How I got interested in science?

June 5, 2021  1517 words 8 mins read  Comments

When I was in class nine of secondary school, I was not that very dedicated to my studies and thus, had lower grades. Rather I was fond of learning football in the club ANFA-U14 (All Nepal Football Association- Under 14), Kaski district, Nepal.

It was not until I arrived in class ten that everything inverted. I loved to do only Mathematics, specially geometry problems all the time. My maths teacher discovered that I was short-sighted and helped get glasses, which significantly improved my academic ability and enthusiasm.

I love geometry because it requires imagination. I love football for the same reason. The strategy of the game requires imagination. After I got my SLC (School Leaving Certificate) securing the second position in my class, I resumed playing football. I realized I cannot play without spectacles as I played the year before. It was really hard for me to concentrate on the game. This impelled me to look for a new passion, which I found in science. Then, I joined a higher secondary in science stream and left my club.

During those days, I was very interested in the concept of the “field” introduced by Sir. Micheal Faraday to explain electromagnetism. I even tried to give an explanation of how repulsion and attraction work in magnets. And this made me very eager to know: Is it a mathematical trick to solve physics problems, or is it a physical thing that we say, we can observe in magnets, gravity, and so on? This critical turning point made me decide to pursue physics (major), mathematics, and statistics as my main subjects in my four year of bachelor studies.

During the days of bachelor, I found myself spending extra time with my bench mate Bindesh (shout-out to him), and doing curious problems like finding the perimeter of the elliptical ring in order to find its moment of inertia, finding alternative approach for derivations, introducing new notations and so on. Sometimes he proposed the problem and I solved it, and vice-versa. We had a lot of fun solving physics and math problems in this way.

Here, I want to share two stories of mine during that period.

First one is in the first year, when we were trying to find a perimeter of the elliptical ring which we were tired of calculating using the geometric mean of major and minor axes. Because this is an approximation. This is still an open problem in mathematics to find an exact formula for it. So, we two are approaching the problem where others are paying attention to the class. All of a sudden I found a way by using two circles with equal radii wherein one makes an intersection between them in such a way that it represents the approximate ellipse. I then calculated its perimeter using different geometric constructions. But, this approach failed at the endpoints of the major axis which consequently have two tangents at a point that is against the definition of a curve. So, I stopped here. But, I have an idea on how to approach this issue. I will post it in the future post. Till then, you may like to approach this problem.

From this problem, I’ve learned how to take failure and build something new and interesting out of it. And it’s a wonderful feeling to try learning something new, even if most of the time is spent in the attempt, not the discovery. I want to acknowledge Bindesh that he is very good at pointing a right question. It’s equally important like finding a solution for a problem. The right question in-directly helps to guide us towards the solution.

Second is in the second year, Bindesh was working with an oscillatory sequence $(1,2,3,4,3,2,1,2,3,\ldots)$ where he wanted to find an $N$th term by a more efficient method. He said, he hated the iteration method using a computer. And he hasn’t found a solution to his quest till three days then, he handed me that problem. After continuously looking that problem for an hour. I found a method that could do it perfectly which is presented in my previous post.

This is the first time, I understand the power of using a computer to solve problems. Then, I decided to learn how to solve physics problems using a computer.

I realized (and discovered) that I had a real passion for inquiry; similar discussions now rank among my favorite activities. During that time, I also acquired a passion for thinking deeply about a problem, trying to ask myself a right questions, discussing my ideas with my peers, and building an intuition for mathematical and physical concepts. By the way, I also got interested in cooking especially Nepalese cuisine. Till now, I have got some good knowledge of it :)

While I was in the third year, I met Dr. Jonah Maxwell Miller. Due to him, I got a chanced to perform successful research in the numerical simulation of the Ising 2D model, now I’m focused on quantum gravity. To be specific, Causal Dynamical Triangulations. If you are not aware of quantum gravity, it is a field where physicists are still trying to find a way to combine theory of gravity with quantum theory (or other way around) since 1930s. This is the converging point where I want to devote my current (and future) studies in this field.

I have now read many papers related to quantum gravity, and learned the beauty lies behind it. Some exciting phenomena I learned about are dimensional reduction on short length scales, and phases of quantum spacetimes. Some important questions I’m interested in are how the force works on the Planck scale, and does classical geodesics work for quantum gravity? Currently, classical geodesics only make sense in the classical spacetime. Even though we can define quantum spacetime using the superposition of classical spacetimes which physicists would like to call a non-perturbative approach. But, we have no idea how we can define quantum geodesics. Or, do we need it? Of course, a generalization is needed for the theory of Einstein’s gravity or other modified gravity theories.

This effort resulted in my Bachelor thesis under the supervision of Prof. Udayaraj Khanal and Dr. Miller. I want to note here that I started general relativity and scientific programming from zero level which is not in my university prescribed syllabus, which somehow lowered my grades in the third year, but I have sky-rocketed in the final year.

I’m fortunate to got the invitation from Prof. Jerzy Jurkiewicz to visit his research group on 2019, May 13 to 25 as a visiting research fellow at Institute of Physics, Jagiellonian University where I gave a talk on my bachelor’s work, and which also helped me to observe further possible problems in quantum gravity.

Now, I’m in the final semester of my master studies in the theoretical physics at this university under the supervision of Prof. Jurkiewicz. Right now, I’m working on how 2D Euclidean quantum gravity behaves if we coupled the massless scalar fields using the Polyakov approach as in bosonic string theory. This is a numerical simulation work currently under development and written in c++17.

Through these researches, I’ve learned how to approach a problem no one has solved before, develop strategies for solutions, critique, and challenge my ideas, and test them for flaws. I’ve learned that in hard work and persistence lie great rewards.

I have set my primary academic goals into two-fold.

First, I’m greatly taking my courage and aim to be a professor. I will try to motivate others on how ideas matter and how it all unimaginably fits together and turns into a reality.

Second, I want to inspire others just as I was inspired. Through my undergraduate and graduate courses and my research, I discovered in myself a real passion for physics, maths, and computer science that I didn’t know existed. So many other students are just like I was: potentially bright and motivated, but wallowing in apathy because their interest hasn’t sparked yet. I love sharing what I’ve learned with others, this is why I like blogging. It’s incredibly rewarding to see the same enthusiasm I have for a topic sparked in another person, and as I teach, I learn the topic better myself.

There is an infinite number of topics in the vast area of knowledge that can be learned. But it’s a matter of time and interest whether or not you can achieve. Of course, sometimes you may need some luck and a good teacher who is open in any questions. But, what I believe is that once you catch the interest in a certain topic then continuous hard work in a very clever way helps us to get success. What I realized in myself is that I’m a person who likes to learn things quickly, once I understand the main idea and why I’m learning it. Or, what philosopher may call telos.

This is how I got interested in science.

If you are interested in sharing your story on how you got interested in science, please share with us by commenting below.

Any feedback?

If you guys have some questions, comments, or insults then, please don’t hesitate to shot me an email at damodar[At]physicslog.com or comment below.

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  • Damodar Rajbhandari
    Written by Damodar Rajbhandari, who is currently studying Master in Theoretical Physics at Jagiellonian University.
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