Saturday, July 18, 2009

Lessons for my child: power of observation

Cosmos is complex, perhaps too complex to fathom, and many elements of the cosmos are intertwined in nature. However, we can take it from Einstein that ``Subtle is the Lord, but malicious She is not". This means the cosmos, even though complex in detail, operates through very few, and simple and direct rules. The simplicity is of course overshadowed by multiple phenomena operating simultaneously. Careful observation of cosmos may reveal some of the secrets of its laws.
  1. It is not simply ``watching". For example, if you watch a movie, it would be meaningless exercise if you can not narrate its script or story or or meaning later. What a pity it would be, if someone had to watch Deewar or Kaala Pathar, and not remember the actor who made it all so watchable.
  2. One observes with patience. It takes all your drive to be still, and observe a hummingbird in flight while sucking nectar
  3. The devil is always in detail. One has to remember endless nights of observations by Tycho Brahe, whereby positions of Mars were known to such an accuracy, that Kepler could have one, and only one hypothesis satisfying them. One can also remember astute, and precise observations by Charles Darwin or Marie Curie.
  4. One must isolate a phenomenon and observe it away from influence by other factors involved. This sounds like, one has to know a phenomenon beforehand (to isolate it) before observing it. That is true to certain extent. In this regard, science progresses by one step at a time.
There are many exercises from our daily lives which would teach us the power of observation. An incomplete list goes as below.
  • Ants path to/fro sugar
  • Fish and their internal organs
  • Microscopes and micro-organisms in water
  • Plants grow steadily everyday, photograph a plant inside your house from the same angle over a month and make a movie.
  • Magnets and compass: migratory birds fly using their internal compass.
  • Beetles, butterflies and their colours
  • Melting ice, and freezing water.

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