This incident happened many years ago when I was finishing my high school in Meghalaya, a state in India’s northeast there are lush and dense forests everywhere. I used to walk to my school with my friend everyday through a narrow 2km long path. If I had taken the road the 2km walk would become a 20 km, 1hr bus ride. This was because the closest road-bridge was far away.
Also the path to my school had an amazing tree bridge which is now famously called the living tree bridges of Meghalaya. These bridges are made from aerial roots of rubber fig trees. It takes about 10 years for the roots to grow and the craftsmen have to ensure that the roots grow in a mesh so that they can take the weight of people crossing the bridge.
And one of those days I forgot my heavy school bag and so my parents promptly gave my bag to my classmate Gokul who now had to carry two bags 5 kg each.
The weight limit of the tree was 50 kg. That was because the bridge was still 50 year young and roots tender. Over its life time of 500 years the bridge could take weight upwards of 200 kgs.
So there he was, Gokul weighing 45 kgs, at the mouth of the bridge with two bags 5kg each. Surely he couldn’t carry the two bags with total weight of 55 kg on a 50 kg weight limit
Gokul, smart with numbers, decided to juggle his way. That way with one bag in air the total weight would be 50. Perfect.
Well not really. The bridge broke, luckily Gokul got minor bruises. He was really confused though. Why the bridge break even though Gokul’s Math looked all right.
The next day to solve the bridge breaking mystery, Gokul with two bags, went to a similar adjoining bridge. This time however, he reduced the weight of bags to 2.5 kg each. With 2 bags of 2.5 kg each, he carefully started juggling on the bridge but again he had a massive fall. This time though Gokul broke a couple of bones.
However what troubled him most (more than the broken bones) was the mystery of bridge and weight and math and science
Can you tell what went wrong? Gokul was a perfect juggler and this time the Gokul’s weight and bag was 47.5 kg well below the 50 kg limit?
As far as Gokul was concerned, he was enjoying his recovery to the fullest. He was really elated to miss school, and with broken bones, everything was served to him right in the bed. Not bad at all. Haan.
This work is supported by IUCAA (www.iucaa.in) and TATA Trust (www.tata.com/aboutus/sub_index/Tata-trusts)
Credits:,Ashok Rupner, Manish Jain, Pradnya Pujari, Shivaji Mane, Jyoti Hiremath, Arvind Gupta, Vidula Mhaiskar TATA Trust: Education is one of the key focus areas for Tata Trusts, aiming towards enabling access of quality education to the underprivileged population in India. To facilitate quality in teaching and learning of Science education through workshops, capacity building and resource creation, Tata Trusts have been supporting Muktangan Vigyan Shodhika (MVS), IUCAA’s Children’s Science Centre, since inception. To know more about other initiatives of Tata Trusts, please visit www.tatatrusts.org
Animation by: Rosehub