With the recently concluded mid sem exams fresh in my mind, let me describe to you some of the physiological and psychological changes I used to undergo during examinations in the younger days of my life.
The most important change was in how I looked at certain things of life just before an examination. These abnormal perceptions had reached a peak during my high school days. On the morning of the biology examination, what should have been just a normal plate of half boiled eggs started looking like yellow yolk (which should have been food for the poor young embryo) suspended in egg white albumen by the bands of tissue that are called chalazae. Overcome by guilt I turn away from the eggs and turn to milk only to find that milk is no longer just “milk” but it has turned into an emulsion of butterfat globules within a water based fluid.
On usual mornings, I just open the door and walk out. But on the day of the physics exam, I rotate the front door about its hinges, holding the door handle, which is positioned far away from the hinges so as to create maximum torque with the minimum applied force. The words of my physics prof ring in my ears, “The carpenter knows where to fix the handle. But he does not know why. You should know where to fix the handle and why.” And I just wonder to myself, if I had not learnt physics, and had been a carpenter, would I have tried to fix the door handle in the middle of the door and see what happens?
Doors aside, on normal mornings, I just breathe in polluted air. But on the mornings of chemistry exams, I breathe in suspended particulate matter. The rickshaw that overtakes us does not just emit black smoke. It emits oxides of sulphur, nitrogen and carbon monoxide. Normally I wouldn’t even notice the fact that I am breathing the same exhaust. But today since I have a chemistry exam, I suffer from symptoms like headache, dizziness, confusion, convulsions, and perhaps bit of tachycardia, myocardial ischemia, atrial fibrillation, pulmonary edema and muscle neurosis. I say “perhaps” because right now I am not sure what each of them means and I am unable to match the symptom name with my exact feelings. Damn, I should not have crammed this at the last minute. My good friend sitting beside me says its just exam fever. But I know better. I read the relevant chapters yesterday night. I know its carbon monoxide poisoning. I tell him that my diagnosis can be confirmed by measuring my blood carboxyheamoglobin. But he just ignores me and mentions some words about sleep deprivation induced insanity. That is when I realised that he had not read the chapter on carbon monoxide. God bless the relatively harmless carbon based biped friend of mine.
We reach the exam hall pretty quickly. I was hoping that this journey last a little longer. I was just beginning to recollect some new symptoms like hyperglycemia and respiratory arrest. I think that the fact that we reached the exam hall faster than I expected has something to do with Einstein’s theory of relativity. Or does Einstein’s theory of relativity deal with the fact that the last one hour of the exam paper passes faster than the first one hour of the paper?
Looking back at those days I realise how perceptions changed as I grew older. The subjects moved further and further away from science and closer and closer to technology. But that same feeling is not created by the examinations these days. Even after a degree in electronics and communication, I still see the keyboard I am using to type these words as just a keyboard. I don’t feel the electrons moving to transmit information at every keystroke of mine. I don’t think its because these so called “perceptions” of mine can only be created by science and not by technology. I think it has to do with the fact that somewhere along the way, I started taking “normal”, “working” things for granted. I just wanted things to work and stopped wondering why it works the way it does. I stopped looking at the door and asking why is the door handle fixed far away from the hinges. What if I fix it in the middle? Earlier I would have said something about torque and moment arm. Now perhaps I would just say, it works better when it is put away from the hinges. Everybody puts it away from the hinges. Who would buy a door that has a handle fixed in the middle. Why should I waste my time and money and see what happens when its put in the middle. I don’t know what caused this change in my thinking. But I am sure I will never dare to say that it was the shift from science to technology that caused this change in me.
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