Dr. Sr. Annamma Philip Endowment Lecture, Stella Maris College, Chennai, 1.2.2018.
Lord Kelvin said in 1900: “There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is a more and more precise measurement.” Within three decades, quantum mechanics and Einstein’s theory of relativity had revolutionized the field. Each discovery seems to unlock a Pandora’s box of even bigger, even deeper mysteries. The world of science creates mysteries as fast as it solves them, and sometimes even faster. Some of the knowledge of the natural world develops a sense of wonder and awe within us. The Greek philosopher Empedocles stated that all matter is made up, in differing proportions, of four elemental substances – earth, air, fire and water which were accepted in Europe until the 17th century to the arrival of Robert Boyle. Due to Priestley’s discovery of Oxygen, all four of the ancient elements were discarded, and later many elements were discovered. Dmitri Mendeleev listed the 63 known elements and their properties in the periodic table and kept some vacant spaces for elements yet to be discovered. There are so many mysteries like – Why atom is mostly empty space? Why are quarks never alone? Why can quarks not be seen? How to account for the mass? Energy? How about the mysteries and the bizarre nature of Quantum world – The double-slit experiment and the observer paradox; Quantum Entanglement that led the famous Einstein-Bohr debate; Quantum Teleportation and the Quantum Tunnelling? Can particles walk through Walls?