I was in a deep dark place and felt disconnected, frozen in the ice. Everyday the news was bad, and it was getting to me. I was lethargic, in a rut, unhappy. I needed change, and so I went back to school. It sucked for a while, but then something magical happened.
During the first two years of school, I was forcing myself to write the papers and do the homework. Not wanting to be there, I would watch the clock and daydream about other things. But I was learning. Like a work horse, I plowed through the literature and social classes and drank the waters of mathematics and electronics. And then I took a Physics class and everything changed. The professor was super-enthusiastic. She had an uncanny ability to read the room and adjust her speed so that no one was left behind. She wasn’t just up there broadcasting herself, she would come around and give individual attention. She was helpful and wanted us to learn, wanted me to learn. And I held out my unlit candle.
The optics and waves topics were my favorites. I was learning the physics of rainbows and auroras. I understood why the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed. I was re-writing my lab reports to make sure they were perfect. After Newtonian, we delved into Quantum Physics and it was so exciting! My curiosity had been reignited!
That class ended, but I wanted more. And so I picked up a wonderful book, The Edge of Physics by Anil Anathaswamy. A wonderful science writer, Anil takes the reader around the world to ongoing cutting edge physics experiments, vividly details what’s going on there, and explains the science of it all. I was entranced. My favorite endeavor described in the book was the construction of the Ice Cube Project at the geographic south pole. Scientists used hot water to drill holes in the Antarctic ice 2 – 3 km deep. They lowered basketball-sized digital optical modules (sensors) into the holes by attaching them to data/support cables, like a string of pearls. The holes refroze embedding all these sensors forever in the ice. Seemingly alone, these sensors are connected and working together to annunciate cherenkov radiation to computers on the surface; occasional collisions between neutrinos and the nuclei of hydrogen atoms in the ice. Why? Because they can use factors like spin and trajectory to determine the origins of cosmic neutrinos and study dark matter! Reading that book really gave me an appreciation for scientists and more generally, a revived faith in humanity!
I felt alone, embedded deep in the ice. And maybe many of us out there feel alone too. But like these digital optical modules, we’re really connected to computers on the surface. And when we see a collision, or something cosmic and cool, we can say, “Hey! I see something!” And we can share with each other- all working together. Teach each other. For a better humanity.
Please don’t feel so alone 🙂