In recent years, particularly after the third Nobel prize, a lot of people have asked me about my first brush with Physics, and why I chose Physics over Priesthood. The following short note is an humble attempt at answering those curiosities.
If I said that I was one of those precocious child prodigies that people read about in dailies, then I would be understating the case.
By the age of six, I already knew the difference between a Monet and a Manet, and by the age of 10, I was translating Shakespeare into English in my spare time. In class four, when we were first introduced to Euclidean geometry, I gave four different (and new) proofs of the Pythagorean theorem within the first two months, and then proceeded to work out the theorems of “Elements” in the exact order in which they appear in the book. True, I never proved the Riemann Hypothesis and then lost the proof by reinventing paper-napkins as they tell in the anecdotes, but I came pretty close. The actual accounts can be found in the version of Einstein’s paper on General Relativity containing my margin notes, which will be published five years after my death. Advance bookings are already available in Amazon.
As one can already guess, I was completely unperturbed by these branches of science and humanities which posed virtually no challenge for my gigantic intellect, which was once complemented by a robot to be the size of a planet!
And then, Physics happened.
I was gifted Newton’s Principia on my tenth birthday (too late, I know). The mathematics, the geometry, the intuition, it was all very fine until I stumbled across the Laws of Motion. I was stumped by the seemingly wrong assumptions made there.
Young as I was, it was blindingly clear to me that when I sat inside the Chevy presented to me by the Governor, it was the vehicle that moved, not me, and I saw no reason for the contrived assumption that I was moving along with the car. Why, as I remembered, I was stationary all the time! There must be some better explanation for the jerk I felt when suddenly starting or stopping the car. It was apparent that I had to take it upon myself to uncover the real explanation behind the phenomena, and I decided to start by demolishing Newton’s theory by devising some deviously clever yet simple experiment.
I decided to start by stepping out of running cars. It was a direct test of the laws, and one that I could perform within my limited resources. But there was the problem of the running car which, after I stepped out of it, was left to its own imagination. I had little trust in the imagination of something as dumb as my car, even though my car eventually proved to be smarter than some of my colleagues! so I chose a horse instead.
A lot of people have speculated that my life-changing fall from the horse was a result of my preoccupation with some deep mathematical idea, but nothing could have been farther from the truth. I was only trying to dismount from the horse, believing that I would shortly be walking away waving at the audience like a winner, just having discredited Newton and his sycophantic followers masquerading as physicists. A new era was about to begin.
Only, it began just for me. While I nursed my broken ribs and shattered knees in the following months, I finally felt convinced of the Laws of Motion, particularly that bit about the inertia of rest, and a life long journey in that eternal quest for truth had began.