I am finally about to finish my Europe trip. It has been a perspective-changing experience. I am starting to feel exhausted as I am mid-way through the third week of my travel but the exhaustion is laced with satisfaction. I have been stressed, confused and dragged to the limits of my comfort zone, but I have learnt a lot, met some very interesting people and watched some amazing things. I feel proud of myself and more confident. It is a beginning. I now know that I have it in me to face the world. Travelling is indeed a life-changing experience. But I will have to write more later, for I still am on my trip and don´t have my laptop. So the stories are for another day. But oh boy, it is the most adventurous and useful thing I have ever done in my life!
Even though I haven’t had much interaction with the world of science, it hasn’t ceased to fascinate me. I think it is amazing how logic and creativity go hand In hand in pure sciences. Physics is my favourite discipline of science. I had feared that because of not being in touch with the subject for about three years, I might have forgotten most of it. It was an occasion of special delight when I found a series of 6 free eBooks explaining the entire basic concept on which Physics is built: motion. I mean, I have always had a sort of love-hate relationship with mechanics, so it would be helpful if there is a book that can help me overcome my issues with it. The books did really live up to their promise. The writing style is engaging, to say the least. The interactive examples and challenges make it even more fun. You don’t feel like you are reading a textbook. And the icing on the cake: they are all free! At first I had a metaphorical frown on my face. I was thinking, “Hmm.. okay, so what’s the catch?” But surprisingly, there was none! The author (who is a physicist based in Germany) is giving the books away as part of his project, termed Motion Mountain. The mission of this project is to bring the knowledge of Physics to the masses. I found this very interesting and was curious to know more about the author, Dr Christoph Schiller. It was very impressive, what he was trying to accomplish and I wanted to be able to contribute to it in some way, so I decided to interview him, and he accepted the request. So, my friends, let me present to you, Dr Christoph Schiller!
(And if anyone is interested in the books or in contributing to the project, please visit http://www.motionmountain.net)
Q: How did you become interested in physics?
Dr. Schiller: I am curious.
Q: What is the inspiration behind this mission to bring physics to the masses?
Dr. Schiller: University studies are free of charge in Germany, Italy, Belgium and many other European countries. I wanted to give back to others some of what I learned for free at the university.
Q: What do you hope to achieve through your free eBooks?
Dr. Schiller: All books are written to entertain the reader. So are mine. Also, I wanted to write up all I knew in a structured way.
Q: What do you consider your reward?
Dr. Schiller: Nothing.
Q: Do you think there is a decline of interest in learning pure sciences? If so, why?
Dr. Schiller: No.
Q: What is your advice to make learning natural sciences, especially physics, engaging instead of intimidating?
Dr. Schiller: Science is engaging when it is linked as tightly as possible to curiosity.
Another aspect to remember: what one person did, everybody can do as well; nothing in the world is too difficult to learn;
anybody can learn and understand anything he or she wants to learn.
I have not forgotten about the post on “introvert-entertainment” that I had promised, but let me first tell you something about another interesting topic. This is, actually, somewhat related to “introvert-entertainment”, for I am yet to discover an extrovert who is into it. Heck, I don’t even know many introverts who are into it.
All those bookworms out there would probably know the feeling of desperately falling in love with a book, that you wish you were inside it. I have felt it so many times. If I really love a book, I am sad to see the story end and will be in a sort of hangover for the next few days. I will replay the wonderful images I conjured up while reading the book, I will tweak those parts I found unsatisfactory and I might even develop sub-plots for the real story. If you are a bookworm, you know what I mean.
I had spent many years wishing that I could be part of a book that captivates me. However, it is only recently that I discovered the world of interactive fiction, also called IF or text adventures, purely by chance. It was like a dream come true. Such a shame I didn’t know of it before! Interactive fiction is by far the most amazing form of computer-based game that I have come across. It lets you be part of the story. You decide the outcome. The best part is that you create your own images and graphics inside your mind, which is a million times better than the best computer graphics. It is like watching a movie or reading a book, only you are the protagonist!
I am new to the world of interactive fiction, so I haven’t played many games. However, I am loving the experience. It is like going on an incredible adventure, one that is impossible in the real world. It appeals to me greatly, because it combines two of my favourite pastimes, reading and daydreaming. IF is like a love child of reading and dreaming!
Of the ones I have played, “Curses” by Graham Nelson was the most complex. It had such intricate and intertwined sub-plots that could change the entire course of the game and lead to a number of possible dead-ends. I admit I needed some help with it.
I really look forward to playing more interactive fiction. If possible, I will let you know in case I find something particularly interesting. If any avid “IF-ers” are out there, it will be great if you could suggest some good ones.
Happy gaming (or should I say dreaming) to everyone! 🙂
My earliest memory is that of my mother pointing out pictures to me from her encyclopaedia. I was three years old and loved the book. When I refuse to have my baby- food (which I absolutely loathed), my mother would sit me on her lap, spread out the huge book in front of us and show me the pictures, while tactfully feeding me spoonfuls of Cerelac. The chapter “Our Universe” was my favourite. The memory is still fresh and vivid: the dusty, old pages partially eaten by termites, the scent of old paper, the yellowing pages with colourful images of Olympus Mons, the Milky Way and formation of the Earth.
Books mean different things to different people. To some, they are a way of learning. Some read books as a hobby, while yet others find them plain boring and useless. However, reading is a passion to some people. To them, it is more than a hobby or an interest. When it is a passion, reading becomes more than a mere visual activity; it becomes a wholesome experience of sensory as well as mental stimulation. In my case, I do not like to read a book and put it away. I want to savour it from cover to cover. Every book has a personality. It is an organic entity in that sense. Some are old and worn with use. They have that peculiar “old-paper” smell that invokes nostalgia. Old and familiar books are a great company on lonely rainy days. Snuggling into a couch with a coffee and your favourite book, already read countless times, is an experience unlike any other. The yellowing pages with their crumbly texture remind the reader of the companionship they have enjoyed together and of the special warmth shared by close friends. On the other hand, there are those brand-new books, looking vibrant, smelling of fresh paper and ink, and packaging. One of the first things I tend to notice about a new book is its sleekness and shine. New books are great for prosaic, boring days. The excitement of diving into new world can spark up any boring day. It is unfamiliar, yet inviting. It entices with the possibility of a new journey.
The choice of books is directly affected by the personality of the reader. A realist cannot enjoy fantasy any more than a dreamer can enjoy gritty treatises. However, this does not mean that dreamers read only fantasy fiction or that realists hate fiction. The fantasy or reality of the ideas presented in the book is what matters. Personally, when I read non-fiction, there is the thrill of learning something new. The feel of acquiring knowledge is almost like finding a treasure. There is a certain satisfaction and enriched feeling associated with it. The sense of discovery is priceless. With fiction, it is an entirely different story. It lets me become someone else and explore new worlds, where I have exhilarating adventures. I am invincible and victorious. I prefer non-fiction in my “ambitious perfectionist mode” and fiction in my “escapist mode”. In any case, the more unbelievable, grand and preposterous the idea sounds, the more captivated I am. To me, fascinating ideas are at the heart of every adventure.
One book that I remember particularly enjoying is ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens. I read it for the first time when I was around nine, and discovered to my delight that classics are not as boring as I imagined them to be. It is a perfect blend of the mundane and the supernatural. Plus, it is all about Christmas! Who can say no to a cosy little Christmas tale? That was when I fell in love with period classics. I never got tired of that book. It is still in my list of comfort reads.
Choosing books are just like choosing friends. Some books are to be made acquaintances; some are to be made friends and to have a nice time. Yet others become good companions who help you out when necessary, whereas a few are invaluable and worthy to be cherished. As stated earlier, choosing books is as much a personal choice as choosing a career. What is appealing to one person may be worthless in the eyes of another. This is why lists of must-read books are often useless. One must make one’s own choices. Books, unlike humans, will never let one down. Even the feel of a favourite book in uplifting when one is stressed out. That is why I would happily declare: reading is my passion; it is the love of my life.