Monday, March 21, 2005


I've been mulling this over for the last few weeks.

"I'm an atom, what do I see?"

Well, if I'm that small 16^-16 meters or so, I certainly don't see light. You need a receptor that is much bigger than an atom to pick up light. Right?

So, what do I see?

I certainly see my neighbour's electrostatic charge - as it reacts with me.
This electromagnetic charge is a weird one because it's something we share. We both spill electromagnetic charge at certain times. We could even look to make a water-drip clock and try to regulate our electromagnetic charges over time, like a heart beat. The funny thing here is that we perform the equivalent of blood transfusions whenever we 'share' our electrostatic charge.

I certainly see my neighbour's momentum - as it crashes into me.
I don't know if I'm moving or not. As far as I'm concerved, I am static in the universe while these beings from the 'outside' crash into me. Maybe I try to decipher a code from the strength and direction of the collisions. I would certainly be able to work out a state change - if I were in a gas, the collisions would be much less frequent than if I were in a solid. But I wouldn't know about these states, I'd just attribute is to phases of 'weather'; remember, if I'm an atom (at least if I am one of its components, say a proton) I live for millions of years and experience many different changes of weather.

I certainly notice an internal change when a photon is emitted, in contemporary physics (not HC physics which i'm avoiding for the minute) an electron in the outer electron shell experiences a state shift. After this is resolved, a photon is emitted. I don't see the photon but I register the change as a sudden relaxing of excess tension in my system.

I have no idea of macroscopic effects such as em_radiation, gravity or macroscopic structure.

So, where am I going with this?

Well, up, of course, this is a study of scale and how there's a physical barrier to perception. Ready? Here we go, let's take a quick scale up and stop to look at cells and other structures of life. What do I see? If I were a receptor, say a rod in an eye, I could see light but do I see the universe. Unlikely. As a receptor, I am still a blind transmitter of a state change, this time to the brain. Well, I don't know about the brain, I just know I have a reaction to em_radiation and I pass it out my ass to some place else.

What about if I'm a free-floating cell, say, in blood. I don't know about gravity, in fact, such is the resistance of the fluid in which I live, the only reference to 'gravity' I have is the mono-direction pulse of the blood around the cardio-vascular system but I don't know what a heart is. That is my 'gravity', I don't know how it's formed or what its function is. I can't discern that I'm part of a body. I only know that I can affect neighbour cells and maybe change my shape, get affected by viruses, feed myself when I need replenishing. I have an electrostatic structure that can be powered up or syphoned off, depending on my shape and the conformity of my neighbours.

Now, let's quickly scale up to us (the cleverest thing ever to have lived). We can see light and we think we are the highest observational scale. Hell, we have microscopes and telescopes. We can alter matter to our own design. We are surely the master of the known universe, right?

Well, not really. The law of blindness still applies to us. We can see light (and other em_radiation) but that's because we have macroscopic structures that will pick up those movements of the universe. We have found that there is a whole spectrum of em beyond visible 'light' (once hidden from us). What we don't see if the structure that forms universes, and by this I mean we don't see the galactic structure that exists down which gravity flows. We have no detector for gravity, no machine that shows us teh why of the gravity universe, only a detector for the difference between two macroscopic things.

We may need a dimensional leap of understanding to see gravity and how it forms matter in its concentrated wells. But one thing is sure, as light isn't perceivable at the atomic level, as gravity isn't perceivable at the cellular level, so structure isn't perceivable at the em_radiation level. We only see that which we can detect, that which we have physical structures big enough to detect.

What I'm saying is, "I'm an atom, what do I see?"

This applies to me at whatever scale or dimension I find myself. For scientific centuries man has considered himself the centre of the universe, all known forces orbit his planet of knowledge. Well, it seems more likely that human perception is, and always has been, somewhere in the MID RANGE and has its own limitations and shouldn't be used to interpolate or extrapolate on the higher dimensions or universal structures with such bigoted (and sneering) confidence. This does not depress me, it makes me search even harder for that which exists beyond the atomic and universal ends of the phenomenal spectrum.


Anonymous said...

I've noticed a distinct lack of comments - I wonder if it is because people are too confused by what you write?

Me? I like it.

BTW - As you seem to be able to get your head around being an atom I suggest you read Diaspora by Greg Egan - the amuzun description doesn't do it justice.


Mike Philbin said...

I have no idea why more people don't comment on the posts in this blog - maybe I have a reputation of being someone who doesn't suffer fools gladly and they tend not to post comments here. Good.


Thanks for your support though - it's nice to know there are some out there who appreciate a good bit of "thinky" in the morning or evening.