The Most Incomprehensible Thing About The Universe


Physics Discussion Continues
June, ’80

“Determining the change of change in different reference systems,”
Jade continued, “is no small accomplishment, but there is something
even more amazing going on here. Einstein’s equations let us in on an
astounding universe, a universe absolutely different from the one that
Euclid mapped out for us a couple millenniums ago. The universe
discovered by Einstein even astounded Einstein, but it wasn’t the
oddness of it all that astounded him, it was the simple fact that it
could be discovered at all! He said, ‘The most incomprehensible thing
about the universe is that it is comprehensible.’ If you ask me, that
statement says more about the universe than does Einstein’s own

“If that’s true,” Don interrupted, “then Einstein must have died a
pretty frustrated man because based on what you’re telling me here,
nobody is even close to comprehending a universe that is free of
contradictory laws. What’s comprehensible about that?”

“We don’t know everything, Don,” Jade replied, “but we do know a hell
of a lot more than we used to. We are beginning to understand ‘who and
what we are’ in a whole different light. It’s true that our knowledge
is limited by statistical analysis at the quantum level, but it works,
and it works well. That, according to Bohr and Heisenberg, was pretty
important all by itself. According to the Copenhagen Interpretation of
quantum mechanics–the model attributed to Bohr and Heisenberg– it
doesn’t matter what’s going on at the quantum level, what matters is
that in all possible experimental situations we can, within certain
limits, predict the outcomes. Identifying reality, according to the
Copenhagen Interpretation, lies beyond the capabilities of rational
thought. The laws governing individual events are, at the quantum
level, completely discarded. Only mathematical laws governing
aggregations apply. According to quantum mechanics, it is not
possible, even in principle, to know enough about the present to make
a complete prediction about the future. Even with the best possible
measuring devices, it is still not possible.”


About bwinwnbwi

About me: Marvin Gaye’s song, "What’s Going On" was playing on the jukebox when I went up to the counter and bought another cup of coffee. When I got back, the painting on the wall next to where I was sitting jumped out at me, the same way it had done many times before. On it was written a diatribe on creativity. It was the quote at the bottom, though, that brought me back to this seat time after time. The quote had to do with infinity; it went something like this: Think of yourself as being in that place where infinity comes together in a point; where the infinite past and the infinite future meet, where you are at right now. The quote was attributed to Hermann Hesse, but I didn’t remember reading it in any of the books that I had read by him, so I went out and bought Hesse’s last novel, Magister Ludi. I haven’t found the quote yet, but I haven't tired of looking for it either.
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4 Responses to The Most Incomprehensible Thing About The Universe

  1. eof737 says:

    Have a Happy Thanksgiving weekend! 🙂

  2. boozilla says:

    The mixing up of those two abilities/features of life- the possibility of experimentally understanding shades of meaning/things/what’s happening/etc., and the impossibility of divining “reality” in the same way or at least all at once..or let’s face it, perhaps ever….is one of those things that both keeps one in balance and makes one crazy. What a life! You can know it but you can’t be it, someone once said; I think I agree.

  3. bwinwnbwi says:

    I agree, except with one exception (I believe a very important exception) where we can both know it and be it, but at the same time, well; Saint Augustine put it like this: What then is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks, I do not know. Thanks for the comment!

  4. bwinwnbwi says:

    In 1922, Werner Heisenberg, as a student, asked his professor and friend-to-be, Niels Bohr, “If the inner structure of the atom is as closed to descriptive accounts as you say, if we really lack a language for dealing with it, how can we ever hope to understand atoms?” Bohr hesitated for a moment and then said, “I think we may yet be able to do so. But in the process we may have to learn what the word `understanding’ really means.”

    At the quantum level, self-consciousness confronts its own ground condition in the form of the “phenomenal strangeness” of quantum physics. Scientific hypotheses are confirmable because the evolution of the universe takes place in the space that separates, embeds and connects—connects to the space of logical implication. Professor Whitehead gets the last word here. He, in a different context (Process and Reality 1929), said (I’m paraphrasing) insofar as “self-aim” conforms to its environment and immediate past, there is determinism, but insofar as any entity modifies its response through the subjective element of feeling, there is freedom.

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