Thursday, August 11, 2022

Physics on a lighter note

All of us probably got a scolding from his father for inattention to household chores. One such stringent ways for calling a-padartha (worthless) was the most memorable. We were very disheartened then, later on realized it largely irrelevant, while our teacher at Pre-University days reminded us in a great sense of humour. Telling a-padartha at such a tender age was totally unconnected. Aren’t you a matter? Don’t get serious about it? We are moving something less serious today. The professor made things easier at the first impression into our class.
In Physics, a matter is the stuff that makes up the universe. Everything that takes up space and has mass is matter. All matter is made up of atoms, which are in turn made up of Protons, Neutrons and Electrons. Only vacuum is the absence of matter. Things that are non-matter are light, sound, heat, energy, gravity, time, a rainbow, love, happiness and the list is endless. We were very much agreed as Physics deals with matter and energy that determine the structure of the universe. We’re definitely a matter but not as a-padartha (non-matter) at least in terms of Physics. Aren’t we? The entire class guffawed at the logic of the Oxford scholar Dr. J Hatibaruah.
Science collides with our curiosity and imagination as the days rolled on into years and we still hadn’t realized the core of truth behind Newton’s ‘apple’, which is one of the most famous anecdotes in the history of science. One of my earliest recalls is not that 17th century “aha moment” from falling apple, whilst Sir Isaac Newton discovered the Law of Gravity, we discovered the joy of falling fruits while throwing stones fiercely at the bunch of mangoes at primary school.
The discovery of ‘Raman Effect’ was inspired from an incident, while Sir CV Raman was returning from London to Bombay, where he fascinated with the scattering of sunlight by the water molecules in the deep blue colour of the Mediterranean Sea. We played deep-water swimming in the pond during summer to determine the direction in which we saw the setting Sun under water. We didn’t have scuba diving mask either to find the critical angle at the apparent position of the Sun. We experienced it unwittingly.
We were enlightened from such experiments at Physics laboratory. The vibrations of sound and light fascinated us inside dark room. Getting accurate results in decimal were tough. Yet we tried a great deal of effort in calculation / analysis. With the availability of sophisticated arrangements of Galvanometer, Sodium / Mercury Lamp and Scale arrangement of optical setup benches, we’re amazed to see the coupling of light from the Laser into the USB Spectrometer, where the excitation beam path is sketched.
We were young and madly in love with those theorems. It inspired us to question each and everything and look for reasons. The curiosity opens the doors of imagination and that leads to discoveries.
There is nothing one can do, not a move one can make, not a thought one can have, that doesn’t tap directly into E=mc2 (energy equals mass times the speed of light squared). Initially, wave forms from radiation, light, sound, X-ray, Gamma ray are called energy but Albert Einstein proved that any matter in our surrounding have energy and it can be converted into heat that can be calculated.
The interpretation of the theory of relativity is enormous. For example, a piece of 1 gm biscuit can produce 9 x 10 to the power of 13 Joules, such mind boggling calculation, while consuming one packet of biscuit can produce heat about 1800 Joules, because our body don’t have mechanism to convert every electron, nucleus from biscuit. I felt a twinge of envy for that static biscuit of being such astronomical figure in unit of work/energy.
Long gone but not elapsed are those carefree days. It was dark while I was cycling down the street by the side of the Dipor Bil Lake after tuition. I suddenly jumped over, went out of control and plunged into a ditch. My mother said that the lack was haunted by the ghost on that evening. It was actually a street dog in the dark. My Professor said, if I hit the dog with more velocity I’d have a better chance of staring balanced and I was booed in the class for being unskilled rider.
The most famous Einstein’s equation ‘the theory of relativity’ in all is constantly at work, providing an unseen hand that shapes the world. His theory says that a small amount of matter could release a lot of energy. It was theoretically possible but didn’t foresee in Quantum Physics that it became practical through the accidental discovery of chain reaction for Atomic Bomb. “Woe is me” – Albert Einstein, upon hearing the news of the Hiroshima bombing. The ‘Little Boy’ contained only 64 kg of highly enriched uranium releasing energy equaling about 15 kilotons of chemical explosive.
Before I forget, we throw our weight beyond that scale of ‘64’; we had such a fire in our belly that went unnoticed by our parents. Wow! Being non-matter, that sounds great; on a lighter note, so perhaps we were a-padartha until we grew up on Physics fundamentals.
Kamal Baruah

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