In this rat race of glorifying engineering or sucking a management degree, Shuborno Chakroborty, a 23 years old sits peacefully next to his window fiddling with a book on Physics. He is pursuing his Master’s degree in Physics at Amity University, Noida. In a two story flat, Shuborno manages to maintain a small library of books on Physics, and Mathematics. He looks forward to pursue research in the same field and see himself as a professor someday. His passion also extends to appreciating nature, studying Astrology and collecting pens. A complete geek and a voracious reader, Shuborno loves to be a social animal, discuss cinema in free time and listen to music. My interview with him talks about his aspirations, his love for pens and yes, how his learning can be insightful for the society. Know him more:
Me – You love Physics. What is your specialization?
Shub – Theoretical Physics
Me – Could you explain?
Shub – It is the mathematical way of understanding nature. It is the study of knowing the working of nature with the help of Mathematics and the aim is to come out with a single equation which describes all the known forces in nature. It is called the theory of everything. Sir Albert Einstein was the first person who thought about the unification of forces.
Me – Ah! Sounds tough to me.
Shub – See, it’s an unsolved problem in Physics left by Sir Einstein. There are four fundamental forces – Electromagnetism, weak and strong, forces and gravitation. Other than gravitation, all other forces have been unified mathematically into a single equation but gravitation hasn’t. Many physicists have tried and developed many theories. These are good but not perfect. So, I am working towards it and hope, someday it is solved and proven experimentally. As a matter of fact, one can even win a Nobel Prize for the same.
Me – So, Nobel is your aim, is it?
Shub – (Laughs). No not at all. Studying Physics for the sake of recognition isn’t my aim. I just want to contribute. And yes, I also want to contribute in several other fields in Physics like Quantum Physics. It has got many paradoxes too. I want to give a perfect explanation of quantum Physics. It is the heart of Theoretical Physics. In fact, it has got many co-relations with the Vedanta. So, you see, it goes a long way in knowledge.
Me – Ok. Let me talk from a layman’s perspective here. How will the common man benefit from your research?
Shub – Well that’s a good question. See there is no direct relation. But let me tell you one thing. The GPS system which we use, which is there in every mobile phone nowadays, it is based on general relativity. This was given by Einstein and it’s a major part of theoretical Physics. Then, we see electronics in everything. The foundation of the study of electronics is quantum mechanics. So, you can say, my work is with fundamentals. I do theoretical Physics out of sheer joy of Mathematics.
Me – So, what value additions will your research bring in the world?
Shub – See the value addition depends on the experimentalist who works on the theory and tries to see what use he can have from theory. Like the famous physicist Paul Dirac who gave the world the understanding of quantum mechanics and several other scientists who showed the theoretical side of semiconductors. Based on that theory, the experimentalists worked and invented several things which we use in daily life. I am a fundamentalist. My work is to appreciate the beauty of nature and understand it mathematically.
Me – I want to draw a concrete value proposition of your research so that tomorrow our generation uses it. Certainly not for making bombs!
Shub – Great question. See, there are two aspects of Physics, experimental and theoretical. The work of an experimentalist is too see how a theoretical thing can be converted into a device or something. For an example, as u said about making bombs. The greatest tragedy of Sir Einstein’s life was this. He gave an equation. A world famous equation – E=mc square. Now this equation says matter and energy are inter-convertible. This equation tells us why sun glows and why stars glow. This was done for understanding how nature works. But few experimentalists used it to make atom bomb. And then Hiroshima Nagasaki happened. He didn’t say “Make bombs” but people did.
Talking on a positive side, it was Sir Einstein’s theory which helped in making GPS system and refrigerators. It was he who claimed that light can behave like both particle and wave. This was the beginning of quantum mechanics.
Me – So if I ask you, are you a fundamentalist or an experimentalist?
Shub – I am a fundamentalist and my aim is to understand nature and appreciate it mathematically.
Me – Don’t you think you are investing a lot of time, effort and money in the research. What if it doesn’t bring any positive result at the end?
Shub – Last year, Sir Peter Higgs got Nobel Prize for the discovery of god particle or technically saying Higgs Boson. He gave the theoretical framework in 1963. He proposed that such a particle exists. He predicted that by using mathematical calculations. But, people did not believe at that point of time because our technology wasn’t advanced. In the last twenty years due to technological advancement, a big experiment was executed in CERN Geneva – The large hadron collider experiment. Millions were spent behind it. There was the time, when everyone believed it was of no use but last year the experiment was successful and after fifty years, peter higgs prediction was verified successfully.
So, research is an integral aspect of global development. Satyendranath Bose predicted Bose -Einstein condensate in 1924 but they were experimentally proven after 79 years. So, research is all about taking risks. If benefited, it results in the betterment of the entire human race in some way or the other. My experimental lab is a piece of paper, and the devices are my pen, my brain and my Mathematics.
Me – In this regard, which books are your favorites? What all do you read and where?
Shub – I have more than 500 eBooks of Mathematics and theoretical Physics. I read mostly about Mathematics because it gives me pleasure. I love pure Mathematics. And my favorite book is a ‘Mathematicians apology’ by Sir G H Hardy. It gives a nice description of how a mathematician should look at the world. Also, I am very lucky to have friends who share the same wavelength in both Physics and Mathematics. I collect books from everyone. At the same time, I use the Internet massively for my research.
Me – At a point when a lot of people are running away from Mathematics, I see your special corner for Mathematics. Care to talk about it?
Shub – I am a big lover of Mathematics. A mathematician looks at the inherent beauty of the mathematical structures. It’s like literature. Mathematics is the poetry of logical ideas. The inherent logic! The logical steps in understanding a theorem give a sense of enjoyment, just like when a poet expresses his feelings through words. In the similar manner, a mathematician expresses his feelings, his love towards abstract through logic.
Me – Where do you see yourself ten years down the line?
Shub – I would like to share my knowledge with everyone. Preferably, I would like to see myself as a professor in areas like theoretical Physics and pure Mathematics.
Me – Let’s talk about Astrology. You do out of hobby?
Shub – I love it and it’s not hobby. The skill has been inherited and it is a part of my life. I can say I am lucky to be born with some special gifts. I do it based on my intuition and some astrological calculations.
Me – In today’s world, astrology has several opinions. Some are either blindly following it or some completely discard it. Overall, this section is negatively looked at and often wrongly defined. It seems there are more questions to it than answers. What you have to say about it?
Shub -Yes. Actually astrology is a misunderstood science. The very basis and the logic behind it is something which not everyone knows. Astrology follows ‘prevention is better than cure’. If mixed with pure intuition it can tell you about your entire life. It is true it creates more questions reason being you haven’t seen the future. No one has seen the future so obviously questions will come but if one can analyze himself or herself after listening to those things which creates questions one may get all the answers.
As long as questions are there, answers will also be there. It is our responsibility to search for that answer. Then only, our life will have a bigger purpose. Astrology is a deep science linked with our inner being. Most of us are unaware of that spark created by our inner being. So, there are more questions than answers. But, a science person will never understand Astrology. My belief goes contrary to what a scientist believes. It is a misunderstood science.
Me – Isn’t it an irony that you study Physics and astrology both?
Shub – Yes it is. Well, astrology, Mathematics and philosophy were there in ancient times. But with the advent of modern science the way to look at science has changed. Physical science does have a stern side it wants to have empirical evidence. The problem of astrology is the experimenter and the observer, both are there within us. And the entire astrology has to do with that thing within us. And here the rift between philosophy and Physics starts. My idea is to correlate the western science with eastern mysticism. Did you know the great mathematician Srinivas Ramanujan was an amazing astrologer too? As a matter of fact, he predicted his own death.
Me – What would you like to say to people who follow it and the ones who don’t?
Shub – Firstly, I want to say that I have had experiences who stopped working in their activities after I predicted that something good may happen. As a result of their actions, nothing good happened. Lastly, I was blamed for wrong prediction. Similarly, astrologers get blamed. Astrology is a science of probability. It depends on the caliber of a person how that person is putting his efforts. Belief in oneself and actions decide future. As we also call it Karma. Your future depends on the Karma you do in your present. As you asked, I would say, go for it if you believe in it and most importantly in yourself. Sometimes, I respect people who willingly refuse to go for it.
Me – I completely second your thought. Hope people understand. Now, on a lighter note, tell us something about your love for pens.
Shub – I love pens in one sentence. Mostly, the fountain pens. While, I hold them I feel so suave and classy. You can say, I almost go in trance (laugh aloud). I imagine myself sitting in my room in Cambridge University with my Waterman fountain pen and also, smoking a Cheroot. I have a big collection of pens ranging from Parker to Waterman. The day I start earning, I would like to have a large collection from all well known companies. By the way, as I mentioned Cheroots, I do have another passion of collecting different branded cigars and cheroots. Hope you see a house full of pens and cigars soon.
Me – That gives quite a classy feel. So, as I end our conversation, I would like to ask you one more question. Your peers are after software engineering or MBA, what makes you think and do different?
Shub – My love towards knowing who I am. My passion towards understanding the nature. And yes that gut feeling that I am inside a dream and I want to wake up.