Monday, April 18, 2005


matthew said
For me, my faith in large part comes from using reason - if that makes sense. I look around and see autonomous, conscious beings. I then ponder the fact that random processes lead to disorder not order, and I think there had to have been supernatural intervention. I am an engineer, so maybe it's not a big surprise I think about the mechanics of things, but hey whatever floats my faith-boat right?

i have been reading a really neat book called 'the dancing wu li masters' by gary zukav. it is a slow read for somebody like me because, apart from my basic struggles with speedy reading in general, it is a self-proclaimed 'overview of the new physics' (which, as expressed in my lengthy blog the other day, is gonna be a challenge for me on many levels!)

yeah, well anyway, he puts this thing in there that i have had bouncing around in my head since i read it yesterday:

quantum mechanics is a branch of physics. there are several branches of physics. most physicists believe that sooner or later they will construct an overview large enough to incorporate them all.

according to this point of view, we eventually will develop a principle, a theory which is capable of explaining everything so well that there will be nothing left to explain... every occurance in the real world will be accounted for by a corresponding element in our final supertheory. we will have, at last, a theory which is consistent within itself and which explains all observable phenomena. einstein called this state the 'ideal limit of knowledge.'

i think that mr zukav and mr einstein are sitting at the local pub speculating upon how to address omniscience without the troublesome spiritual rhetoric that goes with the word.

zukav goes on to quote einstein a few lines later:

creating a new theory is not like destroying an old barn and then erecting a new skyscraper in its place. it is rather like climbing a mountain, gaining new and wider views, discovering unexpected connections between our starting point and its rich environment. but the point from which we started out still exists and can be seen, although it appears smaller and forms a tiny part of our broad view gained by the mastery of the obstacles on our adventurous way up.

i love this. i'm going to have it etched on a plaque and mounted on the wall of my office right next to the green pyramid poster from pink floyd's dark side of the moon. all of life seems to be about creating new theories as to what's really going on. we long to know who God is (let's not even try to speculate WHAT God is right now...) and yet we still haven't figured out who we are yet. so we exist- einstein's proverbial starting point personified- unable to get beyond ourselves long enough or far enough to actually see things around us because our vision is both eclipsed and limited by who what where when and how we are today... and from this point in time space and spirit we devise theories, speculating about how to somehow calculate the will of God.

i believe these things to the core of who i am:

  • anything good is God's first
  • everything bad is good perversed
what i find intriguing is how ready we can be to pursue the creation of a theory which explains everything, but how eager we are to speak in completely generic, nonpersonal terms about the coming to be of all that which defies our current explanations.

i went out to the church house where the citizens like to sit
they say they want the kingdom but they don't want God in it
(bono, 'the wanderer' collaborating with johnny cash on u2's 'zooropa' album)

i guess i'm not the only guy who thinks in rhyming couplets... at least we're not down at the pub trying to express our beliefs and observations in limmericks!

is it that solomon has once again been proven right concerning the newness of our experiences and their interpretations?

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Blogger jollybeggar said...

celebrate einstein's death-day or something...
(i know that this is posted late, but being that all things are relative, all you need to do fly around the world west-to-east really really fast like superman did, and then join in the celebration.)

Chemical Eye on Waves of Light

Author: Preston MacDougall
Published on Fri, 15 Apr 2005, 08:06

In spite of his role as one of the founders of quantum theory, Albert
Einstein didn't much like it - too "spooky". He was certain that
something was missing, though he never found it.

April 18th marks the fiftieth anniversary of his death, and an Austrian
physicist has planned a day-long, once around the world, wave of light
to salute the man who quantized it. To honor his life, a committee of
physicists has compiled year-long plans for 2005, the World Year of
Physics and the centennial of his annus mirabilis, or miracle year.

In 1905, Einstein, a patent clerk in Switzerland, must have been burning
the midnight oil while working on his doctoral dissertation for the
University of Zurich. It was titled "A New Determination of Molecular

His dissertation was eventually published in the premier physics journal
of the time, Annalen der Physik, but not until 1906. I feel confident
speculating about his night-life, because he then submitted four
additional manuscripts (without the aid of White Out, let alone a word
processor), all of which were published in 1905.

The impact of these ideas outshines that of any patent issued before or
since, and this is reflected in the ongoing evolution of his status,
from icon to myth.

The equation commonly associated with Einstein, whether on TV or
T-shirts, has become something of an icon itself. It was introduced,
rather matter-of-factly, in a three-page supplement to a preceding paper
titled "On the electrodynamics of moving bodies", better known as his
special theory of relativity.

In this theory Einstein really made some waves. Laws being laws, one
expects them to be upheld, especially when they are "universal". The
trouble with Newton's Universal Law of Gravitation, however, was that it
wasn't universal enough. It depended on whether the observer and the
observed were at rest, or moving.

Experiments say otherwise, particularly when the motion approaches the
speed of light. Einstein resolved the discrepancy by famously proposing
that "everything is relative." This phrase is another icon, and may not
mean much to you. But if you have ever wondered "Where did all the time
go?," Einstein took all of it in 1905. He didn't eliminate time, but
said that it was elastically interwoven with the three dimensions of
space. There is only spacetime, which may, or may not, be unimaginably
tightly-packed balls of string.

It gets weirder. Also in 1905, Einstein resolved another discrepancy
between our familiar conception of nature, this time of light itself,
and experiments on the interaction of light and matter. Again so-called
"classical laws" that had reached their limit. By treating light as a
wave, Classical Laws of Optics gave us the tools to design cameras, and
the insight to understand rainbows.

To follow Einstein's style and use a made-up example, or gedanken
experiment, classical laws could explain how light, entering my eye,
travels through the cornea, the lens and the vitreous cavity to form an
image on the retina, but not how the molecules that make up the rods and
cones in the retina convert light of different wavelengths into
electrical signals that can be interpreted by my brain as a colorful
image, such as a rainbow.

Einstein proposed that light is composed of energy quanta, and that
these "atoms" of pure energy can behave both as a wave, that can be bent
by a lens, and as a particle, that may fit one molecule in the retina,
but not another. It all depends.

Long after 1905, it became the orthodox interpretation of quantum theory
that this uncertainty in the nature of light, and all other
submicroscopic particles, is embedded, and cannot be removed by closer
inspection with more advanced technology, such as lasers (which, by the
way, are another example of Einstein's predictions bearing fruit). In
fact, the mere act of observing changes reality.

This is where Einstein got spooked. He famously chided the faithful: "Do
you really think the Moon is not there when you're not looking?"

His remaining 1905 paper sought to heal a schism in the physics
community over the reality of atoms, which chemists had been happily
tinkering with for the preceding century. He predicted the effect that
randomly colliding sugar molecules, dissolved and invisible even with
microscopes, would have on observable particles, such as pollen. When
these statistical predictions were later shown to be quite accurate,
most physicists concluded that chemists weren't simply imagining things.

Beginning on the evening of Monday, April 18, human particles around the
globe will shine a light at their instructed times, forming a wave of
light to honor one who shone so brightly.

Preston MacDougall is a chemistry professor at Middle Tennessee State
University. His "Chemical Eye" commentaries are featured in the Arts and
Public Affairs portion of the Murfreesboro/Nashville NPR station WMOT
( To participate in the wave of light, go to

© Copyright 2005 by


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