How I got interested in science?

June 5, 2021  1034 words 5 mins read  Join the Discussion

When I was in class nine of secondary school, I was not 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 was inverted. My maths teacher (Roshan Shrestha) discovered that I was hesitant to wear corrective glasses. He insisted me I wear glasses, which significantly improved my academic ability and enthusiasm. I loved to do only Mathematics, especially geometry problems all the time. I like to directly work on the problem book using only a calculator, and pencil.

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 compelled me to look for a new passion. With my friends’ suggestions, I joined a higher secondary in the science stream and left my club.

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

During my days as an undergraduate, 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 to find its moment of inertia, finding alternative approaches 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.

The 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 were approaching the problem where others were 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 of how to approach this issue. I will post it in the future post in the main blog. Till then, you may like to approach this problem. I would be happy if you came up with the same formula that I found (see here) or maybe an improved version of it.

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 out the right question. It’s equally important as finding a solution to a problem.

Second, 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 hadn’t found a solution to his quest till three days then, he handed me that problem. After continuously looking at 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 the right-posed 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 (see here). Till now, I have got some good knowledge of it :)

Through my undergraduate and graduate courses, 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. You can read this post on how to spark your interest in Physics. 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. Sometimes you may need some luck, and most of the time a good teacher who is open to any questions. But, what I believe is that once you catch the interest in a certain topic then continuous hard work in a clever way helps you to achieve success.

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.

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  • Damodar Rajbhandari
    Written by Damodar Rajbhandari, who is working on a PhD in the Mathematical Physics at the School of Mathematics & Statistics, University of Melbourne, Australia.