My very recent read has been the renowned MIT physicist, Walter Lewin’s, biopic ‘For the Love of Physics’. An extremely fascinating and profound read it depicts the physicist’s journey throughout the years, his love for physics and his inquisitiveness of a newborn that search for the various elements of Physics everywhere around him. The book is a silent reminder that even after everything that he has achieved, his primary aim had always been to do something that he had always loved and wanted to do, to teach Physics and science. And as the Greek saying goes ‘To teach is to learn something all over again’, he still learns physics from his surroundings and the elements around him.
Walter finds beauty in Physics and the science around him. He still finds the most mundane things bizarre and his body of work is something that makes Physics what it was supposed to be in the first place. Fun. I think one session that might have stayed with all his students as well as some of the video recipients of his work would be his session teaching the Physics behind a simple pendulum. He took a giant ball, tied to the ceiling of the classroom to demonstrate a pendulum. As he pushed the ball and the pendulum bobbed about, he explained to his students the various parameters associated with it, the time taken for its single reciprocating motion, the angle on the both the sides, etc. Now, to demonstrate the independence of mass attached to the pendulum to the time taken in it’s oscillation, the 50 year old physicist, the bizarro freak that he was, climbed on top of the ball in front of the whole classroom and asked one of his students to push as the pendulum bobbed about in it’s motion swinging the too-engrossed-to-be-embarrased old man with it while the students, the awe-stricken audience to the illusionist, stared in wonderment at something never in their wildest dream they had imagined a reputed MIT professor doing. A lesson they may remember for a life time, I guess.
Recently I have been working as an intern in an organisation that designs some fun science experiments for middle school kids to practically demonstrate the various theories of science that they have been learning throughout their curriculum. Working with them, seeing them fascinated by things as little as the science behind the regrowth of a starfish’s arm via cardboard and a few strings to their awe at something as simple as the floating of ice in salt water reminded me why I had been studying to become an engineer in the first place.
It had always been physics. Straight from the time when we blew up the light bulb by supplying high amount of electricity to the time when we built a backyard dynamo based turbine to generate little electricity via recycling the tap water, it had always been Physics. The curiosity to discover something new, anything new, is what was and had always been the driving force behind all the time we’ve invested in this occupation in our lives. What we, perhaps, do not realise is maybe the curious child who used wonder why his old books smelled like a tinge of vanilla, is crushed somewhere under a large pile of the same books. A child who used to wonder why were sunrises were blue and sunsets orange now stares at the same sunset with a beer in his hand wondering of the scintillating worries of a secure future. All the pressure, all the agony kills the physicist inside an engineer subjecting him to become merely a commercial raw material to the industries. A currency printing press.
Whatever happened to the little kid who once, bewildered, asked his mom, ‘Why was the moon following him?’ I look at those kids in the workshop and their glittering, utterly fascinated, inquisitive eyes and realise what had been missing. The whole essence of curiosity and wonderment of anything, and everything, around us