Monday, May 30, 2011
THE FLAVOR OF THE DAY, aka The questionable quark.
I recently spoke to a self-proclaimed quantum physicist. She sold water softeners. She was a nice lady, and a lot of fun, and I was speaking to her over the telephone about a business matter. Let's just call her "Marge". Here is part of the dialogue:
Me: So Marge, what do you do for a living?
Marge: Me and my partner own a businees.
Me: What kind of business?
Marge: We sell water softeners.
Fair enough...two hard-working entrepreneurs selling quality products to the American consumer. I respect people like that. Let's continue...
Me: How did you get into that field?
Marge: My partner, he's a quantum physicist. Yeah, he knows all about
quantum physics, and he is teaching me. You know, you can get cancer
and stuff from the vibrations in your water if you don't get rid of
those free radicals.
After thinking about my daughter's dorm at Kent State, which was right where the infamous shootings took place in 1970 (get it..."free radicals", hha ha), she asked me to wait because a customer was coming in.
I heard the following:
Marge: Are you here to get a water softener?
Marge (estatic): Oh my! It is good to meet someone else who is interested
WAIT! The jig is up! You said METAphysics! I knew it. You have no idea what you are talking about, do you Marge? Besides, I never heard of a physicist working for years, and spending tens of thousands of dollars to get a PhD, only to become a water softener retailer.
What does any of this have to do with Kool Aid, that delicious sugar water, flavored with toxic dyes, that was such a staple of my 1970s childhood? Only this..Kool Aid had a lot of "Kool" flavors. Let me explain...
"Quantum" simply means a measure ("quant" ity) of anything. However, in popular literature it has come to be equated with subatomic physics. This means means measurable particles below the atomic level. When I was in science class, as a pup, we were taught there is nothing smaller than an atom. Even then, there was a lot of literature about subatomic physics, most notably from Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr, but from other lesser knowns, as well. It was all based on an original paper by Max Planck, a true genius whom most kids never learn about in school, sadly. But anyway, according to my junior high school teacher, who also taught phys ed by the way, and never took off his whistle, I learned the atom was the bottom of the rung.
That is not the case. Let's touch on a teeny bit of science and no, it will NOT be boring. Use your imagination! When you do that, very little in life IS boring. Quantum theory (aka "quantum mechanics") have SO MANY implications, that one could easily write twenty volumes on the subject and not scratch the surface. It affects the unified theory, string theory, the space time continuum, um, oh, never mind...let's talk about a cat. If you are a cat lover, don't be offended. I am not, so here we go:
A number of subatomic particles have been discovered, and more are being identified all the time. Now remember, we don't actually "see" these things. I wrote, in a previous blog entry, about the unfathomable size of the universe, well this is still about that unfathomable size, only at the other end of the spectrum: the miniscule. We found them mathematically because they are too small to see.
So (I will get to the cat in a minute. Hold on.), two of the most noteworthy particles are quarks and leptons. When I was a kid,our gym/science teacher showed us a model of an atom. It featured a nucleus, surrounded by electrons. I believed this just like I believed the standard health class rhetoric about the 4 food groups, and the idea that the Ruskies were going to nuke us while we lie in bed.
In fact, the atom consists of many particles, including quarks. A quark can exist in one of 6 flavors. "Flavor" simply means the quark's orientation vis-a-vis other quarks. That is because every quark has an anti-quark. Just like every proton (+), has an opposite electron (-). Yes, opposites attract. Ask my wife. So anyway, everything in the known universe has an opposite, including quarks. This has non-scientific implications. Christianity, in its most basic sense, is a story of good versus evil. God versus Satan. If one accepts the premise that good and evil are opposite one another, a complete "no brainer", then it is readily observed in the physical world. Again, everything has its opposite, so this validates the concept of sin. If you love someone, Mr. or Ms. Unbeliever, that in itself confirms the existence of sin.
Also, subatomic particles appear to behave with no rhyme or reason. Or do they? Perhaps their behavior is so complex that we are unable, or do not have the intellectual capacity, to ascertain and identify the patterns of behavior. So, the fact that we do not understand everything about God does not mean He is nonexistent. Just as mathematical evidence of quarks exists, evidence of God exists. Again, physical realities validate spiritual possibilities.
Oh yeah, the cat. A nice fellow named Schroedinger explained one reason we may not be able to determine the behavior of subatomic particles, and quarks in particular. In his hypothetical scenario, a cat is put in a box, which is then a vial of poison gas is put inside. The vial is attached to a Geiger counter. If the box is opened, it releases the gas and kills the cat. If left closed, the cat remains alive. However, if it remains closed, how do we KNOW it is alive? It is an assumption. So, the question is asked, "Does the mere act of observation, in fact, change the phenomenon being measured? I say "yes". As a doctoral student, we account for this when doing research. So, remember the proverbial question, "If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody sees it, did it still fall?" If something happens at the subatomic level, and we do not see it, does that mean it did not happen? No.
Here is the corollary: BECAUSE WE HAVE NOT SEEN, HEARD, OR OBSERVED SOMETHING ABOUT GOD, DOES THAT MEAN IT IS DOES NOT EXIST? Of course not! There is a preponderance of evidence. Christianity is NOT just a matter of blind faith. Evidence exists in nature. Just as a physicist affects subatomic particle relationships in his or her efforts to observe them, we too affect our perception of Christ when we try to perceive Him, because we are flawed, and we taint everything we see. We bring our own biases to Jesus and see him through OUR prism.
The old paradigm: Science and faith are opposite one another. MY paradigm: My faith is VALIDATED by science because the creator, Jesus Christ, is not just The Savior, The Great Physician, and Master of our Souls. He is "Chief Scientist" as well.