“The degree by which this vector has to turn to align itself in the direction of the field gives us only a slight idea about the actual value of epsilon“, he answered while repeatedly making his forearm to trace the path the arrow on the board would supposedly trace and as he did so, the lecture hall was at an absolute standstill. The audience had their foreheads creased and hands folded on the table, even though the bell had rang around eight minutes ago.
“So, does that mean there is absolutely no way of determining epsilon accurately?”
It was not unusual for Prof. Halder’s lecture to get extended by around ten minutes. On an average. Many other professors did that too. But the difference here was the same as that between the federal systems of India and the United States. His case was that of the latter, where states come together to empower the central.
“As of now, NO”, he replied while doing his characteristic on-toes gesture at the “NO”. There were a few sniggers at this from the back. Halder was very much aware that the only thing worth imitating about him was his habit of bouncing on his toes while talking about something with excitement. And even though he knew that he was indeed being mimicked for this, he hardly cared. He had ceased to care about most of the things his life revolved around since past seven months or so. Or atleast had ceased to show that he cared.
“Then what was the need to define something we cannot even measure?” the same person continued his bidding as if this was the very question he meant to ask, of which the previous one was only a build up.
Halder looked down for a while. For a minute or so. He walked around the table quite slowly. He could as it was a Friday. He could take his time, as his was the last lecture of the day. Prof. Bannerjee does not wait outside the lecture hall on Fridays. Halder stopped in front of his desk and turned around. He leaned against the desk and folded his hands, as he often does.
“Physics, or science for that case is about our intuition regarding the world”, replied the professor. “Yes. Quantifying helps us understand more, as Lord Kelvin very rightly said. But even if our notion about something cannot be expressed by numbers, does it mean we should abandon the notion? I personally feel that we should not. Knowledge of a meagre kind is better than having no knowledge at all or knowing wrong, for that case. Who says our knowledge has to be exact? Who can even say our knowledge about anything can be exact? Our knowledge about the position of an electron is anything but accurate. But we still talk about its position, don’t we? We do, right? Because we have a better notion about this thing called position. So even if it’s a tiny little thing we are talking about, whose picture is only a blur, we got to know a lot about the thing itself by building on the vague notion we had. Notion helps. Even if you do not have the mathematical formalism. But it is not the other way round. There is no use of the formalism sans the notion. We will try and build on it in our vector’s case in the next lecture.”
“Then why don’t we just define some entirely new physical parameter which we could know better? For that specific case?” he refused to let it go.
“Faith, my son. Faith in the things we already know. This faith made Planck and others to resist what Boltzmann said. This very faith gives us hope that if we were right once, we can be right again. This faith encourages conflict but this itself keeps us going. Otherwise, what is real? What is it that you can claim to be right in all cases, confidently? We even change the value itself while measuring. Then what is the real value? What is reality? And besides, we seek unification. We cannot go about making volumes of laws. Then even physics would be as ineffective as the legal system. Why? The recurring usage of Greek letters doesn’t confuse you, already? You really want to have more variables?” he remarked as he smiled while taking all his belongings in his hands and going towards the entrance. There were a few smiles among the crowd as their professor continued. “Keep faith. It gives peace to the mind. Build on your faith. It may be wrong, yes. But build a new notion, a new faith, which encapsulates everything that your previous belief system explained and not only what it failed to explain. Build it first and then abandon your old set of principles. Otherwise, even a day without anything to believe upon is enough to break you. Your sense of security and the worth of your life going astray in front of your eyes will make you mad. It is better to keep working while fooling this mind of yours that you believe in something and it is right whatever you believe in. Shall we meet tomorrow, then?” asked Halder mockingly. He seemed to be in a hurry. Finally.
“Thank you sir”, most of them said in unison. Halder left the class. And just as he left, he could hear the sudden break out of echoed murmur. He had ended the class with something his students would hardly understand at this stage, but “It’s okay”, he thought to himself. Atleast he has given them something to ponder upon. Or so he believed. But this made him happy. It gave his mind the point where the circle can be closed. It would allow him to drift off with satisfaction. An open curve would not have let him relax.
Or so we believe.