particle/wave

Nothing That Seems Solid Is

Havasu Falls, July 1998

“The physical reinvention of the world is endless, relentless, fascinating, exhaustive; nothing that seems solid is. If you could stand at just a little distance in time, how fluid and shape-shifting physical reality would be, everything hurrying into some other form, even concrete, even stone."

~ Mark Doty, from Dog Years: A Memoir

Behaving as Both a Wave and a Particle

"One of the most mysterious things about light, is that when you really get down to it -- and this is not just true of light, this is actually true of almost anything once you get on to a small enough, quantum mechanical level -- that light behaves as both a wave and a particle."

~ Sal Khan, from the Khan Academy tutorial "An Introduction to Light"

Once Again Trees

March 30, 2011

“When you start on a long journey, trees are trees, water is water, and mountains are mountains. After you have gone some distance, trees are no longer trees, water no longer water, mountains no longer mountains. But after you have travelled a great distance, trees are once again trees, water is once again water, mountains are once again mountains.”

~ attributed to Ch'ing-yüan, from The Way of Zen by Alan Watts

This Everything Dance

Rocky Mountain National Park, 2007

"I like to live in the sound of water, in the feel of the mountain air. A sharp reminder hits me: this world still is alive; it stretches out there shivering toward its own creation, and I'm part of it. Even my breathing enters into this elaborate give-and-take, this bowing to sun and moon, day and night, winter, summer, storm, still—this tranquil chaos that seems to be going somewhere. This wilderness with a great peacefulness in it. This motionless turmoil, this everything dance."

~ William Stafford

 

[@WhiskeyRiver]

 

You are Not the Stuff of Which You are Made

From “Richard Dawkins on Our ‘Queer’ Universe,” TED Talks, Sep. 2006:

"Steve Grand, in his book, Creation: Life and How to Make It, is positively scathing about our preoccupation with matter itself. We have this tendency to think that only solid, material things are really things at all. Waves of electromagnetic fluctuation in a vacuum seem unreal. Victorians thought the waves had to be waves in some material medium -- the ether. But we find real matter comforting only because we've evolved to survive in Middle World, where matter is a useful fiction. A whirlpool, for Steve Grand, is a thing with just as much reality as a rock.

In a desert plain in Tanzania, in the shadow of the volcano Ol Donyo Lengai, there's a dune made of volcanic ash. The  beautiful thing is that it Mesquite Sand Dunes, Death Valleymoves bodily. It's what's technically known as a barchan, and the entire dune walks across the desert in a westerly direction at a speed of about 17 meters per year. It retains its crescent shape and moves in the direction of the horns. What happens is that the wind blows the sand up the shallow slope on the other side, and then, as each sand grain hits the top of the ridge, it cascades down on the inside of the crescent, and so the whole horn-shaped dune moves.

Steve Grand points out that you and I are, ourselves, more like a wave than a permanent thing. He invites us, the reader, to "think of an experience from your childhood -- something you remember clearly, something you can see, feel, maybe even smell, as if you were really there. After all, you really were there at the time, weren't you? How else would you remember it? But here is the bombshell: You weren't there. Not a single atom that is in your body today was there when that event took place. Matter flows from place to place and momentarily comes together to be you. Whatever you are, therefore, you are not the stuff of which you are made. If that doesn't make the hair stand up on the back of your neck, read it again until it does, because it is important."

[Thanks, Pete!]

The Universe on a String

Physicist Brian Greene explains superstring theory, the idea that minscule strands of energy vibrating in 11 dimensions create every particle and force in the universe.

"You see, our universe is kind of like a finely tuned machine. Scientists have found that there are about 20 numbers, 20 fundamental constants of nature that give the universe the characteristics we see today. These are numbers like how much an electron weighs, the strength of gravity, the electromagnetic force and the strong and weak forces. Now, as long as we set the dials on our universe machine to precisely the right values for each of these 20 numbers, the machine produces the universe we know and love.

But if we change the numbers by adjusting the settings on this machine even a little bit... the consequences are dramatic.

For example, if I increase the strength of the electromagnetic force, atoms repel one other more strongly, so the nuclear furnaces that make stars shine break down. The stars, including our sun, fizzle out, and the universe as we know it disappears.

So what exactly, in nature, sets the values of these 20 constants so precisely? Well the answer could be the extra dimensions in string theory. That is, the tiny, curled up, six-dimensional shapes predicted by the theory cause one string to vibrate in precisely the right way to produce what we see as a photon and another string to vibrate in a different way producing an electron. So according to string theory, these miniscule extra-dimensional shapes really may determine all the constants of nature, keeping the cosmic symphony of strings in tune."

~ Brian Greene, from The String's the Thing (Hour 2 of Nova's The Elegant Universe)

Escaping Into Life

Escaping Into Life

“If I were required to give a "quick and dirty" definition of meditation, it would be that meditation is the practice of escaping into life. It's escape in the sense that one does not feel limited by the mind/body process or the surrounding situation. But, the direction of escape is not from what's happening, but rather into it.”

~ Shinzen Young