Monday, 28 January 2013

Diameter Of A Proton

Once upon a time, we thought that the Universe worked like a clockwork mechanism.

This was thousands of years after we had mostly given up the belief that the Universe ran on Spirit, and a couple of centuries before we started to lose our absolute conviction that we know how the Universe runs at all - which is the place we are now, of course.

In the arena of 20th Century Physics, there was an eerie uniformity of theory. What we were taught in school and university was what the best minds believed, and all the best minds, to a large extent, agreed with one another. I was taught Physics in an era of monolithic theory. Never mind that Quantum Mechanics had been studied for decades - all the Best Minds agreed on how to understand it, and that was via the Copenhagen Interpretation. The few outlier theories, while acknowledged, had no real grip on the community of physicists and were used for illustrative comparison, not serious consideration.

It's only in the last couple of decades - and I, alas, have not been a practising Physicist for that long - that fundamental theories of many differing hues have been seriously and continuously held by more than a few scientists. The strength of the minds holding divergent views has  become much greater. And so things like this have started happening.

The diameter of the Proton may not, I admit, be  a thrilling concern for most people in the world today. But the huge disparities between measurements (yes, in the sub atomic world 4% is a huge disparity) is a clear testimony that many great minds are lined up, not only on opposite sides of this question, but on many different sides. And that's something we haven't seen for a good couple of centuries at least.

And so, just as in Copernicus' time, the fabric of our understanding of the Cosmos appears to be wavering.
There is no longer one dominant mode of thought on the nature of reality, even -or especially - at the level of Theoretical Physics. Shifting, sliding and melting in many colours and possibly infinite dimensions. Because as humans, what we think and strongly believe does have the power to shake the foundations of the World. And we are starting to see that in action.

What will we do with this awareness of Our awesome power?

This train of thought brought on by Christina's latest podcast on Complementary Dualism. Many thanks Christina.