Sunday, September 16, 2012

A freak like me, just needs infinity!

A comment I wrote up for Pragya's which ended up being a blog post on its own!:

Before I say anything - and I have a damn! lot to say on the topic at hand - a quick jump to your poem "Perfection" and back, it had been quite sometime since I last read it :) First up are our dearies Einstein and Newton. Newton (standing on earth) said that the apple falls in a straight line towards the earth. Einstein imagined himself to rise up above "outside" the earth and saw that the apply was not actually moving in a straight line, it was moving along a curved line but sinde space-time itself was curved by the earth's gravity, so it appears straight. Newton stepped back and saw "the apple" fall to the ground. Einstein stepped back even further and saw the apple and the earth together in the frame. Similarly Maxwell unified electricity with magnetism - he up with those 4 equations with "ulta dela" in them! Since Maxwell and Einstein, we are all still waiting for another human with imagination powerful enough to step out even further back and see something even more general

This reminds one of the classic novella "Flatland" by Edwin Abbott Abbott (yup two Abbotts in his name). He speaks of a being from a 2 Dimensional space being brought into the 3D world whose existance he could not have comprehended when he was in his 2D world. The 3D being who brings the 2D being into his world considers it blasphemous when the 2D being questions the existence of a 4 Dimensional world! Definitely, put it this book on your reading list. Sheldon refers to it multiple times in Big Bang Theory. Thats how I came to know about it!. If you have a tablet, get the book from here, its in public domain now: Its amazing how the author presents the basics of geometry thru a nice story which also points out the scummy part of the victorian society during the time he lived.

There is this opposing view that as scientists we should observe objectively without any bias (for eg. Confirmation bias) and stop expecting to find a simplified generalized explanation of everything under the sun. For all we know, our universe instead of being an elaborate symphony all completely generated from a simple singular law might actually be like an onion with layers and layers of physical laws which our species will forever try to penetrate one by one. That's what Richard Feynman said in his 1981 interview WHICH YOU DEFINITELY GOTTA SEE: He compares science as a game of chess being played by the Gods and us humans observing the game trying to figure out the rules. a lot of moves later, just when we though that we have got the hang of it, one of the Gods makes a "Castling" move and lo and behold! we have to revise the rules list! He also talks of artists accusing scientists of killing the aesthetic beauty of nature by trying to probe it when in fact scientists can observe the beauty at multiple levels - superficial beauty, beauty at cellular level and molecular level, beauty at social level etc.. ! I sort of envy you - coz you can appreciate this (being a scientist and artist both?) even more than others. As you apply a stroke of paint to a piece of paper can you not see in a single unified revelating vision the water having paint particle dissolved in it, the surface tension that makes the water stick to the brush strands, the hydrogen bonding between dye molecules and water, the fibers of the dead plant that make up your paper that lends to it its unique texture as a medium amongst many different possible media that you could have used to render the imagine in your mind that day - an image which was conjured up in another moment which saw you walking under a bridge with building towering around it. In viewing a phenomenon thru the looking glasses of Chemistry, Philosophy, Art..etc. - you can jump back and forth a zillion times and always be awed at the beauty at every level! So now I am hoping that you will watch that Feynman interview and let it broaden your horizons even further - I am eagerly looking forward to what you think of it!

Woow, saying all that just put my own life of the past few months into prespective (going to brag now!): At work, I learnt to write code for operating system drivers - going a level deeper. On weekends, I ran my first half marathon - oh the squishy sqashy pumping sound of your heart as you outrun a couple of people. Scuba dived - its a whole different world underwater! Went on a road trip. Got almost killed by a mob of 50 villagers in an altercation over nothing - near death experience, learnt to appreciate that epinephrine is one awesome molecule there, aptly named the fight-or-flight hormone. Decorated cute cup-cakes for mom and dadima. Met some awesome new people and did even more awesome things with them. ...So I have concluded that there are so many layers to peel off and so many progressively bigger pictures to be seen - frames to move out into. All this is fuelled by our desire to grow: to be able to do tomorrow something you hadn't done or didn't know how to do today. Whoever catalyzes your growth is known as the nurturer. Your quest for a higher meaning also moves parallel to your quest for a more and more learned nurturer in your life - you begin your life with your parents nurturing you, at some point you outgrow their nurturing and then your teachers/professors take up that role, specially those professors who belong to the field you have choosen to make your career in. At work you sub consciously look for people elder to you, more expert to you as you try to chalk out your path through the wilderness of life - these are the people who have tread a part of the path you are walking on or intend to walk on. Your own path becomes a sort of mosaic of segments from paths taken by these nurturers and segments that are going to be unique to you. And as you move through this path, you become able to see deeper and clearer at various aspects of life. The truth - your own truth will eventually emerge.

1 comment:

Pragya Sidhwani said...

Oh my God dude, I'm a little flattered! Yes, I know about Flatland, partly because of Sheldon and partly because of this book review I was reading in Nature of this book Phi by Giulio Tononi ( These two are on my list of books to read after I'm done with Sophie's World, a brief philosophical history that inspired my post.

As for Feynman, he is awesome! I'm going to watch that interview soon. I already have his book (again on my list of reads, but I hardly have a life outside my lab, and I say that very happily lol)

It's nice to know you're doing so many of the things that one should do. I, for one, totally considered running the half marathon, but the paucity of time caved in. But someday, I plan on taking a year off from the world and running away from everything except a pen and a notebook. Which reminds me, if you haven't seen/read 'Into the Wild', you MUST!

Anyway, thanks for such wonderful comments ever since I started writing. I'm very curious to know if this is you, the lithiumhead
Because the author was my nanaji :)