Thermodynamics, giving up and the Medium Partner Program

I am taking five minutes out of my man-killer schedule to write this letter of thanks to Medium Staff for thinking me worthy. I won’t say I was about to give up. I promised myself a long while ago I won’t give up. Giving up is not for writers. But I was definitely thinking about the value of maintaining a blog without a returning readership.

At home,six hundred kilometers away from work, I picked up a book on Thermodynamics that I had read as a young graduate fresh out of B.Tech. Now that I had a Masters in Thermal Science, the book had little to offer. So I leafed through the book lacking any motive other than formless nostalgia. This is a simple question, and all of you must know the answer to this , what is a reversible Isothermal process?

A process which happens in the absence of a change in temperature is rightly called a constant temperature process. How does it come about? Assume you have a piston cylinder arrangement with a number of tiny weights on top of the piston and a gas inside the cylinder. If you remove a tiny weight from the top of the piston the pressure inside the gas decreases, its volume increases and consequently the piston moves up. Well, good. The temperature drops, so to keep the temperature constant heat is supplied from an external source. Ok. Now wait a minute. I am asking myself something. Why does the temperature have to decrease? Why can’t the decrease in the pressure be cancelled out numerically by the increase in volume. This, of course, was a stupid question because I was the one asking it. But I was sure no one I knew has a solid answer for this. My wife called. The dishes needed to be cleaned. I walked leisurely to the sink as if nothing is wrong. Because nothing was wrong. I have a Masters degree in the subject and I can’t figure out something as easy as that. Nothing was wrong. While I was washing the dishes, I was itching to flip open the phone and ask Google what the answer was. But that would be the less rewarding way out. So I made peace with that problem. Two minutes later, BOOM, I came up with another problem that I couldn’t solve. Aggh. Then BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. Three more. Because I had more information now, my new self was fighting my old self. There are contradictions, cracks on the surface that I had not seen before. It’s a good change I tell myself. It’s better than not having doubts. I finish the dishes and leave. I open my laptop and start searching for the answer. There is someone with a PhD who teaches at MIT, who thinks entropy is a a subjective notion. Well, that is a rabbit hole. Do your soul a favor. Stay away from that. The more I read up on the subject the more I realised the level of my own ignorance.

The trip back to work, after a four day onam leave, was twelve hours long in a KSRTC interstate bus. It is during these gritty, heat and dust, road trips that my memory pulls out the mendicant poets of The Savage Detectives, Ulises Lima, Arturo Belano and poet Madero. I put myself in their car chatting, laughing, making love, and driving through the mysterious plains of Latin American literature. But not today. I wasn’t thinking of anything literary. I was jotting down my doubts on my Thermodynamics photostat sheets. Questions like Is it time to throw all the thought experiments used in Thermodynamics out of the syllabus?

In the middle of this, I had a lingering feeling. Maybe this is how my life will be for the rest of my days. I might never have the time to produce a great work of art. I will remain buried in the constant struggle between family, academia and my constantly distracted mind. At the Institute, I had a three hour long lab and a lecture, at the end of which I flipped open my lap to check my Medium blog. I pressed on the Write a story link to see the small green pointer on the top. I couldn’t believe it. Well, they had accepted me into the Medium Partner Program. I was in. I could now write for money on Medium. I didn’t know because I never checked my email. Well, thank you, Medium.

Maybe I am elated for no good reason. I am an Indian national. By the looks of it, I can’t set up a bank account in USA. I have to presume I won’t be paid presently for my writing on Medium. But that is fine by me. I feel I have moved a rung up the ladder. I haven’t even started posting my good stuff, my best fiction, my well-edited stuff on the blog. I am going to start doing that now.

The man-killer schedule calls. I have to figure this Thermodynamics thing out. But I will remember this gift. Thank you.


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