A Physic(al) Journey

I love a good adventure, and lately I’ve been on a journey of exploration into the fascinating world of physics. I didn’t get to do physics at school, probably being deemed not bright enough to be let pack my bags, to set off on that trip with some of the students who set off on that adventure; in fact, I was once told by a rather sour-faced and lightly mustachioed member of the penguin tribe we know as “The Nuns” that I was a mathematical illiterate, so that’s probably why I stayed behind to watch sunbeams slant, and dream of traveling on the dust motes that spun in lazy patterns, as I dropped out, and tuned in, to different dimensions, traveling happily on my own secret adventures of the mind, for years.

In recent years, though, I’ve tuned in again to read about the wonderful world of physics. You don’t need to be able to do maths, you see, to appreciate the beauty of physics. All you really need is a sense of awe, and a curious mind (which I’ve often been told I have, ahem) to really dig physics, and start getting dug in. Bring your spade, ‘cos you’re invited, and we’ll dig down into the dirt of matter, but make it a fun exploration, perfect for dreamers, hopefully not getting stuck in the holes. How about some music while we learn? We can have our adventures go our own way, and there won’t even be an exam at the end. Sounds fun? Off we go, then, singing merrily along the way.

What’s that you say? Not quite what you were expecting? Good. Physics is full of delightful surprises, for something that proceeds in such a logical way. The little video I made, was a classic (Newtonian) timeline visual of ideas I’d been reading about in the always easy to understand Brian Gribbin’s book “Deep Simplicity”, but, wouldn’t you know, the journey took many twists and turns along the way, as I explored some of the ideas further, enjoying the side-streets and alleys of a new town I visited.

There were so many really great explainer videos on YouTube, that helped bring the ideas home effectively, and were stunning visually as well. Philip Glass’s “Einstein on the Beach” is a favourite musical piece of mine, and I couldn’t resist gathering up some of the best videos I found, during my reading explorations of the topic of how complex systems emerge from chaos, and how chaos is, in fact, intrinsic to order. I thought, why not, then, organise the nicest bits into a kind of visual diary of my reading, and have a bit of dreamer-style fun with it. It’s OK to dream, while studying physics, I discovered. I reckon it helps you learn, as you need to be able to imagine concepts, and play around with them, in your mind, to really get the WOW factor. I took plenty of time to dream, and still haven’t come to the last chapter of the journey, because I keep putting down the book, looking out the window, as I did in my school days, and saying “WOW”. Whatta trip.

Wanna see some of the videos I used for my mashup video? These talented creators put most of the effort in, in their wonderfully explanatory and visually beautiful videos, after all. First up, let’s have a look at the main video I used for the background, and overlaid other videos on, to create the mashup vid in OpenShot (free) video software. This was a brilliant video by Stephanie Yeoh, for the music track “Knee Play 5”. I know, it was a bit cheeky of me to even think of covering up parts of this perfect video, with other graphic elements overlaid, but the nuns always said I was a cheeky little rip, as well as mathematically illiterate, so…

Next up, let’s get outta the bus, and wade right in to the river, and hoist our sails, ‘cos there are so many more lovely places to see along the way, in our journey into physics. Here are some of the other videos I enjoyed, and made use of, in my imaginative journey, with my little guide book in hand.

What? Hotel’s full, even with infinite rooms? How can that be? Never mind, let’s skip the chaos and camp out for the night. Don’t get the matches wet, ‘cos we’ll need them to get a fire going, and get the party started, under the stars.

Erm, not sure we’re going in the right direction, and not terribly certain about how we got here, but I’m sure we’ll end up somewhere, with a fixed point to refer to (pulls out compass and taps it, playing for thinking time).

(Wakes at sunrise, under a semi-chaotic collapsing tent). Wow, my back hurts. I’m in bits, but I’m sure I’ll be OK for the homeward leg of the journey. Probably. Should be pleasant to finish my adventure in an armchair, with the rest of my book. Hope you had fun as well. Parting is such sweet sorrow, and all that. I see you’re in bits too. He he. Many of the best adventures are like that. Bye bye. May the road rise with you. It does, a bit, apparently (waves at tiny dot on the horizon).

Other videos used:

Crab Canon on Mobius Strip: https://youtu.be/xUHQ2ybTejU

Ant on Mobius Strip: https://youtu.be/kMgwaeLHUTU

Starlings, Murmuration: https://youtu.be/uV54oa0SyMc

Pendulum Waves: https://youtu.be/o3Q7JYBkOHU

Chaos Pendulum: https://youtu.be/QXf95_EKS6E

Freehand Circle: https://youtu.be/oDcr0yXpkk8

Ten Dimensions in Two Minutes: https://youtu.be/hf2CxZPl7KI

N-body Orbits: https://youtu.be/_3uQqrrBcrQ

Fractal Curves, Growing the Snowflake Sweep: https://youtu.be/vZ9Oi4LV_5w

nicogetz’ “Vibrations on Singing Strings”: https://youtu.be/ttgLyWFINJI

(Other clips include Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing, and an animation from a CGI movie, which I don’t know the name of, and this “Niagara” software tutorial, for particle animations https://youtu.be/31GXFW-MgQk?t=87)

ps. Had a lovely trip. Glad you were here.