Physicists and History


I’ve had a long association with Physicists. Being born to a family of Physicists, it was no surprise that in my growing years, I probably must have heard more of Physics than bed time stories πŸ˜‰ . In fact, most of my travels in those days were tied to conferences around my country, which my parents had to attend. My brother and I had no choice but to tag along, since we were too small to be left behind. Well, it wasn’t that bad either. We actually have had a lot of memories tied to such travels, like the Calcutta trip back when I was 11 years old. That was one of the longest train journey’s I’ve had which spanned almost 4 nights, with a change over at Madras, anxiously looking out for every river that we crossed. I must admit that everything about that journey is still etched in my memory like it happened just a week ago. But my intent is not to write about the “journey to Calcutta”, which I will, someday when retrospection comes knocking on my door.

Although I ended up being in a not-so-central branch of this field, I must say, I still enjoy an occasional conversation with a group of Physicists, like the one I had last week. It started two weeks ago with my graduation ceremony at Syracuse University, when my parents decided to join me. Although their visit was short, I must say, I was really looking forward to it, to take me away from the last six months of “technological” life that I had been leading. The visit also meant that I was with a group of 4 Physicists and more as I travelled with them. Part of the plan was also to go down to the University of Maryland, where one of my parent’s colleagues worked and thats where the relevance of the title of this post came.

Amidst the busy schedule, with 10 days in US being too short, we found a day to visit Maryland. A four hour bus journey, when I managed to complete the book that I had been reading, and we were greeted by the smiling face of a gentleman in his middle age, perhaps as old as my parents were. He took us to the Computer Science department, where he managed a group of young enthusiasts eager to learn the physical aspects of computing.

While their morning was planned for active discussions in Physics and potential collaborations, I decided to take a stroll around the campus, which probably spanned across an area twice as much as my university. There was nothing more enjoyable than walking through the corridors of a university. Having ended my student life a week ago, this stroll was something which made me sad, since I knew what I would be missing once I got back to working ways. But before I go transcending laterally again, let me get back to the point that I wanted to state through this post.

It happened while at lunch. We walked past several old buildings in the campus to a small restaurant in a quaint corner of the university. We were joined by three students of my age, who also happened to be learners of Physics. It must have been my presence that refrained the group from talking about Physics. The two hours at the lunch table, was filled with discussions on history that left me dazed and wonder-struck. This was not the first time that I’ve had to encounter history from a bunch of Physicists. But this conversation reconfirmed that it was not just a coincidence.

I must admit that my association with history has been limited to a low score in the exams back in my 10th grade and a couple of books that I randomly picked up, including the one Im reading now, called “From the Holy Mountain” by WIlliam Dalrymple . Be it any civilization, or any culture in the world – from the ancient Egyptian and Indus Valley, to the Byzantium and all the way up to modern day wonders, Physicists could talk on and on with details that baffle even the best of historians. Although I’m yet to find a correlation between the two fields which seemed to me like two parallel worlds, I always enjoyed the conversation, which were more like stories from the past.

Being in the field that I’m in right now, I guess I got so engrossed in technology at one point that I stopped reading books, which meant more than just light reading, esp. over the last one year. Perhaps this was an indication that I should get back to life beyond just laptops and Internet :-). So here I go back to the Holy Mountain of Athos, in Greece πŸ™‚

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~ by Niranjan Nandakumar on May 26, 2008.

6 Responses to “Physicists and History”

  1. Dude… dunno why .. dunno how i could relate to this post.. but reading this single post just made a whole lot happier.. weird ..isn’t it?

  2. Hey thats nice to know πŸ™‚ Well it is weird.. Just a way I got out of my writer’s block. πŸ™‚

  3. I’d always imagined Physicists to be younger brothers of Philosophers, but it’s interesting to know that they are distant cousins of Historians, too πŸ™‚

  4. Well… Apparently that looks like the case! πŸ˜€

  5. So you know that Physicists are good at something ,other than physics ,of course!

  6. They are good at a lot of things, and this was just an example of one such!

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