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The amazing world of physics

The discipline appears abstract, but the knowledge is absolutely fascinating.

As my sister and I marvelled at the majesty and grandeur of the Taj Mahal, our astrophysicist cousin explained the magnetic field around the structure — simultaneously mentioning that he forgot to bring his wallet for the trip to Agra. He appeared to be quirky. Einstein with his dishevelled hair and the equation e=mc² also appeared to me an apogee.

Though I studied economics and management, I have never been comfortable with numbers, and the same is true with several others who pursue the humanities. Economics also appears to be an abstract subject.

Conventional economics has taught us that price is determined at the intersection point of the demand and supply curves. But a paradox exists in Say’s Law that expounds that supply creates its own demand. The similarity between economics and physics is that all the principles are based on strong logic.

Physics is derived from the Greek word Physis. The subject deals with the nature and properties of matter and energy. It provides insights into mechanics, heat, light, other radiations, sound, electricity, magnetism and the structure of atoms. Physics and mathematics underscore how the universe evolved, though these disciplines cannot predict human behaviour. Thus our lives may be asymmetrical with various emotional upheavals; the geometry of creation is highly symmetrical. We hear cacophony is our existence but the cosmos (remember Carl Sagan) is all melody. Celestial bodies have been positioned to perfection with predefined paths. That is the logic and bedrock of physics.

While physics envelops us, the study of the discipline appears abstract. It is stated that we receive solar radiation or that sound travels in waves, but it is not easily discernable to students.

Curiosity about natural phenomena has existed in various civilisations. For instance, Rig Veda in its suktas has postulated theories about the creation of the universe.

Stephen Hawking (despite his debilitating condition caused by motor-neuron disease) and Jim Holt in contemporary times have researched and written extensively on the origins of the universe.

Professor Hawking (who occupied the Lucasian Professor Chair at Cambridge University, earlier adorned by Sir Isaac Newton) said,” Look at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious”.

Noted physicist and metaphysical writer Jim Holt wrote the seminal essay, “Why Does the World Exist?” He ponders over thought provoking questions such as, what banged? How did it bang? And what existed prior to that? Inspired by Heidegger and Sartre, he reminds us that humans cannot be separated from the complete character of the research. He raises pertinent questions on the color and texture of the universe. This opens vast frontiers towards the unknown.

Professor Hawking in his address in Stockholm said: “Stuff that falls into a black hole is gone forever? Not so!” That is a paradox that is being researched by scientists.

This knowledge is absolutely fascinating. Yet I could not grasp the intricacies, the fine print and nuances of physics. There was nothing wrong with the pedagogy as my illustrious classmates made it to top -grade medical and engineering colleges. Need I blame the hemispheres of the brain for not acquiring this repository of knowledge?

You need to trigger the imagination of students, to discover the unknown, unconstrained by time, space or discipline being pursued.

“As we acquire knowledge, things do not become comprehensible, but more mysterious,” wrote Will Durrant. This is the amazing world of physics.

valluri.ravi@gmail.com

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Printable version | Apr 3, 2020 1:59:37 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/The-amazing-world-of-physics/article13994198.ece

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