This is going to be a short one.
So, I recently noticed a very striking change in the way I take in new knowledge. I was studying physics, messing around with theorems and laws that were already well-defined just for the sake of it. I realised that I couldn’t remember a time when I used to do this. I suppose a lot of it has to do with the fact that now that I’m in college, a lot of my learning is done on my own. Sure, there are professors and I attend their lectures religiously but… I sleep through most of them. That leaves me with just a vague idea of what all was covered in class. My class notes comprise exhaustively of headings that I jot down in a sleepy daze to go back and learn more in detail about myself. Therefore, I obviously rely heavily on my textbooks. Till last semester, I had been very firmly in favour of buying all my textbooks. This was because I loved making notes in the book itself while I was studying and that was mainly because it made me feel like The Half Blood Prince, but now I have realised the flexibility you have when you switch over to e-books. So, studying from my laptop instead of actual physical books has been one change, but that is trivial.
When I was in school, I used to accept everything that my teachers taught me without question. It wasn’t that I wasn’t curious; I just lacked the motivation to actually go through with an attempt to satiate my curiosity. It was like I’d look at an equation and go, “I wonder what would happen if I change this variable?” or, “I wonder what would happen if this wasn’t an inverse law force?” but then stop myself as if the world would end if I changed that exponent. I mean if that REALLY happens, if you actually do change that exponent, the world as we know it WILL most certainly end, but that is not the point here. What I’m trying to say is that I have a renewed confidence now. A confidence in the fact that it is perfectly fine to question the knowledge that is already in place and that you don’t have to bow down to anyone unless you’re completely satisfied with what they’re offering you. The world would not fall apart if you just try to find out if the equation relating electric fields and flux would still hold if the electrostatic force was an inverse cube law force instead of an inverse square law force (refer to the end for definitions) or if you can take mathematical tools and try to apply them to more general cases to try to come up with a physical interpretation that was different from the one in existence (which was a failed attempt, by the way).
The take home message for anyone that might be reading this could be that self-study is very important as it gives your imagination room to wander and wonder about what may be, instead of what is; and that you need to have faith that whatever calculation you do on your piece of paper would not cause the collapse of the entire universe (I know this sounds HIGHLY exaggerated but I somehow really feel that this description is very, very accurate for how I actually used to feel).
That’s all, folks!
PS. A force is called an inverse square law force if its magnitude falls off inversely proportional to the distance from the source. For example, if I am two meters away, the force I experience is F. But, if I move two meters further, effectively doubling my distance from the source, the force I experience is not F anymore, but F/4 (haha, that rhymes).