Vol 12, No 8 (2012)

T. Padmanabhan

Posted: Apr 01, 2022

Prof. Thanu Padmanabhan

Professor Thanu Padmanabhan is an internationally acclaimed Theoretical Physicist whose research spans a wide variety of topics in Gravitation, Structure formation in the universe and Quantum Gravity.

Born in 1957, Padmanabhan took his Bachelor and Masters degrees in Physics from Kerala University. Subsequently he joined TIFR, Mumbai where he did his Ph.D and held various faculty positions during 1980-1992. He moved to the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune in 1992 and took over as the Dean of that Centre in 1997. He has been a visiting faculty at several institutions abroad including Caltech, Princeton University and Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge.

Padmanabhan's early work was in quantum cosmology, structure formation in the universe and statistical mechanics of gravitating systems. In the eighties he showed that: (i) Initial singularity in cosmology can be eliminated by quantum gravitational effects, and (ii) Planck length can be interpreted as the zero point length of the spacetime, in a model independent manner. This result, established by theoretical considerations and well-chosen thought experiments, find an echo in more recent results in several other candidate models for quantum gravity.

Around this time he also turned his attention to the problem of statistical mechanics of gravitating systems. He was a pioneer in the systematic application of these concepts to study the gravitational clustering in an expanding universe and his contributions were well-recognized both in cosmology as well as condensed matter community. This study naturally led him, in the nineties, to work on several aspects of cosmological structure formation, both analytically and by numerical simulations. His efforts in this field led to the development of a significant amount of activity in this area in India, which is now internationally recognized. Padmanabhan played a key role in initiating contemporary research in standard cosmology in India to a large measure. In recent years, he has contributed significantly to the statistical analysis of data related to dark energy and to its theoretical modeling. Padmanabhan's work in the last decade, interpreting gravity as an emergent phenomenon, has far-reaching implications for quantum gravity and nature of dark energy and has made a deep impact on the subject. He has demonstrated that the field equations of gravity in a wide class of theories can be described in a purely thermodynamic language, like in fluid dynamics. Padmanabhan could also show that several peculiar aspects of classical gravitational theories find natural interpretations in this approach,

He has written more than 200 papers in international journals and authored nine books which have been acclaimed as a classics in the field. Padmanabhan has received numerous awards and distinctions in India and abroad. He was a Sackler Distinguished Astronomer of the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge, and is currently the President of the Cosmology Commission of the International Astronomical Union and the Chairman of Astrophysics commission of IUPAP.

He was awarded the medal of honour for distinguished service, Padma Shri, by the President of India in 2007 which is the fourth highest civilian honour in India.