to make it worth


2. We don’t know where to get such a system. 3. Our property isn’t suitable for that. 4. It wouldn’t look nice.

5. It would cost too much.

6. The water would be filthy.

Above ground rainwater

need right now.

from roof evident.

7. Maybe at some point in the future but there really isn’t any

collection tank with down pipe

These answers point to a lack of foresight. Take number 1: this

is the reason given by most Karachiites who completely fail to understand that even a light shower can, and does, present an opportunity to harvest an incredible amount of rainwater, provided that storage facilities are adequate. If lots of people harvested

rainwater, the collective amount thus ‘saved’ would be stagger-

ing. In addition, it does not even need to actually rain for water

to be harvested; during periods of high humidity — and these are frequent in Karachi — dew water harvesting can be brought in to play with large volumes of water being amassed.

Number 2: Rainwater harvesting and dew collection systems

are not sold in the open market for the simple reason that each

Rainwater harvesting nullahs ready to be installed by WWF-P in a


village near Nathiagali. AUGUST 28-SEPTEMBER 3 2011

and every building has individual requirements. It is therefore

necessary to use some brainpower and design your own, incorporating the best options available. Houses with flat roofs are the

simplest to harvest rainwater from. All that is required is to lead existing drainage pipes into either above or below ground storage Interlinked rainwater tanks, the highest one overflows into two more.

tanks. Simple filtration methods, placed where the water enters the drainage pipes on the roof and again where it drains into the tanks, can vastly improve water quality and prevent blockages

that could otherwise occur due to the presence of leaves, twigs and other debris. Renewable/washable filters can be improvised

out of a few layers of fine wire mesh or even from the foot sections of nylon tights. The main cost incurred in flat roof rainwa-

ter harvesting is that of installing storage tanks but even this is soon recovered by reduced financial outlay on water tankers.

Properties with sloping roofs present a different challenge as

rainwater collecting ‘nullahs’ need to be affixed all around and slightly underneath every single useable slope. Each nullah, in

turn, leads the water into down-pipes and then into tanks, with filters fixed wherever possible. Nullahs may need to be made but the cost should not be exorbitant.

Dew water collection systems are different in that the dew

needs something like galvanised steel sheeting on which to con-

dense and then be channelled down to drainage and collection

pipes before being led on in to storage tanks. The galvanised steel

sheets, preferably corrugated ones, need to be securely fixed into place, with a downward angle, either on existing sloped roofs or,

if the roof is flat, on purpose built frames which will not blow away in high winds.

Number 3 and Number 4: All properties, as long as they have

a roof, can be adapted for rainwater/dew collection and it is up to the owners to make the systems as attractive as they like. If

this proves impossible, then having a bit of ‘weirdness’ around is absolutely fine, as long as it does the job intended.

Number 5: The financial outlay is peanuts when weighed

against the long-term cost of tankers.

Number 6: Install lots of inline filters and use the water for ev-

erything except drinking.

Number 7: The time to do this is right now although, frankly

speaking, it should have been done — and laws introduced to enforce rainwater and dew harvesting — at least 30 years ago.


Rainwater collection nullah. The down pipe at the end leads


into two interconnected storage tanks.



My three-year-old suffers from atrange, but not uncommon, allergy. Anything cold, mildly sour, or crumbly, leaves him with a terrible cough, painful ton tonsils, and a high fever. After trying re repeated courses of antibiotics with little effect, I started to look into alternative remedies. Little did I know that the solution lay

right under my nose! My grandmothers have a treasure trove of tried and tested home remedies for treating many of the common ailments we face. Since I started

using them for my son, he has been enjoying ice cream,

milkshakes and fries without so much as a slight cough.

He can also play in the rain, without fear of allergies. Some of these ‘totkas’ helped change my son’s life, and I hope they can do the same for you and your loved ones.

Honey cough syrup: 1tsp honey+ pinch black salt (kala

namak) + pinch turmeric (haldi). Warm up slightly and take to relieve coughing and pain. If you take this as soon

as you feel pain swallowing — which usually indicates

the onset of a sore throat — you may avoid the infection altogether. It works for me!

This ‘medicine’ tastes quite good — my kids love it. The

dosage, however, has to be reduced for them: a couple of drops of the mixture should be enough.

Honey and ginger brew: Add 1 tsp ginger juice and the juice of one lemon (or half an orange) to 1 cup of hot water. Add honey to sweeten. Sip slowly, letting it rest in the

back of your throat between sips, to provide immediate

relief from pain and irritation. This concoction worked infec wonderfully every time my brother had a tonsils infection.


Snorting water: This is extremely effective for clearing the AUGUST 28-SEPTEMBER 3 2011

airways. It may be a little painful for the first 5

Masala tea: My father drinks this whenever he

a try. Mix 1 tsp salt in a bowl of warm water. Take

Put 2 cloves (long), 2 whole black peppers, a one-

seconds, but gives instant relief so it’s well worth

a handful and ‘inhale’ it through your nose, as far

as you can. After a couple of times you’ll figure

out how to take the water in your nose and out of the mouth. I know it sounds disgusting but it works like magic! Repeat at least 8 to 10 times. Warm salt water loosens the mucus, which you can then easily blow out through your nose. This gives immediate results.

Massage oil with carom seeds (ajwain): Simmer 1 tsp

ajwain in half a cup of olive oil over a very low

feels a sore throat coming on and it always helps. inch piece of cinnamon (dalcheeni) and some chopped ginger in a cup of water, and slowly bring to boil. Make your choice of tea with this water, and enjoy.

Take steam. Hot vapours help clear the air passag-

es, and release mucus. Add a few drops of eucalyptus oil, or menthol, for better results. Studies

have shown taking steam shortens the duration of a throat infection.

flame (a high flame will cause the oil to ignite)

Other remedies: Gargling with salt and water is a

strain into an airtight container for storage. It

meric, a pinch of cayenne pepper and an aspirin

until the seeds are completely burnt. Cool and works so well I always keep some in store.

Massage warm oil on the throat area, and wrap

common remedy for a sore throat. Add ½ tsp turto increase its effectiveness tenfold.

A slightly odd, but effective, remedy calls for a

around a piece of cloth — great for curbing night-

cloth soaked in cold water, placed on your throat,

chest area (front and back) and wear an extra lay-

Leave overnight. This works as the cold compress

time coughing. For wheezing, massage onto the er of clothing. To clear the nasal passages, massage onto the bridge of the nose and forehead, and wrap a scarf around your head. This will

and wrapped around with another piece of cloth.

draws blood to the region, and expedites the healing process.

If you can tolerate the taste, suck on raw gar-

clear up a stuffy nose; especially important for

lic; otherwise eat it mixed with food. It is a natu-

for young children who can’t expectorate mucus.


getting much needed sleep! This remedy is great

ral antibiotic, excellent for fighting all kinds of

As with any other mode of treatment, the remedies need to be used regularly, at least three times a day, to gain full advantage. These remedies are equally effective for adults and children. Please use your own discretion when using these remedies for treating infants, and patients with allergies or pre-existing health conditions. This article is for informational purposes only and does not replace the advice of your physician. Consult a doctor if symptoms persist.



film never mind the dinosaurs BY SASCHA AKHTAR

The ‘tree of life,’ symbol has been prevalent for centuries, running through every belief system known to man. On a very basic level, it refers to a mystical concept alluding to the interconnectedness of all life. With this film, critically acclaimed director Terrence Malick has gone back to the primordial source in more ways than one. He has chosen to explore life, death and everything that falls between these two polarities by employing the tree of life theme, but he has also returned to his own origins. His life began in the Midwest, he attended an Episcopalian school and went on to study and then teach philosophy. Tree of Life is an ode to his inherent “love of science, love of nature and love of God”. In a nod to his roots, the Biblical tone is strong; the film begins with a quote from the Book of Job, and is a powerful representation from an enigmatic filmmaker of macrocosm and microcosm, the Greek Neo-Platonic schema of seeing the same patterns reproduced in all levels of the cosmos from the macro level down to the micro. Man, in this schema, is the mid-point. Still with me? Then read on. In the film we go on this exact journey; from extravagant visual voyages into the outer-planetary hemispheres, to the internal patterns of bacteria, organisms, atoms, returning to the being at the heart of it all — Man. This journey is vivid and hallucinatory — and it must be said, a lot of fun for those devoted cinephiles who live to gobble up such visual treats. But even such dedicated cinephiles may well feel that Malick may have gone too far with the gratuitous dinosaurs. Man is represented by a ‘normal’, ‘decent’, hardworking all-American Midwestern family who suffer the loss of a young child. Malick forces us to meditate on death with his trademark heavy-handed devices which he utilises to great effect. He creates a complete psychogeography of the human condition using introspective voiceover almost exclusively. The cues or signals to the watcher of 54 this film invariably come from the faces of the actors which one AUGUST 28-SEPTEMBER 3 2011

branching out Malick may have gone too far with the gratuitous dinosaurs finds oneself staring at for inordinate lengths of time. It all feels very Kubrickian. It can’t hurt that Malick made the choice to shoot in natural light wherever possible, a Kubrickian hallmark. Exquisite attention to the sound engineering is evident, and it is this that truly puts a finish on the flavour of the film. Most of it takes place outdoors, in a leafy, green suburb and the sound design does not let you out of that suburb for even a second; it holds you captive. The result is something that is both alarmingly stifling and alarmingly expansive. The strong Christian over or undertones, depending on which way you look at it, however, distract from an idea that is more transcendent. The choice to use the all-too-familiar stars Brad Pitt and Sean Penn — has the odd effect of making the film less memorable rather than more. It’s the Warhol effect; lesser known faces would have suited the central conceit of the film better. Due to their considerable fame, it is difficult to perceive of them as anything other than the identities that they bring with them, no matter how hard they try to ‘act’. They’re great actors, but they are unable to transcend their egos, which is ultimately what is at the heart of the film. If this has made no sense at all, then that’s a good thing, because you are now ready to watch Tree of Life. A word of advice, try not to be already depressed when you do...and let me know what you make of the dinosaurs. a


10 things I hate about ... distant weddings

1 2 3 4 5

Attending it. No matter what you say, if your parents

want you to go, you’ll go. Yes, even if you bribe them with the promise of doing that one thing that they have been begging you to do for years now. No, there’s no way out of it.

Dressing up. Dressing too casually will freak your parents

out and dressing too heavily might have you mistaken for Meera. And even using that as an argument doesn’t get you out of it.

The weird aunties. Some auntie will eye you from a hun-

dred tables away despite your efforts to hide yourself.

Even if you’re wearing a bored-to-death look that’ll make Kristen Stewart look hyperactive, said auntie will approach you and take in every detail of your time on earth

from you, before moving on to verify your bona fides from the hosts and the people passing by — yes, even them.

Having your mother approached. The same auntie will

want to meet your mother. Urgently. Yes, she has an unmarried idiot of a son she needs to rid herself of.


6 7 8 9 10

Being unable to dance. Despite badly wanting to dance, you can’t because these people are complete strangers. So

you sit there and watch all these bimbos dancing to the

latest Indian tunes, in the latest Indian styles, in almost the latest Indian clothes. Hey! We’re Muslims, there ARE limits.

Arguing with the parents. You whine, sigh, groan, grunt, snort, until you catch your parents’ attention. You explain

how you detest every second of being there, and they tell

you it’s just a matter of another hour. Then you have a staring contest. Your parents win.

The forced courtesy. People mistake you as someone else

and tell you all about what’s been up with them recently before allowing you to tell them you’re someone else.

Not being able to eat. By the time dinner is served you offer a little prayer of thanks, only to find that auntie has

found her way back to you. You leave the food and run. She’ll run after you. Mind you osteoporosis doesn’t have an incidence rate of a 100 per cent. Auntie will manage to corner you and have you meet her son.

The gawking. Every fat, middle-aged, mustachioed,

beady-eyed man will gawk at you till you wish you could drop dead. So what if his wife is sitting right beside him?


You know the son. Need I say more? a

The Express Tribune Magazine - August 28