The year 2014 ended strangely for NASA with public pronouncements from JWST Science Boss and Big Bang Pioneer John Mather that are totally inconsistent with his scientific past! Mather and George Smoot, as you may recall, are the bridge between the old age Big Bang Cosmology of the mathematicians and the new age of Big Bang Cosmology as a precision measurement science.

First, recall that Smoot and Mather were the two “Witnesses to the birth of the universe”. Mather measured the temperature of the placenta and Smoot made the Sonogram picture of the baby. But a ticket event ($25 a pop) at the Smithsonian Institution on December 16 was advertised as follows:

John Mather, senior astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, who will tell you there is no origin to the universe, only a universe that is continually transforming itself.

Second, Mather’s entire active career was devoted to finding the blackbody spectrum in the sky, predicted by Big Bang Theory. The COBE instrument was designed most elaborately to look for that blackbody. It would not be able to measure any spectra that were not that blackbody. But in an interview published on December 23, the following exchange took place. Here Mather seems clearly to be saying that he went to measure the radiation without any prejudice.

Aviez-vous déjà une idée de ce à quoi allait ressembler cette première lumière ? (Did you have any (preconceived) idea what the first light would look like?)

John Mather : Aucune ! À l’époque où nous travaillions sur le design de la mission, il n’existait aucun modèle précis du fond diffus cosmologique. Tout ce que l’on savait, c’est que c’était important ! (Not a one! When we were working on the design of the (COBE) mission, there was no accurate model of the cosmic background. All we knew was that it was important! )

John Mather is lately appearing in various Performing Arts Centers at ticket events. His next appearance is here – $30 a pop.


Smoot still continues to show his Baby picture album. He and Mather seem to be parting ways on this. Here’s what he said on October 31:

Using our most advanced techniques and instruments we sift through light coming to us from all parts of the universe. We separate and study the cosmic microwave background as a relic of the very early universe to understand the events surrounding the birth and subsequent development of the Universe … we can tell the tale of the creation and history of the Universe and show key supporting evidence some of it from very early times including using the cosmic background light to provide a direct image of the embryo universe.

But has he too has lost his marbles, like Mather? He is getting there. To see this, we have to look elsewhere.

Out of possibly 100++ living Nobel Laureates, the Nobel Foundation recently chose George Smoot to represent the new face of the Nobel Prize. They sent him to India to accompany a traveling Nobel Exhibit with great fanfare and diplomacy. Smoot was invited to address a Commencement at the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IITD). What did Smoot do? Read on:

“Lost all personal respect for the 2006 Physics Nobel Laureate George Smoot (also known for his association with the TV serial Big Bang Theory). His Science may be good but as a person his way of thinking is warped. He addressed the students of IITD on the convocation and tried to belittle Indians. He showed how ignorant he was about India. He started by saying how there were famines in India of which he heard when he was a child. How his father helped do all the calculations because of which reservoirs were built in India. he also emphasized that it was because of World Bank that there is enough food grain production in India and so the nation should thank the World Bank and not be critical of it. The best was his statement (which to me seemed like a copy of half of the statement from The World is Flat without credit to Friedman). He said that when he was a child and would leave food on the plate his mother would ask him to eat it as the same food would otherwise have fed some starving Indian. He conveniently forgot the second part as to how the Indians and Chinese would take away the jobs if the Americans would not study their Maths!

He referred to the graduating class as losers as according to him all billionaires and richest person on the planet were college dropouts.

All this in a private conversation would have been may be acceptable and arguable but as a part of convocation speech and the blatant manner in which he put it was at least for me and many of my colleagues in very bad taste.

Possibly serves the IITD authorities right in trying to force this guy to address the convocation, despite his reluctance to do so. The Dean Academics IITD was all gaga for more than a month that a Nobel laureate would address the convocation but i am sure at the end of his speech he also must have had second thoughts about his choice of the speaker. The lesson to be learnt is: Do not prostrate when you see a foreigner with accomplishments in a particular field and expect him to be a God of all things.”

~ By Sanjeev Sanghi, Professor at IITD – as a Facebook post.



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