Reading between the lines


I would like to elucidate about a particular event that probably governed the way I learnt everything after that. I got the opportunity to display my idea as a part of an exhibition held to recognize the INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF LIGHT . The experiment I did involved the observation of two shadows superimposed on each other. Instead of giving rise to a blurry patch the geometrical boundaries of the two objects can be seen distinctly. My friend and I tried to explain this observation using wave nature of light .It was my first ‘outside school’ experience in putting up exhibits in science. It was not the topic or the subject that I wish to say was transforming, but the developments that took place in my mind before and after zeroing in on the topic.

When we had decided to participate in the competition, my first thoughts were to google the latest developments in using light in modern technology. I searched my favourite physics book, “Physics for Entertainment” by Yakov Perelman and noticed the picture of a chick’s shadow superimposed over its egg. The author had mentioned it as a useful idea to trick people into believing it was an X ray machine. But to me ,it was the core of my idea. “How about we explain the thing that is observed everyday using wave nature of light we are learning now?”. Initially it didn’t seem like much of an idea as it did not involve grand accessories nor did it come up in the ‘experiments to demonstrate’ list in popular websites. Very few books had information in this topic. We could not drop the only idea we had, so we continued learning about it. Initially I was uncertain of its success but as I started reading I could see the magnitude of understanding and concepts that probably was only given a brief notice by many. I have many-a-times ignored parts in my lessons that were given as an introduction to some theory or proof. But now an everlasting realization dawned on me. What I learn in a single paragraph probably has 100 ‘s of scientists contributing their lifetime to come up with a proper theory, every line I read has layers of concepts to be understood , the introductions were not mere introductions but they were the key to unravel the mystery that kept many intelligent minds occupied till death .

I already felt like a researcher, I had connected something as regular as a parlor trick to one of the pivotal concepts in the history of optics. Now I had to make sure the connection was right and had a strong foundation.

The exhibition was even more enlightening than the previous night. I had this stereotype in mind that it will only be the judges who question us about the topic. I was proved wrong immediately. Everyone from guest lecturers to students gathered to listen to what we had to say , corrected us and questioned us and even left us introspective of  the information that could be added to our demonstrations. My fear of speaking in public had vanished too soon. Every time I spoke, my phrases improved, the way I explained things improved , my mind was constantly adding to its understanding of the topic. At the beginning of the session I could have probably written only half page of notes but that afternoon I could probably write 2 pages and still have more to add. It was impossible to believe I had struggled so much the previous night to come up with enough substance to speak.

Now it did not matter if I won the prize , the experience was much more than the prize.

It has led me deeper into the world of science and further away from the shallow view that is seen when studying was a tool to material prospects in life.


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