more trouble with labels

There is a debate in certain circles, of whether the  universe is made of particles, fields, or something yet discovered. The article in Scientific American gets ever so close to the answer, then kind of fizzles. Let’s start with something we all agree upon.

E = mc²

You’ve said it, but have you considered what it means? It means that energy and mass are equal at a  certain ratio. The trouble in trying to define whether the universe is particles or fields is that particles (mass) and energy (fields) are expressions of the same thing. Everything is everything.

Neils Bohr was well aware that his model of the atom as a tiny solar system wasn’t accurate, but it was a useful model for considering the sculpture of relationships. Dr. Schroedinger did not have a degree in veterinary science, his use of a cat in his infamous thought experiment was in part to present the notion that we are exploring the properties of something that we cannot visualize. Large systems do not behave as quantum systems do.

Seeing the fabric of the universe requires far more than eyesight and exceptional imaging systems. It requires the ability to not see the physical world around us, it requires imagination.

When we visited Lieve’s brother, who is mentally and physically handicapped, I found myself in an amazing position. I couldn’t tell the patients from the visitors, and they didn’t know what category I fit either. They couldn’t speak my language, and I couldn’t speak theirs. Everyone was casually dressed, and aside from a few people in wheelchairs, we all walked around and tried to interact with each other. There was no way of knowing the depth of anyone’s handicap, and one person I was fairly sure was a doctor was in fact a patient.

When we consider the size of quantum particles, the incredibly small mass and the surprising high energy, it becomes a little easier to understand how their state is in flux between our human definitions. Getting bound up by what word we use is similar to a reading problem. If you don’t know the meaning of a word, your mind stops when you come across it, and the rest of the sentence has less meaning. This is part of the reasoning in the naming of quarks. “Strange”, “Charmed”, even the hierarchy of “flavors” is designed to make you recognize you’re speaking of something beyond our ability to describe.

Why? Because.

We are. Now. Everything else is a construct of our imaginations. Colour is not the frequency of light that our eyes perceive, it is what our brain tells us it is. Put on a pair of rose colored lenses and pretty soon you can see a black and white photograph as black and white, even though the colours reaching the cones in your eyes are pink and brown.

We can operate a television without the ability to build one, we can understand the universe without being able to build one also.

If you’re still with me, let’s go on to the next level.

If we accept that reality is only our perception of it, then we can change our reality (within reason). So called “Psychic” abilities are merely the focusing of our neural oscillations. Remove the distractions of Maya, the veneer of reality, and you can play with the reality underneath. If it was easy, everyone would do it, but you don’t have to be able to hit a home run to understand home runs are possible.

As humans, we are not a collection of cells. What makes us human is the relationships of those cells, yet we are not merely a bundle of relationships. Deux ex Machina. What makes us, is best described as “energy”, but “energy”, and “mass”, and “the speed of light” are all words, descriptions of things we cannot visualize.

“The universe is made of oatmeal, some parts are thin, or thick, or sweet, or pasty, but it’s all oatmeal” is as reasonable description as any other. Today we call it energy, or mass, or strings, and tomorrow we may come up with another word, but the universe doesn’t change because we call it something different. The important part is understanding what is in the can, not the picture on the label.

It is what it is.





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