Monday, August 29, 2005


This book I'm finally finished reading, edited in 1992 by William Shore, MYSTERIES OF LIFE AND THE UNIVERSE, is full of wonderful essays which help me to understand just a little bit better the nature of physics and biology or evolutionary psychology. I've even come across an essay on "string theory" from which I've selected the snippet which appears below. It's a little ditty about the struggle to come up with that single theory which unifies all the forces which control the Universe.

The only problem is that another of the essays in MYSTERIES says that we'll never be able to proof that final single theory because it will be as big as the whole Universe and no experiment can be all-encompassing enough to achieve the necessary proof. I came across that same idea in the "Great Course" course on Astronomy I just finished viewing. I can still see the googly [invented adjective here] smile that Alex Filipenko gives when he announces some seemingly unsolvable problem or hypothetical idea as yet unproven. He was a pleasure to watch over the 50 hour length of the two courses I watched. I thank my neighbor Chuck for lending me the DVDs.

But back to the snippet of essay. And here it is!

[Open quote] At present there are two physical frameworks that have partially explained the mysterious features of these four fundamental forces [gravity, electromagnetism, the weak nuclear force and the strong nuclear force]. Remarkably, these two formalisms, the quantum theory and general relativity, allow us to explain the sum total of all physical knowledge at the fundamental level. Without exception.

All the laws of physics and chemistry, which can fill entire libraries with technical journals and books, can in principle be derived from these two fundamental theories—making these the most successful physical theories of all time, withstanding the test of thousands of experiments and challenges.

Ironically, these two fundamental frameworks are diametrically opposed to each other. The quantum theory, for example, is the theory of the microcosm, with unparalleled success at describing the subatomic world. The theory of relativity, by contrast, is a theory of the macrocosmic world, the world of galaxies, superclusters, black holes, and Creation itself.

The quantum theory explains three of the four forces (the weak and strong nuclear forces, and the electromagnetic force) by postulating the exchange of tiny packets of energy, called quanta. When a flashlight is turned on, for example, it emits trillions upon trillions of photons, or quanta, of light. Lasers, radar waves, and microwaves all can be described by postulating that they are caused by the movement of these tiny quanta of energy. Likewise, the weak force is governed by the exchange of subatomic particles called W-bosons. The strong nuclear force, in turn, binds protons together by the exchange of gluons.

However, the quantum theory stands in sharp contrast to Einstein's general theory of relativity, which postulates an entirely different physical picture to explain the force of gravity.

Imagine, for the moment, dropping a heavy shotput on a large bedspread. The shotput will, of course, sink deeply into the bedspread. Now imagine shooting a small marble across the bed. Since the bed is warped, the marble will execute a curved path. However, for a person viewing the marble from a great distance, it will appear that the shotput is exerting an invisible "force" on the marble, forcing it to move in a curved path. In other words, we can now replace the clumsy concept of a "force" with the more elegant concept of a bending of space itself. We now have an entirely new definition of this "force." It is nothing but the byproduct of the warping of space.

In the same way that a marble moves on a curved bedspread, the Earth moves around the Sun in a curved path, because space-time itself is curved. In this new picture, gravity is not a "force" but a byproduct of the warping of space-time. In some sense, gravity does not exist; what moves the planets and stars is the distortion of space and time.

[I'm not scientist, and I'm sure that someone has thought of this, but if gravity is not a force like the other three, then perhaps they can't be unified and another approach to the whole picture must first be imagined which puts gravity into another category altogether. Now that I just reread this whole entry, I see that science already realizes what I just said, but I'll let my stupidity stand because, through it, I just clarified for myself what the problem is. Imagine that!? Now, of course, with my faltering short term memory, I'll forget this understanding and go back to not understanding the problem.]

However, the problem that has stubbornly resisted solution for fifty years is that these two frameworks do not resemble each other in any way. The quantum theory reduces "forces" to the exchange of discrete packets of energy, or quanta, while Einstein's theory of gravity, by contrast, explains the cosmic forces holding the galaxies together by postulating the smooth deformation of the fabric of space-time. This is the root of the problem, that the quantum theory and general relativity have two different physical pictures (packets of energy versus smooth space-time continua) and different mathematics to describe them. This sad state of affairs can be compared to Mother Nature having two hands, neither of which communicates with the other. [Close quote]


Mayor West of the fair city of Spokane is another perfect example of how more simple Christians can be fooled by liars and by deceit because they are raised in a religious culture which encourages deceit and dissembling. In a church culture where appearances are everything, good, well-polished surfaces naturally abound. And surface deceit gets rewarded too with offices and honors. One can learn to be an excellent dissembler in an atmosphere which encourages deceit, nay, demands it. And if one voluntarily remains in an atmosphere which encourages deceit, he/she must not be one of those who is the best judge of character or truth or they'd be, as they say, "outta there!".

So in our churches we can see, polished to perfection, the animal-based trait of lying. Lying, of course, is part of our inheritance for survival. Can the meek animal look most fierce? Can this insect look like a twig and this other one a leaf? Which swimmer can best look like a rock? In animal conflict, it's almost always all show. The combatant who puts on the fiercest show can win the dame without the actual combat. In humans the art of lying has brought in language as well as appearance to the task of lying. We're all liars, a little bit, but the Bush and West supporters remain so loyal because in the churches which they find so important, the surface is everything. The lie evolves in a perfect catalyst.

"My uncle was the town drunk [pause] and we lived in Chicago." —George Gobel

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