Chapter 10 - The Comet II, NCERT Textbook of CBSE Class 8 English (It so happened) Class 8 Notes | EduRev

English (It so Happened) Class 8

Class 8 : Chapter 10 - The Comet II, NCERT Textbook of CBSE Class 8 English (It so happened) Class 8 Notes | EduRev

 Page 1


I
• Duttada is invited to the secret conference.
• How to change the course of Comet Dutta is the scientists’ hidden
agenda.
• Duttada and the Defence Advisor become close friends, and share
a secret.
BY the time they finished their deliberations and Sir John dropped
him at his hotel off Regent Street, it was 1 a.m. There was hardly
any crowd on the street but when James looked up from his
window a star-studded night sky greeted him. Somewhere amongst
these stars was Comet Dutta heading for a collision with the Earth.
It was hard to believe the calamity of the future on such a peaceful
night. For a moment James wondered if he had done his
sums right.
Whatever doubt James may have had about Sir John’s efficiency
were quickly dispelled when he reported for the conference and
found that all the experts listed by him were there. Astronomers,
computer scientists, nuclear physicists, space technologists,
biologists, all were there. And as Sir John’s special invitee was
present the man who had started it all—Manoj Dutta.
The conference lasted one week and went on under total cover of
secrecy. First the experts checked and rechecked James Forsyth’s
calculation with the latest observations of Comet Dutta. He was
The comet – II
10
2019-20
Page 2


I
• Duttada is invited to the secret conference.
• How to change the course of Comet Dutta is the scientists’ hidden
agenda.
• Duttada and the Defence Advisor become close friends, and share
a secret.
BY the time they finished their deliberations and Sir John dropped
him at his hotel off Regent Street, it was 1 a.m. There was hardly
any crowd on the street but when James looked up from his
window a star-studded night sky greeted him. Somewhere amongst
these stars was Comet Dutta heading for a collision with the Earth.
It was hard to believe the calamity of the future on such a peaceful
night. For a moment James wondered if he had done his
sums right.
Whatever doubt James may have had about Sir John’s efficiency
were quickly dispelled when he reported for the conference and
found that all the experts listed by him were there. Astronomers,
computer scientists, nuclear physicists, space technologists,
biologists, all were there. And as Sir John’s special invitee was
present the man who had started it all—Manoj Dutta.
The conference lasted one week and went on under total cover of
secrecy. First the experts checked and rechecked James Forsyth’s
calculation with the latest observations of Comet Dutta. He was
The comet – II
10
2019-20
It so happened... 82 82 82 82 82
right: there was no escape from the direct hit predicted by him.
There was a small chance that the comet may just graze the
atmosphere of the Earth and not collide. In that case the loss of life
and property would not be total. But this slight respite was hardly
reassuring enough for taking no action.
Having decided that some action was needed, what form should
it take? The experts dismissed defensive measures like living in
underground bunkers. It was simply not a practical proposition.
So the only course was to take offensive action. Comet Dutta could
be marginally deflected from its path by giving it a push.
The experts calculated that the bulk of destructive nuclear power
available on the Earth would be needed to achieve this mammoth
task. A gigantic nuclear explosion suitably placed, suitably directed
and suitably timed could do the trick. This could be done by placing
the nuclear payload in a spaceship, sending it to intercept the
approaching comet and detonating it by remote control. Success or
failure, secrecy must be preserved. Finally a time-table was drawn
up for the operation which was code-named ‘Project Light Brigade’.
The important dates in it were:
October 10: Despatch the spacecraft with the payload unless
by then the comet is already destroyed by natural causes
or has changed its path due to unforeseen reasons.
November 15: Rendezvous with the comet and detonation
of the payload.
December 15: If the experiment failed this was the day the
comet would hit the Earth. If it succeeded, this was the day
the comet would pass by at a near but safe distance.
The success of the experiment depended on how massive the
comet was. Nobody could estimate; everybody hoped that it was not
very massive.
“Do you think we will succeed?” Duttada asked Sir John
Macpherson for his opinion. During the week the two had developed
considerable affinity for each other.
respite: relief  intercept: (here) stop or block  detonating: setting it off; making it
explode  payload: equipment  rendezvous: (pronounced rondivoo) meeting place
2019-20
Page 3


I
• Duttada is invited to the secret conference.
• How to change the course of Comet Dutta is the scientists’ hidden
agenda.
• Duttada and the Defence Advisor become close friends, and share
a secret.
BY the time they finished their deliberations and Sir John dropped
him at his hotel off Regent Street, it was 1 a.m. There was hardly
any crowd on the street but when James looked up from his
window a star-studded night sky greeted him. Somewhere amongst
these stars was Comet Dutta heading for a collision with the Earth.
It was hard to believe the calamity of the future on such a peaceful
night. For a moment James wondered if he had done his
sums right.
Whatever doubt James may have had about Sir John’s efficiency
were quickly dispelled when he reported for the conference and
found that all the experts listed by him were there. Astronomers,
computer scientists, nuclear physicists, space technologists,
biologists, all were there. And as Sir John’s special invitee was
present the man who had started it all—Manoj Dutta.
The conference lasted one week and went on under total cover of
secrecy. First the experts checked and rechecked James Forsyth’s
calculation with the latest observations of Comet Dutta. He was
The comet – II
10
2019-20
It so happened... 82 82 82 82 82
right: there was no escape from the direct hit predicted by him.
There was a small chance that the comet may just graze the
atmosphere of the Earth and not collide. In that case the loss of life
and property would not be total. But this slight respite was hardly
reassuring enough for taking no action.
Having decided that some action was needed, what form should
it take? The experts dismissed defensive measures like living in
underground bunkers. It was simply not a practical proposition.
So the only course was to take offensive action. Comet Dutta could
be marginally deflected from its path by giving it a push.
The experts calculated that the bulk of destructive nuclear power
available on the Earth would be needed to achieve this mammoth
task. A gigantic nuclear explosion suitably placed, suitably directed
and suitably timed could do the trick. This could be done by placing
the nuclear payload in a spaceship, sending it to intercept the
approaching comet and detonating it by remote control. Success or
failure, secrecy must be preserved. Finally a time-table was drawn
up for the operation which was code-named ‘Project Light Brigade’.
The important dates in it were:
October 10: Despatch the spacecraft with the payload unless
by then the comet is already destroyed by natural causes
or has changed its path due to unforeseen reasons.
November 15: Rendezvous with the comet and detonation
of the payload.
December 15: If the experiment failed this was the day the
comet would hit the Earth. If it succeeded, this was the day
the comet would pass by at a near but safe distance.
The success of the experiment depended on how massive the
comet was. Nobody could estimate; everybody hoped that it was not
very massive.
“Do you think we will succeed?” Duttada asked Sir John
Macpherson for his opinion. During the week the two had developed
considerable affinity for each other.
respite: relief  intercept: (here) stop or block  detonating: setting it off; making it
explode  payload: equipment  rendezvous: (pronounced rondivoo) meeting place
2019-20
The comet – II
83 83 83 83 83
“Mr Dutta, I will give you an honest answer! I am not buying any
Christmas presents till December 15.”
Duttada toured the British Isles for two weeks after the conference
and he had a pleasant time visiting observatories and exchanging
views with amateur as well as professional astronomers. On his
return he was greeted by the inevitable vast crowd of friends, social
leaders, students and the usual hangers-on. Loaded with garlands
and bombarded by questions from the press he somehow made his
way to the waiting car.
Comprehension Check
1. “For a moment James wondered if he had done his sums right.” Why
was James doubtful about his sums and calculations?
2. What did the scientists at the conference say about James’s ‘sums’?
3. Immediate action was needed, the scientists decided. Give one example
each of ‘defensive’ and ‘offensive’ action mentioned in the text.
4. “I am not buying any Christmas presents till December 15.” What did Sir
John mean by that?
II
• Duttada returns home to a warm welcome and a ceremony, which
is not a scientist’s delight.
• A secret communication sends him rushing to the local sweet shop.
• Indrani Debi says that Khoka, their eight-year-old grandson, has
saved the world. Her husband is seriously puzzled.
Arriving home he found another crowd gathered under a pandal.
He glanced questioningly at Indrani Debi. Surely she knew how he
hated crowds. Indrani, obviously uneasy, offered the explanation:
“I have arranged a yajna and called priests to bless you.”
“But why? Just because I left the shores of India? You know it is
no longer taboo! And in any case you know my views on these
meaningless rituals.”
hangers-on: people in a meeting etc. (usually uninvited) who try to appear very friendly
with important people  taboo: something not premitted for religious, social/cultural
reasons
2019-20
Page 4


I
• Duttada is invited to the secret conference.
• How to change the course of Comet Dutta is the scientists’ hidden
agenda.
• Duttada and the Defence Advisor become close friends, and share
a secret.
BY the time they finished their deliberations and Sir John dropped
him at his hotel off Regent Street, it was 1 a.m. There was hardly
any crowd on the street but when James looked up from his
window a star-studded night sky greeted him. Somewhere amongst
these stars was Comet Dutta heading for a collision with the Earth.
It was hard to believe the calamity of the future on such a peaceful
night. For a moment James wondered if he had done his
sums right.
Whatever doubt James may have had about Sir John’s efficiency
were quickly dispelled when he reported for the conference and
found that all the experts listed by him were there. Astronomers,
computer scientists, nuclear physicists, space technologists,
biologists, all were there. And as Sir John’s special invitee was
present the man who had started it all—Manoj Dutta.
The conference lasted one week and went on under total cover of
secrecy. First the experts checked and rechecked James Forsyth’s
calculation with the latest observations of Comet Dutta. He was
The comet – II
10
2019-20
It so happened... 82 82 82 82 82
right: there was no escape from the direct hit predicted by him.
There was a small chance that the comet may just graze the
atmosphere of the Earth and not collide. In that case the loss of life
and property would not be total. But this slight respite was hardly
reassuring enough for taking no action.
Having decided that some action was needed, what form should
it take? The experts dismissed defensive measures like living in
underground bunkers. It was simply not a practical proposition.
So the only course was to take offensive action. Comet Dutta could
be marginally deflected from its path by giving it a push.
The experts calculated that the bulk of destructive nuclear power
available on the Earth would be needed to achieve this mammoth
task. A gigantic nuclear explosion suitably placed, suitably directed
and suitably timed could do the trick. This could be done by placing
the nuclear payload in a spaceship, sending it to intercept the
approaching comet and detonating it by remote control. Success or
failure, secrecy must be preserved. Finally a time-table was drawn
up for the operation which was code-named ‘Project Light Brigade’.
The important dates in it were:
October 10: Despatch the spacecraft with the payload unless
by then the comet is already destroyed by natural causes
or has changed its path due to unforeseen reasons.
November 15: Rendezvous with the comet and detonation
of the payload.
December 15: If the experiment failed this was the day the
comet would hit the Earth. If it succeeded, this was the day
the comet would pass by at a near but safe distance.
The success of the experiment depended on how massive the
comet was. Nobody could estimate; everybody hoped that it was not
very massive.
“Do you think we will succeed?” Duttada asked Sir John
Macpherson for his opinion. During the week the two had developed
considerable affinity for each other.
respite: relief  intercept: (here) stop or block  detonating: setting it off; making it
explode  payload: equipment  rendezvous: (pronounced rondivoo) meeting place
2019-20
The comet – II
83 83 83 83 83
“Mr Dutta, I will give you an honest answer! I am not buying any
Christmas presents till December 15.”
Duttada toured the British Isles for two weeks after the conference
and he had a pleasant time visiting observatories and exchanging
views with amateur as well as professional astronomers. On his
return he was greeted by the inevitable vast crowd of friends, social
leaders, students and the usual hangers-on. Loaded with garlands
and bombarded by questions from the press he somehow made his
way to the waiting car.
Comprehension Check
1. “For a moment James wondered if he had done his sums right.” Why
was James doubtful about his sums and calculations?
2. What did the scientists at the conference say about James’s ‘sums’?
3. Immediate action was needed, the scientists decided. Give one example
each of ‘defensive’ and ‘offensive’ action mentioned in the text.
4. “I am not buying any Christmas presents till December 15.” What did Sir
John mean by that?
II
• Duttada returns home to a warm welcome and a ceremony, which
is not a scientist’s delight.
• A secret communication sends him rushing to the local sweet shop.
• Indrani Debi says that Khoka, their eight-year-old grandson, has
saved the world. Her husband is seriously puzzled.
Arriving home he found another crowd gathered under a pandal.
He glanced questioningly at Indrani Debi. Surely she knew how he
hated crowds. Indrani, obviously uneasy, offered the explanation:
“I have arranged a yajna and called priests to bless you.”
“But why? Just because I left the shores of India? You know it is
no longer taboo! And in any case you know my views on these
meaningless rituals.”
hangers-on: people in a meeting etc. (usually uninvited) who try to appear very friendly
with important people  taboo: something not premitted for religious, social/cultural
reasons
2019-20
It so happened... 84 84 84 84 84
Indrani Debi looked at Sibaji babu, the younger brother of her
husband. Sibaji babu coughed and explained, “We have all been
very disturbed since you discovered the comet. Guruji recommended
a shanti yajna to pacify the evil spirit behind the comet. We are all
waiting for you to perform the yajna.”
“May I know what specific advantage there is in this ceremony?”
Duttada was outwardly calm.
“The comet you have discovered will not cause any ill effects on
the Earth.”
At this remark Duttda blew up. “Don’t you know that this is all
superstition? It could be condoned in the olden times when man
did not know what comets were. Not so in modern times. Comets
are known for what they are, their movements are forecast precisely
by mathematical calculations and it is clearly established by
statistical studies that their visits have no correlations with disasters
on the Earth ... All this is of course futile on my part to explain —
you and the likes of you never read even the elementary books
on Science.”
Sibaji babu gently interjected, “But our wise forefathers
recommended such yajnas.”
Since his return from London, Duttada was in regular
correspondence with Sir John Macpherson. Their friendship had
grown out of their appreciation of each other’s virtues. Sir John
admired Duttada’s scientific outlook while the latter admired the
former’s discipline and efficiency. Their correspondence never
mentioned the Project Light Brigade although once in a while Sir
John would hint at its progress in a subtle manner that Duttada
would understand.
Meanwhile Comet Dutta was following its predicted path. In due
course it developed its tail. It circled round the Sun without breaking
apart; nor did it evaporate. The scientists on Project Light Brigade
therefore knew that the threat of collision was now very much real.
In the middle of October, Duttada got a letter from Sir John. In
the midst of descriptions of the meeting of the Royal Astronomical
correlations: connections  futile: useless; in vain
2019-20
Page 5


I
• Duttada is invited to the secret conference.
• How to change the course of Comet Dutta is the scientists’ hidden
agenda.
• Duttada and the Defence Advisor become close friends, and share
a secret.
BY the time they finished their deliberations and Sir John dropped
him at his hotel off Regent Street, it was 1 a.m. There was hardly
any crowd on the street but when James looked up from his
window a star-studded night sky greeted him. Somewhere amongst
these stars was Comet Dutta heading for a collision with the Earth.
It was hard to believe the calamity of the future on such a peaceful
night. For a moment James wondered if he had done his
sums right.
Whatever doubt James may have had about Sir John’s efficiency
were quickly dispelled when he reported for the conference and
found that all the experts listed by him were there. Astronomers,
computer scientists, nuclear physicists, space technologists,
biologists, all were there. And as Sir John’s special invitee was
present the man who had started it all—Manoj Dutta.
The conference lasted one week and went on under total cover of
secrecy. First the experts checked and rechecked James Forsyth’s
calculation with the latest observations of Comet Dutta. He was
The comet – II
10
2019-20
It so happened... 82 82 82 82 82
right: there was no escape from the direct hit predicted by him.
There was a small chance that the comet may just graze the
atmosphere of the Earth and not collide. In that case the loss of life
and property would not be total. But this slight respite was hardly
reassuring enough for taking no action.
Having decided that some action was needed, what form should
it take? The experts dismissed defensive measures like living in
underground bunkers. It was simply not a practical proposition.
So the only course was to take offensive action. Comet Dutta could
be marginally deflected from its path by giving it a push.
The experts calculated that the bulk of destructive nuclear power
available on the Earth would be needed to achieve this mammoth
task. A gigantic nuclear explosion suitably placed, suitably directed
and suitably timed could do the trick. This could be done by placing
the nuclear payload in a spaceship, sending it to intercept the
approaching comet and detonating it by remote control. Success or
failure, secrecy must be preserved. Finally a time-table was drawn
up for the operation which was code-named ‘Project Light Brigade’.
The important dates in it were:
October 10: Despatch the spacecraft with the payload unless
by then the comet is already destroyed by natural causes
or has changed its path due to unforeseen reasons.
November 15: Rendezvous with the comet and detonation
of the payload.
December 15: If the experiment failed this was the day the
comet would hit the Earth. If it succeeded, this was the day
the comet would pass by at a near but safe distance.
The success of the experiment depended on how massive the
comet was. Nobody could estimate; everybody hoped that it was not
very massive.
“Do you think we will succeed?” Duttada asked Sir John
Macpherson for his opinion. During the week the two had developed
considerable affinity for each other.
respite: relief  intercept: (here) stop or block  detonating: setting it off; making it
explode  payload: equipment  rendezvous: (pronounced rondivoo) meeting place
2019-20
The comet – II
83 83 83 83 83
“Mr Dutta, I will give you an honest answer! I am not buying any
Christmas presents till December 15.”
Duttada toured the British Isles for two weeks after the conference
and he had a pleasant time visiting observatories and exchanging
views with amateur as well as professional astronomers. On his
return he was greeted by the inevitable vast crowd of friends, social
leaders, students and the usual hangers-on. Loaded with garlands
and bombarded by questions from the press he somehow made his
way to the waiting car.
Comprehension Check
1. “For a moment James wondered if he had done his sums right.” Why
was James doubtful about his sums and calculations?
2. What did the scientists at the conference say about James’s ‘sums’?
3. Immediate action was needed, the scientists decided. Give one example
each of ‘defensive’ and ‘offensive’ action mentioned in the text.
4. “I am not buying any Christmas presents till December 15.” What did Sir
John mean by that?
II
• Duttada returns home to a warm welcome and a ceremony, which
is not a scientist’s delight.
• A secret communication sends him rushing to the local sweet shop.
• Indrani Debi says that Khoka, their eight-year-old grandson, has
saved the world. Her husband is seriously puzzled.
Arriving home he found another crowd gathered under a pandal.
He glanced questioningly at Indrani Debi. Surely she knew how he
hated crowds. Indrani, obviously uneasy, offered the explanation:
“I have arranged a yajna and called priests to bless you.”
“But why? Just because I left the shores of India? You know it is
no longer taboo! And in any case you know my views on these
meaningless rituals.”
hangers-on: people in a meeting etc. (usually uninvited) who try to appear very friendly
with important people  taboo: something not premitted for religious, social/cultural
reasons
2019-20
It so happened... 84 84 84 84 84
Indrani Debi looked at Sibaji babu, the younger brother of her
husband. Sibaji babu coughed and explained, “We have all been
very disturbed since you discovered the comet. Guruji recommended
a shanti yajna to pacify the evil spirit behind the comet. We are all
waiting for you to perform the yajna.”
“May I know what specific advantage there is in this ceremony?”
Duttada was outwardly calm.
“The comet you have discovered will not cause any ill effects on
the Earth.”
At this remark Duttda blew up. “Don’t you know that this is all
superstition? It could be condoned in the olden times when man
did not know what comets were. Not so in modern times. Comets
are known for what they are, their movements are forecast precisely
by mathematical calculations and it is clearly established by
statistical studies that their visits have no correlations with disasters
on the Earth ... All this is of course futile on my part to explain —
you and the likes of you never read even the elementary books
on Science.”
Sibaji babu gently interjected, “But our wise forefathers
recommended such yajnas.”
Since his return from London, Duttada was in regular
correspondence with Sir John Macpherson. Their friendship had
grown out of their appreciation of each other’s virtues. Sir John
admired Duttada’s scientific outlook while the latter admired the
former’s discipline and efficiency. Their correspondence never
mentioned the Project Light Brigade although once in a while Sir
John would hint at its progress in a subtle manner that Duttada
would understand.
Meanwhile Comet Dutta was following its predicted path. In due
course it developed its tail. It circled round the Sun without breaking
apart; nor did it evaporate. The scientists on Project Light Brigade
therefore knew that the threat of collision was now very much real.
In the middle of October, Duttada got a letter from Sir John. In
the midst of descriptions of the meeting of the Royal Astronomical
correlations: connections  futile: useless; in vain
2019-20
The comet – II
85 85 85 85 85
Society, the unseasonably warm weather, the opening matches of
the football season and a recent bye-election, Duttada spotted the
sentence he was eagerly looking for: “The charge of the Light Brigade
has begun. Let us hope for the best.” So the spacecraft had been
launched on time.
But will it achieve the rendezvous in time and at the right place?
Will the remote control detonation work? What if the gigantic nuclear
pile fails to fire?
Duttada could not share his anxieties with anyone around him.
He had to participate in and outwardly enjoy the Puja ceremonies,
the Diwali celebration and other festivals. His sole daytime relaxation
was in the company of Khoka, his eight-year-old grandson, and of
course at night looking through Dibya.
He was regularly monitoring the comet, now clearly visible even
to the naked eye. On November 18 a special messenger on a scooter
from the British Council brought in an urgent telex message for
him. The telex operator in Calcutta had wondered what was so special
about it to make it so urgent. But on reading it Duttada lost all his
lethargy and rushed to his favourite rasagolla shop. The
message read:
“I am confident now of buying my Christmas presents on
December 15 — John Macpherson.”
On December 15 Comet Dutta came closest to the earth — at a
distance of 80,000 kilometres. Millions saw it and admired it. Only
a handful knew how close they had come to total annihilation.
When the comet had gone far away and was seen no more,
Duttada felt it safe to make the following comment to his wife: “Now
that the comet came and went, are you satisfied that no major
disaster took place that can be attributed to it?”
“I agree that there has been no major disaster; but there could
have been some. Do you know how they were averted?” Indrani
Debi said with quiet confidence.
lethargy: laziness  annihilation: total destruction  attributed: (can be) put down to/be
the result of
2019-20
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