• Arpan Dey

How It All Started?

Updated: Apr 11



I am Arpan Dey, a student and ordinary mortal, who is deeply interested in physics. But it wasn't like this all along. Let me tell my story (so far). In 2018, when I was in my ninth standard, I met with a road accident. Later, I thought that my mother seemed to be more worried than usual before I set out on that journey. She repeatedly asked me not to sit by the window (and I, fortunately, obeyed her orders). After that accident, I started researching parapsychology. It soon became clear to me that phenomena like telepathy, precognition (etc.), are actually studied as a science. I learned that parapsychologists are usually treated with scorn by the scientific community. However, on reading Dean Radin’s book Entangled Minds, I was enlightened. I felt that there was more to parapsychology than it seemed. It could perhaps be explained by science one day. At the time, I was fascinated by the human brain. When I was too young, I was fascinated by space as well, and wanted to pursue astronomy. As the fantasies of childhood faded away, I realized that I was constantly bewildered by the existence of human consciousness. Neural impulses between billions of nerve cells: that is no simple phenomenon. However, I still couldn’t see how this could give rise to emotions, feelings and sentience. I realized that this was not something I could learn from my textbooks. In fact, most of the neuroscientists around the world are pondering this problem. Gradually, this became an obsession. It was no more a mere curiosity, but a disturbing fact lurking at the back of my mind. I started reading books on neuroscience. I learned a lot in the process. I was especially intrigued after reading David Eagleman’s book The Brain. The idea of consciousness as an emergent property was an appealing one to me. It promised to provide an explanation (even if not a very satisfactory one) as to how a system with simple parts, interacting in complex ways, can give rise to something greater. The next breakthrough came when I read Michio Kaku’s book The Future Of The Mind. For the first time, I began to doubt whether biology could give me the answers I wanted. It became clear to me that physics must hold the ultimate answers. I wanted to study the subject at a much more fundamental level. And thus began my studies. I was to be found awake well after midnight, reading Kaku’s books on physics. The concepts of entropy, time, black holes, multiverse (etc.) caught my interest and imagination. But I was most influenced by quantum mechanics. It was not just a new set of ideas – but the greatest scientific revolution of the twentieth century. I used to reread the story of quantum physics – how Max Planck proposed the concept of quanta and how Albert Einstein generalized it to explain the photoelectric effect; how Niels Bohr proposed the new atomic model and attempted to explain line spectra; how Louis de Broglie introduced the concept of wave-particle duality and Werner Heisenberg discovered the uncertainty principle; how Erwin Schrödinger developed wave mechanics and Paul Dirac, reconciling the special theory of relativity with quantum mechanics, produced the first true version of a quantum field theory. Physics, today, is driven by the urge to achieve unification of all the four fundamental forces: the gravitational, electromagnetic, strong nuclear and weak nuclear forces. Then, we could, in a single theoretical framework, describe all the possible interactions that can take place in this universe. I was deeply intrigued after learning the fact that Einstein couldn’t accept quantum mechanics as a complete theory and wasted the last three decades of his life trying to unify gravity with electromagnetism, without using quantum mechanics. I was indeed intrigued by Einstein’s philosophy against quantum mechanics. Night after night I lay awake, pondering if Einstein might have been correct, if Nature was indeed deterministic, after all. On the other hand, something always told me that God does play dice with the world. (To quote Daniel Greenberger, “Einstein said that if quantum mechanics was correct then the world would be crazy. Einstein was right, the world is crazy.”) I was also greatly inspired by another physicist, Schrödinger. Not only did he develop the revolutionary Schrödinger wave equation (on which modern quantum mechanics is based); but he was a great philosopher as well. His book titled What Is Life? is so illuminating in so many ways. (This book, indirectly, inspired James Watson and Francis Crick in their work on DNA.) Soon I realized that my aim in life has changed entirely – from neuroscience to physics. Yet, I remained loyal to my ultimate goal – to unravel the mysteries of consciousness (and now, along with that, the mysteries of the universe). Though it may not be apparent, but it is very reasonable that physics might hold the key for a better and general understanding of human consciousness. I decided to pursue research in physics. Research isn’t the most common career option in India. But I am very fortunate to have supportive and liberal parents (and teachers). Without second thought, they asked me to go on with my dreams. This journey hasn't been easy, believe me. First, when I wanted to get my research published, I had to endure people (almost everyone except my parents, teachers and some of my relatives) laughing at me and insisting it was impossible to get published at my age. Once I was published in Young Scientists Journal, an international peer-reviewed scientific journal, and after I joined the YSJ as an editor, I had to endure people insisting that it was a waste of time and that I should focus on my education instead. As if I was learning nothing from the YSJ. Then I founded the Journal of Young Physicists, joined the New York Academy of Sciences, wrote a book and started producing music among other things. I had to face opposition, as usual. Of course, I didn't expect the journey to be smooth, but such remarks are discouraging. After all, I never said I wanted a so-called 'good job' and a lot of money in my life. I just want to live life as I wish, try a new path and explore and explore and explore...

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