Not a week goes by without someone asking me why I switched from Music Performance to Physics. Typically, it's the music majors I used to perform with (and so desperately want to keep performing with, but I'm taking too many units to throw in performance classes, too) who ask, most often with a kind of dejected, heartbroken disappointment.
"Was it," they inquire, "just not for you? Does it not pay enough?"
Now, I wasn't majoring in music for the money, and I'm not pursuing physics for the money, either. Not that there's anything wrong with picking a job for the money; money, after all, is the key to happiness.
But no, I'm pursuing physics because it proclaims things which don't make any sense at all. It asserts things which are remarkably counter-intuitive, saying only "because Einstein's equations say so" or "you're just a three-dimension chauvinist" to defend those assertions. Space is bending, not light? Really? And you expect me to accept that just 'cause some guy said so?
I'm done with believing things just because authorities say so.
Science, unlike religion, has this beautiful quality to it. When I say "Okay, prove it" to science, it turns around and says, "All right, here's how we know this" and proceeds to supply studies, evidence, alternate theories and why they're less preferable, and ultimately ending with a thoroughly satisfying "Okay, there's all the evidence. What do you think?"
Religion, on the other hand, when asked to prove something, chastises me for a lack of faith, appeals to authorities (the highest one being fictitious), and keeps its eye on me to make sure I don't "corrupt" anyone else with my despicable skepticism.
And this is the problem. Physics, especially the more complex physics, bears the same demeanor as religion. Einstein said so. Newton said so. Who are you to question these two incredibly smart guys? Do you think you're smarter than them? What bold audacity, what shameless naivete you must have, thinking you — you! — are qualified to challenge established science!
But it's not just anti-religion sentiments that are driving me. If the current physics are true, the universe I find myself in is a very, very bizarre place. A very counter-intuitive place. A place which could challenge the very assumptions and preconceptions I hold by being a two-meter tall human in an infinite and incomprehensibly large universe made up of particles that are incomprehensibly small.
I must know the nature of the universe in which, for such a brief and beautiful instant, I find myself. I'm majoring in physics because my personal happiness and contentment demand that I know. And as immensely satisfying as music is, the intellectual in me needs a closure that music, no matter how beautiful, can't give me.
Plus, physics is just badass. Give me a year or so and I'll be able to tell you, with incredible precision, what would happen to us if the Earth stopped in its orbit around the Sun. Would we just fall back onto the Earth? Would we fall into the Sun? Or, most awesomely, would we all become little Halley's Comets, destined to come screaming into the solar system once every hundred years?