The ubiquitous ‘e’
Most of us in the English-speaking world know that ‘e’ is the most used letter of the English language. If you do not believe me, try writing a sentence without the letter ‘e’ in it. You will succeed, but the difficulty you will face will prove my point.
This letter has engaged me in my studies aiming for excellence all throughout my schooling. It has also enthralled me with the beauty of the universe and the ingenuity of human understanding. I wish to share with you my encounters with ‘e’ at various stages of my life.
Early encounters with ‘e’
My first encounter with ‘e’ was ‘E for Elephant’ in kindergarten. Then I was introduced to ‘E’ for energy in grade 5. This physical quantity has baffled me all through my school and college days. It continues to inspire awe in me to this day, I get goosebumps whenever I think of vacuum energy. During my school days, it was amazing to learn how energy was all-encompassing and omnipresent. For a boy from a religious family, this was GOD in the eleventh avatar. Just dropping a ball from a height to the ground involves so many energy conversions, revealing the first law of thermodynamics. Fascinating!
The next mind-boggling entity was ‘e’ for charge of an electron. This elevated my excitement in Physics to a completely new level. The whole idea of how they measured the charge of an entity unseen, speaks volumes of scientists’ ability to understand nature. The value – 1.602 x 10-19 Coulomb is something that I have not been able to understand completely. I feel the millions of electrical impulses firing in my neural network while writing about it. The one entity that is responsible for the entire universe the way it is!
Continuing the journey
During my high school days, one formula that caught my attention was V + F = E + 2. This is the formula for Platonic solids or Polyhedra. The fact that these solids existed since the time of Plato (5th Century BCE) but this relation was discovered by Leonhard Euler (18th Century CE) when his eyesight was slowly deteriorating is a testimony to Euler’s genius. These stories made me wish that I had Euler’s sense of the world.
The next meeting with ‘e’ was the base of natural logarithm, ‘e = 2.7182’. This was defined by John Napier but carries the symbol ‘e’ in honour of Euler. It struck me that this was the same Euler of the Euler’s formula. This ‘e’ seemed eternally present in Mathematics.
Summing up my journey with ‘e’, let me introduce you to the most elegant equation of Mathematics, eiπ + 1 = 0. This equation – called Euler’s identity connects various branches of Mathematics in one simple relation.
I have been fascinated by the elegance of ‘e’. After exploring its beauty in Science and Mathematics for many years, I have recently come a full circle. Now I am enjoying the ‘e’ of English through Phonics. Read about the beauty of ‘the silent e’ in my earlier article. I will leave you to explore this beautiful letter on your own.