The Other I

May 24, 2012

Unresolved puzzle in physics

One would think that of all the questions we humans might be unable to answer, a core issue at the heart of everyday experiences about which we all agree everywhere in the world would not contain one of the biggest problems physics faces.

But it is, and it’s a problem that revolves around the very nature of time and space.  The laws in physics detailing what happens on the quantum level of particles frequently contradict the laws of time and space as we all know them.  Particles seem to go in and out of existence, for instance.  And particles seem to be able to transcend space, influencing what happens half way around the earth, and quite possibly much much further.  Up and down, before and after, inside and outside don’t operate on the quantum level in ways we expect them to in the world in which we live.

I won’t embarrass myself by trying to explain this in greater depth.  I would undoubtedly make a fool of myself.

But I do know enough to know that it is an unresolved problem that Einstein spent his life trying to solve.  And couldn’t.

If even a genius can’t get out of bed in the morning and truly feel as if he understands what’s going on around him, there’s an awful lot we don’t know.  If we don’t understand even the basics of time and space, and if our grasp of the nature of matter and energy is so tenuous, I think we can say there’s a big chunk we don’t understand.

Knowing how much we don’t know should keep us from getting too arrogant, shouldn’t it?  I find it very liberating, but I think sometimes it might also be quite scary, sending us running for cover with a dubious collection of Right Answers.

I don’t exclude myself from this temptation.



  1. I know nothing about physics – except what Scotty used to say in Star Trek that ye canna change the laws o physics.
    But I don’t see why. I think “laws” should describe what we see rather than decree what we can or cannot witness.
    My take-it-or-leave-it attitude with physics, when I consider God in play, is why miracles, the virgin birth and all that are easy peasy for God, if he is God.
    However, I think the physicists are right in trying to figure out what is and isn’t, even if the conclusion is that they’ll never know. It doesn’t mean that things are or aren’t.


    Comment by sanstorm — May 29, 2012 @ 1:11 pm | Reply

    • It was Jesus himself who said that “by their fruits you will know them.” If the universe is created by God, then it would seem to me that one great path to knowing Him is by the fruits of His creation. Not everybody, of course, has to do this with a fascination with physics. There are many other ways of seeing. But to have a “take-it-or-leave it” view of anything in creation because it pales next to God seems to me to disrespect the work of the very being you most respect. It’s rather like saying to a mother that you aren’t interested in her children because she herself is so much more interesting. Or to say to an artist or poet that you are not interested in their work because they are more interesting than what they make. Or perhaps even to someone writing a blog that you don’t read it because the writer is so much more interesting?

      Ah the laws of physics. Can they be known by humans? or do we only have approximations that are always subject to re-evaluation? certainly the history of science suggests the latter. (Whatever Scotty may say-)

      My problem with miracles isn’t that God couldn’t break the very laws which he himself apparently made. My first question is why he would make the laws at all if he is going to break them. In any case, I find myself in greater awe of the universe and all its parts which do reflect these laws. They seem to me to be far more astonishing that something like a virgin birth or a paralyzed man picking up his bed and walking.

      But probably more critically, I can’t see how we can tell the difference between what we call a “miracle” and something which we simply can’t understand, or perhaps have misunderstood in the first place. That is not a leap of faith for me but a leap of either hubris or naivete. It is hubris if I think that if we, or perhaps even I, can’t understand it, then it must be a violation of the natural law. It is an act of naivete if I simply take somebody else’s proclamation at face value that some event or other is above the natural law and is therefore a “miracle.”

      I would be interested to know what you think about this though, since it is obvious that you don’t have this problem. How do you deal with it?

      Enough for now. Time to beam this up.

      Oh, but not before I say thank you. As you know, I always find your point of view of great interest.


      Comment by Terry Sissons — May 29, 2012 @ 8:50 pm | Reply

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