THE TEA BREAK
Dr. Vidya collected her mug, went to the tea vending machine. Selected Elaichi tea. When her mug was filled with the boiling hot tea, somehow, she managed to carry it up to the table nearby. She saw Dr. Satish with a file in one hand trying to lift his cup of boiling, hot tea by the other hand. The tea was too hot to manage to carry with just one hand. It was burning his fingers. Vidya got up from her seat and quickly came close to the tea vending machine. She picked Satish’s cup of hot tea and brought it to the table where her mug of tea was waiting for it to be finished.
“Thank you, Vidya. This file I have to hand over to Prof. Sathe of the astronomy department. I thought I would have tea first and then proceed to the Department of Astronomy to hand over the file.”
Vidya exchanged a smile. Satish took the chair and started sipping the hot tea.
“There is an extra crowd for tea today,” Vidya said.
“Yes, there is a popular lecture on James Web Space Telescope in the auditorium at 5 by Prof. Madhavan. Many want to attend that. So everyone is finishing with the tea and proceeding towards the auditorium.” Dr.Satish said, “Aren’t you attending the presentation?”
“Certainly, I am going to be present. My department is close to the auditorium. So need not worry about it.” Prof.Vidya said.
“Oh, Yes! You guys from the Department of Quantum Gravity have that privilege. Always cool about any popular lecture.”
Vidya smiled. Talking about the recent happenings in his field of Molecular Biology, Satish said a few words while they were having their tea. Then he quickly got up with the file, threw the paper cup in the waste bin, and rushed towards the department of Astronomy.
Vidya watched Satish disappearing in the crowd. She was lost in thoughts.
“How pleasant is Dr. Satish! Always smiling! His extraordinary work in molecular biology has earned him big accolades in the scientific world. He is also nominated for the Dr.Bhatnagar award. But still, he is down to earth. Very modest. His persevering nature is always appreciated by the seniors. Isn’t he a right partner for any woman?”
Vidya knew Satish since she joined the Institute of Fundamental Research after earning her Doctorate. They attended many scientific meetings together. But never did she think of him as the right candidate for a life partnership. But that day, a brief stint with him in the tea house of the institute, had enkindled some different feelings. She wished for some more encounters with Satish.
Dr.Satish headed for the department of Astronomy. But his mind was hovering around the quantum gravity. “What a charming lady is Dr.Vidya! Always ready with a helping hand for others. Did not I find the usual tea a special beverage today? Her sweet smile has penetrated my heart. Can I meet her again all alone? Is it any sign of love for her? I knew her for the last 4-5 years as a great scientist. We have attended many scientific meetings together. But never did I have such feelings about her. I hope to see her more frequently but not in groups. I want to know more about her as a person.”
After handing over the file to Dr.Sathe, Satish headed towards the auditorium. Instead of thinking about the speaker and the subject of his talk, Satish was entangled in the thoughts about Dr.Vidya. Entering the auditorium, his eyes searched for Vidya. He spotted her. But there was no vacant seat nearby. Disappointedly, he went a few rows behind. He took a seat from where he could see Vidya.
Very soon, the meeting convenor took over the mike. And after a brief introduction of the speaker, he handed over the mike to Prof. Madhavan.
Prof. Madhavan started his wonderful speech and all the scientific world in the auditorium was absorbed in the deep view of the cosmos hitherto unknown to the human eye. Satish had forgotten about Vidya. He also had moved into the far end of the world.
When the talk ended, the entire world of scientists in the hall, came down to their respective fields. Satish again was lost in thoughts about Vidya. When the audience dispersed, his eyes searched for her. But he was disheartened. He could not see her.
The next day Satish tried to find out some reason to visit Vidya’s department. But he failed to get a solid reason to approach her in her lab. He refrained from projecting himself as smitten with her. He waited for tea time when most of the scientists get to the cafeteria to refresh themselves.
Satish went to the cafeteria just in time and waited at the counter for her to arrive. When he noticed her, he stood in the queue to get the tea. Unaware of Satish’s presence, Vidya joined the queue. Satish on his turn bought two cups of tea and carried them to a vacant table. Kept the cups there. Then he approached her and told her about his buying the tea for her. With a smile, she excused her friends and joined Satish at the table.
“I am seeing you for the first time at this hour of the tea break,” Satish said.
“I too am surprised to see a molecular biologist in the coffee shop,” Vidya said.
“So, the probability of two scientists meeting together in the cafeteria is also proven by quantum theory. Isn’t it?” Satish tried to peep into the quantum world.
Sipping their hot tea slowly, both of them tried to understand each other more.
The table they started to occupy in the cafeteria, twice a day at fixed timings of tea break, was getting known as Multi-Disciplinary Research Table. The two scientists, Satish from Molecular Biology and Vidya from Quantum Gravity used to meet so regularly at tea times, that the table earned the name “Multi-Disciplinary Research Table”.
Both of them being scientists, they checked and tested each other from every possible angle.
Finally, they concluded their findings as coinciding and decided to tie the knot.
After their marriage, the Multi-Disciplinary Research Table was afraid of losing this identity. But to everyone’s dismay, they continued their meetings at the same table. Dedicated scientists that they were, they met each other in-office hours only during the tea breaks.
Happily married, this intellectual couple was heading towards significant achievements in their individual fields.
And one day, a new scientist Dr. Navin approached Dr.Vidya in her department to discuss a certain matter in his field. He was specialized in Dark matter and his area of work overlapped the field of gravity. After their detailed discussion, they proceeded to the tea house during tea break. Vidya took the usual table expecting Satish to join them soon.
That day Satish was a bit late for the tea. By the time he took his tea, Vidya and Navin had left the tea house and returned to Vidya’s department. Satish was surprised. He quickly finished his tea and returned to his laboratory.
In the night at home, Vidya told Satish about scientist Dr.Navin.
“So you got someone to discuss the matters of Gravity.”
“Yes. But do you know both fields have conflicting ideas about gravity?
Dark matter, the invisible stuff, is a force of gravity that at some distances, pulls massive objects such as holding the galaxies together and at other distances, pushes them apart.” Vidya tried to make some ideas about Dark matter, clear with Satish.
“But this idea itself appears quite odd,” Satish remarked.
“But that is a fact.” Vidya tried to point out the strangeness of the theory.
The next day at tea break, Dr. Navin joined Vidya for tea.
He started with a straight statement demeaning the quantum theory.
“Albert Einstein thought the quantum physicists have no choice but to predict the probability that events will occur. He said that describing reality required firm predictions followed by direct observations. But individual quantum interactions can not be observed directly. Dr.Vidya, you are wasting time and money on an idea that is unworthy,”
Vidya got annoyed. “The difference of opinion did not mean the other idea was absolutely worthless.”
“But I say, Dr. Vidya, you should change your problem of research. It will take you nowhere.” Navin was emphatic on his statement.
“Dr. Navin, would you mind keeping your ideas to yourself only?” Vidya retorted.
“Could you explain the weirdness associated with dark matter? Sometimes it has a positive effect and sometimes negative.”
“That will be cleared soon. But in quantum theory, the basis itself is on probability.
That is absolutely stupid.” Navin.
“Navin, please make sure what you find completely foolish. The statement on weird behavior or an expression on probability. The dark matter would exert gravity, which would be attractive at some length scales and repulsive at others. Dark matter pervades pretty much every galaxy, providing the extra gravity that keeps stars from swirling out into space, given the speeds at which astronomers see the galaxies rotating. And that’s super weird.” Vidya said angrily. She got up and rushed out of the cafeteria.
She entered her laboratory and squatted on the chair.
She remembered how delightful it was when she had exchanged her ideas about the field of working with Satish at the table in the cafeteria. The hot tea had a stimulating effect. But that day at the same table in the cafeteria, she had perturbing arguments and the hot tea had a draining effect.
The news of arguments between two scientists of the institute spread like wildfire.
Prof. Madhavan took the lead and at the tea break went on to the “Multi-Disciplinary Research Table”. He saw Dr. Vidya and Dr.Satish sipping hot tea.
Both of them stood up when they saw Prof. Madhavan at their table.
A group of other scientists joined the meeting at the table. One of them brought some hot mug of tea for prof. Madhavan.
Prof. Madhavan taking a sip of tea, said,” I heard about some arguments flared up about the two fields of research. I would like to throw some light on quantum gravity.
It is widely hoped that a theory of quantum gravity would allow us to understand problems of very high energy and very small dimensions of space, such as the behavior of black holes, and the origin of the universe.
The observation that all fundamental forces except gravity have one or more known messenger particles, leads researchers to believe that at least one must exist for gravity. This hypothetical particle is known as the graviton.
Even after decades of trying, the physicists haven’t spotted the particles, graviton floating around. While gravitons are an important theoretical step in a quantum mechanical description of gravity, they are generally believed to be undetectable because they interact too weakly. But theorists labored for decades to turn the idea into a coherent theory of gravity akin to Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, and to do so, they had to add new fields, cousins of the usual gravitational field.
That is what Quantum gravity is. And I must add here that the contribution by Dr. Vidya in this field has been appreciated by all. She is recommended for ‘The Quantum Gravity Award-2022.’ We congratulate Dr. Vidya for this nomination and wish her all the best.”
The small crowd around the table applauded. They all were treated with a mug of nice hot tea.