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Physics and Writing


I haven't been doing this much lately, since I'm keeping busy doing other things (including physics). However, I do sit down every now and then and outline my thoughts on various topics. I also have a fictional autobiography I have been adding to since 1992. I am still adding to it, and will probably still be adding to it for a lifetime, given that it is an autobiography.


Most of the time though, I write about physics. I take notes on what I read, and try to connect different concepts together. I must have thousands of pages of notes that have accumulated over the years, from topics ranging from electromagnetism, wave dynamics, atomic physics, relativity, and most recently, fluid mechanics. I sometimes move on to a different physics topic for a while, but it's hard for my interest to drift elsewhere. I've been accused of focusing too much on the details of topics rather than the bigger picture, but I think what keeps me going besides fascination is the idea that there is a bigger picture. Einstein said that time, space, and gravity were all indistinguishable from matter - that is the bigger picture, and we've been spending too much time focused on the details of what we see are its various parts.

I think about such things a lot each day. Every time I have to lift something heavy, or see something that can move faster than me, or watch a bird fly, my thinking inevitably drifts to wondering what is matter and gravity. Then I wonder, what is charge? What is momentum actually? Why do particles have intrinsic angular momentum? What is an electric or magnetic field? How is light supposed to be the same as matter? So I go about trying to answer the questions for myself...

...and now I think I've found a good start for such answers.

Thoughts on Quantum Gravity

One of the things that drives me to learn more about nature is curiosity about its underpinnings. Instinctively, I feel that the fundamentals of nature can't be difficult to understand, because why would nature be built on such unparsimoniously complicated a foundation?

My high school and college training in physics, as well as my more frequent reading of physics journals, has taught me that there's much more to nature than what's taught in introductory physics classes, and that even our best physicists today understand. General/special relativity and quantum mechanics are two magnificent theories that each have a long line of experimental verifications, more than anything else we have been able to conceive. However, these two theories are mutually incompatible with each other. Everyone today wants a theory of quantum gravity, and the math required to do such a thing is beyond the comprehension of not only most people, but also most physicists (or else we'd have such a theory already).

As a biologist, I've been long aware of repeating themes at different scales. Nature seems to be fractally organized, with self-similarity (exactness isn't required) existing at all these different scales. Complex organisms are made from simpler cells, simpler cells are made from a limited range of molecules, those are made from a limited range of atoms, and those are made up of only so many subatomic particles. Thus, only a few components are necessary to create the complexity we see in nature. It eludes me why physics must require such complicated mathematics to describe such elegant simplicity.

My primary area of interest is what Einstein spent the last years of his life considering, the interplay between space, time, and gravity. I'm also interested in the connection between electromagnetism and gravity, two forces that follow the same inverse square laws and at higher energies, are supposed to unify as suggested by quantum theory. Without knowledge of higher mathematics, I know I will never be able to go about my work in the same way theoretical physicists do, so there have to be other ways, like experiments and computer simulations. However, I'm interested only in getting a personal sense of the fundamentals of nature. I don't ever expect to publish my ideas. The universe is the ultimate bigger picture, and I'm always saying how important it is for each of us to focus on and consider the bigger picture as we live our lives. So that's what I'm doing.

Progress is Always Slow

Sometimes I feel that what I'm trying to do is like what a person blind from birth would have to do in order to understand colors and light. It is not something physically accessible to her because he lacks the physical means to detect light, and thus cannot understand it. She can use mathematics to get some sense of how it works, and in that way understand it. She can perform experiments that convert this enigmatic light to sound waves or some other comprehensible form. Likewise, because of our three-dimensional limitations, we will never truly be able to embrace a universe of higher dimensions as suggested by string theory. String theory is currently unverifiable because of this same limitation, though it predicts everything that we can currently predict using relativity and quantum mechanics.

I am doubly blind because I cannot experience multidimensional structure, and I haven't learned the mathematics required to describe it. Thus I am only available with the option of experiment. Some people know I've had a long-standing physics project, and this is it. I wasn't raised as a string theorist, engineer, metalworker, or electrician, so it's been very slow for me to learn what I need to know to do what I want to do.

Science can be slow like that, so slow that like Einstein, results might never be seen in a single lifetime. However, what better way of spending a life can there be than to try to understand the universe that gave rise to your life? It is like coming full circle...the universe has allowed me to exist, and in turn I, through my explorations, allow the universe to understand itself in some small way. That is because I recognize I am a part of the universe, and so are you, and all other people who could potentially understand that they're each individual facets of the universe's introspective eye, but instead keep themselves occupied with mindless jobs, meaningless wars, and personally inflicted strife.

Thoughts on the Greater Picture

Yes, our species has reached the point of sentience, where we are aware of our own existence. However, we have not reached that point that lacks a descriptive word, where we are aware of our relationship to and interdependence with the greater universe. Perhaps this is because we don't understand the greater universe...in fact, we don't even understand the workings of life on our own planet. Through our ignorance we are destroying our planet, and through choice we are relegating the study of physics to the backburner in our schools in favor of the more profitable topics of chemistry and biomedical science. Our youth are roaming the social fabric looking for meaning in their lives, not able to see that they are alive and can think and question because they are supposed to think and question.

It's bordering on religion, but sometimes I feel that in some way, the universe wants to understand itself and sentient life is a tool for achieving that. Wherever it evolves, the universe has another opportunity to introspect. In the process, we gain by also understanding ourselves and the purpose of our lives in this greater whole. Really, why have the ability to understand what we experience if we're not supposed to do that? Birds have wings so they can fly; fish have fins so they can swim. We have minds so we can think and experience. We have technology so we can explore. We have dreams so we can imagine all the limitless possibilities of existence. If only we also had the drive to follow our dreams, imagine the possibilities. For now, I will follow my dream. I hope others will join me in following theirs.



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