By: Manas Chaturvedi
Date: 6th January, 2012
Event: IIT-B Techfest
Location: PC Saxena Hall, IIT campus
I had been waiting for this day to come for about a month or so. And when the day finally came, I couldn’t have been happier. It was the annual Techfest hosted by the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay. Me and a couple of my friends had planned and waited for this day to come for a long time now. We studied the fest’s schedule, we studied it’s campus beforehand, and even planned how we are going to travel there and stuff like that! We WERE that excited about the Techfest. Now since Nikhil has already written an article about how the first day of the techfest fared for us, I wouldn’t waste your or my time reviewing the first day of the techfest again.
The main reason why I was so keen on attending the IIT-B Techfest was because of the star-studded lecture series hosted by the IIT. Prominent scientists, entrepreneurs and other dignified authorities were scheduled to conduct one-hour seminars or lectures during the span of the three day course of the Techfest. Those lectures, collectively called the Lecture Series, were a real crowd attractor. Students from all over the country traveled to the Techfest for a chance to see their role models up close and personal. Me too, like hundreds of other students, was excited about these Lecture Series. Although I had not planned to attend each of the lectures, I was certainly waiting eagerly to catch up with Simon Singh’s lecture on Fermat’s Last Theorem on the first day of the Techfest. The lecture was scheduled to start at 4:30pm local time, but since I was determined to not miss the lecture due to being late or due to unavailability of seats in the auditorium, me and a couple of other friends of mine reached there almost forty-five minutes before time. Now, Simon Singh is a British author who has specialised in writing about mathematical and scientific topics in an accessible manner. His written works include Fermat’s Last Theorem (in the United States titled Fermat’s Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World’s Greatest Mathematical Problem), The Code Book (about cryptography and its history), Big Bang (about the Big Bang theory and the origins of the universe) and Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial (about complementary and alternative medicine). He has also worked in the BBC for about 7 years in the 1990’s. In short, you don’t wanna miss seeing him in person if he’s about to conduct lecture somewhere near you!
We entered the hall at about 4:30, the same time the lecture was scheduled to start. But I wasn’t complaining. As soon as I got myself a seat in the auditorium, I saw a mohawked guy standing in the opposite corner of the hall to where I was sitting, and that dude was on his cellphone. Yes! That mohawked guy, wearing a gray suit, was indeed Simon Singh! I was actually seeing him in person standing just a few meters away from me! He spent a few more minutes talking on his cellphone, catching a glimpse here and there of his potential lecture audience in the hall and also talking to the organizers and other members of the Techfest team. After a brief formal introduction from a student, Simon Singh was finally ready to step into the main stage and deliver his long-awaited seminar. As mentioned earlier, the topic for the lecture was ‘Fermat’s Last Theorem’. For those of you who don’t know, Fermat’s Last Theorem was world’s most toughest math problem until it was solved by Dr. Andrew Wiles, a Princeton University professor in 1996. Simon Singh, the author of the bestselling book on Fermat’s Last theorem and director of the documentary on the same topic, started with the origins of this problem, going back into the 17th century when Fermat, a French mathematician, coined a theorem which would infamously be termed as the most difficult math problem of all time. Simon explained us about the Fermat’s Last theorem with the help of his critically acclaimed documentary and various Powerpoint presentation slides. The lecture ended at around 6pm, half an hour late than it was previously scheduled to end, but no one was complaining. I was eager to hear more from this guy. The lecture ended with a formal five minute question-answer session. Those sixty minutes were something which I will never forget about in my life..
P.S: As I was sitting in a corner most seat of the first column of rows in The Convocation Hall of the IIT Campus, waiting for Venky Ramakrishnan’s lecture on the second day of the Techfest, Simon Singh walked past me to catch his allotted seat in the first row! WOW! He was only about half a meter away from me when he walked past me lol.