Blog entry by Alan Chapman
Firstly, this is to show how confusing language is, especially when we discuss/explain deep subjects, which all subjects are when we examine them deeply - even a single raindrop or grain of sand, or the word 'a'.
All language, and 'semiotics', meaning other communications sent/received, have several meanings, and very intentionally I use two meanings in the headline 'what matters' - to show what I mean about language.
If you want another example, try defining the word 'a', or its equivalent in a foreign language; or the meaning of the 'number' zero ('0'), or the phrase: 'how we feel'.
Secondly (point 2 below) this is to show (my belief and assertion) that science can never explain in word language or mathematics (of physics, chemistry, etc) what the universe and life/death and reality all are.
What I mean less obviously by 'matters' is the plural of the word 'matter' in physics (see New Scientist article title below), which then changes completely the meaning of the word 'what'.
The less obvious meaning of 'matters' - plural for matter in physics - is shown in this statement:
"Exotic fifth state of matter made on the International Space Station"
This is a headline for an article in New Scientist magazine dated 11 June 2020. (We might also wonder about the meaning of the word 'exotic' in this context.)
You don't need to read or understand the following, an extract from the article, but I offer it anyway: "An exotic fifth type of matter has been created in one of the coldest places in the universe – a device on board the International Space Station (ISS). The Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) was launched to the ISS in 2018 to investigate a strange kind of matter, known as a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC). This suitcase-sized device chills atoms of rubidium and potassium in a vacuum chamber, using laser light to slow their movement. Magnetic fields then contain the resulting cloud of atoms, which is cooled to nearly absolute zero at -273°C, producing a BEC. This chilly substance was initially theorised by Albert Einstein and Satyendra Nath Bose in the early 1920s as the fifth state of matter, following solids, liquids, gases and plasma. It is a supercooled gas that no longer behaves as individual atoms and particles, but rather an entity in a single quantum state." (*Fuller extract below at footer.)
What matters about the article (I'm now using the conventionally understood meaning of 'what matters') is the second main point of this (my article) called 'what matters'.
2. Does it matter how many matters we discover?
I realise that space exploration produces all sorts of inventions that are useful on Earth (depending on your interpretation of 'useful'), and provides lots of employment for people, and business for industries, and is a source of national pride, and perhaps hope of an escape or migration opportunity from Earth one day, etc, etc.
My point is not about those justifications and reasons for space exploration.
My point is about the search for answers about the meaning of life, universe and everything.
There are a lot of scientists in the world, studying all sorts of 'science', including things that many people would be surprised could be defined as science.
UNESCO estimated in 2015 there were about 7.8million scientists in the world, equating to about 0.1% of the world's population. That's about one in every thousand people, is a scientist.
We might estimate there to be about 10million scientists in 2020, given the growth of education across the world since 2015, especially in developing nations with huge populations of young people. Universities are big business.
At the same time this is happening, fewer people know how to cook from basic ingredients; fewer people can fix things that break; fewer children know how to make a fire without matches or a lighter; fewer people are in touch with nature; more people are frightened of things that two or three generations ago were not a worry to anyone; and more people are very very unhealthy due to poor lifestyle, ignorance, and pollution.. Do you see what I'm suggesting?
Back to the matters of life, universe and everything...
Science is discovering increasing complexity in everything, as it explores and analyses and attempts to explain (in language and maths - which are both human constructs that have different meanings to different people).
Science is discovering that when we look at the tiniest things, like sub-atomic particles and matter, that they keep getting smaller.
Science is discovering that when we look at the biggest things, like the universe, time and space, human thought, existence, and matter, again - what is everything made of - that it all keeps getting bigger, and smaller.
Science seems not to understand that everything is formed by interactions between all the tiniest things and all the biggest things, and all things in between, that make everything.
My point is that we cannot resolve or explain infinity x infinity to the power of infinite infinities... x as many infinities as you want.
Especially in language and maths, and any science.
My personal conclusion is that it's okay to make your own universe, and that might be the answer.
Our universe - and the meaning of everything - is basically inside our heads.
Time and space are relative, as are other matters - and so is our perception and the reality we make of ourselves and of the world and universe that we inhabit, and perhaps define.
But do not expect science ever to be able to explain anything that's very complex, really truly, because it's beyond us, and if a computer ever produced the answer, how would we know it to be correct?
The wisest people I've even known, simply exist. They simply 'are', and they simply 'be', and they accept that everything simply 'is'.
The wisest people I've ever known seem to use one word consistently, that's the best we've found for describing all this, and it's 'love'.
'Love' is a word of course, open to all sorts of interpretations and meanings, but it does seem to be closer to the truth and meaning of everything, than anything else.
But that's just my conclusion.
Make your own universe.
An exotic fifth type of matter has been created in one of the coldest places in the universe – a device on board the International Space Station (ISS). The Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) was launched to the ISS in 2018 to investigate a strange kind of matter, known as a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC). This suitcase-sized device chills atoms of rubidium and potassium in a vacuum chamber, using laser light to slow their movement. Magnetic fields then contain the resulting cloud of atoms, which is cooled to nearly absolute zero at -273°C, producing a BEC. This chilly substance was initially theorised by Albert Einstein and Satyendra Nath Bose in the early 1920s as the fifth state of matter, following solids, liquids, gases and plasma. It is a supercooled gas that no longer behaves as individual atoms and particles, but rather an entity in a single quantum state. “This is pretty remarkable because this gives you a macroscopic-sized quantum mechanical object,” says Maike Lachmann at Leibniz University Hannover in Germany. BECs have been produced in a variety of experiments on Earth since 1995, but these are hindered by gravity, which collapses the clouds in a split second. The microgravity environment of the ISS keeps them stable for multiple seconds, allowing them to be studied in more detail. Robert Thompson at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and his colleagues have been operating the CAL remotely and have published their first results. While mostly just a demonstration that the machine works, there are some tantalising glimpses of what might be possible one day. “It’s more of a technological achievement,” says Thompson. “But in the future, it will enable a wide spectrum of science.” The initial results show that BECs behave differently in orbit. The team found that about half of the atoms form into a halo-like cloud around the main body of the BEC. On the ground, these atoms would simply fall due to gravity, but in microgravity on the ISS, the cloud remains suspended (Nature, s41586-020-2346-1 DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2346-1). In the near future, the researchers hope to use the experiment to watch atoms collide on a quantum level. They also want to probe ripples in space-time called gravitational waves by monitoring disturbances in the movement of the atoms. Looking further ahead, the experiment could also tackle ideas like Einstein’s equivalence principle, which says that all masses in a given gravitational field accelerate in the same way. Tests in microgravity could reveal whether there are any violations of the principle. “It’s usually unwise to bet against Einstein,” says Thompson. “But it’s always important to test these things.”
(New Scientist, 11 Jun 2020)