In the Light of Candle Flames: Lahore Science Mela 2022

The sight is characteristic. Bricks washed in red and whitewashed walls shedding off flakes of decades old paint represent the quintessential Pakistani public school. Yet there is more to the well deserved notoriety of these institutions than just crumbling infrastructure. More often than not, what goes unnoticed is the teaching and learning taking place (if at all) in the classrooms of these state-sponsored schools. In practice, they represent the state’s grotesque inability and unwillingness to impart quality education to its citizens. This particular public school too was a close manifestation of the previously mentioned archetype. Round the year, the same outdated curriculum gets taught via the same ineffective practices. At the close of the academic session, typical school festivities celebrate its high achievers who through drill and practice have mastered the rote based pedagogical method of the matriculation exams. This time around, a very different type of festivity was due.

School students arriving for the Lahore Science Mela in the early hours of 29 October 2022.
A student peeks at the sun.

The Khwarizmi Science Society (KSS) was all set to hold its Fourth Lahore Science Mela (LSM) which promised to be a display of genuine curiosity and wonder — two virtues deemed either insignificant or threatening by the state’s education apparatuses. A celebration of life amidst the ruins of a necropolis illustrates more than just a passable contradiction. Maybe the point of putting up conflicting ideas is to elucidate the possibility of their existence to those who have grown accustomed to the monolithic nature of things. Maybe lighting up candles serves no other purpose than to render the supposed inevitability of the reigning dark superfluous. Maybe the purpose of pointing out contradictions is to resolve them.

Exploring the world of Virtual Reality (VR) at Lahore Science Mela 2022.

Through the vantage point of a volunteer for the LSM 2022, I had the privilege of observing this resolution of contrasting views and ideas first hand. This observation primarily consisted of individual instances which when taken in context are symbolic of greater social and societal dynamics. Instances, though momentary in their existence, hold great value for us momentary beings. Our lives, composed of countless individual moments, give disparate attention to certain instances of importance and are, in turn, disproportionately influenced by them. From time to time, it just so happens that a particular observation of ours radically transforms our way of thinking, our thoughts on life and provides us with a shattering and profound sense of clarity. These transitory occasions of inspiration are the most concentrated in childhood; when we look at things with no preconceived notions and are receptive to novelty. This is the fundamental mechanism through which millions have found meaning and purpose to life and have gone to great extents in pursuit of whatever they see fit.

Lahore Astronomical Society’s amateur astronomers talking about planets and starts at their stall.
The BioRobotics Institute, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna team showing all that their life-mimicking robots can do.

Neil deGrasse Tyson and many other public figures in science recount the origins of their lifelong passions via such moments when a scientific excursion, project or concept appeared to satisfy their innate curiosity and provide answers to their daily and universal questions simultaneously. The United States’ public education isn’t something to be sought after either but it is the availability of extracurricular avenues of science and technology that lights up curious minds. Apart from the mass import of foreign intellectuals, maybe this explains the existence of a robust scientific culture in that part of the world.

There are no Hayden Planetarium and World Science Festival in Pakistan. The Lahore Science Mela aims to counter this unfortunate fact. There are many ways in which this may come true. Whether it be Professor Nidhal Guessom discussing the aftermath of a supernova and the prospects of Pluto with a group of students after his enthusiastic lecture or the students of remote areas of Southern Punjab explaining their hydro turbine model to interested passer-byes, it is the democratisation of science communication and culture that is of the utmost effect. This allows the children’s intrinsic wonder to be utilized and exacerbated rather than tamed and put off. The joy on their faces tells us that they too are equally excited about and receptive to the marvels of the natural and physical world. It’s just that the world of grown men decided not to cater to their growth.

Children inside the KSS planetarium at LSM.

So the fault appeared not to be in our stars but in ourselves. “But what stars?”, the child who has grown up in urban centres might ask. For the artificial luminosity from thousands of sources on ground dims the light from the heavens. So it is justified that her face lights up when she sees the night sky in all its vigour in the planetarium. The narration tells her of neighbouring worlds and their chances at life, that what appear to us as mere points of light might harbour an alien civilisation of their own and that they may too look at our star and wonder the same. It is reasonable to assume that she will never look at the night sky the same way again. It is also probable that of the hundred of thousands of people who visited, the LSM touched many of their lives in numerous and varied ways. If that probability does not cease to exist, the people who have put all their efforts into bringing the Mela to life can rest assured that their labour has bore fruit.

Here’s the thing about hope: it’s fickle. It’s existence is as volatile as the flickers of a candle flame. The solution is not to stop trying altogether but to light as many candles as possible in our ephemeral existences. We arrive again at our initial emphasis that the point of contradictions is to resolve them. Only then can the candle of science effectively counter the dark of the demon haunted world. There was a time when Abu Musa Al Khwarizmi borrowed whole numeral systems from the subcontinent and astrolabes were made in Lahore. In the light of candle flames, we see a distant hint of a future not so different. It is time that our skies should not remain devoid of stars!

عصر حاضر اور تعمیر حیات میں سائنس کا کردار اور کرشمات

انسان اور کائنات کا آپس میں بہت گہرا رشتہ ہے۔ حیاتیاتی سطح پر انسان فطرت کی کوکھ سے جنم لیا گیا جاندار ہے جسے جمادات و نباتات سے انتہائی. قریبی نسبت ہے۔لیکن انسان اپنے جیسے دیگر جانداروں سے مختلف ہے ۔اس اختلاف کا اظہار اسکی سماجی زندگی میں ہوتا ہے۔انسانی سماج دیگر تمام ذی حیات مخلوقات کے سماجوں سے مختلف ہے۔ کہا جاتا ہے کہ انسان کا سماج ایک تہذیبی عمل سے گزرتا ہے اور ہر تہذیبی عمل کی بنیاد کچھ انسانی رشتوں، احساسات اور علوم پر ہوتی ہے۔رشتوں سے خاندان یا قبیلہ ، احساسات سے رسوم و روایات اور علوم سے فکروفلسفہ جنم لیتا ہے۔جس طرح خاندان اور روایات کا نسل در نسل انتقال تہذیبی عمل کے لئے ضروری ہے ویسے ہی فکر و فلسفہ انسانی سماج کی ترویج کے لئے لازمی ہوتا جاتا ہے

قدیم دور سے ہی انسان نے جس قدر تبدیلی اپنے خاندانی نظام اور روایات میں پیدا کی ہےاسی قدر تبدیلی علوم و افکار میں بھی آئی ہے۔اگر کبھی سماجی حالات اور روایات نے انسانی فکر پر اپنے اثرات مرتب کیئے ہیں تو وہیں نئی فکر نے نیا سماج بھی تشکیل دیا ہے۔یورپ کی مثال ہمارے سامنے ہے کہ جہاں کے انسان نے قدیم مذہبی اور یونانی قیاس آرا طرز فکر کو خیر آباد کہا اور تجرباتی سائنس کی بنیاد رکھی جس کے نتائج پوری دنیا میں دیکھے جاسکتے ہیں۔دنیا جو آج انٹرنیٹ، تیز رفتار ہوائی جہازوں اور بڑے پیمانے کی مشینری جیسی نعمتوں کے وسیلے سے علمی، اقتصادی اور ثقافتی لحاظ سے ایک گلوبل ولیج کی شکل اختیار کر گئی ہے تو اسکی بنیاد میں دیگر سماجی ، سیاسی اور معاشی انقلابات کے ساتھ ساتھ سائنسی انقلاب بھی بدرجہ اتم موجود ہے۔لیکن کیا سائنس صرف عملی زندگی میں انسان کے سماج کو تبدیل کرتی ہے یا ہم اسے اپنی کائنات کے بارے مکمل فہم کا وسیلہ قرار دے سکتے ہیں؟ دیگر شعبہ جات جیسے آرٹ اور اسکی مختلف اقسام موسیقی، مصوری،شاعری ، نثر سمیت علم الکلام، تصوف یا روحانیت وغیرہ بھی تو کائنات اور انسان کے باہمی تعلق کی وضاحت پیش کرتے ہیں۔ پھر سائنس کیا ادب سے معتبر قرار دی جائے ؟ ایسا کیوں دیکھنے میں ملتا ہے کہ زیادہ تر جو لوگ سائنس کا گہرا مطالعہ کرتے ہیں وہ مذاہب اور ادب وغیرہ کو زیادہ اہمیت نہیں دیتے؟

حقیقت پسندی اور جمالیات میں زیادہ بنیادی کون ہے؟ سائنس اور معنی خیزی کا باہمی ربط کیا ہے؟ ان سوالوں کے جواب میں جو علم وجود میں آتا ہے اسے کبھی ‘سائنس کا فلسفہ’ اور کبھی ‘لسانیات اور سائنس’ کے نام سے یاد کیا جاتا ہے۔
لاہور میں واقع ماڈل ٹاون سوسائٹی میں ڈی پی ایس سکول میں خوارزمی سائنس سوسائٹی کی جانب سے 29 اور 30 اکتوبر کو لاہور سائنس میلہ کا انعقاد کیا جا رہا ہے۔ خوارزمی سائنس سوسائٹی کے زیر اہتمام یہ لاہور کا چوتھا میلہ ہے ۔ اس میلے میں محقق ، سائنسدان، طالب علم اور عوام جوق در چوق شرکت کرتے ہیں۔ سائنس کے علمی کمالات اور مظاہرون سے لیکر سکولون ، کالجون اور یونیورسٹیوں کے طالب علموں تک ہر عمر کا سائنسدان اور طالب علم بغیر صنفی تفریق یا طبقہ اس میں شرکت کرتا ہے

گزشتہ میلہ جو 2019 میں ہوا تھا اس میں پنجاب کے ہر ضلع سے کم از کم ایک سکول نے اپنی عملی اور سائنسی منصوبون کیساتھ اس میں شرکت کی اسکے علاوہ دانش سکول سسٹم کے 14 سکول بحی شریک ہوئے لاہور کے کالجز اور سکولون کے ساتھ ساتھ جامعات کے طالب علم بھی اپنے پراجیکٹس کی نمائش کے ساتھ میلے میں شریک تھے ۔
بات یہیں ختم نہیں ہوتی دنیاءے فزکس کی سب سے بڑی لیبارٹری سرن کے میڈیا ہیڈ جاوو پیکینیو اپنی ایل ایچ سے انٹریکٹو ٹنل کیساتھ موجود تھے۔ اس مرتبہ سرن کیساتھ ساتھ کچھ اور غیر ملکی مہمان اور نامور سائنسدان بھی لاہور سائنس میلہ کو رونق بخش رہے ہیں جن میں سے سافٹ ربوٹکس یا شعبہ زراعت کیلئے بائیوربورٹس تیار کرنے والی اٹلی کا مشہور زمانہ بائیو ربورٹکس انسٹی ٹیوٹ شرکت کر رہا ہے۔ ایران سےاصفہان سکول آف میتھس کے اساتذہ جو پہلے بھی لاہور سائنس میلہ میں شرکت کر چکے ہیں تسریف لا رہے ہیں۔ شارجا میں امریکن یونیورسٹی کے استاد اور آسٹروفزکس کے موضوع پر متعدد کتابیں لکھنے والے ڈاکٹر ندھم گیسم اور امریکی ریاست ایریزونا سے فزکس کے ماہر

استاد اور متعدد کتابوں کے مصنف ڈاکٹر پال ڈیوس ویڈیو لنک سے شرکت کریں گے۔

لاہور فن و ثقافت کا مرکز ہونے کے ساتھ ساتھ ملک میں قابل رشک تعلیمی اداروں اور تخلیق کاروں کا مزکز بھی ہے اسی شہر میں سائنس کے فروغ اور اسے آسان فہم عملی طریقہ سے طالب علموں تک پہنچانے کی ایک تحریک کا آغاز نوئے کی دہائی میں ہوا اور یہ تحریک تھی خوارزمی سائنس سوسائٹی کا قیام ۔ جو ایران سے تعلق رکھنے والے شہرہ آفاق ریاضی دان اور الجبرہ کے موجد محمد ابن موسی الخوارزمی کے نام پر رکھی گئی۔
صاحب علم جانتے ہیں کہ خوارزمی ہی وہ شخصیت ہیں جنکے بنائے الجبزہ کی بنیاد پر آج کا سوشل میڈیا اور دنیا بھر میں جاسوسی کے جدید ترین نظام چل رہے ہیں اور لوگ ردم کے کمالات آئی ٹی سے شروع ہو کر ہر شعبہ ہائے زندگی پر چھائے ہوئے ہیں۔
لاہور کے ایک مایہ ناز محقق، استاد اور سائنسدان ڈاکٹر انوار سادات نے نوئے کی دہائی میں اس تنظیم کی بنیاد رکھی۔ جو اب ایک ملکی تحریک کی شکل لے چکا ہے ۔

A young girl’s journey into STEM

“After a certain high level of technical skill is achieved, science and art tend to coalesce in aesthetics, plasticity and form.”

Aima Ahmad’s father didn’t know beforehand about the occurrence of the first-ever Lahore Science Mela in 2017. He was mildly curious about the crowd of people gathered outside the venue and decided to take a look for himself. Being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the event and the sheer number of scientific wonders at the display, he decided to bring his children the next day. The festival was set with all sorts of models, projects and demonstrations by various exhibitors from all around the country. There, Aima discovered her hitherto dormant aptitude for robotics and mechanics and found people who could provide her with further opportunities to learn and explore. She was nine years old then. One thing led to another and soon Aima was enrolled in a robotics boot camp organised by students of the IT University Lahore.

“Science welcomes everyone with open arms.”

Aima Ahmed with her siblings, father posing with the team of Lahore Science Mela.

Her passion for creating and inventing was appropriately kindled and nurtured. Located in the same building as the university, the US Embassy’s Lincoln Corner was offering a short course on programming. Aima became a regular there too and also won the English Access Microscholarship Program from the American Consulate.

Her innate desire to imagine and innovate was sufficiently sparked, she was now assembling technical models and solving scientific puzzles in her free time. But she didn’t keep it to herself. Aima regularly puts up demonstrations and arranges relevant sessions for free under the banner of the nonprofit organisation she runs along with her father, Aim of Awareness. Her home and school have become a congregation point for the curious children in her neighbourhood where she demonstrates projects and teaches techniques for assembling robotic models. She does all this in the hope that other children may also find their passions and interests in the process much as she did at the Lahore Science Mela in 2017.

“Life imitates art, and science imitates life.”

Two years later, she herself was an exhibitor at LSM 2019 where she brought the many models and robots she had engineered and organised a Rubik’s cube-solving marathon. She set a personal example too by being the youngest and the best competitor in the contest. Young children just like her were in awe and aspired to learn and do the same.

Thus, inspiration had effectively come full circle. Her father credits the Khwarizmi Science Society for organising a science-themed event where people of similar interests show up, find life-changing inspirations and make life-long connections.

In a society where young girls are expected to only pursue medical professions so that a certain monetary and marital value may be achieved in return for their education, aspirations such as Aima’s are not commonplace. She shares much hope and ambition with the late Arfa Karim, after whom has named the building in which Aima took part in the programming courses. What she does not share is the advantage of extreme socioeconomic privilege the former had. The Lahore Science Mela by the non-profit Khwarizmi Science Society aims to attract just such individuals. The LSM has proven to be an annual pilgrimage of the eternally curious towards the greatest reward such people can ask for — the company of individuals with similar interests. This is a pat on the back for many people who otherwise consider their hobbies isolationist and their passions unfound in the context of Pakistan. Science is the ultimate expression of the human urge to think and wonder. Science resides not in the outdated textbooks of regressive curriculums or the impenetrable language of the stereotypical scientist, it resides in the minds and hearts of each one of us. To live and remain unbeknownst to that is a sin. We invite you to pay us a visit at the Divisional Public School, Model Town on the 29th and 30th of October and you may find Aima Ahmad there.

Author: Daud Ali Kharal

Transcending Boundaries for the Love of Science

In third-world countries like ours, science is a luxury. With hundreds of thousands of people below the poverty line who barely have their necessities met, there is almost no room to nurture science, innovation, and creativity. Even those who dream of alleviating their generational cycle of poverty can only muster up the resources to send their children to substandard government institutions with outdated curriculums and a culture of rote learning. Amidst all this, a child’s innate curiosity about the world is crushed.

Many children in Pakistan are deprived of the simple joys of tinkering, exploring, and creating. Khwarizmi Science Society, since 1997, has been working to counter this.

Through these constant dark clouds, a beam of hope emerges: Lahore Science Mela. The festival, organized by the Khwarizmi Science Society, is one of its kind in the nation. The event truly embodies the word “inclusive“. It is an open access event; from poor to rich, children to adults, minorities to majorities- all are welcome to engage with science completely free of cost. It is an event that transcends all boundaries of caste and creed for one purpose only: spreading the love of science.

Despite political turmoil, lack of governmental support, and limited resources, the festival continues to thrive. Inaugurated in 2017 by a devoted team of scientists, teachers, and students, it continues to grow in impact and size with every iteration. The entire team consists of volunteers who, amidst the hustle and bustle of life, find the time and energy to contribute in whatever way they can for a brighter tomorrow. They translate their hopes and dreams for a scientifically advanced Pakistan into a call of action.

Lahore Science Mela is a festival for all where everyone irrespective of their background get to experience and celebrate the many wonders of science and technology.
A photograph from LSM 2018.

The two-day Lahore Science Mela hosts people from all over. Not only do exhibitors and visitors come from all the nooks and crannies of Pakistan, they also come from beyond. The event hosts everything from school projects of children to large-scale innovations by international companies. In the past, KSS has collaborated with world-renowned organizations, like CERN, to exhibit projects unlike anything ever seen before in the country and mentored students from all across the province to present awe-inspiring live experiments, collections, and performances at the grand festival . It truly is food for the soul for everybody who considers themselves a curious learner at heart.

The Lahore Science Mela movement gathers all—the scientists, world-renowned organisations, enthusiastic students, artists, and the old and young citizens—at one place to exchange ideas, exhibit their inventions and findings, work towards the democratization of science, and celebrate the innate curiosity found in every human being!
Some glimpses from Lahore Science Mela 2019.

After a break due to COVID-19, the mela is back this year. Lahore Science Mela 2022 is going to be held at Divisional Public School (DPS), Model Town, Lahore, on the 29th and 30th of October 2022. This year’s theme is based on a beautiful excerpt from Allama Iqbal’s poetry, “Raaz-e-Hayat pooch le Khizr khajasta gaam se, Zinda har aik cheez hai koshish-e-na tamaam se”. KSS look forward to hosting all lovers of science in a place of mutual love, respect, and collaboration, to celebrate the wonders of nature, technology, and inventions and together unravel the many mysteries of the universe.

Nehl Noman is currently pursuing her Bachelors in Dental Surgery from Akhtar Saeed Medical and Dental College, Lahore. Her interests include science, activism, writing, and arts.

Khwarizmi Science Society – Pioneering informal science education in Pakistan

While a rigid and structured curriculum in school is integral in acquiring a well-rounded education, a second perspective to learning is just as important. The latter comes from a more practical level of engagement with the physical and natural world. Exploring what is around them and asking questions is innate in children, especially when it falls within the ambit of science. Science motivates children to tackle challenges and make independent choices. While theory is best learnt under the supervision of teachers, understanding that scientific progress is more of a “social endeavor” can only be done outside the classroom.

A high school student performing a chemistry experiment during one of KSS’s Science Days, as a part of the National Science Movement 2016.

Such is the importance of pursuing an informal education, so children are able to develop a degree of familiarity and comfort with their surroundings. They tend to be much less resistant without time and assessment pressures in informal settings. It has also been experimentally shown that such reflective and experiential learning leaves the deepest cognitive impact on developing minds. Children are able to accumulate knowledge from a variety of sources and foster their imagination and creativity. Means of informal education comprise everything from museum exhibits to field visits, from symposiums and conferences to widespread media and news campaigns.

As one of Pakistan’s most active science associations, the Khwarizmi Science Society (KSS) has pioneered a culture of science awareness and education for over two decades. KSS has accomplished widespread science popularisation through provisioning schools with experimental gadgets, kits, demos, and presentations, and has paved the way for organizing a plethora of public workshops, video interviews, animated lectures, interactive exhibitions, and conferences. As part of its National Science Movement, KSS has shed light on the use of science for national uplift, through stimulating observation and critical prowess in the youth. After hosting the Falikyati Melas (Astronomy Festivals) in 2009 and the National Science Movement Festival in 2016, KSS inaugurated the Lahore Science Mela (LSM) in 2017.

Levitating balls at the Lahore Science Mela 2019: a source of bemusement for children and adults alike!

The most recent LSM, held in 2019, was a collaboration with the Ali Institute of Education and attracted a crowd of more than 35,000 people from Punjab’s 36 districts. Attendees noted that “the excitement was palpable” and have described the interactive demonstrations as “marvels of everyday science”. The highlights of LSM 2019 include an interactive math exhibit, the LHC interactive play, a virtual tour of CERN, and Cosmic Perspective’s planetarium. The event has been lauded for bringing more unconventional scientific disciplines to the forefront, including space science, aviation, genetic engineering, and geology.

A team from the Narowal District demonstrates the awe-inspiring elephant toothpaste experiment at the Lahore Science Mela 2019.

KSS has utilized a variety of indigenous resources to set up sustainable science festivals, and a number of training and mentorship programs. It is now more important than ever to cultivate respect and intellectual humility through digital platforms, media campaigns, and constructive dialogue. Illiteracy, unrest, and a misconstrued representation of science in Islam, have all quashed the drive of an inquisitive young population. Despite that, KSS emphasizes the need to probe the “Big Questions” encompassing contemporary frontier topics, like extraterrestrial life, artificial intelligence, and genetic engineering.

This article was originally published on Eblogary.

Gamifying Particle Physics at LSM’19

KSS’s coordination with Dr. Muhammad Sameed at CERN started in January 2019 who connected us with the MediaLab and introduced us to MediaLab’s leader, physicist Joao Pequenao. Joao likes to call himself a ‘recovering physicist’ and his passion is to amplify physics, in particular particle physics, by using contemporary digital technologies to broad audiences around the world. In March 2019, we extended an invitation to CERN to handhold the building and exhibiting the Large Hadron Collider Interactive Tunnel (LIT). CERN accepted our invitation and we gleefully received Joao as he landed on Allama Iqbal International Airport in the early hours of 8 October 2019.

The Tunnel, since LSM 2019, has been exhibited by us at other exciting outreach events as well. See the Children Literary Festival 2020 and the Shakargarh Science Mela 2022!

Any guesses what they are playing football with? Protons!

As soon as CERN’s presence at the Lahore Science Mela was confirmed, our team comprising avid technologists Shahab Ahmed, Mubashra Manzoor and Abubakar Siddiqi was mobilized in Lahore to initiate the building of the LHC Interactive Tunnel. The KSS had never seen a project of this kind, both in terms of its financial outlay and sophistication. Under Joao’s constant advice, Abubakar scuttled in game shops, electronics warehouses, shopping malls and party decorators and as soon as Joao arrived, and under his skillful leadership, we completed the building of the Tunnel to be eventually up at the Lahore Science Mela.

Playing football with protons inside CERN’s LHC Interactive Tunnel.

In the meantime, the KSS assembled a team of young men and women from across the country who would be mentored and taught by the expert-in-residence. Joao taught Junaid Saif and his team the particulars of the Tunnel, gave a tour de force workshop on particle physics, the standard model, improvisation theatre and the art of eloquence for public engagement in science. This training has now left KSS with the capacity to carry on CERN’s mission of propagating physics and educating and inspiring the next generation of scientists.

Students queue for entry into the LHC Interactive Tunnel.

The LHC Interactive Tunnel is a fully immersive gaming experience that uses accelerometers, motion sensors, short-throw projections on the floor, and a large TV screen on the backdrop,combined with gripping multimedia to educate visitors about particle accelerators, collisions and creation of  new particles, the Higgs field, the Higgs boson and using hadrons for healing and therapy. On the occasion of the Lahore Science Mela, the Tunnel was deployed inside an air-conditioned tent on the festival’s location.

What is the Higg’s Field?

KSS’s Tunnel team.

Soon after curtains were raised at 9 am on the 12th of October, enthusiasts were siphoned into the chamber in groups of 30 to 50, leaving an estimated 4000 people directly impacted by the exhilarating multimedia experience. As visitors were awed by the performances of protons collisions, Higgs fields and hadron therapy, they also engaged in interactive discussions on topics ranging from the big bang and the expansion of the universe to its ultimate fate, the composition of matter and energy, the meaning of dark energy and dark matter and the origin of fundamental forces. We believe that the Tunnel has influenced and inspired thousands of young minds, instigating them into asking and wondering about all of these subjects, and considering science and physics as a potent medium to start answering some of the most critical questions about the universe.

View from inside CERN’s LHC Interactive Tunnel.

Furthermore, while demonstrators were busy dealing with the throngs of keen inquirers, Joao was often seen slipping out of the tent, only to mingle with the hundreds of students who immediately encircled him and asked him wide-ranging questions about particle physics, mysteries of the universe, elementary particles, gravity, black holes and perhaps, with questions bordering on religious doctrine and science. Joao had immediately acquired the status of a celebrity attending to continuous requests for visual autographs, i.e. selfies.

Joao Pequenao, CERN’s emissary of science and an instant celebrity at the Lahore Science Mela.

The LHC Interactive Tunnel at the Lahore Science Mela 2019.

(This is part of a full length report by Dr Muhammad Sabieh Anwar and Charisma Wafee on the Lahore Science Mela 2019. To read the complete report, click here.)

Your Place in the Cosmos


Across the endless realms of the sands of time, humans have gaped at the sky to determine when to plant crops and to regularly attempt to answer questions concerning the nature of reality and our existence in the infinite cosmos. Astronomy, being a universal discipline, leads to the broadening of our critical thinking vision, gives fundamental context to our actuality in the universe and leads to transformation of how we see the world. Upon the prominent claim of Copernicus that Earth was not the centre of the universe, a revolution was prompted – a revolution that led to the acceptance of this new global notion by the society.

At Lahore Science Mela 2018, you will peek at your own existence amidst the infinite cosmos as you gaze through the sunny sky via a telescope. You will be given the chance to be in touch with the beautiful subject of astronomy via hands on experience. You will get a chance to peer at the cosmos with a universal and cosmic attitude.  You will certainly be awed by the view of the heavenly sky.


You are born a stranger to this world, having inadvertently hitched a ride on a vehicle whizzing across a road of unimaginable length and unparalleled grandeur. The vehicle is the Earth and the road is the Cosmos, and your journey on it represents a tiny part of the collective human voyage; one spanning hundreds of thousands of years of modern human existence. Like you, billions of others have been a part of this hitch. Like them, you have but borrowed time, until you are inevitably dropped off too. Since humanity embarked on its journey, its history has only covered a minuscule part of the cosmic calendar. We have made exhilarating and unpredictable discoveries over the past few millennia and, as Carl Sagan puts it, been reminded that humans have evolved to wonder; that understanding is a joy itself. We crave for truth, yearn to know, understand and appreciate and we still have a lot to unravel. The discovery of the mathematical framework that presides over all of nature – a universal poetry of reality – has helped us perceive a harmony between the machinery of nature and the way we think. It is the device that has helped 15 billion years of cosmic evolution awaken to a level of greater awareness, to a sense of belonging to the grand cosmos, to a desire to trace its own fantastic journey. This is, indeed, the manifestation of a universe grown to know itself. [1]


[1]Excerpt from The Cosmic Hitchhikers’ article ‘We, the Cosmic Hitchhikers’ written by Kamran Naveed and Saif Ullah Khan. (


The authors are A-levels students at Lahore Grammar School, Johar Town.

Saif Ullah Khan

Kamran Naveed Syed

The ‘i’ in Science


Science – the horrors of school life start flashing in the minds of many at the mere mention of its name. The dry formulae of physics, the never-ending taxa of biology, the ever-so-complicated questions of mathematics, the never-so-simple reactions of chemistry; science has always been considered a privilege for the genius few and a struggle for the rest. But how can something as incommunicable as this explain our world and our lives? Maybe this doesn’t, for the science that I found outside the textbooks has not only let me understand this world but has also transformed me for the better.

I believe the subject of life, biology, encompasses the majesty, diversity and magnanimity of life itself. As an artist, I connect with nature spontaneously. And biology only helps me explore the wonders of life in more depth. Wood logs have more complex ecosystems than skyscrapers and the depths of seas and oceans have a more diverse community than most parts of land. The thinnest of leaves are factories far more efficient than any counterpart established by humans. As a scientist, as an artist, as a Muslim, as a human being, all this only humbles me and welcomes me to draw as much inspiration from biology as I can.And when at times I don’t, I draw conclusions from simple experiments of biology like hardening of egg albumen by steaming a home-made petri dish (a.k.a. katori), or drawing the eyeballs out of the siri of the slaughtered bull at Eid-ul-Azha to observe its optic nerve and lens. And, if nothing else, I make guesses of the diagnosis of the patients in House M.D.

I am currently a student of electrical engineering, and it was not until I had to face C language in the second semester of my degree that I learned programming. Not very eager about it at start, I pretended that the keyboard of my laptop was actually the keyboard of a piano and that a computer language was nothing more than any other language. So all I had to do was try my best to talk to the computer. It took some time, but when I finally got comfortable with communication in C, I realized that the addition of a new language to my skill set was not the only thing that I had gained: while building logics for different projects, the way I thought logically and performed my tasks had changed too. The tasks which I normally did in a hit-and-trial fashion started turning into a series of well-defined steps, the smoothness of my communication with my computer thawed my technophobia out, and my keyboard never stopped playing symphonies. Besides, the euphoria of a properly executing program is simply unfathomable! I have learned three programming languages by now, and plan on learning more about computing. Now that I look back, I wonder if programming languages were not actually “languages”, would my computing endeavour have been the same.

The subject I am particularly inclined towards is chemistry. My venture in chemistry started from the analytical and experimental and shifted towards the theoretical with the passage of time. Something that I love about chemistry is how dynamic the realm of molecules actually is, and how different substances react and are formed. In fact, if I were to define chemistry, I would dub it the study of “patterns” rather than the study of “matter”.

Kitchen –the one place in the house that is paradise for any chemist! Long before I actually started adoring chemistry, I was drawn towards this majestic laboratory of the house. Even as a kid, I was taken in by the “dynamicity” of all that happens within it. There’s cooking, there’s cleaning, there’s stalactites on the leaking pipe of my water filter, and there’s temporary and permanent hardness in water, which only tempts a chemist. The beautiful manifestation of organic chemistry and biochemistry can be witnessed during the cooking of food. You can witness innumerable chemical phenomena without ever having to wear fancy coats or gigantic goggles (but if you want to have the feels, you may put them on for sure!). Coagulation of proteins in the boiling of eggs, their denaturation in the sourness of milk (chemistry may be nice, but not all the reactions are!), the hydrolysis of sucrose into glucose and fructose in your stale lemonade I believe I can find any chemical reaction in the kitchen if I want to, and if I can’t, why stop there and not make one myself?

A chemical reaction shakes the attendees at the Lahore Science Mela 2017

To me, science is not an aggregation of dry formulae and facts that need to be crammed to score an A in exams; it holds a far greater meaning. To me, science is that bridge which amalgamates all the various aspects of my life, assimilates them and helps me utilize them. To me, science is no more peculiar than the fables of Aesop or the fairy tales of Perrault, and no less fascinating either. To me, science is the name of a journey, a staircase to climb out of the Slough of Ignorance, a venture past the illusion of self-opinionatedness. So, whenever I behold the starry sky at night, a smile spreads across my face. Is it because the biologist wonders about the possible life forms out there? Or because the chemist thinks of the atmosphere of exoplanets? Or because the physicist ponders over the quantum tunnelling attributing to nuclear fusion? Or simply because I feel like joining the dots and trace as many objects out of them as I can? In the end, it doesn’t matter, for all the questions lead to the same place – one step closer to the heart of the universe.


The author is a student of electrical engineering at the University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore.

Mahnoor Fatima

Exposing the True Colours of Science


Let’s take a moment to think about what ‘science’ means to us? What’s our definition of science?

Is it just a subject that we study at school? That’s probably the first thing that comes to mind; a bunch of dry textbook jargon trying to explain convoluted concepts in its own alien language.

For most of us math is graphs, trigonometry and word problems; biology is taxonomy; physics is a collection of mind-numbing variables and equation; and chemistry is memorizing the elements of the periodic table.

It seems dry, flavorless, rigid, and unimaginative, made up of a bunch of terms and theories that have little to no practical value. You can’t express yourself through it as in art or literature, or explore fascinating tales of wars, kingdoms and heroes as in history. All you can do is calculate the speed of a falling rock before it hits the ground.

On the other hand, when we think about a Mela, we imagine all the vibrant colors, the exhilarating rides, the majestic performances, and the great food that can be experienced at a fun fair.

Coupling an event as festive and jubilant as a Mela with something so bland seems incomprehensible. Even the term ‘Science Mela’ feels like an oxymoron. But let’s examine science from a different light.

You might be familiar with a little kid, well actually a boy genius by the name of Dexter that came in a cartoon series called Dexter’s Laboratory.  You may recall how he peered through a telescope into the expansive and mysterious cosmos, how he examined creatures through a microscope, how chemicals changed colors (and sometimes exploded) as he mixed them in test tubes, and that there were talking computers and robots in every nook and cranny of his lab that could perform the most incredible feats, and how he made futuristic gadgets like flying cars.

Isn’t that science? Or are they simply the product of a cartoon artist’s wild imagination?

To what degree is the show rooted in facts, or whether the gadgets are feasible is debatable. However, we can be certain of one thing: Dexter’s lab and similar shows of science fiction, like the widely acclaimed movies ‘Interstellar’ and ‘Jurassic Park’, draw inspiration from different themes of science. And that’s what makes them so exciting to watch.

So why do dinosaurs, space ships and lasers captivate us so much? How do these science fiction movies and series capture our attention?

That’s because they tap into two innate attributes unique to human beings: curiosity and creativity. These works of science fiction allow us to explore places we have never been and stir our imagination.

That’s exactly what the Lahore Science Mela intends to do. It will take us on an adventure through the realms of science and engineering (sort of like a tour of Dexter’s Lab); where chemical equations come to life; where people can observe firsthand the cells that constitute our body; and where magnetism becomes akin to magic.

Each exhibit will ignite your curiosity and inspire you to wonder. Science does not merely encompass knowing the scientific names of organisms, or what the equations of gravity and laws of Newton are. True science is asking questions, exploring the mysteries that surround us, imagining the impossible, and using knowledge in creative ways.

Science is being curious enough to ask questions, like whether there are aliens in outer space or why we get colds in the winter, and trying to find the answers. And the Lahore Science Mela provides individuals a doorway into the wondrous world of science.


This article was originally posted here.

Waleed Ghayas

Great Scientists are Artists as Well

Artists and scientists seem like the opposite poles of a magnet, the black and white in a painting. Reality is not like the binary system; there is no black and white in science and art. Scientists and artists live in the grey area that is life. These are the two forms of expression of the beauty that is nature. There is a scientist in every artist; with every accurate stroke of a brush, every geometrical pattern created on a paper, every figure brought to life by precise color selection, an artist transforms into a scientist with a passion to portray nature in its purest form.

Snake Pendulum at the Lahore Science Mela 2017

Scientists have excellent artistic inclinations when it comes to the perfect visualization of the geometrical patterns of atoms, flawless slides of perfectly stained cells and the musical patterns created by different waves. These wonderful phenomena, already present in nature, show how artistic nature is. The aesthetic sense of scientists can be witnessed in the form of the beautiful pictures of all the species from polar bears to deep sea creatures. There is beautiful art throughout the excellent artistic patterns in the atoms of minerals, the strategically arranged organelles in our cells, the distribution of different tree species throughout the land, the different forms of life coexisting as if they were appreciating one another’s existence, our beautiful planet dancing to the same music as other seven planets in our solar system and the various heavenly bodies arranged on the canvas that is the galaxy.

It is the nature which brings science and art together as scientists explore the works of the artist that is nature and arts imitates nature. The wonderful world of science and the colorful world of art are brought together to create the most cultural representation of the scientific world. Do visit Lahore Science Mela to witness the artistic portrayal of the scientific world with a final touch of culture.

This article was originally published here.

Charisma Wafee