Nobel Ambitions: 17 and Soaring, This Niazi has Got Electric Honeycombs Going


While most 17-year olds in Pakistan these days are worried about A-level results, replacing current smartphone with a new one and their Ludo Star skills, a quiet teen in Lahore has shaken up the global scientific community with his ground-breaking research. And we literally mean that.

Muhammad Shaheer Niazi’s room is a quagmire of wires, motherboards and circuits, as BBC reports, but his clarity of vision is profound. Niazi turned 17 last month, and before he did that, he got his research paper on electric honeycomb or Rose Window Instability accepted and published in Royal Society Open Science journal.

According to the abstract of his research paper, “The Rose window instability is a little-explored electrohydrodynamic instability that manifests when a layer of low-conducting oil is placed in an electric field generated by corona discharge in a point-to-plane configuration. Above a critical voltage, the instability starts as a single dimple in the oil layer right below the point electrode and subsequently evolves into a characteristic pattern of polygonal cells”.

The parallels he draws showcase the immense belief he has in himself.

While it’s still hard for many teens to negotiate a stuck window or plant a rose seed, Niazi has gone on and surprised – and shocked – the world with his study.

Shaheer Niazi

The abstract continues. “In this study, we experimentally explore governing parameters that guide the instability and document geometric attributes of the characteristic cellular pattern. The driving force for the instability has been attributed to the buildup of charged ions which in turn apply an electric pressure on the oil surface. We confirm the charged surface distribution using thermal imaging and demonstrate that the instability can be locally inhibited by preventing charge buildup under an ion shadow”.

Although scientists have known of the phenomenon for years, Niazi has been the first to graphically capture the movement of ions and the subsequent formation of honeycomb like patterns on the surface of oil.

The inspiration, he told BBC, was provided at the International Young Physicists’ Tournament held in Russia last year. And he worked for another year to develop the insight to add to existing knowledge of the phenomenon to have his paper finally accepted.

Niazi is a young man of many talents. He is a self-taught pianist and an avid pencil sketcher, besides having a keen interest in music and art. He told the BBC he was glad he had added to his country’s pride and that he wished to continue his research in physics at a reputable educational institution.

For Shaheer Niazi, the possibilities are just beginning to become evident, and he has sight on top honours. “I would love to win another Nobel Prize for Pakistan”.

And the parallels he draws showcase the immense belief he has in himself. “Isaac Newton was 17 when his first paper was published,” Niazi told BBC. “I was 16 when I officially received my acceptance letter”.

Let the physics, er, force be with you, young man. And may God bless you.

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