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

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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…


4 Responses to “The Most Incomprehensible Thing About The Universe Is That It Is Comprehensible”

  1. wings Says:

    Looking forward to the conclusion…as if somehow I will understand if only I can see the conclusion. Short cut thinking from a long way around kind of girl…lol. Happy Saturday eve. Dave…hope your weekend is being good to you. Take care.

  2. seanrone Says:

    “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.” – I could not refrain myself from showing support for such a strong, intelligent statement, nor from agreeing with such a pure and truthful quote. Those 22 words, and a single letter, bring more clarity to my soul than any single unified experience I have ever known.

  3. bwinwnbwi Says:

    Thanks so much for the encouragement, seanrone. I appreciate your input. I did my graduate work in Sociology and my undergraduate work in Philosophy. I have always been interested in cutting edge sciences and interpretations of same, though. Take care.

  4. bwinwnbwi Says:

    According to a comment on the NPR science blog: “General Relativity is a classical theory meaning everything it considers is continuous and smooth down to whatever scale you like. Quantum Mechanics shows us that this is never really the case and eventually, at some tiny scale, everything is broken up into discreet bits (energy, momentum, spin … you name it). So even the smooth and continuous Space-Time of GR must, at tiny scales become, discreet and broken up. What makes Entanglement interesting is that is a purely quantum phenomena but it clearly speaks to linking different regions of space together (where the entangled particles are). So in that way it seems to cross over and deal with GR’s domain (perhaps).”

    The space/time continuum is an explanation for causality while at the quantum level we discover “non-locality, “ i.e., effects that can occur without local causes—instantaneous action at a distance. Is there a problem—maybe not? “Time of mind” or discontinuity occurring in continuity (b~b~bb), in any final sense, cannot become conscious of itself because it carries within itself a rift of nothingness that negates. Without this nothingness our capacity for questioning (and logic) would not/could not exist. At the depths of the physical universe where everything is broken up into discreet bits, where behavior exists in a discontinuous, indeterminate, and non-local way, we also find a rift of nothingness (~~b). This nothingness, the nothingness that separates/connects particles to waves, the nothingness that links different regions of space together (where the entangled particles are), is also the nothingness (~~b) that permits/births cosmos, nature, and the logic that we use to understand cause/effect (classical theory) and you and me.

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