Ray Wijewardene in his study at Colombo home, playing with pet squirrel. Larger photo in the background is that of Sir Charles Hayward of Firth Cleveland Group. Photo courtesy http://www.raywijewardene.net.

A website about the life and vision of the late Dr Ray Wijewardene, one of the most accomplished and innovative engineers and scientists produced by Sri Lanka, is being officially launched on September 28. In this article, the website’s principal writer Nalaka Gunawardene recalls working with an original thinker who also tinkered more than most.

If I had to condense the multi-faceted and fascinating life of Ray Wijewardene, I would reduce it to a whole lot of question marks and exclamation marks. In his 86 years, Ray generated more than his fair share of both.

He was unpigeonholeable: engineer, farmer, inventor, aviator and sportsman all rolled into one. Whether at work or play, he was an innovative thinker who rose above his culture and training to grasp the bigger picture.

As an inventor, Ray was into problem solving, not piling up patents or publishing research papers in scholarly journals. Theory was important, but only as a means to figuring things out. He was both a quintessential tinkerer and a perennial fixer.

Ray has been rightly compared with Leonardo da Vinci, the Renaissance Man, and with the appropriate technology promoter Ernst Schumacher (of Small Is Beautiful fame). To me, he was our own version of Caractacus Potts — the eccentric yet lovable inventor in Ian Fleming’s children’s story Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, written in 1964 and adapted as a popular Hollywood movie in 1968.

Indeed, the parallels are striking. Both men experimented on a wide array of gadgets and devices at the family farm. Neither was very good at commercially exploiting their ideas (with one exception each). Whereas Caractacus made a fantastic car that could fly and float in addition to running on land, Ray built light aircraft using motor car engines!

As a pilot, Ray was licensed to fly all three kinds of flying machines: fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters and autogyros. But while his industrialist cousin Upali Wijewardene was flying around in factory-made corporate jets and helicopters, Ray chose to make his own flying machines. Ray built perfectly airworthy designs in his own garage, many of them costing — and weighing — less than an average SUV.

Ray was particularly keen to build amphibious small planes that could also land on, and take off from water bodies. That made perfect sense as numerous lakes and reservoirs cover more than a tenth of Sri Lanka’s total land area.

First Encounter
It was among his flying machines that I first met Ray in late 1986 at the Ratmalana Airport, just south of Colombo. One Sunday morning, he took time off to talk to a group of us high school leavers participating in the Science for Youth programme, organised by the Arthur C Clarke Centre. It exposed us to various (then) modern technologies over six consecutive weekends. Much of that ‘new knowledge’ has long become obsolete; but the inspiration propelled many of us to pursue careers in science.

That inspiration stemmed mostly from the shy and unorthodox Ray Wijewardene. Although he was then in his early 60s, he had the sense of wonder of a 10-year-old. He gave us practical demonstrations about problem solving and innovation in three areas close to his heart: energy, agriculture and transport.

At the time, he was looking for ways to improve the ordinary bicycle, so that riders could go faster with less effort. He also talked about buffalos, earthworms and growing our food and energy to become truly ‘non-dependent’ on costly imports. But it was his flying machines that fascinated us the most.

Flying was also the theme of the first media interview that I had with Ray, which was published in December 1988. For two hours, Ray talked enthusiastically about his favourite inventors — the Wright brothers, and how ‘right’ they have been proven, over and over again.

Several others had designed heavier-than-air machines during the 19th Century, he said, but none had been as practical as the Wright brothers. While other experimenters put more emphasis on developing powerful engines, the Wright brothers focused on developing a reliable method of pilot control.

As cycle repairers, they believed – correctly – that an unstable vehicle like a flying machine could be controlled and balanced with enough practice. They tinkered endlessly with models and prototypes, and also used a small, home-built wind tunnel to collect more accurate data and insights. Such experimentation made their design more efficient and navigable. The rest is history…

Ray felt that the Wright brothers had set the ‘gold standard’ for all innovators and inventors. He was a firm believer in learning by doing, even if that meant getting your hands dirty, or worse, risking life and limb. Although he taught himself to use personal computers later in life, he was truly in his element amidst nuts, bolts, grease and soil.

As a young man, Ray apprenticed under the British aviation pioneer and aircraft engineer Sir Geoffrey de Havilland. After Ray had successfully test-flown an aircraft he himself had made, Sir Geoffrey remarked: “This very seldom happens nowadays, that one person designs an aircraft, builds it and also test-flies it. Large teams are now required for each of these operations. But mind you, the old way had its advantages…it quickly eliminated the bad designers!”

Ray never forgot those words. He was always the first flyer of his home-built aircraft. In nearly 50 years of flying, he was involved in three serious crashes and several minor mishaps — but each time, he lived to fly another day. (It was Sri Lanka’s civil war that finally grounded him.)

Refreshing Perspectives
His refreshing perspectives on agriculture, energy and environment were drawn from this rare combination of the bird’s eye view with the toad’s eye view.

For Ray, “farming was bread and butter – and flying the jam on top”. So he had his head in the clouds, but feet firmly on the ground. He brought the aviator’s precision and engineer’s pragmatism into agriculture — and topped it up with a genuine concern for the small, subsistence farmer.

In his view, a key problem with agricultural research in Sri Lanka (and in much of the developing world) was that those studied farming didn’t rely practise for their own living. In contrast, the small farmer must eke out a meagre existence from whatever land, water, seeds or livestock available. Her stark choice: innovate or perish.

“I’ve rarely been able to get one of my (learned) colleagues to step into a paddy field with me and plough behind a buffalo,” he once lamented. “Yet that is where you BEGIN the process of development, by doing it yourself. You soon begin to rationalise the situation, and realise that a tractor does not mechanise agriculture; it merely mechanises the buffalo!”

From that vantage point, you then ask: why do we plough the fields at all? Eventually, Ray figured out that the main purpose of ploughing in the tropics was weed control. “Now that presents a totally different insight into the problem, and you can then start resolving that REAL problem, which is to do with weed control rather than earth-moving.”

That was typical of Ray who remained eager for new knowledge, clarity and self-improvement to the very end. I can’t think of a better embodiment of Thomas R. Dewar’s words: “Minds are like parachutes – they only function when open.”

For a quarter century, Ray was my own ‘mind-opener’. He was also my mentor, ardent reader and gentle critic. Each encounter and each exchange of letters or emails enriched me. In turn, I shared Ray’s distilled wisdom as often and widely as I could.

For example, in mid 1995, the noted Indian environmentalist Anil Agarwal commissioned me to interview Ray for Down to Earth, the science and environmental fortnightly magazine he founded in the early 1990s. Anil said: “Ray is not only a top agricultural expert in the whole developing world, but one of our most original thinkers.”

Over a few days, I recorded a wide-ranging interview with Ray covering many aspects of science, technology and development. It remains one of the most memorable among hundreds I have done in print and broadcast media. Down to Earth published a compact version in their issue dated 31 October 1995. I released our full exchange on Groundviews on that sombre day in August 2010 when Ray’s body was finally returned to the elements.

So what was it like to have walked in the nurturing shadow of Ray Wijewardene?

In his own style, I’d say: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

For more information and memories, visit: www.raywijewardene.net or on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/RayWijewardene


Science writer Nalaka Gunawardene first met Ray Wijewardene in the mid 1980s when he covered the latter’s work for the local and international media. Later, they collaborated in various science communication projects – the last was on climate change for the Sri Lanka 2048 TV debate series.


[Editors note: Also read Do we need a street address? by Sivam Krish]

  • Chavie

    Lovely article. I heard about the first time he assembled an aircraft at College, moved it along the Galle Road to Rathmalana and flew it. Shame that I never got to see him in real life, but Thank you for keeping his memory alive. 🙂

  • justitia

    Sri Lanka needs more people like Ray Wijewardene.
    He was a ‘genius’ born in the wrong country.
    Such people are fleeing abroad,fed up with governments and beaurocracies which place ‘politics’ and ‘religion’ above human endeavour, and reward non entities and rogues.

  • Nihal Perera

    Ray Wijewardene is not quite a genius, although the example he set is most commendable. Remember the LTTE also built single-engine planes out of nothing, albeit in the middle of nowhere. They successfully flew the same single-engine planes on numerous missions, avoiding modern radar systems. Not only that, but the LTTE designed and manufactured their own submarines, mortars, and grenades. What this shows is that many Sri Lankans, whether it be Ray Wijewardene or the LTTE, possess extroardinary talents. We should be asking ourselves if we really need China to build our roads and ports, when there are individuals (with proper training) who can build airplanes in their garage.

    • Sachith

      Nihal perera you are absolutely right.I am an engineer my self and I understand what you mean.We are immensely taleted and practical bunch.But I think there is a big attitude and confidence problem with us.We have been taught to think from our childhood that we dont have technology we dont have money we cannot make things better than others etc. But when you are out of the country you realise that our people work for some of the largest companies in the world and design things quite better than others.

      • yapa

        That save mentality is more grave and harmful in non practical/ non material areas. Take for example the political field. Many intellectuals are never ready to accept that there could be any local political ideology/concept that could be used to benefit the country. No sooner any such idea is expressed, thousands local intellectual will be at the gate armed with mighty clubs to thrash the man. They think no political ideology can be born in the East. For them only the west can produce knowledge, and a person who not agree is a racist or a chauvinist, or he a readily available brand name tag is there waiting for him.

        I don’t endorse all of the Prof. Nalin De Silva’s political ideologies, however, I also do not agree with every Tom and Harry to criticize this genius scholar at will. If he was born in west, definitely for our “geniuses” west would have been a “revered direction”. For our “genius heads” has a positional value for knowledge, skills and attitudes inclined towards the west. So is our slave mentality.


    • Tilak Dissanayake

      Actually Nihal, the LTTE did not build their own aircraft. They were Zlin 143 airplanes.


      Flying a low radar cross section airplane even with a very high radar cross section propeller at low altitude is definitely the way to beat any ground based radar by losing yourself in the ground clutter. If the SLAF had an AWACS airborne radar equivalent, they would have seen this puppy from the time they took off, so no magic should be attributed to the LTTE for this one. All the LTTE had to do was Google and find out how to defeat a ground based radar system. And, they were indeed bright enough to do that.

      I totally agree with you about the many talented people in Sri Lanka, and many of them without any degrees at all from universities. They just need the right opportuninty for them to showcase their talents.



      • Nihal Perera

        Hi Tilak,

        I did not mean that to say that the LTTE designed the aircraft. But in all likelihood, they put together the aircraft from pre-assembled parts, which would have required a fair amount of technical skill. On the other hand, they designed their own mortars, submarines, and certain other armaments.

        The mortar factory can be seen in this clip, at 1:20: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RghJ7sbIXQw

        The submarines: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4pFdBNXr7E

        If you’re a military buff, then the LTTE also invented the “Johnny Batta”, a landmine manufactured exclusively by them.

    • @Nihal Perera

      You forgot to mention some of the locals who possess extroardinary talents in printing money… 😀

  • sambar

    I knew someone in Mt.Lavinia who had a pet squirrel – very cute :); you need a heart to look after such a cute animal.

    I bet the MR gang and the GOSL members and their supporters don’t!

  • yapa

    This could be interesting for those who are interested in Science.

    Neutrinos prove Einstein wrong?

    It is said that an experiment carried out shows Einstein is wrong. This is a latest headline news in Science fora.

    1. If this turns out to be correct, the effect will be astronomical. Physics textbooks will have to be rewritten, as well as the definition of “cause and effect.” This is because when a particle moves faster than light, the effect is like time travel.


    2. http://www.nytimes.com/pages/opinion/index.html

    Saban/SD, your views?


  • yapa
  • yapa

    If Einstein is proved wrong, one of the spectacular thing that is predicted by the scientific community is the “break down” of the “Cause and Effect Relationship”, which implies the formula “Effect follows the Cause”. If Einstein is proved wrong they say, Cause would follow the Effect, which would invariably threaten not only the whole body of Scientific Knowledge but also one of the fundamental doctrines of Buddhist Philosophy, Paticca Samuppada (Dependent Origination).

    Really the question is, if Einstein is proved wrong, will it necessarily follow the break down of the Law of Cause and Effect, as they claim? Is this a well thought out idea or a superficial scientific conjecture?

    Will a man set out to day can reach his destination yesterday? Can a person kill his great great grand mother, when she was a lass?

    Will some thing be stolen before the thief think about it? What will happen to the “Theory of Kamma”? Will our bellied be filled even before we touch the plate of food?

    Mekath lokayak da Amaris?

    If Einstein is wrong, is it not possible for scientists to make two wrongs?

    We will have to pray to be so if we are to save Buddha’s words.

    Either, Einstein is right, else Scientist must have had two mistakes or Buddha must be wrong.

    We will wait and see whether Science will prove Buddha is wrong. Who knows whether science is going to be proved wrong for the second time, after the Newtonian Science was proved wrong in the 20th century.


    • sambar

      Dear Yapa,

      Don’t worry – may be we are all really experiencing ‘time’ backwards (i.e. unfolding = becoming), and so our beliefs about causes and effects are mixed up too.

      So science and the Buddha can both be right.

      Also better to understand the principle you are referring to as inter-dependant origination or interdependent arising of experiential possibility and actuality – not dependent. And try to understand the principle of sunyata in this connection, then it all makes sense.

      Dear Editor, what happened to my earlier comment about the cute squirrel?

      • yapa

        Dear sambar;

        I also agree that what you have mentioned are better term to denote Patcca Samuppada. However, Dependent Origination is the most frequently used term to denote it.

        With regard to your reference to Sunyatha(Emptiness)we had a long discussion mainly with ordinary lankan on the topic. My view about Sunyatha is, it is an off shoot of Buddhism, developed by Madyamika Nagarjuna Thero.


        As you said who knows whether we are experiencing time backwards as you said. However, if the principle of Cause and Effect is affected, the human understanding of the world would be totally collapsed, as “the credible knowledge of today” was almost totally generated on that principle. If so,we will have to find a totally new(old?) searching light/tool to explore the world and a new models for the world have to be developed. Who knows, whether the “old tool” “faith” would come as the new tool, and the model again would be “the Creation of the God”? Only question that have to be answered before accepting that model is, “who created the God?”.

        I think as the foundation stone of two great traditions of knowledge, Buddhism and Science, Cause and Effect is still strong and would stand the every test of modern Scientists.


      • sambar

        Dear Yapa,

        You need to understand interdependent or better co-dependent arising to understand sunyata – it is not the same as emptiness in the sense of there being nothing in a box.

        I also think you (as well as many Lankan Buddhists) have not understood the Buddhist idea of cause and effect, so here’s a test:
        Radioactive decay is causeless effect. How can that be?

        I had a quick look at the link re your previous comments:
        I am not sure what you are getting at when you refer to Ngarajuna’s discovery of sunyata and made in India.
        Gautama Buddha was a Nepali- so was Buddhism made in Nepal?

        Just because Theravada Buddhists in Lanka have become confused by the idea of sunyata I don’t think that is a reason to dismiss Nagarjuna. Rather the correct conclusion is more that the Theravad Budists of Lanka are not up to that level!!
        And certainly as far as anyone can see they are a very long long way from niravana – one can’t hold on to the ‘vana’ of the attachment of identifying as Sinhala-Buddhists and yet hope for nirvana. 🙂

      • yapa

        Dear sambar;

        Is your trump for that I and many Buddhists have not understand,Radio active decay? My dear sambar, I know taking out of a card from a well shuffled card pack is also cited as an vent without a cause. Bythe way have you read “The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives (2008)” by Leonard Mlodinow? He is the co-author of “The Grand Design (2010)” and “A Briefer History of Time (2005)” with Stephan Hawking.

        This is what Hawking says about the book,

        “In The Drunkard’s Walk Leonard Mlodinow provides readers with a wonderfully readable guide to how the mathematical laws of randomness affect our lives. With insight he shows how the hallmarks of chance are apparent in the course of events all around us.”

        From the Kirkus Review of The Drunkard’s Walk:

        “Forget about planning for the future: Chaos is king, the random reigns and no system can beat the house odds. So one might conclude from onetime Caltech physicist Mlodinow’s spry look at the rising field.”

        However, this is still arising field and no one is certain yet whether the events attributed to randomness and probability are without causes or events with hard to find causes(to the human mind and the knowledge so far generated).

        As a pioneer in the field I have noticed some of his examples cited in the book in favour of his arguments were not very credible. I cannot cite the examples now as I read the book (about a half of the book) about six months back.

        However, I am sure that the base of Sunyatha(Emptiness) was not Randomness or Probability. On the other hand these new concept does not eliminate the existence of event with causes. The theory is about some additional events that the suspect to take place without causes. The claim of Sunyatha is there are no causes at all and therefore there are no consequences(effects)at all and therefore there is nothing in the universe, hence no objects, no events, no energy and there is nothing. (It says the universe is full of nothing. Ha! Ha!!)Do you say randomness implicate this, nothingness? No my dear sambar! I think yours is a hasty conclusion. I think before suggesting I am wrong, I think your scholarly duty is to refute my arguments. You cannot make me a convict not considering my part of evidence.

        On the other hand why did you say I have to understand interdependent or co-dependent arising to understand sunyata, did you notice any lapses in using it in my arguments you said you had a quick look? If so can you specifically name the areas where I should improve in co-dependent arising (paticca Samuppada)? Anybody should be honest to accept that he himself is not able to see all his shortcomings. I accept it. I appreciated if you could point out them to me.

        You say Theravada Buddhists in Lanka have become confused by the idea of sunyata. Really not so. Not only Theravada Buddhists were confused by sunyatha, but sunyatha contradicts with all the fundamental doctrines common to all sects of Buddhism. Four Noble Truth is the fundamental doctrine of Buddhism, which is common to all forms of Buddhism respected by the Buddhists. Noble Eight Fold Path, Karma Concept all those are common concepts, they are not confined to Theravada Buddhists in Sri Lanka. As I have shown in my posts sunyatha contradicts with all of them. Have you got any alternative idea, to say it only contradicts Buddhists of Sri Lanka? Does it ogically lead to the conclusion that it is more that the Theravad Budists of Lanka are not up to that level?

        My dear friend as I have said to you at the very beginning of the discussions with you, “Logic is not meant to be handled by everybody? It needs special skills and competencies. Ha! Ha!!

        Lastly you say,

        “And certainly as far as anyone can see they are a very long long way from niravana – one can’t hold on to the ‘vana’ of the attachment of identifying as Sinhala-Buddhists and yet hope for nirvana. :)”

        But dear sambar, now by looking at the level of your arguments above, I am sure no one will have a faith on your conclusion.


      • sambar

        Dear Yapa,

        You seem to have misunderstood what I was saying and got upset.

        I never said sunyata was randomness or probability.

        Let’s start with sunyata:
        What Nagarjuna seems to have said is that it is incorrect to see things in terms of cause-effect relations but rather that every arising is co-dependent.
        This does not mean that there is nothing, but perhaps rather that everything is everything.

        May be the problem is that Ngarjuna wrote in Sanskrit and the Pali related Prakrit languages which the Theravada Buddhists favour are unable to pick out the required points properly.
        Likewise Sinhalese must also miss out the nuances available to Sanskrit – and that is probably why the sinhala-Buddhists cannot quite get it.(But Tamil obviously can! And Nagarjuna was a south Indian).

        Radioactive decay and probabilty:
        I was referring to the phenomenon of radioactive decay as a causeless effect.
        Of course radioactive decay can be modelled stochastically, but that is not the point. The more interesting question I was raising is How is that so?

        May be however the implication of sunyata is that probalistic models are the the best one can do however deep one goes – and that I think is what the books you mention also seem to be saying.
        However it is definitely incorrect to conclude from the apparent randomness of phenomena, or even the inevitability of probailstic models that they imply sunyata.
        s => r may be correct, but this does does NOT mean you can say r => s.

        Now what was that about logic not being for everybody? 🙂

        Also I noticed that in another discussion you associate Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle with measurement error. That is a mistake due to an erroneous interpretation of HUP! 🙂

      • Dear sambar;

        It seems that you are familiar with HUP. I don’t say what I was discussing is perfect, that is why I interested in getting others’ views. If you can contribute to the discussion infavour or against I would be very happy. What I want is to see the truth in it, not s\to say what I was saying is right. Your contribution appreciated.


    • Nihal Perera

      Actually yapa, it has not been proved with certainty that the neutrinos travel faster than the speed of light. No one can say for sure until the experiment has been replicated. It could well be that the initial experiment was based on flawed methodology; see the interview with Nir Shaviv: http://www.sciencebits.com/node/224.

      • yapa

        Dear Nihal Perera;

        Thanks for your interest on the extra ordinary news, response and for the link.

        True, many physicists think that it could be a mistake from the part of the experimentalists. However, no physicist was able to say it is a mistake with certainty, as well. What we can say with certainty for the moment is, it is an open arena for both views, with certainly inclined against the experiment results, mainly due to the high degree of recognition of the theory of Einstein. However, it also should be kept in mind, prestige always has no co-relation to the truth. That has happened in the past and could repeat in the future as well.

        As you know Isaac Newton, put forward the “Corpuscles Theory” to explain Light. He said light is made up of small particles called corpuscles. Christian Huygens lived during the same period of time said light is a kind of waves and put forward the “Wave Theory of Light”. However, no one paid any attention to the proposal of the “David” before the Goliath, Newton. However,”Double-slit Experiment” later showed that the David was mightier than Goliath, meaning Huygens was more right than Newton. Who knows, anything could happen.

        However, I have a different idea that could be attributed for the error, if there was really an error in the experiment. I don’t know whether this had been cited by anybody before me or I am shamelessly naive to play a clown fish among whales and sharks. You may laugh at me, but if the experimentalists have not taken precautions against what I am going to say, it could really be among the reasons for the error.

        The Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle in Quantum Physics: “the more precisely the position is determined, the less precisely the momentum is known in this instant, and vice versa.”

        Now in this experiment to measure the speed of Neutrinos, it is necessary to measure the instances (time,t) the neutrinos released from the accelerator and the time they hit the target. For that you will have to measure the positions of the neutrinos at two given times(at time they are released from the accelerator and hit the target).Now the measurement of velocity depends on the distance between these two positions and the two position determinants (in terms of time). If the precision of the measurement of these two position determinants (i.e., measurement of time at the two ends)are increased or two time measurements were taken very precisely in the experiment to ensure the accuracy of the experiment, the precision of measuring the velocity(hence momentum; momentum = mass X velocity)becomes less, as per the Uncertainty Principle. This could affect the accuracy of measurement of the velocity of neutrinos aggressively at high velocities close to the velocity of light.

        If the experimentalists had not envisaged and discounted for this affect of the Uncertainty, certainly there should be a contribution of what I explained in the error of the velocity measured in the experiment.

        Who knows, if 18 year old clerk of a patent office could revolutionize the world with the Theory of Relativity, who could deny the possibility of luck of a Sinhala Buddhist Gamarala of a remote village of this Illanka of the Indian Ocean? Ha! Ha!!


    • Nihal Perera

      Hi Yapa,

      The difference between Eastern philosophy and Western science is simple: a lot of very useful technology has come from Western science. While Eastern philosophy possesses a certain aesthetic beauty, no new technologies have arisen from meditation or reincarnation. Of course, the future generations must be taught to appreciate abstraction on its own terms, but emphasis should be given to the practical application, since it is the practical application that will come to ultimately impact the larger society. This is why Nalin Silva and his type possess a danger to SL. The Nalin Silva type that tries to denigrate Western science, if successul, will only take the country back 2 or 3 millenia. Personally, I think that Nalin Silva is a worse threat to SL than the LTTE, as Nalin the lecturer has the ability to directly inject falsehoods into the brightest young minds. Instead of promoting falsehoods, Nalin should be looking for a synthesis between East and West. But he has shown his agenda is otherwise.

      • Dear Nihal Perera;

        Please give me a little bit time to answer this post of yours. Meanwhile can you please give your vies about my response to the other post you addressed to me.


      • Nihal Perera


        The neutrinos start from rest, so we can safely assume they have an initial velocity of zero. Only one measurement is taken – the time taken to hit the target, so the impact of HUP is negligible. The mass is known in advance, as is the initial velocity, as is the total distance traveled, so it should not be difficult to calculate the final velocity based on just the total time travel. HUP would be an issue if several variables were being measured simultaneously.

      • Nihal Perera

        Also yapa, they can reduce the impact of errors from things like HUP by performing the experiment several times. First the average time (mean) taken to travel between the points is established. After that, it is a question of deviation from the mean. Less deviation from the mean would imply greater accuracy. So I don’t think they are looking for a single number, they are more interested in an estimate based on a confidence interval. I am not sure if HUP has anything to say about estimates.

      • yapa

        Dear Nihal Perera;

        Thank you very much for your views about what I wrote about the HUP.
        Really I was not aware how the experiment was performed, and hence I did not know that the initial velocity of the neutrinos was zero. In the light of the details given in your posts, I feel can argue further in support of my argument.

        As you said, if the initial velocity is zero, and the neutrinos are accelerated continuously up to the final point, the highest velocity is achieved at the point where they hits the target. Therefore, what is ultimately important is the “Velocity of the neutrinos at the target”. Whatever the method used to calculate, ultimate measurements expected are the “velocity” of the neutrinos at the “position” of the target. These are simultaneous measurements.

        Now, Dear Nihal, what we are measuring in the experiment are exactly similar to the measurements mentioned in the Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle (HUP). That is, Measuring the velocity(momentum)and the position of a particle simultaneously. The experiment readings come exactly under the purview of HUP, without any reservation.So definitely the velocity measurement is affected by the precision of the measurement of the position and now I can conclude without any doubt that HUP is a reason for the error in the velocity, if there is an error and experimentalists have not discounted for this error.

        Dear Nihal you have said error of HUP can be reduced by performing the experiment several times. No Nihal, HUP is an exception.

        The error in HUP is not something that comes up due to the faults of experiments. A perfect person performing the experiment with perfect apparatus would come across the same uncertainty, same error. The uncertainty is independent of the experiment and the performers. So is the nature of the error that occurs in the HUP. No experiment can reduce the uncertainty.

        So, my Dear Nihal thanks for helping me to get my position cleared. If the experiment is performed in the way you described and that is how the readings are taken and the experimentalists had not taken precautions to discount the effect of HUP and really there is an error, definitely HUP should be one of the culprits for the error(of the velocity of neutrinos). It also might be “the” culprit.

        If it is so Nihal, katada adambara? May be a Sri Lankan Gamarala could be the first to explain the phenomenon! Who knows! Will see.


      • yapa

        Dear saban;

        Could you go through the above posts of mine and express your views?


      • Nihal Perera


        As I said, the initial and final positions are already known. My understanding of HUP is that it is an issue only when two variables are being measured simultaneously (e.g. position and momentum of electron). With the neutrino, one is only measuring the time it takes to reach the target. Regarding repitition, this is a way to check the accuracy of the experiment.

      • Nihal Perera

        @ yapa,

        Where the neutrino hits the target, the distance traveled from starting point to finishing point will be the same. If an object travels at the speed of light or faster, there is virtually no deviation in the path of its motion. If you aim a laser from your chair to the wall, for example, the path is a straight line, whether you aim the laser at angle or not. That is what I mean when I say they are not measuring position.

      • Nihal Perera

        Hi Yapa,

        I noticed you misunderstood my earlier comment,, “Dear Nihal you have said error of HUP can be reduced by performing the experiment several times.” That is only true if the same variables are measured during each trial of the experiment. On the other hand, if different variables are measured during successive trials of the experiment, then HUP can easily be accounted for.

      • Dear Nihal Perera;

        I think this would clear my position.

        In Heisenberg’s own words:
        Today it is accepted that the Uncertainty Principle is not simply a matter of measurement error related to the limitations of our measuring devices but it is a basic limitation of physics that position and momentum are not only simultaneously unmeasureable beyond a strict limit, but they are infact unknowable beyond that limit.



      • Dear Nihal;

        This also wpould help.

        Heisenberg was a physicist who realized that one can not discover both the momentum and position of a sub-atomic particle. Measuring one affects the other and both may not be measured simultaneously. This means that one will always be uncertain about the exact properties of a sub-atomic particle.

        I’m not an expert, but isn’t the reality (if that word applies at the quantum level) that these particles actually do not have a measurable instantaneous momentum and position pair. It isn’t that measuring one changes the other, but rather that there is no measurement to be made.



      • Nihal Perera

        Hi Yapa,

        The key word is “pair.” If you assume that the position and momentum are in fact measurable, then the question is do you measure them simultaneously or individually? If HUP errors possibly occur because of simultaneous measurements, then what one can do is first measure both variables x and y simultaneously, then repeat the experiment and only measure variable x, and then repeat the experiment to measure only variable y. If one assumes that the 2nd and 3rd trials do not have a significant degree of HUP associated with them, then one can see the HUP error associated with the 1st experiment by comparing the value to the values obtained from the 2nd and 3rd experiments.

        Of course, any experiment has a degree of error (uncertainty) associated with it, but HUP is not about uncertainty in general, it is about a very specific type of uncertainty – the uncertainty arising from simultaneous measurements of two or more variables. That is why it is possible to minimize HUP error.

      • Dear Nihal Perera;

        I think I will have to withdraw my proposal of HUP attributed to the probable error of the of the experiment in CERN, however, not due the accuracy of your argument, but to some other reason, which I would describe below. At the same time I should stress that the ideas brought forward by you are also incorrect.

        The errors of measuring the velocity(momentum) and the position of a particle simultaneously is not a problem of the experiment. Theoretically it is impossible to improve the precision of them beyond a certain limit. There is no question about it and the methodology you suggested or any other strategy will never improve it if the HUP is right.

        The difficulty of understanding Quantum Mechanics lies with the limitation of the human perception. Really Quantum world remains outside the human intuition. Human evolution process has marked an outer boundary for human perception and the evolution has not yet provided the human mind the ability to understand anything outside that boundary and Quantum Mechanics(QM)is one such subject area lying outside that boundary line. So it is very difficult to visualize the Quantum World and phenomena exist there and the our laws of the human Phenomenal world based on sensory data do not apply at all to the phenomena of the Quantum World. It is an entirely different scenario and that is why QM is said to be “weird” to normal human minds.

        HUP deals with subatomic particles and belongs to the the subject area of QM. The precision that talks about in HUP again is entirely different from the precision of all the other experiments that the humans have ever performed through out their history. We know all the experiments in our phenomenal world can be improved with with the introduction of more precise instruments and methodologies, however, that experience we use in our experiments does not apply to the precision in the case of HUP. No repetition, no experts, no methodologies can improve it. That is the difference in HUP. Otherwise, there is no significance in the Uncertainty Principle. That is its significance. It is a total transformation in Human Knowledge. It is a Paradigm Shift in human knowledge. With the knowledge added from QM, the boundary of the human knowledge(and perception)has burst. Humans have started to know the things he was not supposed to be known by the GOD!

        Please watch this video for a few minutes.


        I will show you why my argument cannot be applied to the CERN experiment. It is not because my understanding is wrong. It is again a precision issue. I will show it to you in the next post.

        To be continued.


  • CheeLanka

    Ray Wijewardene was looking for ways to get around faster and more energy efficiently within the island of Sri Lanka. Who cares about the speed of light? How far and fast do you want to go with that? The trouble with many science buffs is that they are literally out of this world. Wijewardene was not. He did not waste his time on esoteric stuff like Einstein’s. He was a practical man, an engineer!

    • Dear CheeLanka;

      You think Einstein is a genius of a lesser degree than Ray Wijewardene?


      • CheeLanka

        It is too bad that Yapa cannot comprehend plain English. When I said Ray Wijewardene “did not waste his time on esoteric stuff like Einstein’s” that was meant to be a compliment! I went on to say that
        he was a practical man, an engineer, in a world full of people who have been educated beyond their natural capacity and are now lost (to themselves and society). Ray was not. As Sivam said in his article earlier, Ray did not think much of the woolly-headed academics. http://groundviews.org/2011/08/19/do-we-need-a-street-address/

        Thank goodness he stood apart from the pack.

      • Yapa is an honest racist. There were people like him in Hitlers Germany. This is a compliment of sorts.

      • yapa

        Dear CheeLanka;

        It is a well-known fact that my English is not very good. BTW, in the penultimate post you really meant that?


      • yapa

        Dear PresiDunce Bean;

        Thanks PresiDunce Bean for the complement. BTW where did you get that “gorgeous tag” printed?


    • Gamarala

      With regard to practical applications of Einstein’s work, please read here:

      His work underpins much of modern cosmology and therefore, our understanding of the fundamental fabric of nature. Is it not important that we care?

      • yapa

        Dear Gamarala;

        Thanks Gamarala for the links. I have been telling in the previous discussions that the “Sinhla Buddhist Gamaralas” of the remote villages sense “reality” much better than the greatest Newtonian Scientists.

        No one believed and many ridiculed me. My contention is proved right I think, with your sudden and pleasant appearance in the discussion. Ha! Ha!!


  • yapa
  • yapa

    I think Dr. A.N.S. Kulasinghe also deserves the treatment. He helped to uphold the “engineering morale” of the local engineers giving them confidence in Engineering research, experimentation and application of their own findings.



    • Sivam Krish

      LTTE, Kullasinghe and Ray,

      Incidentally Ray was as many Singhalese were a great admirer of the LTTE. As for Ray, those who attempted the fine art of flying were of the same caste. While those who took bribes for buying foreign toys were of a lower caste. He had no time for them.

      Ray, held Kulasinghe in great esteem. He referred to him as Isambard Brunel (the great Victorian engineer) of Sri Lanka. He possibly was. But for those who met him ( I did) he was nothing but a great disappointment. He is one of those “know- alls”. He claimed to know everything. He was an utter bore, full of his cleverness – though very capable.

      I was always very wary or Rays relationships with the peasant intelligencia of Sri Lanka, in their attempt to cloth very ancient ideas (often related to Buddhism) as modern relevant and contemporary. He had time for these are educated gentlemen with degrees but with brains shackled to their grandfathers thought processes – bounded by issues identities and ideas that the world ahs gone well past.

      Ray was different sort of person. He loved all creatures, especially those that could fly. He was simple, unpretentious, immensely fun and generous. Most importantly he was sharp as hell in thinking about stuff he was obsessed with even after a few glasses of Bourbon . He embodied key aspects of highly creative people – the ability to make synthesis at the highest level.

      He took a stratospheric view of things and synthesised his own solutions. Most importantly e put all what he had behind trying to resolving them in a practical way – at his own expense. He lived it.

      Poor man, was born in the wrong country and loved it too much to make his thinking, achievements and breakthroughs more relevant to the world.

  • yapa

    Please think back whether those authoritative political preachers really know what they preach. Democracy, freedom of expression, right to information, equality,…..what not?



  • Thanks to everyone who has commented on the article – or has been discussing tangentially related topics! It’s always good to get people talking, although sooner or later, every discussion seems to end up rather predictably in patriotism or nationalism!

    Please keep talking, which is far better than silence. As the original article’s writer, I just want to point out this intriguing reference to Ray Wijewardene I stumbled upon in an article titled “I have a Dream” by Capt G A Fernando, that appeared in Sri Lanka Guardian website on 18 Feb 2009 (when Ray was still with us). I don’t know the author, and have not been able to verify the incident.

    “On one occasion, Dr. Ray Wijewardene, Sri Lanka’s grand old man of private aviation, walked out of a Ministry of Defence meeting, saying that by killing General Aviation in Sri Lanka we have lost the capability of destroying these ‘toy’ aeroplanes (meaning the LTTE aircraft).” http://www.srilankaguardian.org/2009/02/i-have-dream.html

    Can someone confirm that this happened?

    As I wrote on 19 Aug 2010 in a tribute immediately after Ray passed away: “When he was approaching 75, Ray told me how nervous he was when he had to go for renewals of his pilot’s license. In the end, it wasn’t age that ended his flying career: along with everyone else, he was ‘grounded’ when private flying was first restricted and then banned during the latter years of Sri Lanka’s long-drawn war.”

  • sabbe laban


    Thank you for urging me to join this conversation. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to go through this latest development in science in detail.

    By the look of it, if this is true it appears that there could be a deeper, yet undiscovered law(s) in the universe which is the reason for the apparent discrepancies in laws of Physics i.e. The Uncertainty Principle, awwor of time and quantum entanglement etc. Maybe the true nature of the universe is quite different to what we perceive!

    Well, Einstein derived his concept that light is the fastest thing from the 19th century equations of Maxwell, and none of these people can be called infallible!

    As for the Buddha, with all respects to his wisdom, at a time of abyssmal and monumental darkness when the middle-eastern tribes were dancing around a book of ridiculous collection of Jewish fairy tales, there’s no evidence to suggest that he paid attention to these complex yet physical “realities”.

  • Sivam Krish

    Nalaka, I believe that Rays was well beyond patriotism – as it is understood in Sri Lanka. He loved life and all creatures. Those that flew he loved more.

    As a designer of ultra lights he gauged quite correctly that the payloads and therefore the damage that can be caused by the home built kind of crafts would be very limited. Not that he was too bothered about the LTTE re-cycling the politicians of Sri Lanka. It caused little damage and was mainly of propaganda value for the LTTE in reinforcing their own short lived sense of superiority – which they attributed to their ethnicity.

    To me, the real tragedy of Ray, was that he lived amongst Gamaralays, who did not see the significance of this thinking and the disconnect he suffered from the government, academic and research intuitions in his life time. He squandered enormous amounts of time, effort and resources attempting to further agendas that he felt were beneficial for humanity – but of no interest to them.

    • @Sivam,
      When you say “the real tragedy of Ray, was that he lived amongst Gamaralays”, it is also our misfortune. For evidence, look no further than many of the completely off-topic comments in the stream above!

  • Tissa Wije

    Interesting discussion going on. I recall another near genius ofthis ilk, Dr Sanath Ranatunga, one time Dean, Eng fac, Peradeniya. He too nearly set up a small tractor production facility in mid seventies. The problems he foresaw was the absence of subsidiary industries to produce secondary articles, plastic industry, glass industry, metallurgical industry for parts from dash board buttons to engine blocks, piston rings, aluminium wheels etc . THat is where UK, France, Germany or US used to excel in the first days of industrilization with wonderful inventions, cars that could fly from roads etc. THeir reliability and safety isanothermatter. The enginneering production skills are now rapidly replaced by China with cheap energy sources, locally available raw materials as even Apple found. If you are good at producing rice or bananas it is not wise to give it upto specialise in building farm tractors – check what a vast amount of separate parts, hassle of buying from many parts of the world, eventual the market size to sell the product. Perhaps Sri Lanka can design a cheap computer for rural schools and get Chinese partners to produce parts to start with and slowly move to build a larger portion at home.

  • Expat

    I had the privilege to work with Mr. Ray Wijewardane. He invented the HAND TRACTOR to the world and he was selling it in England with the BROWNS company until it was bought out by KUBOTA of Japan. Mr. Ray Wijewardane had invented Flying BICYClEs for HOLLYWOOD movies. In the case mechanized gliders, that was his hobby and he bought mechanized gliders from the US and he modified those.

    Mr. Ray Wijewardane was very enthusiastic, very courageous and multi-talented man. He could work different fields and he excelled those too.

  • Expat

    Mr. Ray Wijewardane built at lest one mechanized glider by buying parts separately as I remember. He used a Honda motor for that. That was not a normal part of a mechanized glider. Some how he crashed it though when landing. HE had a aeronautical engineering diploma or a degree.