The awesome Elephant Theory
I was sifting through the pages of my old notebooks when I came across the mention of one of the most significant theories I have ever heard in my life - The Elephant Theory! I know that the mention of its name will perplex many but well, the name need not have any relation to the theory. This interesting theory was propounded by my favourite Physics teacher from high school and it changed my perspective about the Universe I live in, completely. And when my eyes fell on that piece of paper, memories came flooding in. Nostalgia made me rush to the computer to share this awesome theory with everyone who lends me an ear!
Now that I have caught your attention, let me explain this theory in the same manner as it was done to me, years ago.
Once upon a time, there was a two-dimensional (2D) world...
Wait a minute! What is a two-dimensional world????
It is that world where there are only lengths and breadths - no heights! Instead of the globe that forms our world holding everything, in the two dimensional world, everything is completely fit on a huge circular, flat sheet.
Moving back to the story, the people in this two dimensional world were agog with excitement. They had been observing and studying 7 heavenly bodies and after lots of efforts by their best scientists, had finally arrived at equations to describe their motion. It was common knowledge and observation that the 7 bodies were somehow linked and that they always moved together. And now, the scientists had perfect equations that described their motion.
Research papers were released and doctorates conferred upon many who were working at thi 'frontier' science. But then, something that always happens in the world, happened - someone noticed an anomalous motion of the little body shown to the extreme right in the 2-D body system.
And in order to accommodate this apparent discrepancy, new equations were written, the existing theories modified and greater research was encouraged. There was success and the discrepancies in the theory were solved. Once again, the scientific community rejoiced and all were happy. The joy was short-lived as more anomalies came up and the scientists made more efforts and modifications.This iterative process went on and on. So much was the continuous tweaking that one also felt that maybe the first theory was actually right and the anomaly observed then was only a freak. While this continuous freaking and tweaking went on, Science benefited and grew to amazing proportions in the 2D world.
Science progressed but the mystery of the seven bodies was never solved completely. Science could never satisfactorily explain the movement. The geniuses among the scientists worked harder on this frontier area of research. And then, one day, one among them received a brilliant flash of intuition! In a moment, he knew the entire dynamics of the seven bodies. He predicted the next movement due for the little body and wonder of wonders- that proved to be exactly true!
The scientific community was thrilled. They sought the magical equations from this genius. They were, however, in for disappointment! He gave no equations. Instead he said,
“This is actually very simple. Equations cannot solve it for it is beyond the mind. All you need is to broaden your vision. The answer will be clear!”
That seemed so cranky!
“Give us a damn equation”, they screamed.
“All your equations are right but all of them are wrong too!” was his reply
“He is not a scientist but a crazy philosopher!"
"He may get the answers right but that is either plain fluke or amazing coincidence - definitely not scientific."
They concluded thus and his ability to predict the movement was considered some hoax or magic. When people swore that they had experienced his predictions come true, they were branded as fools and misguided souls. The scientist was also branded by some as a black magician / a con artist / a religious nut. However, there were a few in the 2-D that decided to trust their own experience. They placed their faith in that scientist and began to do as he said. They broadened their vision and immediately, they too knew the answer! They were thrilled at the simplicity and magic of the method. But could they give some equations?
They could not! However, now, they too had the answer and began to say,
“Broaden you vision and become like us. Then you too will see the solution.”
Again, there was divided opinion whether these people were great scientists or great fools. But little did the ignorant realize that one had to broaden one’s vision from a 2D to a 3D perspective and everything would become so simple.
For the seven bodies were nothing but the stomach, four legs, trunk and tail of an elephant seen in cross section! The crazy movement of the bodies was in fact the happy romping of an elephant!
How can you ever make theories that govern how the legs, trunk and tail of an elephant move? They are completely random - till one is able to see the whole picture, the elephant!
How many times we see and yet do not see only because we lack broadness of vision? And when someone with that broad vision inspires us to become like him so that we too see and experience the solution, do we make efforts?
"Pashyannapi Na Pashyati Mudho Mudho Mudho" my master Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba exhorts. It means, "The fool is unable to see in spite of seeing." This blindness in spite of seeing is what makes us fail in seeing the elephant!
I am grateful to my high school Physics teacher for having taught me the wonderful Elephant Theory.
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© 2011 Aravind Balasubramanya