Saturday, 3 July 2010

The Strange World of Reality

It really is a pity that most people take the view that science in general, and physics in particular, are subjects to be avoided at all cost. I suppose our aversion to the sciences comes, in large part, from past, school day experiences, of having to suffer mind numbing sciences classes, where uninspiring teachers would drone on about the laws of gravity and thermodynamics, whilst captive and bored pupils, would sit counting down the minutes till they could escape.

I too, used to take the view that science held no interest for me; I didn’t relate to it in anyway and had no desire to understand it. It was only later in life, that my interest and appreciation of sciences and quantum physics in particular began to grow, and I came to realise that the further you go into the sub atomic world, the more amazing it becomes

One of the founding fathers of Quantum theory, Niels Bohr once famously remarked, that anyone who came to the world of the quantum and didn’t find it totally bewildering, didn’t properly understand it! Another giant of this world, Richard Feynman said, “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.”
Such is the paradox of the world of the minuet! A world where nothing is ever as it seems, a world where uncertainty rules and where things can be in two places at the same time!

What is certain is that the more you delve into the quantum world, the more you become aware that all of your cherished opinions and certainties will be blown away.

For the world of the tiny brings us face to face with reality no less! This is a world where the old eastern, mystical realisation that ‘nothing exists,’ is born out right in front of us. What is amazing is that it has taken physicists this long to catch up with those ancient realisations of the east! In fact, only a few western scientists have any real understanding of this, ‘emptiness,’ (read Fritjof Capra and others).

We base all of our assumptions of the world on the understanding that what is around us, are indestructible material ‘objects,’ your table, this PC, our pet dog, the houses we live in, the trees we walk past everyday, all, we assume are real, and solid! All of which give us a sense of security. This is what we have been taught, that the world is made up of material objects. However what the quantum world now teaches us, and indeed, what mystics of all religions have long since realised, is that when we got down to basics, this so called solid world is really just an illusion, we ourselves have created, mind blowing isn’t it! And so it should be.

This is a world primarily consisting of empty space and energy. Where we begin to realise that all of the so-called solid and indestructible ‘things,’ we see around us, are composed of mostly empty space! Everything in the world, from your nose, to the dinner table, is composed of millions upon millions of atoms. Inside each atom, is mostly the empty space we talk about, with a tiny nucleus at its centre. To get some sort of perspective of this space, one can think of the vastness of St Paul’s Cathedral as the atom, and a tiny grain of sand, as the nucleus. All that keeps atoms together and thus gives us the illusion of the solidness of objects, is the pull of electromagnetic attraction between electrons and the nucleus. When an electron is confined to a small space, which it is when it is when drawn close to the nucleus, it spins at incredibly fast speeds, much like a propeller of an airplane which, when spinning gives an illusion of solidity. So the spinning speed of electrons, give the impression of solidity, and the binding attraction to the nucleus, explains why table appear to be solid and why cannot pull one table apart!

The only real mass, is that inside of the nucleus, which is a minute part of an atom, which in itself is so tiny that a million could fit onto the head of a needle! It is said that if we could take out all of the mass from every atom, in every human being on earth, the entire human race could fit into a sugar cube!

So what we see as matter, I’ll leave the last word to Fritjof Capra “Atoms consist of particles, and these particles are not made of any material stuff, When we observe them, we never see any substance; what we observe are dynamic patterns, continually changing into one another – a continuous dance of energy.”

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