My neighbor, a retired PhD, has been reading scholarly books about quantum theories, including an advanced college text book to help translate the terms and ideas. (My feeble efforts over the years have been to read layman's books such as "Einstein's Universe" by Nigel Calder; "The Dancing Wu Li Masters" by Gary Zukav; "The Elegant Universe" by Brian Greene; and "Introduction to Superstrings" by Michio Kaku.) I also spent a lot of time reading everything on Stephen Hawking's web page way back when I got my first desk top home computer. (Remember AOL?!) At any rate, I have not had occasion to discuss theories of relativity since my good friend Karl died almost 30 years ago. The discussions with Karl lent color and depth to much of my poetry written as a young woman and has fired my imagination since.
I admit I am intimidated by my neighbor's formally educated mind. I know my undisciplined and heavily existential bent is no match, but I do not let that stop me from making an ass out of myself. Here is my response to her summation of her recent inquiry into loop quantum gravity and string theories:
"You want to know something truly amazing? The more I get into the Buddhist world view, and the more I find out about the TRUE nature of what those monks had been doing in Tibet all of these centuries... our modern scientific theories coincide with their incredibly disciplined mental inquiry into the true nature of reality. At its purest, Buddhism is not considered a religion and the Buddha was not considered divine or a deity - but considered "conscious" or awake. It is amazing to me that the mainstreaming of relativity and quantum theories roughly coincide with the dispersion of the Tibetan monks across the world. I have been reading a lot about some of the contemporary Buddhist adepts in discussion with the best theoretical western minds and realizing they are discussing the same conclusions. Isn't that astounding?
Perhaps we are witnessing the actual evolution into a far more enlightened species as these ideas have spread across the entire planet and are consciously available in mundane reality to everyone. What if we are just on the cusp of a profound tipping point of conscious expansion - something akin to all those epochs of time while our ancestors slowly evolved until that one remarkable change produced homo sapiens with our big brains? What if we are soon going to take another leap of evolution and become an enlightened species as well? Hard to believe when the best the USA can do is elect Trump, but not every early homo sapiens unit survived... it was survival of the fittest. Maybe evolution is going to weed out the dumbasses for a millennia or two, starting with those who elected Trump? (I read a disturbing article the other day that blue collar white people are dying at an increasing rate in America - attributed to despair due to economics - but it's just because they are addicted to Fox News.) Only the brightest of the first homo sapiens survived, so maybe going forward only the most conscious will survive to reproduce. By that logic, Fox News is an agent of evolution!"
Her response to that was one line. (I think she understood it was a joke.)
So, that was yesterday. I woke in the wee hours this morning with a dizzying glimpse of ideas too big for my normal thinking. The faint echo of what I had been dreaming was the question of what exactly is the nature of numbers that theoretical physicists can describe the nature of reality using them? And here I was thinking numbers merely evolved as an easier way for humans to barter potatoes for beer or some such basic evolutionary need! It is like when my meditation teacher instructs us to "be aware of being aware". It is too goddamned mind boggling.
My neighbor dropped this little gem on me yesterday: the idea that space is made of discrete particles. Meaning, in my admittedly limited understanding, space is not mere emptiness but consists of quantifiable amounts of the smallest indivisible space "particle". I guess that means we can take infinite space and chop it up into its own "space" atoms. So, if you can dismantle a space particle into even smaller units of something else the way you can break an H2O molecule into hydrogen and oxygen, what would the smallest unit of space be? And what would its components be? What is less than space?
I will be thinking about this on the drive to work every morning for months!