The scientific heritage around us

Sundial

Right at the beginning of elevated Barapullah flyover on the Sarai Kale Khan side is a giant steel sundial, built just ahead of the Commonwealth Games in 2010. The sundial, constructed by Delhi Development Authority (DDA) as part of the beautification of the Capital, was the focal point of the elevated corridor.

More than two years after the Games, the sundial remains one the many showpieces erected for beautification of the stretches which had the sporting events in the surrounding areas. But only a few know that it is the largest horizontal sundial, in Delhi, made in steel and designed by experts from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.

According to Science Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators (SPACE), there are few sundials in the City, including the one at Jantar Mantar, but this is the biggest one made in steel. In order to establish its importance as one of the scientific heritages, the NGO recently brought together school children to calculate the circumference of the planet using the giant sundial. This helped popularise the usage of the scientific parameters of the sundial.

C B Devgan of SPACE said, “There is no information among Delhiites that this sundial can be used to calculate time. Ever since its installation it has been viewed as a piece of decoration. The samrat yantra at Jantar Mantar is bigger than this one but that is made with brick and mortar.”

Even though different technologies haven been used to build both of them, the sundial at Barapullah can be used is a similar way to replicate an ancient experiment of measuring the Earth. The students in fact took actual measurements of the shadows made by the sun on the dial using paper markers on the grounds to mark the end of each shadow.

The shortest shadow was measured, which was then used in a calculation to yield  the circumference of Earth as done 2300 years back by astronomer Eratosthenes.
Sachin Bahmba, CMD, SPACE said, “The sundial that was built only two years ago can give the young science enthusiasts a parallel scientific heritage and landscape.” 

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