For the men and women walking on paths unknown
– Rahul Madhavan (PGP 2010)
Science at its essence is a human affair with its protagonists and villains, unpredictable stories of struggles and grand victories, endless battles mostly fought in solitude, and people championing causes and fighting on and on. Here concepts and ideas seem to lead a life unto themselves – where ideas of limitless possibilities live alongside intellectual cul-de-sacs. Some ideas live the hyperbole of the sudden rise alongside others which quietly labour like the steady bourgeoisie, some concepts head towards their timely, and sometimes untimely demises, whereas others are created sapling-like, nurtured amidst the giants beside them. Behind the life of each of these concepts is the painstaking and sometimes lifelong effort of the few that we call scientists, together creating what we call Science.
Like the explorers of yore trudging through physical hardships and countless dangers into the milieu of the unknown, a scientist sets out on a path that hasn’t been explored with hardly a tool in hand and seldom any company. The treasures that the explorers sought came after many fruitless flights of the trial, and sometimes didn’t come at all. So too the scientist goes, without knowledge of fruit, and knowing full well the chance of dejection. And so against all odds, the scientists fare into the unknown and tell themselves – Science is an adventure unmatched, for after all, it is the only adventure worth undertaking.
Science with all its ebbs and flows has yet a tyrannical forward march towards progress. Science, with its history of miraculous discoveries and epiphanies, is an encapsulation of all that it is to be human. Even so, with all its individual glory, and sometimes ignominy, Science is at its core an undertaking of the human collective. That this collective exists itself causes immense wonder. Imagine the universe’s delight at the attempt of having itself understood by Science, the ultimate output of this collective. One peculiar set of biological automata at one minuscule corner of creation attempting to understand, build and capture all that is within the creation. The bravado and premise behind such an attempt make Science the greatest endeavour ever undertaken.
The script of science is written and re-written and re-written. Like there is only one script that we all had and it had to be perfect. And we all together are writing just one script and it was an autobiography of us all. That to me is science. The ultimate collective endeavour and humanity’s ultimate objective. Couched in entropy reductive parlance, it is perhaps the sole objective of endless iterations of mutative reproduction.
Thus the lonely scientist trudges on and on, with no goal within view, no faithful for the company and no harbours to seek. Yet, not a minute to be had and no limit to the collective dream.