being brown

Of Surface Tension and the like

One illustration, I think, describes my idea of education comprehensively.

Imagine a dew drop that has formed on the face of a leaf. The leaf is tilted outwards, so the drop travels slowly towards the tip of the leaf, demonstrating allegiance with the gravitational force of the earth. But at the tip, it pauses. Its move towards the earth has been greatly decelerated. There is obviously something that is retarding its motion; something that is acting against the force of gravity. What is this invisible force?

Surface tension is, arguably, my ‘favouritest’ concept in physics. Imagine the force between a tiny drop and a frail leaf can act against the mighty gravitational force of the earth. A classic case of David and Goliath! Political organisation vs the state is another classic case of David and Goliath. Ideas of social cohesion, group formation and group dynamics can be taught from this idea of surface tension. Furthermore, a photograph of this can send a photographer into ecstasy. A poem can be written about the beauty of this image; the image can inspire a tune that the poem can be sung to; pictures can be drawn; and it can be danced.

And yet it is science.

Again, I have the sinking feeling that this has not been well articulated. So do do do comment.


8 responses

  1. nikita

    I loved it….
    this is resonating on the thoughts that i have been having about education system and why do we have to learn something in the manner we do..why aren’t children allowed to learn with wherever they wanna start learning..why is there only one perspective, one method, one approach to everything in our lives..aren’t we a wee bit too boring it that sense..:)
    like why just accept the explanation of surface tension..why not some invisible hand..power..why answers to everything…why not let there be some mystery in life…

    December 17, 2010 at 12:22 pm

  2. Anand

    Then arises the sun and gone are the drops……

    December 17, 2010 at 5:45 pm

  3. Radhika

    Someone is really on a fishing trip!! I really love your post and think is well articulated…..I must say I have never thought of surface tension while looking at a dew drop on a leaf. But after reading this i am sure i will always think of it!!!! 😀

    I do relate to “a photograph of this can send a photographer into ecstasy”. I have clicked many photos of leaves trying to capture that.

    December 17, 2010 at 5:50 pm

  4. Jayashree

    Su,I get your point- you are trying to bridge the gap between dry, logical science and the beauty of all that that science relates to in Nature.You are also trying to see how one metaphor can bring together ideas in Literature, politics etc… I do think you need to improve your writing though. Here are some suggestions:”Imagine a dew drop on a leaf. The leaf tilts downwards and outwards; so the drop travels slowly towards the tip of the leaf”… demonstrating allegiance… too many big words and also shifts from the simple to the almost pompous.
    the shift to political organization…. is a little abrupt and the you’ve rushed through the last bit rather fast. Pause a little, dwell a little on the idea, allow it to sink in and gently draw the parallels.

    December 19, 2010 at 4:57 pm

  5. sumanyav

    Nikki, yeah I know! infact reading your blog got me started on this thread. But what do you mean when you say, “like why just accept the explanation of surface tension..why not some invisible hand..power..why answers to everything…why not let there be some mystery in life…” I dont think i agree with that part. I think answering the question ‘why?” has been the major motivation of all human behaviour and actions. also, the mysteries of the universe are too much. there will never be a dearth of mystery just because we answer questions. I think answering questions is important. And as i said the explanation of surface tension, that is the answer, is just as beautiful as the phenomenon/question/mystery.The way we find those answers can be just as beautiful and as mysterious as the phenomenon itself.

    December 20, 2010 at 3:55 am

    • nikita

      Yeah sumanya….after reading your response i realized i was romanticizing some idea in my head..where in going deeply into it..i realized that what i meant was that it is the journey..(the questioning and the journey of finding the answer) more interesting and worth while than just the answer..”why” is definitely needed but what we tend to do is ask “why??” and then jump n hurry n become impatient to find solution..its necessary to slow down n experience the process too..because sometimes its never a simple answer…the process of finding the answer is the real answer..u know what i mean??
      also when i said “letting the mystery be”..i meant u have to be comfortable to say that.. yes.. i don’t know things..i have asked a question but, for now..i dunno the answer…people aren’t comfortable about not knowing..u know..why be uncomfortable about mystery..the unknown…
      have felt there is this urge in everybody around to fine the answer…immediately..that’s what puts me off..

      December 21, 2010 at 7:42 am

  6. sumanyav

    @radhi! 😛 thanks!

    @Amma. yeah. I think I can be more articulate in forthcoming pages

    @Anand, yes! gone are the drops indeed. But then how many more wonders the sun and day bring!

    December 20, 2010 at 3:58 am

  7. sumanyav

    agree completely, Nikki

    December 21, 2010 at 8:58 am

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