Saturday, 15 December 2007

Let there be Light

I dont know how else to put it - I have been taken over by science. Physics and mathematics are all I seem to be able to talk about, my thoughts revolve around questions as arcane and arbit to most other people as they are delightful to me - questions about everyday life, and the world around us.....a common one, "How is a rainbow made ?" the answer to that is surprisingly intricate and pretty and hides some nice complexities in a particularly beautiful phenomenon. (wikipedia is quite good on this check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow) Another one, seen as almost trivial by many people is "why is the sky blue ?" that deals with rayleigh scattering, which is the simplest type of scattering and if you want to look deeper into scattering you quickly get into Raman scattering and Brillouin scattering and nonlinear optics (which is my bane this semester).....and then there is the small (and some would say pressing) matter of increasing the efficiency of solar cells and that question takes you to quantum dots, Excitons, and a maze of quantum mechanical equations and greek letters one will despair of ever figuring out (if you have the heart to read them at all).....if you study the subject of light (as I happen to do), you will come across many wonderful phenomena, photonic crystals, mirrors that dont invert left to right, amplifiers that are based on light diffracting off a diffraction grating made by light ! or sound !!!

It is an interesting thing, to stay in "middle europe" - a prosperous and gray city, a class filled to the brim with geniuses as well as arbit characters, a foreign land with a different language and to study light. There is something about light. Not only to man and his mind which pines for it but also in nature. It has been the key to EVERY major theory advanced in the last two hundred years, from maxwell's electromagnetism (which first gave us a clue as to what light "actually was" (if there is such a thing as "actually being") ) through relativity (the postulate about the speed of light being constant along with the postulate of relativity of motion yeilds the whole theory ! ) (and I have always wondered, "why light ? whats so special about the speed of light ? why that number ? does it follow from somewhere else ? why cant gravitational waves, (which (at least so far, as far as I know) are not connected to light) have a speed greater or less than the speed of light ?" and the refinements in understanding make it even less comprehensible, apparently, phase fronts can and very commonly do travel faster than light, but 'information' or 'wave groups' cant ! why ? what is information exactly ? what is the relationship between information and "order" (because surely they are related, I have studied information theory at college and dealt with the concept of 'entropy' but I do not know enough thermodynamics to relate the information theoretical concept of entropy with the thermodynamic one) and what has any of that to do with fundamental limits to speed ? questions questions questions ! but they convince me that light is central to our understanding of the universe and will continue to be so for some time.) and then of course there is quantum mechanics and its connection to light is so well documented that I wont put it down. As a matter of fact, it is convoluted and complicated and dare I say it, "messy" and at the same time is wildly accurate. The universe is strange and and beautiful and unfathomable. It constantly challenges our limited brains (to be fair to them, they evolved to maximize procreation and food intake in a world where everything that mattered was macroscopic and moved slowly so its a little unfair to expect them to be naturals at relativistic and quantum mechanical phenomena, as it is, they dont do too bad - after years of frustration and training :D ) and fills our pitiful imaginations and puny hearts with awe.

Reality is the most wonderful thing we have, and we are given a staggeringly short time to contemplate it, and it pains me to think that the majority of people waste this time being scared of it and forcing themselves and their children to believe crude, simplistic, stupid and harmful stories written by the worst kind of people living in sick societies thousands of years ago. They are arrogant enough to claim that they can explain not just the origin and the present state of the universe, but also its 'purpose'. I am so stunned by the sheer arrogance of it, that I cannot think of a good enough repartee. Anyone who has studied science knows.

I am still a lazy man, and dont study as much as I should, but then there is the universe to think about ! and I miss India and its teeming millions. Europe is a very beautiful place to be lonely in. Very gray in winter, and somewhat similar to that Island mountain in another dimension in "Grimus" by Rushdie.....you can only survive if you are passionate or obsessed about something. Unfortunately in my case, being passionate about something does not imply I work terribly hard for it :D

2 comments:

Olga said...

>Europe is a very beautiful place to be lonely in

it is sad, but you are right

Aditya K said...

Good one, man :)

Light (or rather, the speed of light) is indeed the most intriguing thing in this universe; all the more so as it connects various arenas. Oh, while we're 'on' light, I must point out having heard of a quantum mechanical issue (maybe EPR paradox, not sure) wherein two electrons shot off from a point in opposite directions always have their spin correlated - irrespective of distance, meaning if you 'observe' one electron to be +1, the other will invariably be -1. My description here is quite hazy, but that's all I remember about it.

And yeah, humans have had a continually changing perception of nature and the best part of it is, it is still possible shed all our gained-knowledge for a moment, put ourselves in our forefathers' place and have marvel at the magic that is nature! With Science, it is possible to unravel it, to some extent and see more beauty. For the layman though, the nitty-gritty of the theory is plainly repelling. And by layman, I mean everyone on this planet, if the topic is outside of his own field of work.

Oh, I forgot there are a couple of guys floating around earth. They're laymen, too!

And one last bit about light: it could be that there is some 'super-universe' of which our universe is a part, into which no beam of light that we shoot might escape into, because Godel's theorem doesn't rule that out!