A quick post in a mostly positivistic direction. I have written before that our ability to expand the spatio-temporal scale of our knowledge is a wonderful capacity, and I write today to say I had no idea how true that was until I read Frank Wilczeck’s book, A Beautiful Question. Before going there, let’s describe what our basic human scale is. Our life is certainly local to this planet with its day, seasons, and year plus we live a much abbreviated span when compared to earth’s geology. (Gene lines are considerably longer). Our sensory organs set strict parameters on what energies we are able to perceive, visible light in the electromagnetic spectrum, 20-10,000 Hz in the acoustic range, a plethora of chemical scents (last estimate upwards to a million or more), and touch quite sensitive but also quite immediate. We can see with some comprehension layers of stone laid down over time in cliffs and canyons, sea fossils on mountain tops, extinct dinosaur bones, etc. We can also see with open amazement the sun, moon, planets and stars. Telescopes have enlarged our view and understanding considerably and we now “see” back in time to maybe 14 billion years ago. We can detect the background radiation still echoing from the big bang way back whenever.
Likewise the microscope has enabled us to see at a much smaller scale, electron microscopes even smaller, and now particle accelerators allow surmises at even smaller scales. This brings us to this quote from Mr. Wilczeck:
The magnification of this [artist’s] image is approximately1027, so the region it depicts is roughly as small, compared to humans, as a human is small compared to the visible universe. The fluctuations turn over in about 10-24 second. That time is far smaller, compared to a second, than is a second compared to the time since the Big Bang.
Scales beyond our ken, larger and smaller—wow! The Sumerians with their cuneiform numbers or Egyptians with hieroglyphs or even Pythagoras with his geometry and music had no idea the cultural learning curve they started would bring us round to here, though to be fair, Pythagoras quite mystically believed that the universe was composed of numbers. I used to think I was like a chipmunk in a ground hog hole, and then one in a bear hole, and now I believe I am like a chipmunk lost in some marvelous cavern. Travel on and on and on and . . . .