Category Archives: Science
“Each of us is raised with a sense of ‘us and them.’ Initially the ‘us’ is just family, and everyone else is ‘them.’ As we get older and more experienced, more and more people join the ‘us’ but there is usually still a ‘them.’ …
Once in orbit, though, with time to not only work but to gaze at the world over a period of months, I noticed my perception shifting. As I sent pictures to the ground and commented on them, I found myself unthinkingly referring to everyone as ‘us.’ …
I would see a city that I knew well and just 30 minutes later, see that exact same pattern of settlement in a city I had never heard of. It forced me to face the commonality of the human experience, and our shared hopes and desires.”Chris Hadfield in An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth
Hundreds of books pass through my hands in any given week in my library job.
Few of them make me stop and look.
The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe by Roger Penrose has a catchy title for a person like me, though. I imagined myself opening it, reading a few life-changing phrases and sighing, “So that’s what life is all about.”
Alas, I lasted only as far as the mathematical equations:
Taking the particle’s ordinary 3-velocity to be v, so that v = (dx1 / dt, dx2 /dt, dx3 / dt), where t = x0, we get [18.19],[18.20]
p = mv, m = γμ, va = γ(c2, v),
γ = (1 – v2 /c2) – 1/2.
The equation road led me to the reality of a dead end.
Is the universe is only ours to appreciate if we study enough math?
I sure hope not.
I wouldn’t have wanted to see my grandmother’s magical ability with pie crust trapped in a mathematical equation. I don’t believe my friend Etienne’s off-the-charts charisma can be captured that way. Or my love for my children? There’s no equation complex enough.
I thought of The Big Bang Theory episode where the scientific geniuses rhyme off answers to complex scientific questions in the Physics Bowl. Penny sleeps through the event and average viewers like me wonder Who knows that stuff?
After the physics event Penny brings out her own trivia cards. The answers to the popular culture questions would be obvious to most of us, but Leonard says, “Who knows this stuff?”
Same reality, different roads.
I’ll stick to the one with apple pie and no equations.
“Zero gets to represent something and nothing” —from The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music by Victor L. Wooten
Zero means nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zippo.
Place it to the right of the number 1 though, and all of a sudden you have ten times that number. The zero magically creates something more. Keep adding zeroes and you can create all the way up to . . . infinity.
Nothingness used to create infinity. Huh. Sounds sort of God-like to me.
Something to ponder.
“Zero is like space. . . . A scientist looks close enough at an atom and what does he find? Space! . . . Space can be seen as the birthplace of all things.”
I recommend The Music Lesson. Reading that will make you think!
There’s a piece of paper on my desk. It measures 2 inches x 3 inches.
Is it valuable, do you think?
Let me tell you more. It has a bar code below the words “Cineplex Cinemas: Admit One. Present this ticket to a cashier to exchange for one admission ticket.”
What do you think now? Is it valuable?
But wait. There is more. “Expiration: April 30, 2016”
So, not so valuable after all.
For a moment, you and I could both believe that a mere piece of paper had power. I could take it in my hand and go places where others could not so easily go. Then, in a magical kind of way, the same piece of paper instantly became worthless recycling.
Nothing physical about the item changed, but the power it held dissipated into the ether. The science remained the same, but the story changed. Like magic.
When my kids were little, they became quite upset when they got “jinxed” by friends; they bought into the “jinx” story. I said to them, “You can only be jinxed if you choose to be jinxed.” They didn’t believe that though, because the stories of friends hold more power for children than a mother’s thoughts on the matter.
The power doesn’t exist in the object or the words, it comes from us. We choose to give it to them.
Everyone has objects to which they transfer their power: sports memorabilia, Beatles artifacts, paintings. The sticky point is: not everyone buys into the same stories. A World Series home run baseball is only valuable to people who don’t say, “Baseball? Who cares?” Beatles memorabilia only counts to those who don’t dismiss them as overrated. How about a painting like “Voice of Fire.” Is it worth 1.8 million dollars to you?
For Roman Catholics the consecrated hosts and wine of communion are much more than bread and wine. Scientific-minded sorts scoff at this. They don’t buy into the commonly accepted story. Those same scientists use money every day, so apparently they readily accept some forms of magic, but not others.
Money is big magic. If I want to go to see a movie—now that we’ve all agreed that my coupon piece of paper is not magical—I have an alternative. I can pull other magical pieces of paper out of my wallet, hand over an agreed number to the theatre and happily enjoy the film.
Of course, it depends which city I’m in at the time. If I were to pull out colourful Canadian pieces of paper at a movie theatre in an American city, they would be viewed with derision. Our paper is not so magical in the US.
The paper itself doesn’t change, but as soon as our car drives across an imaginary, magical line the story does. (Or in the case of our wonderful Canadian money, the polymer doesn’t change, but the story does. We really do have some of the finest money in the world.)
Commonly accepted stories help our society to function. If we all accept the story that red means stop and green means go at a traffic light, we prevent accidents. If we buy into the story of concert tickets, we avoid stampedes at Paul MCartney concert hall doors. (The Beatles are definitely NOT overrated.)
Beyond that, we have to recognize the stories for what they are and choose to delegate our power carefully. I’ll keep this Steve Rogers baseball on display because I love it, but you can bet that I won’t be bidding on “Voice of Fire” any time soon.
More food for thought from Bishop Steve Charleston
“We do not know what is around the next corner.
We do not even know what will pass in our lives between sunrise and sunset. Therefore, whether we claim it or not, we live each day in faith.
We believe. We believe in ourselves. We believe in our family. We believe in others who are close to us.
Some of us believe beyond that, to name a loving power that guides us, to walk with others who pray with us. But we all believe, in some way, in our own fashion.
Let that thin thread, that simple affirmation, bind us in a shared respect. We are not strangers in shadows, but believers searching for the light.”
—Bishop Steve Charleston
A few years ago I ordered my first pair of progressive lenses. Before progressives I wore contact lenses and used reading glasses for closer work.
I drove my family crazy the first week with those progressive lenses. “I don’t know about my new glasses,” I muttered, over and over. It seemed I had to move my head too much. It seemed the reading portion of the lenses was too narrow. I fretted and worried that I had wasted a lot of money on glasses that weren’t going to work for me.
And then one day, my brain clicked. My brain figured out how to work with those glasses, and it seemed to do it instantly. One minute everything felt all wrong, and the next I was saying, “These glasses are GREAT! No matter where I look, I can see!”
I remembered that experience when I watched this video. It’s a reminder to me that sometimes we have to keep working at something that feels wrong or difficult so that we can give our brains time to figure it out.