BEGINNING OF THE WEIRD - THINKING LONGER AND HARDER

(- Copyright © 2016 by Mike Stewart -)

For 500 million years, life was simple, single cell, microscopic. Life twiddled its thumbs. However, a Classical Physicist, especially after talking to Albert Einstein, would realize this was half a billion years from the standpoint of one observer. This observer was the guy sitting among the early life, studying it with his microscope. Another observer, traveling at a high rate of speed, might find this period shorter.

The Classical Physicist might also have a couple of other thoughts - disturbing thoughts. Who was this observer? Those with a spiritual mind might say "God"! And how important is this observer? Suddenly, science was sounding more like philosophy.

When I was young, I liked science because I thought it was digital, orderly. Things were either true or false. There wasn't suppose to be a "maybe".

When I first learned about particles and waves, I didn't realize they might be a threat to what I most liked about science.

My physics book stated that everything was either a particle or a wave.

If there was a rigid pole in the middle of a pool of water and you threw a baseball at it, one of three things happened: (1) you miss and the ball hits the water somewhere behind the pole, (2) the ball hits the pole a glancing blow, changing course before hitting the water, or (3) the ball hits the pole directly bouncing back toward you. The ball is a particle.

If you disturb the water (hit it with a paddle), a wave will flow out and flow around the pole. Secondary waves will form and move in a different direction. In the case of water, waves are made of water molecules vibrating or moving in a periodic manner. Many scientists got their jollies developing mathematical equations to describe wave motion. Although it was unclear, at least to me, what was vibrating, it was shown that other waves, including ultraviolet, light, and radio, could be described by the equations. You could recognize a wave and it was not a particle.

And then, in 1927, a dirty Nazi came along and upset my apple cart - not that I am that old, but I read about it later.

Electrons are little subatomic balls of energy (with the emphasis on balls) that scientists had been playing around with since Ben Franklin flew his famous kite. Playing around with means writing math equations to try to describe an electron's behavior as well as doing experiments. By then, experiments had produced an electron gun, that is, a gun that can fire individual electrons. Einstein, and others, tried as hard as they could to write equations saying how the individual electron should behave. And failed.

To use our earlier example, it was as if you pointed the electron gun at the rigid pole in the pool and find the electron might hit the pole and bounce back, it might glance off the pole, or it might miss the pole by various amounts. One way to explain this result was to say you were not holding the gun steady, there was a slight shaking or palsy in your hand. And it seemed that no matter how hard you tried, when you aimed and fired the gun, you couldn't control the palsy.

Werner Heisenberg was a brilliant German scientist who would later follow Hitler. He offered a solution. Sort of.

Heisenberg stated that the palsy was a fundamental property of nature that could not be eliminated. You could never tell where a single electron was going. But you could, using his equations, calculate the probability of an electron hitting the pole. If you fired one hundred electrons, you could calculate how many hits you would likely have. The more electrons you fired, the more accurately you could predict the results. And his equations worked.

Examination of the mathematics involved, if you left out the critical probability stuff, showed that Heisenberg was treating electrons as if they were waves.

Scientist often claim to look at the world rationally and unemotionally. Einstein, however, felt this view of reality, based on probability, was abhorrent. With extreme disdain, he claimed "God does not play dice with the universe" and spent the rest of his life trying to prove Heisenberg wrong. Heisenberg merely said "Don't tell God what to do".

Why did Einstein get so upset? Not just philosophically. What was happening in his neurons? Heisenberg's theory, or rules, or way of looking at things, also bothered me. Again, why did I feel this way on a neurological level?

Remember when I asked if there were certain "truths" that were valid across all worldviews, areas or values we all found true or appealing, areas of common group-think? I postulated that it might always be productive to "talk in the terms of the other person's interest".

Before I pursue this further, let me say one more thing about Heisenberg. He was basically saying that electrons were waves. And experiments proved that electrons were definitely waves. Unfortunately, other experiments proved that electrons were definitely particles. To Einstein and to me, we were no longer living in a rational world.

Einstein had started his career when he imagined he was traveling on a beam of light - I just remembered this is called a "thought experiment". His reputation was cemented in 1919 when observation of a solar eclipse confirmed a key part of one of his theories, namely that light would be deflected if it passed near a strong gravitational field. In this case, light from a star was observed as it passed near the sun which has strong gravity. The starlight could be seen because of the solar eclipse. The light was deflected by the amount Einstein had forecast.

A couple of points.

Light was considered a wave, hence, the name light wave. Before Einstein, the common sense view was that only particles like balls or Newton's apple were affected by gravity. Einstein was looking at light as particles or photons.

With enough mass, there is no limit to how powerful a gravitational field can be. Light could be bent or deflected so much that it would be captured by the field and never escape. This much mass would be, what we call today, a "Black Hole".

Quantum Physics has dominated the physical sciences for almost a hundred years and has been the basis of many scientific advances. Anything that contains a computer chip could not exist if it weren't for Quantum Physics. So I'd like to ask a Quantum Physicist to observe Life during the first 500 million years.

You, and you might think, the Quantum Physicist, may wonder why I am so concerned with this early period when apparently nothing happened for so long. After all, shouldn't I be more interested in when life first crawled onto land? We'd probably be somewhere in Arizona on our imaginary journey. Or maybe we should look more closely when our observer arrives in eastern California and has to throw down his microscope and run for his life, lest he be stepped on by a dinosaur?

My answer is that I believe in what I call common sense. The development of life is a process - so something must be going on during this time period. First A happens, then B happens, then C, and so on.

My common sense makes me question the renowned biologist who says one possible cause of aging is random mutation of DNA caused by background radiation. The obvious question is why is a dog's DNA so sensitive, while a giant tortoise, with super DNA, may live 200 years?

Based on my common sense, I am a little surprised, no, I am actually shocked when my Quantum Physicist friend says he'll be glad to travel back 1500 million years and observe life. But first, I need to tell him which universe I want him to visit, am I really sure B happens after A, and exactly what do I mean by "1500 million years ago"?

His questions confuse me. I wanted to pretend I had an observer on the scene when Life began. I guess I will have to pretend to pretend I have an observer there.

I want to talk about Reality and Life. Maybe my Quantum Physicist friend has given me permission to talk gibberish too.

Why did Einstein get so upset with Heisenberg? Heisenberg challenged part of Einstein's Worldview. As a great scientist, Einstein felt he could prove Heisenberg wrong. But his understanding of Reality was not deep enough so he spent the rest of his life on a fruitless quest.

I also disliked Heisenberg, but I was not a scientist. I could not prove him wrong, so I found other ways to squander my time. And maybe realize something about Reality that Einstein missed.

About the same time that Einstein was fighting with Heisenberg, an American Astronomer named Edwin Hubble discovered that our galaxy was not the only galaxy in the universe. Eventually, billions of galaxies would be discovered. Once again, science had made man seem less significant. Instead of being a small creature living on a grain of sand circling a slightly larger grain of sand among a billion or so grains of sand that made up our galaxy, we were now told our galaxy itself was a grain of sand among billions. What a downer.

Hubble also discovered that the Universe, now made up of all of the galaxies, was expanding. The galaxies were moving apart. This fact made Einstein feel really bad.

Einstein was upset because some of the equations he had developed to support his famous theories had implied (to a mathematician, they fairly shouted) that the Universe was expanding. Einstein, however, was stuck in the old way of thinking, namely, the stars and heavens are constant, static. So he changed the equations to wipe out this revolutionary implication. Changing the equations was, he would later say, "the biggest mistake of my life".

Maybe we can never keep an open mind, but if Albert Einstein had not been influenced by conventional wisdom, Hubble's observations would have been, just like the solar eclipse we talked about earlier, an example of how brilliant Einstein was.

Quantum Physics has freed me to ask stupid questions. Remember when I said a biologist studying early life should see if and when DNA moved into the nucleus. It was a dumb question until the Quantum Physicist asked why I  thought B followed A. Someone should have asked Einstein why he thought the heavens were static.

Quantum Physics has also freed me from sticking to a particular timeline - after all, at a quantum level we can have lots of discussions about what time really is. So I want to talk about modern things, like quarks and other fundamental particles, and on a slightly higher level, electrons. But I reserve the right to go back later several decades or several billion years if the need arises.

Now for a stupid question: Do you think a man is more complex than an electron?

One thing that may be true across all Worldviews is a desire to be liked, admired, or respected. It is hard to see how any other view would contribute to survival. This is not to say that the frustration of this desire might not lead to something horrible. Stupid Questions: Does survival of the fittest apply to electrons? What do electrons desire?

Part of my worldview is a desire to be liked, admired, and respected. People said those who understood Calculus were smart. I found it fairly understandable, studied it more, and got better at it. People didn't have as much respect for Statistics. I initially found it confusing, ignored it, and didn't get better at it.

Statistics is, at least to me, the study of groups where there is limited knowledge about the individual members that make up the groups. Marketing Experts may use statistics to assert that 75% of people over 65 hate computers. Heisenberg may use an advanced form of statistics to say 35% of electrons will hit the pole in the pool.

Scientists, unlike Marketing Experts, are working at the forefront of science, at the edge of knowledge. But Scientists, even Quantum Physicists, are still Human Beings. If they looked at Nature, or we could say Reality, as an Adversary, they would do well to remember the famous saying "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me". Shame on all Scientists.

Scientists have consistently insisted that Now, Today, This Moment, is Special. It is especially ironic that the Quantum Physicists does this while much of his work is designed to prove the opposite.

In ancient times, the stars in the heavens were unknowable lights. We knew almost nothing about any individual star and what we did know was probably wrong. Any one star was identical to all the other stars. We could never know any more than we knew on this ancient day about stars. If Heisenberg had been around, he might have applied his statistical methods to say that 52% of the stars were in the sky two hours before sunrise and that 48% of the stars were in the sky two hours after sunset.

Then we learned about stars and NOW WE HAD THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING REALITY.

A little over a hundred years ago, we didn't understand some things about time. We thought we understood, but we did not. When Einstein explained things, we were amazed. NOW WE HAD THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING REALITY.

Now that we understood time, we could - wait, I didn't say that.

Einstein didn't tell us what time is. For that, we need our hero, the Quantum Physicist. He arrived on the scene almost a hundred years ago in the person of Werner Heisenberg and used his powerful statistical tools to tell us something about time. Except he didn't do this. He couldn't find a "group of time" to analyse. So he turned his attention to groups of electrons and made some revolutionary discoveries.

NOW WE HAD THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING REALITY.

Today's Quantum Physicist can help design computer chips that would be impossible without a quantum view of reality. He will tell you that you can't predict the motion of an individual electron fired from an electron gun, you can only predict how a large group of electrons will behave. The individual electrons are simple, unknowable forever, each identical to all the others.

Maybe, NOW WE HAVE THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING REALITY.

Maybe, Scientists are dumber than Marketing Experts.

At this point, it may help you and me if I summarize, repeat, or clarify the two things I am trying to prove.

First, Reality is complex and may be beyond our comprehension for eons.

Second, Life is complex, but not as complex as Reality. We have the tools, now, to understand Life at a much deeper level. This understanding will have as great an impact on the biological sciences in the the next century as quantum based science has had on the physical sciences. The first step in proving we can understand life is the "discovery" that EARLY LIFE CELLS, IN FACT ALL CELLS, WERE NOT SMALL, THEY WERE GIGANTIC.

Now, let us take a little more time to talk a little more about time.

I am assuming that time, only because we find it so difficult to understand, must have a significant relationship to Reality, which we also find hard to comprehend. We do not know the true extent of the relationship. We could learn all about time and still not advance our understanding of Reality.

I once read a definition of time, possibly written by a Quantum Physicist: "Time is what keeps Everything from happening at once". Many may find this funny as you can't imagine everything happening at once. Also, "at once" means "at the same time" and you really shouldn't use time as part of your definition of time.

Quantum Physicists thought longer and harder about this. What if time didn't exist? Maybe Reality is just what the ubiquitous observer sees as he travels across a "Just Is" landscape. To see and feel the reality 10 years from now, the observer must wait 10 years. The observer can only sense one of these sub-realities at a time, but they both exist and have equal validity. Quantum Physicists would call these two sub-realities separate universes and say we live in a multiverse which is made up of an infinite number of universes.

Quantum Physics has spawned millions of thoughts, many in the form of questions. These thoughts are gibberish. Interesting gibberish, but gibberish. And this gibberish may tell us a lot about Reality.

It may be difficult or impossible to prove a negative. Stating, as I do, that we can never understand Reality is a negative assertion. Also, I recognize that you may think I'm doing exactly the same thing I'm condemning scientists for doing, namely, accepting conventional wisdom until some unexpected breakthrough changes everything.

To use my example of a young boy digging in his backyard. Suppose he has a rich father who rents a diesel powered shovel to help out. Together, the boy and his father would still not reach China. Humanity may not exist long enough to understand Reality.

Now let us return to Heisenberg, who used his Fancy Dan equations to study electrons. Why couldn't he find "groups of time" to study? Let me propose a "thought experiment" that might explain it.

We start with an ant, a very smart ant, on a blade of grass in your backyard. This ant has a very powerful telescope, designed for his multi-faceted eye.

It is early morning, before dawn. The ant has had a good night's sleep before crawling onto the blade.

I am not adding this good night's sleep part just to be cute. As a kid, I had an ant farm, a narrow box with glass sides so you could watch ants tunneling, taking care of their young, feeding the queen, and doing other things that ants do. I learned a lot about ants. For example, I observed a group of ants whose job was to dig a new tunnel. They were very active for a long time. I saw one ant hold a root back so the others could dig passed it. Smart. Then the group stopped moving for a long time. The only reasonable explanation I could think of was they were sleeping.

Later, I would read about sleep and its importance to human mental health. There was no discussion of the mental health of ants.

My imaginary ant is designed to show the difficulty of understanding Reality, but it also supports a deeper understanding of Life.

OK, let us return to our ant on a blade of grass.

Due west of our ant is a building, slightly above the building is the moon, showing a slender crescent. Looking through her telescope, the ant can see a box on the roof of the building. She can barely make out electrons in the box. The building is a mile from the ant, 5,280 human feet away. I don't know how far that is in ant feet.

Suppose there is another box. This box is on the moon. Inside the box are small particles of time, each particle simple and identical to all other particles of time. We can call these particles timelets. They cannot be broken into smaller pieces, but they can, like electrons, be put in a box. Unfortunately for the ant, and maybe for Heisenberg, the box may be beyond detection with present technology.

To understand how timelets are beyond the technology of the ant's powerful telescope, remember that the ant with her telescope can see the box that is on the roof of the building and barely make out the electrons within. If, however, she moves her telescope slightly, the ant can also see the moon. The moon, however, is 240,000 times as far away as is the building. The box on the moon is much too small to be seen from the earth and this is even more true for the tiny timelets within the box. The ant can never see the timelets and draw any conclusions about them.

Return to INTRODUCTION TO THINKING LONGER AND HARDER. Or, if you liked this, send an email to Mike Stewart. - mike@esearchfor.com

BEGINNING OF THE WEIRD - THINKING LONGER AND HARDER

 

 
 

(- Copyright © 2016 by Mike Stewart -)

For 500 million years, life was simple, single cell, microscopic. Life twiddled its thumbs. However, a Classical Physicist, especially after talking to Albert Einstein, would realize this was half a billion years from the standpoint of one observer. This observer was the guy sitting among the early life, studying it with his microscope. Another observer, traveling at a high rate of speed, might find this period shorter.

The Classical Physicist might also have a couple of other thoughts - disturbing thoughts. Who was this observer? Those with a spiritual mind might say "God"! And how important is this observer? Suddenly, science was sounding more like philosophy.

When I was young, I liked science because I thought it was digital, orderly. Things were either true or false. There wasn't suppose to be a "maybe".

When I first learned about particles and waves, I didn't realize they might be a threat to what I most liked about science.

My physics book stated that everything was either a particle or a wave.

If there was a rigid pole in the middle of a pool of water and you threw a baseball at it, one of three things happened: (1) you miss and the ball hits the water somewhere behind the pole, (2) the ball hits the pole a glancing blow, changing course before hitting the water, or (3) the ball hits the pole directly bouncing back toward you. The ball is a particle.

If you disturb the water (hit it with a paddle), a wave will flow out and flow around the pole. Secondary waves will form and move in a different direction. In the case of water, waves are made of water molecules vibrating or moving in a periodic manner. Many scientists got their jollies developing mathematical equations to describe wave motion. Although it was unclear, at least to me, what was vibrating, it was shown that other waves, including ultraviolet, light, and radio, could be described by the equations. You could recognize a wave and it was not a particle.

And then, in 1927, a dirty Nazi came along and upset my apple cart - not that I am that old, but I read about it later.

Electrons are little subatomic balls of energy (with the emphasis on balls) that scientists had been playing around with since Ben Franklin flew his famous kite. Playing around with means writing math equations to try to describe an electron's behavior as well as doing experiments. By then, experiments had produced an electron gun, that is, a gun that can fire individual electrons. Einstein, and others, tried as hard as they could to write equations saying how the individual electron should behave. And failed.

To use our earlier example, it was as if you pointed the electron gun at the rigid pole in the pool and find the electron might hit the pole and bounce back, it might glance off the pole, or it might miss the pole by various amounts. One way to explain this result was to say you were not holding the gun steady, there was a slight shaking or palsy in your hand. And it seemed that no matter how hard you tried, when you aimed and fired the gun, you couldn't control the palsy.

Werner Heisenberg was a brilliant German scientist who would later follow Hitler. He offered a solution. Sort of.

Heisenberg stated that the palsy was a fundamental property of nature that could not be eliminated. You could never tell where a single electron was going. But you could, using his equations, calculate the probability of an electron hitting the pole. If you fired one hundred electrons, you could calculate how many hits you would likely have. The more electrons you fired, the more accurately you could predict the results. And his equations worked.

Examination of the mathematics involved, if you left out the critical probability stuff, showed that Heisenberg was treating electrons as if they were waves.

Scientist often claim to look at the world rationally and unemotionally. Einstein, however, felt this view of reality, based on probability, was abhorrent. With extreme disdain, he claimed "God does not play dice with the universe" and spent the rest of his life trying to prove Heisenberg wrong. Heisenberg merely said "Don't tell God what to do".

Why did Einstein get so upset? Not just philosophically. What was happening in his neurons? Heisenberg's theory, or rules, or way of looking at things, also bothered me. Again, why did I feel this way on a neurological level?

Remember when I asked if there were certain "truths" that were valid across all worldviews, areas or values we all found true or appealing, areas of common group-think? I postulated that it might always be productive to "talk in the terms of the other person's interest".

Before I pursue this further, let me say one more thing about Heisenberg. He was basically saying that electrons were waves. And experiments proved that electrons were definitely waves. Unfortunately, other experiments proved that electrons were definitely particles. To Einstein and to me, we were no longer living in a rational world.

Einstein had started his career when he imagined he was traveling on a beam of light - I just remembered this is called a "thought experiment". His reputation was cemented in 1919 when observation of a solar eclipse confirmed a key part of one of his theories, namely that light would be deflected if it passed near a strong gravitational field. In this case, light from a star was observed as it passed near the sun which has strong gravity. The starlight could be seen because of the solar eclipse. The light was deflected by the amount Einstein had forecast.

A couple of points.

Light was considered a wave, hence, the name light wave. Before Einstein, the common sense view was that only particles like balls or Newton's apple were affected by gravity. Einstein was looking at light as particles or photons.

With enough mass, there is no limit to how powerful a gravitational field can be. Light could be bent or deflected so much that it would be captured by the field and never escape. This much mass would be, what we call today, a "Black Hole".

Quantum Physics has dominated the physical sciences for almost a hundred years and has been the basis of many scientific advances. Anything that contains a computer chip could not exist if it weren't for Quantum Physics. So I'd like to ask a Quantum Physicist to observe Life during the first 500 million years.

You, and you might think, the Quantum Physicist, may wonder why I am so concerned with this early period when apparently nothing happened for so long. After all, shouldn't I be more interested in when life first crawled onto land? We'd probably be somewhere in Arizona on our imaginary journey. Or maybe we should look more closely when our observer arrives in eastern California and has to throw down his microscope and run for his life, lest he be stepped on by a dinosaur?

My answer is that I believe in what I call common sense. The development of life is a process - so something must be going on during this time period. First A happens, then B happens, then C, and so on.

My common sense makes me question the renowned biologist who says one possible cause of aging is random mutation of DNA caused by background radiation. The obvious question is why is a dog's DNA so sensitive, while a giant tortoise, with super DNA, may live 200 years?

Based on my common sense, I am a little surprised, no, I am actually shocked when my Quantum Physicist friend says he'll be glad to travel back 1500 million years and observe life. But first, I need to tell him which universe I want him to visit, am I really sure B happens after A, and exactly what do I mean by "1500 million years ago"?

His questions confuse me. I wanted to pretend I had an observer on the scene when Life began. I guess I will have to pretend to pretend I have an observer there.

I want to talk about Reality and Life. Maybe my Quantum Physicist friend has given me permission to talk gibberish too.

Why did Einstein get so upset with Heisenberg? Heisenberg challenged part of Einstein's Worldview. As a great scientist, Einstein felt he could prove Heisenberg wrong. But his understanding of Reality was not deep enough so he spent the rest of his life on a fruitless quest.

I also disliked Heisenberg, but I was not a scientist. I could not prove him wrong, so I found other ways to squander my time. And maybe realize something about Reality that Einstein missed.

About the same time that Einstein was fighting with Heisenberg, an American Astronomer named Edwin Hubble discovered that our galaxy was not the only galaxy in the universe. Eventually, billions of galaxies would be discovered. Once again, science had made man seem less significant. Instead of being a small creature living on a grain of sand circling a slightly larger grain of sand among a billion or so grains of sand that made up our galaxy, we were now told our galaxy itself was a grain of sand among billions. What a downer.

Hubble also discovered that the Universe, now made up of all of the galaxies, was expanding. The galaxies were moving apart. This fact made Einstein feel really bad.

Einstein was upset because some of the equations he had developed to support his famous theories had implied (to a mathematician, they fairly shouted) that the Universe was expanding. Einstein, however, was stuck in the old way of thinking, namely, the stars and heavens are constant, static. So he changed the equations to wipe out this revolutionary implication. Changing the equations was, he would later say, "the biggest mistake of my life".

Maybe we can never keep an open mind, but if Albert Einstein had not been influenced by conventional wisdom, Hubble's observations would have been, just like the solar eclipse we talked about earlier, an example of how brilliant Einstein was.

Quantum Physics has freed me to ask stupid questions. Remember when I said a biologist studying early life should see if and when DNA moved into the nucleus. It was a dumb question until the Quantum Physicist asked why I  thought B followed A. Someone should have asked Einstein why he thought the heavens were static.

Quantum Physics has also freed me from sticking to a particular timeline - after all, at a quantum level we can have lots of discussions about what time really is. So I want to talk about modern things, like quarks and other fundamental particles, and on a slightly higher level, electrons. But I reserve the right to go back later several decades or several billion years if the need arises.

Now for a stupid question: Do you think a man is more complex than an electron?

One thing that may be true across all Worldviews is a desire to be liked, admired, or respected. It is hard to see how any other view would contribute to survival. This is not to say that the frustration of this desire might not lead to something horrible. Stupid Questions: Does survival of the fittest apply to electrons? What do electrons desire?

Part of my worldview is a desire to be liked, admired, and respected. People said those who understood Calculus were smart. I found it fairly understandable, studied it more, and got better at it. People didn't have as much respect for Statistics. I initially found it confusing, ignored it, and didn't get better at it.

Statistics is, at least to me, the study of groups where there is limited knowledge about the individual members that make up the groups. Marketing Experts may use statistics to assert that 75% of people over 65 hate computers. Heisenberg may use an advanced form of statistics to say 35% of electrons will hit the pole in the pool.

Scientists, unlike Marketing Experts, are working at the forefront of science, at the edge of knowledge. But Scientists, even Quantum Physicists, are still Human Beings. If they looked at Nature, or we could say Reality, as an Adversary, they would do well to remember the famous saying "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me". Shame on all Scientists.

Scientists have consistently insisted that Now, Today, This Moment, is Special. It is especially ironic that the Quantum Physicists does this while much of his work is designed to prove the opposite.

In ancient times, the stars in the heavens were unknowable lights. We knew almost nothing about any individual star and what we did know was probably wrong. Any one star was identical to all the other stars. We could never know any more than we knew on this ancient day about stars. If Heisenberg had been around, he might have applied his statistical methods to say that 52% of the stars were in the sky two hours before sunrise and that 48% of the stars were in the sky two hours after sunset.

Then we learned about stars and NOW WE HAD THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING REALITY.

A little over a hundred years ago, we didn't understand some things about time. We thought we understood, but we did not. When Einstein explained things, we were amazed. NOW WE HAD THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING REALITY.

Now that we understood time, we could - wait, I didn't say that.

Einstein didn't tell us what time is. For that, we need our hero, the Quantum Physicist. He arrived on the scene almost a hundred years ago in the person of Werner Heisenberg and used his powerful statistical tools to tell us something about time. Except he didn't do this. He couldn't find a "group of time" to analyse. So he turned his attention to groups of electrons and made some revolutionary discoveries.

NOW WE HAD THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING REALITY.

Today's Quantum Physicist can help design computer chips that would be impossible without a quantum view of reality. He will tell you that you can't predict the motion of an individual electron fired from an electron gun, you can only predict how a large group of electrons will behave. The individual electrons are simple, unknowable forever, each identical to all the others.

Maybe, NOW WE HAVE THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING REALITY.

Maybe, Scientists are dumber than Marketing Experts.

At this point, it may help you and me if I summarize, repeat, or clarify the two things I am trying to prove.

First, Reality is complex and may be beyond our comprehension for eons.

Second, Life is complex, but not as complex as Reality. We have the tools, now, to understand Life at a much deeper level. This understanding will have as great an impact on the biological sciences in the the next century as quantum based science has had on the physical sciences. The first step in proving we can understand life is the "discovery" that EARLY LIFE CELLS, IN FACT ALL CELLS, WERE NOT SMALL, THEY WERE GIGANTIC.

Now, let us take a little more time to talk a little more about time.

I am assuming that time, only because we find it so difficult to understand, must have a significant relationship to Reality, which we also find hard to comprehend. We do not know the true extent of the relationship. We could learn all about time and still not advance our understanding of Reality.

I once read a definition of time, possibly written by a Quantum Physicist: "Time is what keeps Everything from happening at once". Many may find this funny as you can't imagine everything happening at once. Also, "at once" means "at the same time" and you really shouldn't use time as part of your definition of time.

Quantum Physicists thought longer and harder about this. What if time didn't exist? Maybe Reality is just what the ubiquitous observer sees as he travels across a "Just Is" landscape. To see and feel the reality 10 years from now, the observer must wait 10 years. The observer can only sense one of these sub-realities at a time, but they both exist and have equal validity. Quantum Physicists would call these two sub-realities separate universes and say we live in a multiverse which is made up of an infinite number of universes.

Quantum Physics has spawned millions of thoughts, many in the form of questions. These thoughts are gibberish. Interesting gibberish, but gibberish. And this gibberish may tell us a lot about Reality.

It may be difficult or impossible to prove a negative. Stating, as I do, that we can never understand Reality is a negative assertion. Also, I recognize that you may think I'm doing exactly the same thing I'm condemning scientists for doing, namely, accepting conventional wisdom until some unexpected breakthrough changes everything.

To use my example of a young boy digging in his backyard. Suppose he has a rich father who rents a diesel powered shovel to help out. Together, the boy and his father would still not reach China. Humanity may not exist long enough to understand Reality.

Now let us return to Heisenberg, who used his Fancy Dan equations to study electrons. Why couldn't he find "groups of time" to study? Let me propose a "thought experiment" that might explain it.

We start with an ant, a very smart ant, on a blade of grass in your backyard. This ant has a very powerful telescope, designed for his multi-faceted eye.

It is early morning, before dawn. The ant has had a good night's sleep before crawling onto the blade.

I am not adding this good night's sleep part just to be cute. As a kid, I had an ant farm, a narrow box with glass sides so you could watch ants tunneling, taking care of their young, feeding the queen, and doing other things that ants do. I learned a lot about ants. For example, I observed a group of ants whose job was to dig a new tunnel. They were very active for a long time. I saw one ant hold a root back so the others could dig passed it. Smart. Then the group stopped moving for a long time. The only reasonable explanation I could think of was they were sleeping.

Later, I would read about sleep and its importance to human mental health. There was no discussion of the mental health of ants.

My imaginary ant is designed to show the difficulty of understanding Reality, but it also supports a deeper understanding of Life.

OK, let us return to our ant on a blade of grass.

Due west of our ant is a building, slightly above the building is the moon, showing a slender crescent. Looking through her telescope, the ant can see a box on the roof of the building. She can barely make out electrons in the box. The building is a mile from the ant, 5,280 human feet away. I don't know how far that is in ant feet.

Suppose there is another box. This box is on the moon. Inside the box are small particles of time, each particle simple and identical to all other particles of time. We can call these particles timelets. They cannot be broken into smaller pieces, but they can, like electrons, be put in a box. Unfortunately for the ant, and maybe for Heisenberg, the box may be beyond detection with present technology.

To understand how timelets are beyond the technology of the ant's powerful telescope, remember that the ant with her telescope can see the box that is on the roof of the building and barely make out the electrons within. If, however, she moves her telescope slightly, the ant can also see the moon. The moon, however, is 240,000 times as far away as is the building. The box on the moon is much too small to be seen from the earth and this is even more true for the tiny timelets within the box. The ant can never see the timelets and draw any conclusions about them.

Return to INTRODUCTION TO THINKING LONGER AND HARDER. Or, if you liked this, send an email to Mike Stewart. - mike@esearchfor.com