Saturday, May 09, 2015

Thus Spake the coconut tree

“Knowledge is insufficient to comprehend this universe.  Human consciousness must expand many fold to understand such a complexity and vastness.”, I said.

It was one of those terrace conversations I have with my son.  He is a student and hopes to get back to Physics sometime in the future, when the universe interests him more than computers.

“That’s a philosophical mumbo jumbo, I’ve heard it a hundred times from you.  Please talk some real Physics.” said my son.

“May I join the conversation?”  a gentle deep voice asked.  I realised it is the coconut tree that spoke.  My son didn’t bother to look around and said, “Go ahead.”.  He too must have got used to the tree. He has been alone at home during holidays and may have struck a friendship with the tree.

“It is amusing to listen to humans who think knowledge is absolute.”, the tree paused for a while and said, “Tell me, what do you think of me?”

“I see your branches and leaves, whatever you may want to call them are designed in such a way to not resist strong winds.  They let the wind pass through.  The trunk can sway during strong winds unlike a mango or neem tree.  The coconut is of the shape of a football that lets it disperse in different ways.  I like this analysis.  I think I can write a paper on the physics of every part of the coconut tree.”

“Sure you can, if you observe enough.”

“See, that’s the power of science.  I can explain everything rationally, support it with pure mathematics and quote references of work that use in my paper.  No mumbo-jumbo there.”

“I see your point.  Do you think you could have such an analysis, 10 years ago?”

“Probably not.  I learnt a lot of stuff as prepared for IIT.”  

“Well, someone who got into IIT recently wouldn’t be able to analyse when he was 8-9 years old.  What do you know about my age?”  asked the tree.

“You must be about 40.  I heard this area was developed about 40 years ago and they must have planted these tree then.  There is a pattern in the way they had planted.”

“It doesn’t matter.  I may be a few million years old, all coconut trees are the same.  We just continue living at a new place.  The point is, I’m a lot older than your knowledge.  Right?”

“I guess so.”

“For the same question I asked - “what do you think of me?” Would someone who lived five hundred years ago, answered the same?

“No.  This knowledge is recent - about couple of hundred years.”

“So, your Physics is based a few hundred years of knowledge.”  

I could sense the sarcasm there.

“If I were you I wouldn’t bet too much on that knowledge.  It is a bit stale already and would give way for another idea in a hundred years.”  continued the tree.

“So… what is permanent?” 

“This moment.  It is always there."

“That’s enlightening.  Thanks”, said my son.

“You’re welcome.  We, tropical trees are known for that!”, said the tree with a wink.