What were you doing when you were 17? Trying to buy booze and flirt with people – badly – at parties? Yeah, us too. We’ll bet you weren’t wowing the scientific community with your research, insight and genius. We certainly weren’t. But Shaheer Niazi is.
The Pakistan-born whizz kid may only be a teenager, but he’s making serious waves in the world of science right now. Muhammad Shaheer Niazi, to give him his full name, is a high school student who attends the Lahore College of Arts and Sciences. And his claim to fame? His stunning solution (and photography of that solution) after being assigned an epic problem at the 2016 International Young Physicists’ Tournament in Russia.
The problem? That of the ‘electric honeycomb’. His interpretation and findings have been deemed so brilliant that his work has recently been published in the highly esteemed Royal Society Open Science journal.
The electric honeycomb occurs when a layer of oil is put in an electric field between a flat electrode and a pointed one. The instability that is then caused by the build-up of ions forces pressure to the very surface of the oil, making a curious honeycombed pattern. Niazo perfectly replicated, photographed and explained it in his work.
“Your research is like your child, and you feel out of this world when it is accepted for publication,” Mr Niazi told the BBC in an interview from his Lahore home.
“Electric honeycomb perfectly demonstrates how everything in this universe is seeking equilibrium. Its hexagonal shape is the most stable structure.”
“It is just like lightning striking the surface of earth,” he goes on. “The amount of energy that goes in equals the energy that comes out and thus the flow of electricity is efficient. This way equilibrium is restored.”
The young science prodigy went on to say this: “I thought if I see my research from a different perspective, I might discover something new. That’s how I managed to photograph the shadow of ion wind and it was added as novelty in my paper.”
“When I was a child I used to watch documentaries on science with my grandfather and read books on mathematics and other science subjects,” says Shaheer. “I would love to win another Nobel Prize for Pakistan. Isaac Newton was 17 when his first paper was published; I was 16 when I officially received my acceptance letter.”
The future certainly looks bright for this young man. ‘Shaheer Niazi’. It could be a name to remember.