6.626 x 10 ^-34 – the number in big bold font stared at me in the face. Planck’s constant, one of the many mystical numbers which the force had embedded in nature, a number that keeps on reappearing in one’s physics copies and a number that I was supposed to obtain at the end of my experiment.
Even after three full years of catastrophes & manipulations in the physics laboratory, I still fail to comprehend as to why one has to undertake processes of extremely tedious nature to find out the values of numerous constants and verify the validity of n (lim n -> infinity) formulae. Something that great scientists have already done; centuries ago! Infact it is an insult of the zeroth order to the laborious tasks that they have performed, because what they painstakingly did in years with primitive tools, we are asked to complete in under two hours with highly sophisticated machines. And its not that if I announce “my value” of Pi is 3.1416 and not 3.1415 as they had thought to be all along, they would take my words and hail me the next big thing.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I had by the method of radiation, calculated that Planck’s constant was 6.6… and now I was being forced by the crudeness of the syllabus to repeat this again, but this time using Photo electric effect. O Force, thou art fled to brutish beasts.
But none of this was on my mind as I stared blankly at weird device in front of me without the slightest clue of how I was to proceed. My hands were fiddling with the coloured glass filters that the masters of the lab had thrust upon me, but my mind was lingering somewhere between the two quizzes that I would face later in the day. One, for which the rascals who were supposed me to by my teammates had deserted me In the face of ghissai! And the other, I only hoped that Lady Luck (wherever she was?) wouldn’t follow suit. But the masters soon snapped me back to reality and explained that all I had to do was keep the different coloured glasses in the path of the light, and measure the values of current, voltage and blah… sounds simple enough right? So I thought too.
Everything was going on smoothly, till the klutz in me took over for a split second; the green coloured glass filter, suddenly slipped out of my hand and…>> CRASH! Suddenly I was no longer in that newly polished room in the third floor of a shared department. I was transported to a place far, far away, to the land of the Idlis & Dosas, the land where SB could probably only refer to Saravana Bhawan and that of foreheads laden with vibhuti! I was transported to a place, which I had made my pseudo-home for two full years, and inside that to a volatile a corner. A Dingy, smelly room which dared to call itself a chemistry lab, consisting of equipment only its founders would have been proud of.
The Same<< CRASH!! “WHO BROKE THE TEST TUBE??”, a terrible baritone resonated all across the lab. A screechy tone, that brings despair to even the most confident of the minds; and a voice that (as affirmed by my seniors), few would ever forget. There I was, sniggering at the pour soul who was probably going be persecuted for his/her (but it was mostly a he anyways) poor lab skills. There I was, trying my level best to mix the so-called chemicals in front of me to obtain the elusive peacock blue. There I was passing sympathetic looks and words of encouragement to the only goofball who was actually worse than even me in practicals, my neighbour!
Scenes flashed by, the birth of the chemistry antisocials, constant glances at the local chem god’s test tubes wishing that one’s colours were even half as good as his and finally that of the creature which zealously guarded the hallowed portals. Those who had the misfortune of ever breaking something had to sell all their assets (and probably their heart and soul) to muster enough money to keep the creature’s daily supply of tea and biscuits flowing…… Breaking equipment was something every student dreaded and yet, it unfailingly happened every week!
CRASH! And I was back in the third floor, with the broken green glass in my hand wondering what to do. Plucking enough courage I returned the equipment back to the assistant praying that he wouldn’t notice the broken shard! “Maybe when pigs fly”, echoed the devil inside and sure enough… I was summoned by the masters of the lab and subjected to a half hour lecture on errrrr…… I really didn’t understand. It was all in Hindi and I only got his final warning saying, “You better be careful from now on”. Not knowing the local language sure does come in handy 😉
Life at IITR Rocks!