Monday, 9 May 2011

flatlander or same-otherwise

Quantum mechanics is a strange, non-intuitive outcome, it seems, for probing too deeply. On the contrary, I do not think things should not become more blurry and ill-defined the sharper the focus is, and perhaps precise knowledge of one aspect should not exclude any knowledge of other qualities. I’d venture maybe that we are conditioned to accept this exclusion principle, perhaps too quickly though a lot of people more creative and smarter than me have worked to describe the machinery of the impossibly tiny—that if we know place, we cannot know time or velocity, the compound of the two with a future tendency. Maybe such elaborate explanations and theories to compensate for our limited vision are not always constructive--when I was a little kid, I wrote once to Carl Sagan suggesting, not very succinctly, that the speed of light may not be a constant and that it might accelerate or slow down over the vast reaches of space.  He answered with a very nice and personal letter that the laws of nature depend on such universal constants--however, now it seems modish to talk of light-speed more fluidly.  Physical dispositions ought to be knowable in so far as classic mechanics describes the universe and matters of everyday experience, and if they do not work satisfactorily, what is that threshold of inaccuracy and could we even define such a margin of error. In the same definitive work on classical mechanics and the clockwork universe, the Principia, Sir Isaac Newton generally followed his QEDs with a statement of “same-otherwise,” an alternate proof for deriving the principles of physics.

I don’t think these different derivations were suggested that there were two equally plausible and reigning laws of nature at work, but I always thought it was a refreshingly un-arrogant coda in science writing. Maybe subatomic particles do pop discretely (digitally instead of analogue) from one state, place to another in a fuzzy cloud of possible configurations—or maybe the causeways and cogs of matter outside of normal experience are rigid, well-defined forms, billiard-balls, plum-pudding or any other tangible analogy, except the orbits and tracks and slots that they race along are engineered not in the spatial dimensions of length, width and breadth but in the six or seven postulated others that ripple over tinier spaces, like the bumps on the skin of an orange. Maybe it is not necessary to pour vast amounts of energy into a particle to coax out something exotic, an unstable component that exists like a ghostly radar blip for a vanishingly small duration. Surely every elusive component exists, though not in isolation, and perhaps invisible to us, denizens of Flatland, cannot detect these elusive particles as they move q-wise instead of sideways (over terrain there are no words for) and can only glimpse the cross-sections (what's on our plane of perception) of the internal workings once sped up greatly.