Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Doppler Effect

“So you’re telling me that the sound waves are coming in a direction different from the train”?

Sunil looked very perplexed asking me that question.

The most scientific thing we were taught at school till then was how the light bulb worked and here Ms. Alamelu had just delivered a 25-minute lecture on something called ‘The Doppler Effect’.
It was the last period and we were done for the day.

Sunil and I would often wait for everyone in the class to trickle out leaving only the two of us behind.

We thoroughly enjoyed our 10 minutes of unmonitored freedom, well, until the janitor would eventually show up in the evening to clean up and lock all rooms in the building.

This was a time reserved for jumping on and off every desk, and for standing at one end of the empty oblong classroom and listen our loud voices echo off the walls, amongst many other things.

"Explain it to me man". Sunil urged as I started wiping off the chalky writing on the blackboard with my bare hands.

"Stand here". I said guiding him to the centre of room.

He didn't notice that I had spread chalk all over his clothes, and I intended to keep it that way for now.

"Let me demonstrate the Doppler effect to you". I said walking away from him.

"Close your eyes". I said standing at a corner of the room.

After pausing for a few seconds, I ran towards him, screaming.

"Aye e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e"!

He was understandably startled and his eyes remained closed for only a fraction of a second.

"What are you doing man he said getting out of my way".

"Do you want to learn what the Doppler effect is or not"? I asked him in an irate voice, clearly annoyed by his lack of trust in my scientific demonstration.

I went to the other side of the room and tried again.

"Oh wait a minute". He said noticing his blue trousers smeared with chalk dust.

"Did you do this to me man"? he shouted.

"Close your eyes". I said sternly distracting him from the mess on his school uniform.

"Aye e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e ee e"!

This time I was louder, and it scared Sunil so much so he nearly ran out of the room.

After a few attempts, we got it right.

Sunil finally understood what the teacher was trying to explain to us, but then the mischievous devil inside him awakened and instead of letting me know that my teaching had been effective, he made me run back and forth screaming my head off till I was short of breath, just to mess with me.

"Aye e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e ee e"!

"Aye e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e ee e"!

"Aye e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e e ee e"!

Ayeeee kya kare rahe ho tum log? (Hey, what are you boys upto?) The janitor shouted at us stepping inside the room.

We both grabbed our bags and bolted out of the room in a second.
The Wachowski’s redefined what special effects could do with 'The Matrix Trilogy'.

These movies redefined action in cinema.

The movie franchise also taught me that I could watch something a hundred times but still not fully understand what on earth is going on.

Nonetheless, they did a good job by creating an alternate universe and allowing us to participate in their indulgent thinking.

Many people will look back at 'The Matrix' and remember it for several reasons - Mr. Smith and his dark shades, Neo and all the bullet dodging, Morpheus and the 2 pills,my favorite scene in the entire franchise though is something one wouldn't even recall unless they were a true fan of the series.

It's taken from 'The Matrix Reloaded'

A scene where we see Neo stuck in a subway station unable to escape.

Maybe this picture will jog your memory a little.
Over the years, for some inexplicable reasons trains have come to represent a lot of things to me and my understanding of life per se.

It began a few years ago.

I remember accompanying my brother to drop off my sister in law at a railway station in India.

It was a typically breezy Bangalore night and like I expected the place was jam-packed.

There were no seats left to occupy on the platform so people were lying down on the floor or sitting with their backs against each other trying to stay warm waiting for their train to come.


We were early and so I broke away from my brother and took a small walk.

Trains came and went every few minutes.

With every arrival or departure, there was a lot of movement and a lot of noise.

But in spite of the chaos, I was pretty overcome by the humanity around me.

There was an energy around me that I hadn’t felt before and I told myself that I would come back someday if I ever felt that energy lacking inside of me.

Whenever a train would whistle people would perch up from their seats and look in one direction and then the other, not sure which direction the sound was coming from.

The anticipation was palpable.
The principle of the Doppler effect is that although a source produces waves (sound or any other) at a certain fixed frequency, the perception of a listener changes depending on whether the object is approaching or moving away from them.

It was confusing to a couple of 9-year-olds, and frankly speaking it is somewhat confusing to me even today (just like The Matrix movies )

Universally the train is used as an example to try and explain the concept.

Standing at one place with your eyes closed, you don't know if the sound of the train approaching, is of the one that will take you home, or one that will take you further away from it.

As Neo waits alone at the subway station, he is joined by an Indian family.

The train that is supposed to be arriving soon is meant for them and not for him.

Which brings me back to that evening I spent at the railway station, The commonest thing I heard when a train arrived was, 'No our train, not our stop'.

Life can be a lot like this.

Sometimes we don't know if what's headed our way is something meant to take us closer to our destiny or do the exact opposite.

It is easy when you know where you want to go, but what do you do when you just don't know.
Which brings me back to the movie.

Even though the train that arrives at mobil ave is not meant for Neo, he gets on it, and it sets the stage for his next adventure.

If you are at a point in your life where you are confused about what to do next and you happen to hear a calling, no matter how bizarre it may sound, go for it.

Chances are, that whistle you just heard is the sound of your train coming your way.

Until Next Time

TGV