The Summers that inspired Physics6 min read

This is an anecdotal account of the author describing the small and scientifically apparently insignificant moments that led the author to settle on a research career in Physics, specifically in Cosmology.

When I was a kid, during the summer vacations, I would go to my granny’s place and enjoy life in the countryside for about a month. The warmth of the love I received at my granny’s house, made me long for the summer every year. My lovely Granny, maternal uncles, aunts, and even the village folks used to shower love and affection on me. There used to be two Temples at the two ends of the village. The one at the entrance was of Shiva (the personification of deep thinking that brings order out of chaos) and the one at the end was of Narayani (the personification pure and prime energy). Every morning and every evening I used to hear the bells and the conches during the aartis. The evenings were the most crucial time for me since, they hosted clear night skies full of planets, stars, and cosmic bands of haze. Lying down on a cot in the courtyard, being caressed by the cool evening summer breeze, looking up at the sky that appeared as a perfectly crafted sheet of silk laden with gems of different colours and radiance, made me wonder about the true nature of Nature.

It always was a surreal feeling, especially from the dusk till dinner: me looking at the starry night, asking questions about the universe, with the background music from the temples, and my most beloved aunt (now alive only in memories) answering my questions the best way she could. Her name was “Sharmishtha”, an ancient Hindu astronomical name for the beautiful northern sky constellation of Cassiopeia. Call it a coincidence, or maybe my biased appreciation, but she was indeed the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. It was she who had taught me the very first letters. It was she who had taught me how to think, behave, and live. She had a very weak heart (a congenital hole in it) but when it came to daring, she was a braveheart who could always fight for what’s right. It was she who taught me how to be brave and not be afraid of ghosts. In fact, she had told me that not ghosts or animals but humans are the ones we must watch out for any real danger.

She had given many answers to my many questions. When I had asked her about the beautiful sky, she would tell me that it is infinite. She would tell me that the sky isn’t just a two-dimensional sheet. She told me that the sky is just an appearance of what is otherwise a glimpse of the immense universe. She told me that the airplanes that I so eagerly watch flying are only a few kilometres high. She told me about astronauts who frequent to the outer space. She told me about the scientists who devote their lives trying to understand the universe. And she told me one day, that it is the scientists who are next to God who actually answer our questions. She was merely a graduate in Arts.

Those summers subconsciously infused a strong layer of rationale and an attitude of courageous thinking in my core. To be honest, while growing up, I had lost my aspirations to pursue a career in Science many times. It happens to all of us. We keep changing our aspirations depending on our situations. With new information, our minds evolve and our decisions change. Even our beliefs are mended. Inspiration and motivation are mere emotional functions that need to be supported by our intelligence and rationale. That ‘support’ means hard work. For me, hard work was something I had always avoided until I realized my ‘passion’.

Passion is a very elusive thing. It’s hard to pin down with precision. One day you might find your passion in one thing and the next day it could be something else. The only way to recognize your passion for something is through the amount of hard work can it support indefinitely. We human beings never do anything difficult. We always break down things into small steps. Then, we take one step at a time. That converts what was initially difficult into a series of easy steps. But to walk a path is very different from knowing a path because to walk needs much more energy to be invested. Investing energy means draining yourself mentally and physically. Now, to overcome the primordial human tendency of avoiding energy loss, you need passion. It is the passion that keeps you well enough supplied by drawing energy for you from your own life so that you could invest it in the indefinitely long series of energy draining process which your aspiration calls for.

I am not talking about success. Success is relative. Attempt and gain are what actually matter. In the turbulent flow of life, I had seen both success and failure from my own standards. In many things I had instant success without much attempt. And eventually nothing much was gained. But in a few things, I have failed despite passionate attempts. And I have always gained from them. When I switched from the successful job of an IT Advisor in a prominent international banking corporation, I was fairly successful but without much gain in terms of life satisfying experiences. What I switched to, was sitting at my study desk, opening up old Physics and Mathematics books that I had left long ago. When I started solving the problems in them, I failed many times. But I was gaining all the time. Each failure gave me a life satisfying experience. After the umpteenth attempt, when I understood my mistake as well as the Physics behind the question, I was rewarded by goosebumps. Those tiny bumps in my failures were missing in the successes I used to get in my previous job.

Now that I have come back to where my life had started, trying to understand the universe, it felt very natural to me that I should maintain a log of my learning process and make it public so that someone else could learn from me and help me learn. This weblog (or famously called Blog) is what ThePhysicist is all about. It is going to be a witness of my attempts, towards a life of research in Cosmology, starting from the summers that inspired Physics in me.

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