Meet Thanu Padmanabhan, Winner of Dark Energy Challenge and a Fancy Lamp

Thanu Padmanabhan

Pune-based physicist Thanu Padmanabhan propounded the theory that dark energy in cosmology is the root cause of accelerated expansion of the universe and threw a challenge to peers to prove him wrong giving them a decade in 2006. Now that the ten years are over, research could not prove him wrong and he won the challenge.

A renowned scientist from the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, his challenge was conceded when David Wiltshire said at the CosPa2016 International conference in Sydney that dark energy makes up three quarters of the universe and triggered expansion of the universe.

After the plenary talk on December 15, 2006 at the 23rd Texas Symposium, Padmanabhan offered a bet to the audience that to contradict the theory on dark energy (cosmological constant) and the challenge was taken up by Wiltshire of the University of Canterbury, New Zealand.

“When you squeeze a balloon, the pressure drops. But that is not the case with dark energy; the pressure of it can remain constant even when it is expanding,” explained Padmanabhan. Wiltshire said the dark energy will in future be observationally shown to be an historical accident arising from the past misinterpretation of gravitational energy, which is non-local.

Padmanabhan gets a colour-changing lamp with prize money. “It is such a fancy lamp; I have had my eye on it, but would not have bought it if not for the wager. I knew that it would bring money in the bank, when I made the wager,” said Padmanabhan in an interview with TOI.

The value of the prize was fixed to be not more than $200 or less than 10 per cent of the loser’s monthly salary, whichever is lower.


In the court of Akbar Badshah, there was a musician called Tansen. He used to enthrall everyone in Akbar’s Court with his superb performances. Once, after such a rendition, Akbar started praising him sky-high and said, “There can be no-one else in this world who can sing so well”. Tansen disagreed, saying he knows of a hermit who lives in the jungle on the banks of Yamuna river who is far superior and that Tansen himself has learnt music from him for sometime. Akbar, who could not believe this, wanted to listen to this hermit in order to judge for himself. Since the hermit did not want any publicity, it was decided that Tansen will take Akbar near the place where the hermit lived and they should listen to his music without creating any disturbance.

They set out one day and reached the jungle near the river Yamuna, where, at a distance, they saw the hermit’s hut. As the sun was setting on Yamuna, with all Nature at peace, the hermit came out his hut, sat on a rock facing the river and started singing. Akbar could immediately see that this was music of a completely different class which Tansen could never produce.

On their way back, Akbar queried, “Tansen, you say he taught you music; clearly, he has held back some techniques from you”.

“No”, said Tansen. “I know all the technical aspects of music he does.”

“But, Tansen, then how do you account for such difference in quality ?”

“It is simple. He sings for Yamuna while I sing for Badshah”.


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