16 October, 2002

How It All Started

Ever since I was small, I've wished that I could one day be a scientist. For some reason it just seemed to be the most noble of professions. At first, the science I glorified was paleontology. I enjoyed the concept that I could learn something from history by going out and actually interacting with it. But as time went by, I realized that paleontology was not what I was best suited for. Don't get me wrong; it still sounds like loads of fun, but more as a vacation than as a full time job. Because of this, I wasn't sure what I wished for in my future life during a short period when I was nine years old. But that all changed on one fateful day in a bookstore in Miami.

Before I explain what happened, you must realize that I was a fanatic for logic puzzles. I loved not so much the actual solving of them, but the fact that by using logic, one might find out things for certain based solely on a set of axioms. It is this same fascination that makes the concepts of mathematics so appealing to me.

Anyway, there I was, in a bookstore in Miami, reading a Superman comic book while leaning up against a bookshelf. As fate would have it, when I shifted positions I accidentally knocked over a book that fell open onto the floor. I leaned down to retrieve the book only to notice a large diagram on one of the pages. Being the type of person who can't walk past a sign without reading it, I read the caption underneath the diagram: "Despite the fact that each individual photon is fired independent of the others, interference is still produced in the form of verical lines on the photographic film." I didn't understand a word of what was said, but the diagram itself was perfectly clear. A gun of some kind shot bullets through two individual holes onto a backdrop. But instead of clusters of bullets forming directly behind each of the two holes, the bullets were falling in a striped pattern on the backdrop.

It made no sense at all. And so I was drawn to it.

How could this happen? Why would these bullets form a striped pattern like that? It pulled me in just like so many logic puzzles did in the past. I read that entire book that day. There was a lot in there I didn't understand, but I tried my best to remedy that. I looked up words I didn't know, referenced ideas that were unfamiliar to me... I went through a lot of trouble to finally understand that two slit experiment. And when I finally did understand it, I understood it even less.

The answer was that it just did. There was no rational explanation.

It made no sense at all -- unless you looked at it only from the angle of logic. According to logic, it did what it was supposed to do. According to the math, what happens in the two slit experiment is foreseeable, consistent, and sound. I realized at that time that I had found what would become the most interesting field in the world to me: quantum physics.

Since that time, I have spent years reading about physics in all its forms. I have written essays and proofs in the field, and have even attempted to teach the subject at the second grade level. Physics has entertained and inspired me more than any other activity, and it has thusly been all that I knew it would be so many years ago in that fateful Miami bookstore.

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