“What do you do? I mean what do you physicists do? All you seem to be doing all day is reading books, reading research papers, (and more often) playing computer games, blogging and (most importantly) sleeping. Do you at all do anything?”
Well the question posed above; although in a satirical fashion is a genuine one. And whenever people ask them this question to anyone studying or doing physics, they receive a reply far beyond their understanding; as the answer is loaded with jargon far beyond a sane mind can grasp (that’s why we are called insane by the sanes). But let me try to put a pictorial view of the work we do in general.
According to me, we observe a game of chess – A great game of chess – (or any other game of your choice, but here I take chess as the example). This game is being played by nature, and we are both its pieces and the spectators. The aim of observation is to understand its rules as much as we can. “What’s so tough about it; go to a rule book…” they would say. But the trouble is you never have a rule book. In fact, it is the rule book that we are trying to compile.
Now here are some interesting features of the task we do
1. By mere observation, you may conclude about the allowed moves; but you can never say about what cannot be done. Just because a move was never played, can never mean that the move is not allowed. So when we see an unusual move on the board, this creates a commotion in the physics community (things like objects moving faster than light, the production of Higg’s boson – or the God Particle). And this is the time when many of our presumed rules get striped off and new rules are made.
2. What if we know a law to be true (to the greatest of beliefs)? We then try to see its implications. Or in simple terms, translate the strict and complex language of nature into a more lucid language so that they can be applied to the daily life. This is the phase of transforming the horrendous Maxwell’s Equations (sorry for the technicality – they are some ugly looking laws of light) into mobile communication, Thermodynamics (laws of heat) to automobile engine and Quantum Mechanics (the laws of small things) into Quantum Computers – computers which would be a million times faster than today’s machines (oh.. I am reminded of my soul mate).
Beyond all these, there is another greater aim of what we do.
Nature is wonderful. It is like a treasure or a mine. The more carefully you see it; the better are you able to appreciate all its secrets. Through physics we try to unearth all secrets of this beautiful place by the equipment of logic and reasoning. The pleasure it gives to dig out a single jewel from here is greater than anything that I can imagine in my highly inexperienced career. It is a joy that can truly never perish.
What do you picture the portrait of nature? Tell me if you like…
And Merry Christmas to you all…