Friday, March 29, 2013

Physics & Philosophy

From my weekly comments for Honors Colloquium:



"I like to think the moon is there even if I am not looking at it." ~Albert Einstein

In Newtonian physics, our world is orderly. Everything that happens is pre-ordained and with enough information, intrinsically predictable. Our scientific ideas of the time well-matched our religious ideas at the time, with human beings at the center of the earth, which was at the center of the universe, over which we could, given enough time and effort, completely control. This strikes me as reminiscent of our desire to embrace a fundamental reality in nature, which may or may not be known as God.
In quantum mechanics, our world is uncertain. Everything exists in a cloud of possibilities. Precise definitions are unobtainable, and as Sir Isaac Newton came to show us, even things we thought we understood had an even deeper level. Light is one such example; what we once thought of as particles turned out to be both particles and waves. With a sigh, we have alternately accepted and fought the uncertain duality of the universe ever since.

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