Archive for January, 2008

Success Here Will Allow Me To Endure Mediocrity

January 26, 2008

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Jeddediah Smith Campground

June 8, ‘80

We’ve been traveling short distances. Presently, Lisa, Jade, and I are camped at Jeddediah Smith campground, some ten miles northeast of Crescent City. We’re off our route’ so this state park in the northern hills of California, with its beautiful river running through it, is all ours. I tried fishing this morning, but no luck. Tonight I’ll try again, this time with salmon eggs for bait. So far it has been good. I just hope it stays that way. My knee feels good, probably because I haven’t used it much. When we leave this campground, either today or tomorrow, my knee will get tested. Right now, Lisa and Jade are in town picking up the money they sent for. It’s been really good traveling with them. We shared a bottle of wine last night.

This whole trip has been good, mainly because of no pressure. When my knee got bad, I wanted to call it quits. I didn’t, but having made that decision, I could then really enjoy my Pacific coast down time—something I could never have done on previous bicycle trips. Since I no longer had to worry about getting my eighty miles a day in, I worried instead about what I was going to do with the rest of my life.

Yes, I’m getting older. Yes, I’m noticing it a lot more, and yes, I acknowledge that age is going to be a determining factor in my future plans. This is not totally negative, a limitation, yes, but not totally negative. A long time ago, I realized that learning and increased understanding were the only things that made me happy. Now I’m beginning to see where that kind of thinking has brought me. If all you want to do in life is “drink from the well,” it’s a pretty safe bet that not much is going to get accomplished. I might gain enough understanding to allow me some happiness and freedom, but I now know that however much understanding I acquire, it won’t be totally satisfying.

Change is constant, and in terms of age, irreversible. Growth demands flexibility, and the aging process does not accommodate that kind of change very well. I hope things get better. I hope I continue to expand my horizons, but a personal horizon, when viewed objectively—bares no fruit. Few comforts will surround my twilight hours. With no money, prestige, or honor—the stuff of a “good eulogy,” a “gentle passing into the night,” if indeed that is even possible, will not be easy. (For the life of me, I don’t know why Dylan Thomas preferred rage.) So, here’s the question, when faced with all these discouraging and disappointing scenarios, what am I to do? I must “retool.” I must relearn the value of personal success. I must relearn how to appreciate the “small stuff.” I must learn how to stay in tune with realizable dreams, with friends I have not yet met, and with music I have not yet heard. Success here, I believe, will allow me to endure mediocrity, as it allows me to savior the “small stuff.” Age has a way of shoving reality down your throat. I guess that’s why growing old is so difficult.

June 11

I’m sitting on a big piece of driftwood on the Oregon coast, eating Oreo cookies, and listening to the surf break off shore. A foghorn is making intermittent sounds off in the distance, and fifty yards out in the ocean, clatters a buoy anchored by a rock island. About a half-mile away is a town, but there’s nobody ‘cept me sitting here on the beach. Lisa and Jade are probably up in town doing the same thing that I’m doing. I was hoping they would follow the signs down to this beach, but I guess its no big deal, we’ll get back together soon enough. If every stop along the way was this nice it would be heaven, but it would also be impossible because there would be people everywhere.

Here I sit, wondering if my knee will make it. I’m walking up the big hills, and the elastic knee support I bought back in Brookings is helping. My knee is sore, but I think its getting better. The three of us had set for today’s goal, a fifty-mile jog to another hiker-biker campground.

Last night was great! We camped at Harris Beach State Park with four bicyclers from New York, two from Oregon, and one from Holland— we all shared the same two picnic tables that were set aside for the hiker-biker.

One conciliatory note: ever since my last journal entry, I’ve been depressed. The idea of growing old is not a happy one. I think the beautiful coastline of Oregon is good medicine, though. Things seem to be getting a little better. It looks like I had better batten down the hatches. Those dark clouds moving in my direction are motivators. All things considered, I have no complaints.

You Appreciate The Good Stuff–The In-Between Stuff Takes Care Of Itself

Humbug Mountain Campground

June 15, ‘80

The rain didn’t start until we got back together at our agreed upon meeting place. The rain continued throughout the night. In the morning, I put together a rain fire, and made coffee. Lisa and Jade enjoyed the coffee, but except to go to the bathroom, they stayed in their tent until the sun broke through in the afternoon. (I guess appreciating a rain fire takes time). Around 3 p.m. everybody had dried out enough to bicycle, and thirty-five miles down the highway we arrived at Humbug Mountain Campground. Once again there was little time to set up camp before it started to rain. After another night of constant showers, Lisa and Jade had had enough. In the morning, they packed up and went looking for a motel. I stayed at the campsite and built another rain fire.

There was nothing to do except sit by the fire and read my book. All day long I was half wet and half dry. It was all I could do just to keep my book from drowning in the rain. I went tent side early that night. Actually, as long as it doesn’t happen all the time, its kind of fun sitting solitary by a rain fire–reading a good book. It was late afternoon the next day before I dried out enough to ride my bicycle.

Before Lisa and Jade left the campground, we made plans to meet, and, as luck would have it, I ran into them just six miles from the campground we had picked out as our rendezvous spot. That night would be our last campsite together because we were approaching that fork in the road that would send us in different directions. I would continue north, Lisa and Jade would head east. You can’t plan to meet people like Lisa and Jade. It’s all luck, lots of it. Appreciation, that’s all it amounts to; you just learn to appreciate the good experiences. The “in-betweens” have to take care of themselves. As I look up, I see Lisa and Jade bicycling up right now. That’s the way it’s been all week long, and now it’s time to stop writing, so as to savior the last moments of an excellent friendship.

Lincoln City

In the afternoon, after Lisa and Jade headed for Eugene, I stayed the course, and pedaled into the evening. My knee felt good, and I was really enjoying myself. I just wanted to bike until I felt like quitting. I didn’t even have a destination planned. I finally pulled into a national forest and set up my tent. It had been a good day, but the nighttime weather hadn’t changed. It rained into the morning. Yesterday, I bought a pair of rubbers in anticipation of more wet bicycling conditions. Actually, it wasn’t really my decision; I was responding to a work stoppage—my feet had had enough. They were rebelling against their prune like existence.

When I pulled into Lincoln City, and inquired into the whereabouts of a hiker-biker campground, I found out I was already in one. Just across the street was a patch of ground littered with broken glass and other bits of debris. No facilities were available, not even campfires were allowed, but for fifty-cents I could pitch my tent. I was tired and wet, so the place still looked good to me. (I was pissed about the no campfire rule, though.) I had long since realized that the hiker-biker concept was more about separating undesirables from the “respectable camper” than it was about giving a break to those who couldn’t afford the fees. But hey, didn’t somebody once say, “It’s all about lemons! You put them together and out pops lemonade”–well my lemonade was a nearby park and, after dinner, it was a pub conveniently placed between the park and my tent.


Reality Has To Be Visualized In Its Contradictory And Complimentary Aspects

January 19, 2008

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Discussion Returns To The Tao Of Physics

“Complimentary what?” said Don.

“That was one of Bohr’s main contributions to quantum mechanics,” replied Jade. “He basically said that there are no waves out there. There are no particles running around, either. That strange animal that interacts with the experiments, the quantum of action, is all there is. Because Bohr believed that, he introduced the idea of complementarity. He considered the particle picture and the wave picture as two complementary descriptions of the same reality, each description being only partly correct and having a limited range of application. For Bohr, the entity ‘electron,’–just like the other elementary entities of physics—had two irreconcilable aspects, which must be invoked in order to explain, in turn, the properties of the entity. To give a full description of atomic reality, each picture is needed, and both descriptions are to be applied within the limitations given by the uncertainty principle. In fact, when the queen of England knighted Bohr for his work in physics, he was forced to pick a family coat of arms, and so he picked the Chinese symbol of Tai-chi. Because, for Bohr, reality had to be visualized in its contradictory and complimentary aspects, but not at the same time, he felt that, at least on the level of the quantum of action, the basic idea of Eastern mysticism’s yin/yang reality had been confirmed.”

“Yeah, that sounds about right,” I said, “I remember reading somewhere, maybe in Capra, that in the Buddhist relationship between form and emptiness, a cooperation exists. That relationship cannot be conceived as a state of mutually exclusive opposites because it represents two aspects of the same reality. From one perspective it appears to be contradictory, but from another perspective it becomes the unifying aspect of that very same reality. Just like at the quantum level, where an event, in order to be wholly an event, exhibits both contradictory and complimentary aspects, so too in Buddhism, the void and the forms that are created from it, exist in a dynamic unity. But, there’s something that still bothers me. What about that observer-generated reality stuff that Capra talked about in his book? How does that fit in with the quantum of action? What’s that all about, anyway?”

“That’s just another aspect of how phenomena manifests at the quantum level,” responded Jade. “The classical notions of space, time, causality–objective reality, break down at the quantum level. Remember there are no waves propagating. According to most physicists, the wave function is not quite a thing, it is more like an idea that occupies a strange middle ground between idea and reality, where all things are possible but none are actual. An electron is not a particle either, it is more like a process, always forming, always dissolving. It can’t be detected until it interacts with a measuring device and even if it does interact we don’t know if it interacts with the device per se, or if it interacts with the last link in the chain of events that define the experiment—the consciousness of the human observer.”

“Fellows,” Don interjected, “you ain’t seen nothing till you’ve seen an elephant fly! Come Saturday night-Shit, those dissolving particles ain’t got nothing on my vanishing elephants. If you want to see those mouse hating critters pop out of existence all you have to do is close down a couple bars with me.”

“That’s interesting Don; I mean that you should bring up a vanishing act to illustrate your point,” Jade replied, “because the physicist, Erwin Schrodinger devised a thought experiment that kind of illustrates his point with a similar vanishing act, only he wasn’t talking about mice haters, he was talking about mice lovers. According to Schrodinger, if you put a cat in a box with some poison gas and release the gas the cat dies. But here’s the catch, for Schrodinger the gas release is triggered by radiation decay, which is a random occurrence. In classical physics, the cat dies at the time of the decay, but in quantum mechanics the cat dies when the observation is made, when the last link in the chain of events that defines the experiment occurs. At the time of observation when the box is opened the wave function collapses and possibility becomes actuality. Of course, common sense tells us that can’t be true, but that’s precisely the point, common sense breaks down at the quantum level, things are ‘different’ at that level. So the question remains, ‘Is it, or when is it, necessary to include human consciousness in our descriptions of the world?’ Or, put another way, ‘what role does measurement play in an experiment?’ Does it provide a description of the world under study or does it actually create that world?’ Quantum Mechanics has a hard time answering questions like that.”

“I’m out of beer,” said Don, “Anybody got an extra one?”

“Maybe one day that situation will be better understood,” I said. “But until that day comes, talk about ‘objectivity’ is probably best left to the Buddhists. They don’t have a problem with ‘independent reality’ because for them there isn’t any. For them, everything is co-dependent. My subjective world, and the objective world, is, for an enlightened Buddhist, just words referring to mutually conditioned relations woven into one fabric. For the Buddhist, subject and object are not just inseparable, they are indistinguishable.”

“Funny you should point that out,” responded Jade, “I mean, that words interfere with reality, because many physicists believe the same thing. Many physicists believe that the wave function is not an accurate representation of what’s really going on ‘out there.’ Rather, they believe the wave function is an abstract creation whose manipulation somehow yields the probabilities of real events that happen in space and time. But that’s only part of the story, and perhaps a small part, too. In fact, the mathematician von Neumann, the same guy who developed a mathemat
ical proof rejecting the notion of hidden variables in quantum mechanics, believed the problems surrounding quantum phenomena had nothing to do with nature, but, rather, they had everything to do with language. We impose, with our symbolic thought processes, the categories of ‘either-or.’ Language does not allow a mixture of A and not A. The boundaries of discourse, rather, are set by discriminating A from not A. Outside that boundary nonsense rules. Where ‘separate parts’ are not applicable, language cannot go. Classical physics discriminates between A and not A, therefore, moving particles and waves can be analyzed. A pictorial description of nature is never a problem there. At the atomic level, however, it is not possible to visualize or describe waves because they are not there—they are purely mathematical constructs. Where things are not things, the quantifiers of inside, outside, before, after, between, and connected are not applicable, either. Where language and logic do not apply, nothing more can be said.”

“It seems that physicists,” I replied, “at the quantum level at least, find the same road block that the Eastern sages discovered long ago. At that point, the language of neti neti, the language of not this, not that–is all that’s left. At that level, all investigations end, at that level we are left with mere words that say nothing.”

“Well, I wouldn’t put it quite so negatively,” Jade responded, “after all, at that level, something else comes into play; that is, if you are a sage–infinite wisdom and infinite creativity. Right?”

“Okay,” I said, “then maybe we’ve come full circle. We’ve come back to the endless transformation of energy that the yin, yang symbol represents.”

“For sure, Neil’s Bohr would agree with that,” Jade replied, “but I think a little poetry is more appropriate here. After all, who better to entrust a description of the indescribable then the poet! If my memory holds, in some Upanishad it says, ‘He on whom the sky, the earth, and the atmosphere are woven, and the wind, together with all life-breaths, Him alone know as the one Soul.’”

“Yo! Fellows,” Don shouted, “We’re out of beer. No more beer, no more poetry, pleeease. Thanks for the beer, though. Somehow listening to you guys makes me feel like I’m waiting for Godet. If you ask me, it ain’t going to happen. Goodnight, see you in the morning!”

The Most Incomprehensible Thing About The Universe Is That It Is Comprehensible

January 12, 2008
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Einstein Never Did Give Up His Belief In A Deterministic Universe

“I’ve always wanted to know about relativity. Fill me in why don’t you.” Don said.

“I’d really like to except it’s all a little fuzzy for me, too,” replied Jade. “I really don’t understand much about it. That’s a whole different physics, one that doesn’t fit in well with quantum mechanics. That was the problem that haunted Einstein his entire life. He never stopped trying to solve it. And if he couldn’t do it, don’t expect help from me. You’re right, though, Einstein never did give up his belief in a deterministic universe. In his physics, determinism was preserved, everything else fell apart.”

“So tell me about it,” Don said. “If a ball is still a ball and we can calculate its velocity and position in Einstein’s universe, then what do you mean ‘everything fell apart?’”

“Basically,” replied Jade, “relativity doesn’t come into significant play until you’re working with velocities at close to the speed of light. When those speeds are approached, compared to say, the speed of a bullet, space and time measurements become radically different when measured relative to each other. In Einstein’s Special Theory Of Relativity the space and time measurements of the system under study are tied to the frame of reference of the observer. A yardstick and a clock traveling at close to the speed of light will measure thirty-six inches and identify twelve o’clock to an observer in that reference frame, but when the same yardstick and clock are measured against other frames of reference, say like here on earth, earth clocks will run slow and yardsticks will measure less than thirty-six inches. Sir Isaac Newton’s absolute space and time collapsed under the weight of Einstein.”

“Oh yeah, now I understand,” replied Don. “Bullets are small compared to the sun, so their length is measured with a short yardstick while sun spots are large compared to bullets, so they’re measured with long yardsticks, right!”

“That’s not exactly what I said, Don. Measuring rods traveling at close to the speed of light,” said Jade, “when compared to measuring rods here on earth measure short, and the same goes for clocks, they run slow. And, vice versa, when earth clocks are compared to clocks traveling at close to the speed of light, then those clocks run slow. I don’t know why. I’m not an Einstein. I guess it has something to do with the constancy of the velocity of light, but other than that it’s a mystery to me, just like it must be a mystery to you. Look, I can see we’re not getting anywhere here, especially since I’ve already admitted I don’t know much about Einstein’s theories. Let’s just say that by using Einstein’s equations, a person can figure out how to measure both the length and speed of an earth bullet and the length and speed of a bullet traveling at close to the speed of light and then communicate that knowledge to an alpha centurion—provided that the alien understands the equations. Once again, I don’t now how that can be done, but I do know it has something to do with Einstein’s General Theory Of Relativity, which further develops the concept of the space-time interval. A space-time interval, when measured relative to different reference frames, does not vary, but don’t ask me to explain that because I can’t.”

“Fair enough,” Don replied. “Don’t explain.”

“Now that I think of it, though,” said Jade, “I need to put a little perspective on what I just said.”

“Do you really?” said Don.

“Have another drink, Don,” Jade replied.

The Comprehensible Universe

“Determining the change of change in different reference systems,” Jade continued, “is no small accomplishment, but there is something even more amazing going on here. Einstein’s equations let us in on an astounding universe, a universe absolutely different from the one that Euclid mapped out for us a couple millenniums ago. The universe discovered by Einstein even astounded Einstein, but it wasn’t the oddness of it all that astounded him, it was the simple fact that it could be discovered at all! He said, ‘The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.’ If you ask me, that statement says more about the universe than does Einstein’s own equations.”

“If that’s true,” Don interrupted, “then Einstein must have died a pretty frustrated man because based on what you’re telling me here, nobody is even close to comprehending a universe that is free of contradictory laws. What’s comprehensible about that?”

“We don’t know everything, Don,” Jade replied, “but we do know a hell of a lot more than we used to. We are beginning to understand ‘who and what we are’ in a whole different light. It’s true that our knowledge is limited by statistical analysis at the quantum level, but it works, and it works well. That, according to Bohr and Heisenberg, was pretty important all by itself. According to the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics–the model attributed to Bohr and Heisenberg– it doesn’t matter what’s going on at the quantum level, what matters is that in all possible experiment
al situations we can, within certain limits, predict the outcomes. Understanding reality, according to the Copenhagen Interpretation, lies beyond the capabilities of rational thought. The laws governing individual events are, at the quantum level, completely discarded. Only mathematical laws governing aggregations apply. According to quantum mechanics, it is not possible, even in principle, to know enough about the present to make a complete prediction about the future. Even with the best possible measuring devices, it is still not possible.”

“You talk like Bohr and Heisenberg are gods,” said Don. “To me they’re just two more scientists, two among many, doing their job! I’m sure there are different opinions out there. Einstein certainly didn’t agree. One day another Einstein will come along and see through it all, and on that day the Copenhagen Interpretation, or whatever you call it, will be no more. What are you suggesting anyway, that all progress stops because you want it to? I don’t think so, and I’m glad.”

“You could be right,” Jade responded, “but overcoming all the history that’s still building in quantum mechanics is a daunting task for anyone. Einstein wasn’t the only physicist who disliked the theory. Many have tried to dislodge the Copenhagen interpretation. In every instance, however, the physical world has intervened and said, ‘Your questions are meaningless.’ No physicist likes being told that. When a wave behaves like a particle and a particle behaves like a wave, the concepts that used to define the physical world no longer apply. Nature now requires a marriage of ideas that in the past were designed to live apart. Neil’s Bohr just got tired of fighting the inevitable. That’s when he started seeing things in a complimentary light.”

To be concluded…

Scientists Are Playing Catch-Up With The Universe–There’s No Going Back To Kansas Anymore

January 5, 2008

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Discussion: The Tao Of Physics

June 4, ‘80

After toast and coffee, I joined Lisa and Jade, and we mounted up and started biking north. My knee was tender, but in sparse traffic, under warm sunshine, and biking with friends, I was able to forget about it for a while. When the tenderness turned into pain after about thirty miles, we all agreed to make Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park our last stop for the day. For me that meant spending the rest of the day sitting around camp with my knee packed in ice, while Jade and Lisa went exploring. Don and I, (Don, a young idealist college student from some preppy East coast school) were just a bit envious when they returned with their hiking stories after sunset. Don was also camping on the beach, and he had joined me for dinner and the sunset. He was spending his summer in California, and took a few days off work to enjoy the sights. After listening to Jade, though, he decided to spend an extra day at this park. If I wanted to keep bicycling, I had no choice, I had to stay off my knee and let it heel.

Jade and Lisa were super human beings, and Don was good company, too. He had a quick wit, and was funny. We disagreed a lot, but that made conversation even better. I hadn’t had any social interaction like this since Michigan. That evening, in fact, was particularly good because Don, Jade, and I ended up talking on a subject that I found extremely interesting. Lisa turned in early, leaving us boys with the twelve pack of beer that Jade had brought back to camp after his day on the hiking trails.

When Jade said he had just finished reading the book The Tao Of Physics by Fritjof Capra, my attention peaked since I had read the book too, but a long time ago. According to Jade, Capra was inspired to write the book while watching waves roll in after sitting on an ocean beach one sunny afternoon. Being a physicist, he already knew about the ‘cosmic dance of energy,’ and skilled in meditation and a seeker after mystical truth, he also knew that there was more to the story than just ‘dancing energy.’ That’s when he decided to write his book.

“That’s neat,” I said, adding that I had also read the book. “In fact, wouldn’t it be nice if that stuff could be taught in the classroom right along side of physics?”

“Not going to happen,” came the reply, “not in our lifetime, anyway.”

“I read somewhere, I said, “that it takes fifty years or more for society to catch up to revolutionary concepts in science.”

“That’s probably right,” said Jade, “ but in this case it might even take scientists that long to catch up.”

“What are you guys talking about,” said Don, “Catch up to what? How can a scientist catch up to science?”

“Catch up to the universe,” I said. “Science–the scientist– has to catch up to what’s happening in the universe. There’s no going back to Kansas anymore. That’s what Capra was telling us in his book. We just don’t live in a world divided up into the squeaky clean categories of mass and energy anymore, not to mention cause and effect.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Don. “It sounds like you guys, Capra included, have been smoking to much of that ropy stuff for too long.”

“Not really,” Jade replied, “Capra is a well respected physicist who just happens to be on the cutting edge of new age thinking. He really knows what he’s talking about.”

Jade’s right,” I said, “The new physics has turned waves into particles and particles into waves. Hell, we don’t even know for sure if the world exists separate from the way we look at it anymore. According to Capra, at the quantum level, the universe looks and behaves differently from the way we typically perceive it. At that level, we loose track of independently existing things. Physical phenomena appears, on the quantum level, to show signs of being interconnected, which means that we are interconnected with everything else, which means that the sages of the East were right all along. Ultimately, we are all part of some mystical ‘oneness,’ but we just don’t know it. In reality, we’re just one big happy family.”

“Quantum physics says all that,” replied Don, “I don’t mean to be a party pooper fellows, but didn’t anybody ever tell you that splitting up the “small stuff” resulted in the ‘now you see ‘em, now you don’t’ cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. I mean
the family that bombs together doesn’t necessarily stay together, let alone live in bliss!”

“Well, yeah,” Jade replied, “I guess it doesn’t hurt to keep a perspective on things. I think what is being said here is that the world that gave us a better bomb, on a fundamental level, just doesn’t exist anymore. It exists locally, yeah, but even so, we still can’t go back to Kansas. Everything has changed.”

“Like what exactly,” replied Don.

“Like we can’t think of the universe as just a collection of objects anymore,” Jade responded. “Rather, it’s more like a complicated web of relations. Some physicists even go as far as to say that it is a complicated web of relations between the various parts of a unified whole. And that is what Dave meant when he said that Eastern mystics were there first. In fact, Capra is saying the same thing. According to him, even the language used by physicists and the language used by mystics is starting to sound the same. Nagarjuna, a first or second century Buddhist, preached that things were nothing in themselves; instead, they derived their being from a mutual dependence with other things. A particle physicist might say the very same thing about the results of a cloud chamber experiment that records the trajectories of colliding particles. Under certain conditions, an elementary particle is no more than a set of relationships that reach outward to other things. The world, on that level, is no more than a complicated tissue of events that determines the texture of the whole.”

“Big deal,” snapped Don. “So what the hell is all that supposed to mean? Physicists still do physics don’t they? They still make killer weapons don’t they, weapons that when sold, produce mega bucks for the seller. Who cares where destruction comes from? It’s still destruction. Right!”

What’s Happening In Science Today Is The Rediscovery Of Our Lost Identity

“Wait a minute.” I interrupted. “We need to start over, I know what you’re getting at Don, and I totally agree. And I know Jade does too. That’s why I said that it takes time, lots of it, for the implications of new concepts to be fully digested. Maybe a hundred years for all I know, but digested they will be, and when that happens the world will be better off. That’s all I’m trying to say. What is happening in physics today is a far cry from what happened in the past, and its telling us new and exciting things about the universe, and maybe even about ourselves! This new vision does not exclude, it includes, and therein lies the hope. When humanity is brought into the mix with everything else, a whole new ballgame arises; the center of balance shifts, possibilities open, even if, in the short run, the rules remain the same. If you ask me, humanity will be in for immense benefits if this new vision catches on. Think about it. What’s happening in science today is the rediscovery of our lost identity, and that can’t be all bad.”

“How many beers are left?” said Don.


“If we’re gunna start over,” Don replied, “and if you’re gunna get metaphysical on me, I need to know just how patient I want to be. So how many beers patient will I be?”

“Well,” Jade said after looking into the twelve pack, and handing everyone another beer, “I’d say about two or three, depending of course on how patient you want to be!”

“That sounds about right,” Don said. “Educate me. I’m ready now.”

“Jade, you’re the science teacher. You start,” I said.

“You don’t need me,” came the response, “you need Neil’s Bohr or Warner Heisenberg.”

“That sounds good,” I said. “Start with those guys. Think of it as practice. After all, in the classroom you won’t have such a patient audience. We won’t heckle. Go for it.”

“All right already, enough,” Jade said. “As best I can remember,” Jade began, “it all started with Max Planck’s black body radiation experiments at the turn of the century. He discovered that radiation or light propagates in discrete packets. Those packets are called the quantum of action. The energy in a quantum of action varies, but its discreteness doesn’t. That discreteness is known as Planck’s constant. Particles in classical physics evolve in a continuous manner, and in three dimensions of space, but in atomic physics that just doesn’t seem to be the case. With the discovery of the quantum of action, there was a merging of the dynamic state of the elements under study with their localization. The particles’ independence dissolved, as it became impossible to simultaneously determine position and momentum, an impossibility for which the uncertainty relations of Heisenberg became the precise expression. After the uncertainty principle, Cartesian space and time co-ordinates ceased to be applicable, and physicists were forced into learning new rules for a new game. In fact, all the conjugate variables of analytical mechanics–energy, time, momentum, position, had to be dealt with as approximations, they had to be dealt with in terms of statistical analysis. Ultimately, with the loss of space and time localization, physicists were forced to abandon their concept of a deterministic physical universe.”

“Oh yeah, and what about Einstein,” Don said. “Did he abandon the concept of determinism? What happened to his space and time?”

“Well, not exactly,” Jade replied. “His space and time are still there, only it’s not just his space-time any longer, it’s everybody’s.”

(More Next Week…)