Hello, everyone reading this blog.
I took the JAM 2020 exam and scored a 233 rank which is fine. But this text is not related to my rank. There are many blogs on this site guiding you to what books to read, how to prepare, what exams to take, even what schedule to follow daily to get a good AIR and they did a pretty awesome job writing it, not gonna add a word on that. Well, this read gonna be somewhat different. I’ll be sharing my journey into physics and the problems I see in the fellow student community regarding the process of learning physics. This blog is for becoming a better physicist along with being a ranker (which believe me the latter is way too easy).
So here it goes. During my primary school time, there was a show on the Discovery channel “Into the Universe with Stephan Hawking”. I used to watch those shows with an absolute concentration. Maybe he was the reason I’ve left engineering, haha. Till I was 16, I had a lot of fun making projects like an LDR rocket launcher, ultrasonic insect repeller, fuel cells, local radio station, etc. for school competitions and for fun sake. I won a national level science exhibition organized by CBSE and NCERT for schools, a couple of National Science Olympiads, and IMO. Believe me, there was a time when there were no new books in my school’s science library that I didn’t read.
Then during my 17-18, I was preparing for exams like JEE Adv (FIITJEE thought I’ll be giving them an under 100 rank, so made me study for free, but later I disappointed them ;P). I didn’t like chemistry much hence failed the JEE Adv. But instead, I was having a lot of fun solving IPhO and IAO papers and books like I.E. Irodov, Krotov and other olympiads books. It was the most fun part of my life ‘cause I knew my physics was the best in coaching and school while their expected AIR was higher than mine. Hence I got admitted to a pretty fancy engineering college called UPES, Dehradun (a beauty that place is), and got a degree in petroleum engg.
Till my school time, I always scored above 90%-95% in my exams (the overachiever/ ideal child) but I had planned a different approach for my college. I basically said “f**k the education system” and I scored around 5.0-5.5 CGPA 3 sems and 6-7 CGPA in rest of the sems (I never failed any subject!). I didn’t care for my marks, (except for physics 101, 102 and labs, I was the university topper in those subjects every single time), it was an e^-x graph, and was probably inspired by 3 idiots, “4 saal to izzat bachaloge, par usske baad balatkar pe balatkar hota rahega”. I always dreamt of making and inventing new stuff in college just like how the kids in Harvard and MIT did while I was in school. But entering college, the experience was no different than a school. Everyone was licking profs’ feet to get a 9 or a 10 grade point on their mark sheets but I simply didn’t wanna run that rat race. Won my uni’s science olympiad (among other 1500 other students) and many other inter-college science/tech competitions happening in IITs. During my 2nd year of college, I sensed there were no student clubs/ societies and a research culture for people interested in pure sciences, so I founded the UPES Raman Science Club in my college. More than 500 college people were part of it. There were a few profs who helped me to fund myself and my club with money from college for my research work and projects (at the time of leaving my college I was planning to make a pulse jet RC airplane, but college lasts only for 4 years).
In my 4th year, 8th sem, I realized the only thing that stayed constant along with me during all my various expeditions was my love for physics and the child-like curiosity to learn and experiment with everything. It was a choice I had to take, either do a job in a well-paid company and settle down or take a leap in my faith for physics. And I am here today writing this blog.
The reason I am sharing my all small experiences (while some may call it bragging) was just to make you see that all of the above achievements and recognitions was just a process of having fun with physics and life. All of the above stories have been only possible because I never forced myself to do it, it happened naturally, including the JAM rank.
Curiosity-driven learning is the best learning way I’ve ever founded to be useful for me. Even Einstein once said, “I’ve no special talents, I am just passionately curious”. Everybody knows (if you are an engineer), you can pass a semester exam happening tomorrow and score decently in it if you want, by mugging up the formulas/past exam questions answers or praying to your class topper to teach you in one night. But the fact is you learned nothing about the subject in that time.
The same principle applies to physics preparations. Even if one becomes an AIR 1 by mugging up the whole syllabus, believe me, he/she won’t last long, it’s a waste. That’s why I hate this ranking system. Students focus more on getting a good rank rather than to live the whole experience of learning physics. You may ask, how the hell am I gonna learn physics like that? In my 2nd year for my club, I designed an experiment to teach the 1st years interference. I took 2 speakers playing sine wave audio in the hearing range in a classroom separated by a distance. If one closes his/her one ear and moves his/her head, he/she is gonna learn that there’s a bright fringe and a dark fringe where the sound from the speakers goes max at a place and min at other. Believe me none of those students ever gonna forget what interference phenomenon is. Hence experimentation (not necessarily a physical one, a thought experiment too) along with curiosity to learn new things is the only best combination to build an understanding in physics, not by mugging up the interference formula.
So even Feynman had a lab at his home. What are you gonna experiment and learn today?