The Other I

October 14, 2010

Existence as we don’t know it

Several posts back, I mentioned that I had no idea how particles could move in and out of existence, which scientists say they do on the miniscule level of quantum mechanics.

Subsequently whether out of compassion, insight, or generosity, or all three, a friend sent me a book View from the Center of the Universe by Premack and Abrams.

It is one of the most fascinating books I’ve read in decades.  Premack is a physicist of some significant stature and his wife is an attorney, a writer, and a poet, and I might add a brilliant teacher.

One thing she did was to explain how things go in and out of existence on the quantum level.  Existence does not mean the same thing on this level as it does in our ordinary world.  I was taught in school that electrons are very small things a little like tiny balls that go whizzing around the nucleus of the atom.  But they aren’t.  They are “things” at all.  We can’t see them no matter how much they are magnified, and if it weren’t for the fact that they do things like turn on the lights when we flip the switch we might say they don’t exist at all.

What scientists do say is that they are probability clouds.  All we know is that they exert their influence within a certain area and following very clear predictable laws.  But since they are merely clouds of probability, when the probability dips to zero that they exist, they stop existing.

I am tempted to reread the entire book when I am finished with it the first time round and summarize it chapter by chapter here.

I realize you might not learn anything as a result of an escapade like this, but I’m pretty sure I will.

And I’m fascinated.

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