Sunday Jul 17, 2005

Liberating Matter

When I was about eleven years old I use to think that if you can break something in half, then in half again, and so on, you could do so indefinitely—for infinity?

If things could get infinitely small, I wondered, couldn’t things also get infinitely big? Of course, I would later learn that such infinite and successive divisions or increases in number were as much a philosophical matter as it was a theoretical mathematical one—no one knows because it’s impossible to demonstrate these polar opposite theoretical possibilities in physical reality.

Infinity, up or down, is after all a concept, an idea, not a number.

I also use to question time. How, for example, could it be noon on the East Coast when it was nine o’clock in the morning in California? Of course, as a kid I felt these “monumental” thoughts about size and time were unique—mine alone.

I didn’t know Albert Einstein had gone beyond “daylight savings time” by formulating an astounding relationship between space and time or that quantum mechanics had been successfully predicting the mysterious and strange interactions among the very small, such as electrons and quarks … ideas about matter that make modern technology possible—from radio, TV, to cell phones.»

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