Today we're talking with Pardu S. Ponnapalli, author of Just a Bunch of Crazy Ideas
FQ: Are there some inventions that you’ve never dared to try?
Definetely. Some ideas that you come up with have drawbacks and consequences that you don't initially think about. After further reflection, you realize it is not really something you want to try. There are also instances where the stakes are very high and the risk is great. And ofcourse, there's always the issue of funding.
I fantasize sometimes about being fabulously wealthy. I would put the money to use by experimenting and tinkering with all sorts of creative inventions even if there's no guarantee of success.
FQ: You speak about ridicule experiences. Do you have to face such situations when you speak about your ideas?
I have always been an out-of-the-box thinker. A lot of the ideas I come up with are viewed with great skepticism and sometimes even ridicule. Most open minded people are willing to listen to my abnormal reasoning and conclusions. But there are always a subset of people who are convinced they are smarter than everyone else and dismiss ideas that don't fit into their world view as absurd very quickly. I think it is related to the intellectual confidence and courage of the individual. I have observed this to be true in all realms of human exploration- science, politics, economics, and others.
FQ: In such a capitalistic society, do you believe that any idea where the government would have to give incentives or breaks would even work?
Yes I do. The government will give incentives, breaks and subsidies for ideas that serve the overall good of society. One example is clean energy. What is needed is political will and popular support. Consider the example of the space race of the 1960's. The political will was there due to the Cold War with the Soviet Union and the desire to beat them at space technology. Popular support was built up through education and other means.
FQ: As an IT specialist, do you believe that the US has lost ground in the Tech world? And would you have any ideas on how to get America’s inventors to recharge themselves so that new products and systems could be created?
I think the US has lost some ground in the tech world. Innovative and creative ideas are emerging from all over the world, whereas in the past it would be predominantly from the United States. It is a healthy sign of a greater part of the world participating in the technological revolution that has gripped the world. I don't think it is a negative reflection on our country. A number of innovative and cutting edge ideas still emerge from Silicon Valley and elsewhere in this country.
One area of concern for me is to keep the education system in this country competitive. Our students are falling behind in education relative to the rest of the world. If we do this, and keep the core entrepeneurial spirit of the country as an essential value, it will recharge us and keep us at the forefront of ideas and technology.
FQ: You spoke briefly about the Space Program and NASA. How do you feel about the ending of it all? Do you think that America should find a way to not “close up shop” and continue their explorations?
I feel strongly that we need to pursue space exploration. I think NASA has lost their way. They are so focused on big budget projects. There should be smaller scale projects. Also, you need popular support for programs. That means you have to fire up the imagination of the people and get them behind you. Otherwise, even great efforts go unnoticed. In my opinion, NASA should be investing more into educating the general public about the benefits of exploration. There are many benefits including scientific, spiritual and technological ones.
FQ: I love the ‘wide-eyed wonder’ text at the beginning of your book. Could you tell readers about the first idea you remember coming up with?
When I was a kid, I loved reading science books by Isaac Asimov, and science fiction books in general. This filled my head with all sorts of bizarre ideas. The first idea I remember having was about having a device that could translate between different languages instantly. I was influenced by moving back and forth between India and the United States when I was young. So I always felt like it would be so handy to have a device that would translate in real time someone speaking Telugu (which is a language in India) and English. At the time I had not yet seen Star Trek- it is very similar to the Universal translator idea in Star Trek.
FQ: And did you always like thinking up inventions and creating ideas?
Absolutely. Whenever I read about day to day problems that occur, my mind is always churning looking for a solution. For example, I was reading recently about the tragedy of parents leaving babies accidentally inside automobiles. The consequences are very unfortunate- it made me shudder when I read the stories. In a world like ours where we are constantly multitasking, leaving a baby in a car occurs more often than one would assume. I immediately thought about creating a device triggers an alarm if the weight on the baby seat is greater than x and the temperature rise is greater than a specified threshold y. The alarm should sound on the drivers key chain as well as an audible one right around the vehicle itself. That would allow people passing by to react to the emergency as well, by calling 911. I need to think through the best way to prevent this type of tragic occurence, but the alarm idea was the first one that popped into my mind. I wish someone would pay me to do nothing but think up good ideas and research them!