“…the sheer complexity of it staggers the imagination.”
I’m partially quoting Richard Feynman from the introduction of Volume 1 in his “Lectures on Physics”
He’s talking about us. You and me. Human people. AND we are not, as he puts it,”merely a pile of atoms”.
Bill Bryson sort of said the same thing in his book A Short History of Nearly Everything.
“To begin with, for you to be here now trillions of drifting atoms had somehow to assemble in an intricate and intriguingly obliging manner to create you. It’s an arrangement so specialized and particular that it has never been tried before and will only exist this once. For the next many years (we hope) these tiny particles will uncomplainingly engage in all the billions of deft, cooperative efforts necessary to keep you intact and let you experience the supremely agreeable but generally underappreciated state known as existence.”
This quote has burned itself into my heart. This is possibly the most profound thing I’ve ever allowed myself to truly ponder. And I don’ know about you but I am utterly grateful to the universe, God… my own collection of complexity for this existence. Special… special doesn’t even come close to describing how phenomenal all of this is.
The deeper down the well of knowledge I tumble, the more, like Alice, I become. I am a rather lucky observer here. Just when it feels like aha- that’s it- we’ve cracked it!, one more mystery unravels to reveal another and another and another… and then you begin to wonder what is at the bottom of it all. Terry Pratchett says it’s “Turtles all the way down.” Its poetic, don’t you think??
Paul Dirac, a Nobel Prize winning quantum physicist, once said “The aim of science is to make difficult things understandable in a simpler way; the aim of poetry is to state simple things in an incomprehensible way. The two are incompatible.” I can’t say that I agree. I think poetry makes incomprehensible things accessible for people who dream in colour, for people who have songs playing in their heads, and for those whose complexity staggers the imagination. And, you know what, some of those people speak maths too 🙂
So… we’ve nearly made it. Physics year 1 as almost finished. One more lecture left this week before the ensuing panic (and pain!) of revision for EXAMS! ARGHHHHHH! *Deep breaths ok.. I’m ok now* We’ve finally ventured into particle physics.. steering masterfully into the delights of quarks with their strangeness and charmness. And, as expected the bottom of it all is as absurd as Terry Pratchett imagined. Turtles all the way.
I can’t really express how much I wish I had studied these things my first time around at university. But perhaps, if I had, I would not be able to so dramatically describe the emotionality that (for me at least) surrounds what can otherwise be a rather arid subject.
I think I’ll leave it there for now and wish you all a lovely Pi Day and a conversation between the head and the heart.