Physics and the aging mind (and body)…

I’m plowing through the exercises at the end of Chapter 2 in Conceptual Physics, the chapter on Newton’s first law of motion, which defines inertia. There’s eighty one questions and problems, and a kind note from the author saying that he offers so many in order to give the instructor a ‘wide choice of assignments’.

Me being my instructor, as it were, I’ve assigned myself all of them, though without a deadline. Hewitt notes that the Exercises portion, comprising forty-eight problems, is designed to stress thinking rather than recall. If that doesn’t get the information into my head, nothing will.

All in all I’m excited about this book. It brings the science of Physics within my grasp, doesn’t torture me with math (though it may stimulate an interest in math), and offers a way to keep my aging brain active in a way different from my forays into Philosophy (which once upon a time was Physics).

The other night, as I was doing nothing in particular again, a thought rumbled through my head out of nowhere. "Oh my god I’m sixty-six years old. What the fuck am I doing? What in hell am I doing?" I’ve let that rattle around for a couple of days and still have not got a useful answer. I can, however, answer in part that I’m sometimes doing Physics, or learning it anyway. Which is something.

Part of the charm of Physics, so far, is that understanding Physics puts me in touch with reality. Not the dicey reality of the psychologists and the spiritualists and the ideologues, but the reality of a world that has weight and mass and dimension, a world that is discoverable and predictable and yet still full of mystery, a world that holds no evil, no good, no ego, a world that simply, without apology, without boast, is and which simply does not care.

That’s a good thing for an old mind to know.


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