Archive for September, 2012

The Underlying Beauty

The Underlying Beauty

  This post will be unlike the previous ones I’ve published. Unlike the previous ones, it will not have the scientific explanations. Contrarily, it will be filled with assumptions and speculations. And unlike the previous ones, it will lack the organization that must necessarily characterize any post that is found on a blog. For this, I ask for forgiveness. This post will be about a flow of ideas that “clicked” in my mind at a certain time while I was thinking. Thus, I must present these in a rather crude way.

       During my small time off blogging, I happen to have had the most enriching experiences. Science is often said to be the result of a sequence of thought logically followed and strongly tested with experiment. However, it so happens, just very rarely, when one has to shut the eye of reason to appreciate the underlying verities that just require a discerning eye to see. It is the feeling of the mysterious. For this purpose, I’ll term it “the underlying beauty.”

       Have you ever wondered why water, arguably the most important substance on the planet, behaves abnormally. Abnormally meaning unlike any other known substances. And apart from the fact that we would probably not be able to enjoy an ice tea if this was not the case, life-form would be very much jeopardised. See, it is this peculiar fact that ice floats on water that helps life thrive at bearable temperatures below the ice. Had ice been denser than(meaning it sunk in) its liquid form(like normal substances), life in such waters would have been impossible. Nature has a way of doing things that transcends our normal reasoning abilities. If I may not have been able to make you see what I wanted to here, I assure you, the fault lies in my inability to “convey this way of doing things” by nature rather than the “way of doing things” as it happens in nature.

       Perhaps another example is appropriate here. It has been found that there is a certain “peak”, if I may say, in the way we see(known as our visual sensitivity) the spectrum of colors(i.e red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet). And guess where in the spectrum does this peak appear? What exactly is the color that nature depicts so profusely in front of our eyes? Whatever the reason for this “peak”, I have no idea why it’s there. It just is and I doubt that it’s a coincidence.

       Scientists are strange characters. We consider them as authoritative figures in whatever is concerned with explaning nature. If we ask them why the sky is possibly blue or how the earth rotates or how this happens or that, they will readily answer with their complex explanations for refraction, curvature of space-time and so on. Yet if we said, “that’s very nice what you just explained but why?”, that they cannot possibly answer.

       Nature does things in a way only she understands. And that we can explain the how of some of her depictions should make us humble enough to acknowledge her beauty as a whole. She uses only the longest threads to weave her pattern so that each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry.


Mathematicians, Physicists and Others

 Mathematicians and Physicists are curious characters. Sometimes you find them voicing out their opinions in such a way about others, their colleagues and themselves that may be very enjoyable to hear(and read about). 

   Having written enough explanations(for now), I guess a bit of “mathematician and physicists” jokes can be added at this point. So, in this post, there will be no wormholes, no paradox, no “atomos”, just what these people, on whom we all depend immensely, think about stuff. Beware though, after reading this, you may develop an excessive interest in science.


How can you know what experiment is being conducted?

                                           If it is green and it wiggles, it’s biology;
                                                      If it stinks, it’s chemistry;
                                                 If it doesn’t work, it’s physics.


Little Fact: Men are 4 times more likely than women to be struck by lightning.(Careful out there Guys!)

     A physics student was hit by a brick falling from a house. He fainted, but came to after a while and started smiling. The onlookers were worried, so they asked him why the smile. “I just realized how lucky I am because the kinetic energy is only half m v squared.”

“Philosophers write so as not to be understood.”Richard Feynman


                                   Why was Heisenberg’s wife unsatisfied?

When he had the time he didn’t have the energy, and when he had the position, he didn’t have the momentum.

Little Fact: LA is moving north towards San Fransisco at the same rate as your fingernails are growing!

QED:Quite Easily Done!

This one is from someone I met:
       An engineer, a mathematician and a physicist are locked inside three separate rooms. They are each given a can of soft drink to open without using the seal. They all agree and are locked inside.The physicist calculates the exact center of gravity of the can and pierces a hole through it and gulps down the drink. The engineer frantically throws the can at the wall until it bursts. When you enter the mathematician’s room, you find him in a complete mess, his hair is messed up and his clothes almost torn. He is looking intensely at the can and saying : “Assume the can is open, Assume the can is open…”

An angry human female develops an acceleration of about 100g’ at the foot when stalking off in high heels.

They can’t fire me,SLAVES HAVE TO BE SOLD. (On the wall of a graduate student’s lab)

                      British Politician: “What good is electricity?”                              
                     Michael Faraday: “I don’t know but one day, you’ll tax it.”

The more questions we answer, the more answers we end up questioning.





A “potpourri” of mindbenders

A “potpourri” of mindbenders!

        These are various brainbenders that I happened to have crossed while reading. They consist of a panopli of questions from physics to mathematics, from simple to complex and from solved to “still being researched”. Some of the sources are from Mathematics Problem Books, others from the “Mad About Physics” series while the sources of the remaining are still a mystery!

       I will add new puzzles and the previous answers in due time. Again, some of the questions have yet to be answered fully(we’ve got a bunch of crazy looking mathematicians and physicists still scratching the heads over them!). So, the answer may not always be so clear. Take your time and enjoy the ride into the unknown world that surrounds you.

1.      Okay, for starters, I’ll just ask you a simple question-one that most are well-acquainted with. If you take one pound of feathers and one pound of iron(or gold or anything metallic), which one weighs the most? (They weigh the same is, of course, not acceptable!) [reference: Mad about Physics-the classical edition]

2.     Now, for a bit of math.To number the pages of a bulky volume, the printer used 1890 digits. What’s the number of pages in the book?(simple algebra does the job!)[reference:The Stanford Mathematicians Problem Book]

3.     This one requires a bit more abstract thinking. The Green-Eyed dragons. So, you happen to visit a remote desert island inhabited by one hundred very friendly dragons(they won’t eat you),all of whom have green eyes. They haven’t seen a human for centuries and are very excited about your visit. The courteous D.s show you around and even talk to you about stuffs(Let’s say they can talk).

     Everything’s fine till now until you find something very strange. If a dragon finds out that he/she has green eyes, then at precisely midnight on the day of this discovery, he/she turns into a parrot after abandoning all powers. But, the dragons never talk to each other about eye color and there are no mirror on the island. So, everything’s been just fine.

     As you prepare to leave, all dragons come to see you off and you thank them for being so kind. You then tell them something they all already know(since they can all see the eyes of other dragons). You tell them that atleast one of them has green eyes(you really shouldn’t have done that). Then you leave, not thinking about the consequences. Assuming that the dragons are infallibly logical, what happens? And, if something does happen, what is this new information that you gave the dragons?[reference:Harvard Physics]

4.     How about a physics classic? This one is known the Newton’s Cradle(the toy in the picture). So, this is a popular toy consisting of five steel balls of the same size and mass, hanging side by side in contact in a row on bifilar support. Pull one back at one end and release it, one ball moves off the other end,…If two are pulled back at the same end and dropped together, two move out together at the other end. Pull back three, release together, and three move out at the other end. Pull back four and…Five and…How do they do that?! The balls can count, right? How do they know?[reference:Mad about physics]


               “I was like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” Sir Issac Newton