Of growth and nearly everything…

We are obsessed with constant growth.

Be it in business, where every quarter has to be bigger than the preceding one, or in school, where kids have to score constantly higher marks, lest the drop be seen as a ‘point of concern’ and the start of a pattern.

Physically too, some parents obsess with the growth of the kid – he has become thin, he isn’t growing as he used to earlier, maybe he isn’t eating well…

The truth is that nothing grows constantly. Businesses that do well overall, grow in spurts followed by long plateaus of stagnation. Well, I wouldn’t call it stagnant – since it’s more of a preparatory phase where plans for the next stage are made and executed. Marketing strategies are revised, budgets reworked, brainstorming sessions abound – all while current clients are being serviced.

The same goes for everything else – unless we temper our expectations, we only end up making the wrong judgement calls.

Think of it as an annual agricultural cycle – tilling, sowing, watering, growth, then harvesting, and back to tilling after a short break. There will be the occasional ‘not so great’ bits, and some exceptional bits as well. Just have to keep moving forward, or at least attempting to do so.

In other news, I finally found the book that I had been hunting for a long time – an illustrated version of Bill Bryson’s – A Short History of Nearly Everything. Stopped at a second-hand (or is it called pre-loved) bookstore by chance, and found it lying on the table right next to the billing counter. Luck!

Here is a primer on the book, if you haven’t read it already.

Did you know that if the Sun disappears during daytime, it would take us eight and a half minutes to realize it? We would continue to bask in it’s rays until well…

“The average distance between stars out there is over 30 million million kilometres. Even at speeds approaching those of light, these are fantastically challenging distances for any travelling individual. Of course, it is possible that alien beings travel billions of miles to amuse themselves by planting crop circles in Wiltshire or frightening the daylights out of some poor guy in a pickup truck on a lonely road in Arizona (they must have teenagers, after all), but it does seem unlikely.”

The above is but just one of the gems that Bill Bryson has come up with in his classic – A short history of nearly everything, which should be made compulsory reading in school. The way he explains a vast spectrum of topics is commendable – in fact one should make it a case study of how to simplify concepts – instead of the current tendency to “jargon-ise” everything.

“On a diagram of the solar system to scale, with the Earth reduced to about the diameter of a pea, Jupiter would be over 300 metres away and Pluto would be two and a half kilometres distant (and about the size of a bacterium, so you wouldn’t be able to see it anyway). On the same scale, Proxima Centauri, our nearest star, would be 16,000 kilometres away.”

The way he describes classical scientists and discoverers is something that you would not be able to find it any textbook – not even remotely.

“Newton was a decidedly odd figure—brilliant beyond measure, but solitary joyless, prickly to the point of paranoia, famously distracted (upon swinging his feet out of bed in the morning he would reportedly sometimes sit for hours, immobilized by the sudden rush of thoughts to his head), and capable of the most riveting strangeness. He built his own laboratory, the first at Cambridge, but then engaged in the most bizarre experiments. Once he inserted a bodkin—a long needle of the sort used for sewing leather—into his eye socket and rubbed it around “betwixt my eye and the bone as near to [the] backside of my eye as I could” just to see what would happen. What happened, miraculously, was nothing—at least, nothing lasting. ”

The same Newton who (re)discovered the laws of motion.

1. संयोगाभावे गुरुत्वात् पतनम् ॥५।१।७॥

In the absence of conjunction, gravity [causes objects to] fall.

Law 2a. नोदनविशेषाभावान्नोर्ध्वं न तिर्य्यग्गमनम् ॥५।१।८॥

In the absence of a force, there is no upward motion, sideward motion or motion in general.

Law 2b. नोदनादाद्यमिषोः कर्म तत्कर्मकारिताच्च संस्कारादुत्तरं तथोत्तरमुत्तरञच् ॥५।१।१७॥

The initial pressure [on the bow] leads to the arrow’s motion; from that motion is momentum, from which is the motion that follows and the next and so on similarly.

Law 3. कार्य्यविरोधि कर्म ॥१।१।१४॥

Action (kārya) is opposed by reaction (karman).

Rishi Kanad in 600 BCE

So from the stars, we reached an apple on someone’s head and then went back to 600 years before Christ, when the laws of motion were first formulated. Tiring:)

“A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson. READ IT!