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Indian-born Stanford Professor Thomas Kailath given Lifetime Achievement Award by US-based Marconi Society

Born on June 7, 1935, in Pune to a Malayalam-speaking Syrian Christian family, Kailath graduated in Telecommunications Engineering from the University of Pune in 1956

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Indian-born Stanford Professor Thomas Kailath given Lifetime Achievement Award by US-based Marconi Society. Twitter
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New Delhi, August 15, 2017: The US-based Marconi Society has announced its Lifetime Achievement Award to Indian-born Stanford University professor Thomas Kailath, for his outstanding contributions to modern communications.

“Kailath is the sixth scientist to be honored with our Lifetime Achievement Award for his research contributions, which advanced modern communications technologies over the last six decades,” the Society said in an e-mail to IANS on Sunday night.

The 82-year-old who was conferred the Padma Bhushan in 2009, is currently the Hitachi American Professor of Engineering, Emeritus, at Stanford.

The society named after Nobel Laureate Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937), who invented the radio, was set up in 1975 by his daughter Gioia Marconi Braga through an endowment. It annually awards individuals whose scope of work and influence emulate the principle of “creativity in service to humanity” that inspired Marconi.

The rare honour also makes Kailath join five other recipients of the 43-year-old Society’s prestigious award, including Gordon Moore of the Moore’s Law fame and father of Information Theory Claude Shannon.

The award will be presented to Kailath at the Society’s Awards dinner at Summit, New Jersey on October 3.

At the same event, it will also honour another Indian-born and former Bell Labs president Arun Netravali, 71, with a $100,000 cash prize for his pioneering work in digital video technology, used in smartphones and TVs.

ALSO READ: India-born, US-based Arun Netravali wins 2017 Marconi Prize for Digital Video Technology

“The award is being conferred on Kailath for mentoring a generation of research scholars and writing a classic textbook in linear systems that changed the way the subject is taught and his special purpose architecture to implement the signal processing algorithms on VLSI (Very Large-sale System Integration) chips,” the Society said in the e-mail.

Kailath and his students, who together hold a dozen patents, have transitioned a part of their research into industry and co-founded four technology firms, including Integrated Systems in 1980 and Numerical Technologies in 1996.

Intel acquired Integrated as part of its WindRiver buy in 2009, while Synopsis bought Numerical earlier in 2003.

“The Marconi Award is humbling and moving, as it puts me alongside Shannon, who laid the foundation for our digital age and was one of my teachers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), though I do not consider being at his level,” Kailath told IANS.

Born on June 7, 1935, in Pune to a Malayalam-speaking Syrian Christian family, Kailath graduated in Telecommunications Engineering from the University of Pune in 1956. He went to the US in 1957 to join the MIT, with research assistantship in the Information Theory Group.

He was also the first Indian-born student to be awarded a Doctorate in Electrical Engineering by the MIT in 1961.

Kailath began his career by joining the Digital Communications Research Group of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a federally funded research and development centre of NASA in Pasadena, California.

He was also a visiting professor at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in the 1960s.

Kailath was a research guide to about 100 doctoral and post-doctoral scholars, including Indian-born scientist Arogyaswami Paulraj, emeritus professor in electrical engineering at Stanford, and whom the Society honoured with the Marconi Prize in 2014 for his work on developing wireless technology to transmit and receive data at high speed.

“Kailath has been an influential mentor to a number of Indian academics, including me. He hosted many of us at his research group at Stanford, even in lean times when federal funding was limited,” the 72-year-old Paulraj recalled.

Kailath and Paulraj are joint holders of the original US patent for Multiple Input, Multiple Output technology that makes wireless networks more efficient.

“While Marconi’s Award recognises Kailath’s achievements at the global level, we in India can take pride in his contributions to the country in advanced technologies,” added Paulraj.

Kailath, who maintained close links with the Bengaluru-based Indian Institute of Science (IISc) for over three decades, was advisor to the Defence Ministry in the 1970s for setting up research centres at the state-run Indian Institute of Technology to support the Air Defence Ground Environment System (ADGES) plan of the Indian Air Force (IAF).

Kailath’s distinguished career earned him scores of awards and honours, notably the National Medal of Science from former US President Barack Obama in 2012 for transformative contributions in information and system science, mentoring young scholars and translating scientific ideas into entrepreneurial ventures that impacted the industry.

“Kailath has been an inspiration for generations of Indian students in communications and information systems. Many of them were privileged to listen to him for the first time, when he spoke at our convocation ceremony in 2011,” said S. Sadagopan, Director, International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT-B) in Bengaluru. (IANS)


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Search for alien life got exciting new leads this year

In yet another first for the year, scientists spotted an "interstellar object" entering our solar system.

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Telescope can view stars at ultraviolet wavelengths unhindered. Wikimedia Commons
Telescope can view stars at ultraviolet wavelengths unhindered. Wikimedia Commons
  • First observations of a merger between two faraway neutron stars
  • Discovery of the first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star outside our solar system
  • A Chinese satellite detected mysterious signals in its measurement of high-energy cosmic rays, bringing scientists closer to proving the existence of dark matter.

NEW DELHI: One year passes in the blink of an eye in terms of the age of our universe, but 2017 has made significant contributions towards unravelling the deep mysteries hidden in its vast expanse, giving the search for alien life a big boost.

From the first observations of a merger between two faraway neutron stars to stunning discoveries of a number of exoplanets in the habitable zone of a nearby star and the continued march of China as a serious space player, this year has had plenty of memorable developments to excite scientists and the public at large.

Marked as the “breakthrough of the year” by the journal Science, the merger of the two neutron stars 130 million light years away generated tiny ripples in the fabric of space-time called gravitational waves.

The first detection of gravitational waves two years ago has already brought scientists the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics, but sensing the space-time ripples after the merger of the neutron stars marked the first-ever detection of gravitational waves as well as light produced and emitted during the same cosmic event, a phenomenon that scientists like to describe as hearing and seeing the violent universe.

While the observation of this collision provides scientists clues on how heavy elements like gold and platinum are produced in our cosmos, and advances understanding of the universe in myriad other ways, the discovery of several Earth-sized planets orbiting stars outside our solar system has whetted the thirst for finding signs of life in worlds other than our home planet.

This year NASA discovered few earth like planets. Wikimedia Commons
This year NASA discovered few earth like planets. Wikimedia Commons

In February, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope revealed the first known system of seven Earth-sized planets around a single star — the TRAPPIST-1 star — an ultra-cool dwarf located at about 40 light-years from Earth.

The researchers determined that three of these planets are firmly located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water.

The discovery set a new record for maximum number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system.

In yet another first for the year, scientists spotted an “interstellar object” entering our solar system.

The discovery was made on October 19 by the University of Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS 1 telescope during the course of its nightly search for near-Earth objects for NASA.

The discovery, termed “historic” by the US space agency, revealed the interstellar interloper to be a rocky, cigar-shaped object with a ratio of length to width unlike any asteroid or comet observed in our solar system.

The team from the Pan-STARRS observatory has chosen the name “Oumuamua” for their discovery. Of Hawaiian origin, the name means a messenger from afar arriving first.

By exploring deep into space, scientists are looking for any signs of alien life. Wikimedia Commons
By exploring deep into space, scientists are looking for any signs of alien life. Wikimedia Commons

In 2017, NASA made progress in the preparations to send astronauts to Mars and it became clear that the agency would have to make plans for returning astronauts to the Moon in preparation for human missions to the Red Planet and other destinations of our solar system.

The year also marks the end of Cassini’s 13-year tour of Saturn as the spacecraft made a fateful plunge into the atmosphere of the ringed planet on September 15. The mission is often credited for transforming our understanding of ocean worlds, where life may potentially exist beyond Earth.

In April, NASA said that its Cassini spacecraft discovered hydrogen in the plume of gas and icy particles spraying from Saturn’s moon Enceladus. The discovery means the small, icy moon — which has a global ocean under its surface — has a source of chemical energy that life can feed on.

And even as the spacecraft is gone, scientists hope that its enormous collection of data about Saturn — the giant planet, its magnetosphere, rings and moons — will continue to yield new discoveries for decades to come.

The year also marks some giant strides taken by China to emerge as a formidable space power. One of its satellites, which was sent to the skies to look for evidence of the annihilation or decay of dark matter particles in space, detected for the first time unexpected and mysterious signals in its measurement of high-energy cosmic rays, bringing scientists closer to proving the existence of the invisible matter.