Every little carbon, hydrogen, oxygen atom coursing through your body came from a star’s death. The cycle of life rolls on, and in death comes not only our birth, but also the birth of new, baby stars. What grand epochs these atoms have lived through–the singularity, the Big Bang, the rapid expansion of our almost 14 billion year old universe, the irreversible increasing entropy of the cosmos, and the death of huge stars in a final fire show of exploding gases and fanfare. And the pinpricks of light receding into the black background, the cold static of microwave radiation, the fatal, elegant dance of binary galaxy systems. And the unseen terror of supermassive black holes and the veiled, mysterious “center” of the universe from which we all radiate outwards. And the cacophonous muteness of the ancient night sky.
And the strings. Everywhere.
According to superstring theory, the little atoms we are made of are made of subatomic particles like protons and neutrons which in turn are made up of quarks, which in turn are posited as strings of energy (electrons are strings as well). So why in the world would scientists make up this crazy theory about little strings of energy vibrating all around us?
It starts with our man, Sir Isaac Newton. He was a pretty cool guy. You know, just invented calculus, discovered the law of universal gravitation, and created classical mechanics, all before the age of 26. Yeah, he was alright.
Then comes along another guy named Albert Einstein. He thought that Newton’s ideas were pretty cool, but they just needed a bit of tweaking. Voilà, theory of special and general relativity. Now both Newton and Einstein were scientists of the macroverse–that which can be easily seen, measured, and quantified. They sought to unravel the inner designs of our waking world.
Enter Bohr, Heisenberg, Schrödinger, Born, de Broglie, Fermi, Planck, and a whole slew of other quantum physicists who turned the physics world upside down. They were the ones who shook their heads when the naive classical physicists of their time said, “That’s all, folks.” And so, they discovered the marvelous, unseen world of quantum mechanics, the elusive electrons, and the very core of reality as we know it today. Who knew that our own arm was mostly just empty space? That parts of it flit in and out of existence?
So the question becomes, how do you reconcile the theory of horrible immensities with the theory of the unthinkable minutiae? How do you fit gravity into the quantum world, and how do you fit wave function collapse into the fabric of the planets? Einstein spent the good beginning of his career fitting together Newtonian physics with electromagnetic physics in his theory of special relativity. Einstein shifted his attention to particles and developed a theory for photons called the photoelectric effect, giving wings to the fledgling quantum physicists who then explored deeper than ever before in the land of the atoms. The one thing that bothered him until the end of his life was the diametrically opposed nature of the laws of the big and the laws of the small. If he could just unify it all into one elegant mathematical equation to calculate the universe on any level…that was his dream.
This was the theory of everything, lost to Einstein and still lost to us today, and it still remains the question to answer. In the true spirit of Einstein’s originality, scientists now declare that string theory is the answer.
Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere. – Carl Sagan
– Beyond Apathy
Suddenly, this has become a very quiet, lonely blog. To those of you reading, I am truly sorry that you now have to put up with the hassle of either 1) Logging in everytime you want to read my blog or 2) Making a wordpress account just to read my blog.
But who knows, maybe something good will come from this! Maybe you will make and follow-through with a blog of your own! If you do, please do inform me, I love reading other people’s thoughts and ideas on anything.
So let’s get down to the topic of today: karma. Basically, does what you do now come back to you in the future?
Does it really exist? Or is it just an ingrained instinct of humans to see patterns?
So taking sides now…let’s explore a little.
Karma does exist
Karma exists when humans admit that there is such thing as fate. You may not be a determinist, but you sure do believe in some kind of natural justice that exists in this world. You believe that “an eye for an eye” occurs naturally during the course of life because it was just supposed to happen. And when you do good things, you believe that good things will happen to you because fate is quite pleased by all this justice making.
When you really get down to it, karma is in almost every religion. For those of you that believe in a heaven and a hell, karma is most definitely ingrained in your *cough* dogma (pardon the terrible joke). The determination of whether or not you go to heaven or hell not just rests on your adherence to your dogma, but also on your acts that you do in your lifetime. If you were good person, and you helped the old lady cross the street, and generally lived a “good” life, then you will most likely go to heaven. If you were an evil person, and commited great atrocities against all of humankind, and set into motion WWIII, you’re probably going to get sent to hell. I suppose that it is this incentive of the reward of a happy afterlife that pushes some people to lead good lives. Of course, not all people are like this, but there are always some out there that need some kind of motivation like utopia to jolt them into religiously based morals. The “if I play nice now, I will always get a cookie later” way of thinking.
Personally, I don’t think that is the best way of parenting.
Karma does not exist
Karma does not exist when the human sees no reason in life. Well that sounds depressing. What I meant to say was something more along the lines of…life is just events that happen and there is no apparent justice guiding the fate of our world. What we perceive as “karma” is nothing more than a good deed followed by a good event or a bad deed followed by a bad event. Moral justice then, is nothing but a mirage in our heads. Oddly enough, this type of thinking requires so much more faith in humans themselves because what people do is not then a precedence to a reward or punishment, but a choice that they make to be either “good” or “bad”. Not believing in karma is more like believing in people rather than a higher force, whether you believe them to be intrinsically “good” or “bad”.
Of course, it is impossible to tell whether events are connected or just a part of the beautiful chaos of our universe. No one will ever know whether our good action today foretells a good day in the future. No one will ever know how long it takes for karma to kick in. A person may give up a kidney today to save the life of a stranger. Ten years later, will he consider the $100 bill he found on the ground a retribution from fate from so long ago or a random lucky find?
I myself do not believe in karma. I find it refreshingly startling to think that humans have the ability to choose between so called good and evil, just for the sake of being good or evil. What I do believe in is the astonishing power of the human brain to perceive differently. Humans are instinctively inclined to continue a line of sight once seen. So karma to me, is doing something nice and seeing the other nice things in life, and doing a bad thing and seeing other bad things in life. To me, we just perceive a pattern in the mess of events.
Worthless people blame their karma. ~Burmese Proverb
KARMA STRIKES AGAIN.
– Beyond Apathy
This part is going to take a slightly different, more, dare I say, philosophical view on quantum mechanics and how this applies to the world.
Warning–the following paragraphs contain a staggering amount of mind-bogglement. If you like having a sense of sanity, some semblance of self-worth, and a cozy, dark, little hole in the ground to live in, do not read on.
The universe as a whole, the Existence as a whole, it’s a thought that nobody likes to think about. And deep inside, each of us know why. From a purely scientific standpoint, we don’t matter. From a philosophical standpoint, it is impossible to comprehend it. From a religious standpoint, there is so much to doubt and so little to believe in. From a normal standpoint, it is a sense of loneliness and cold, and we as humans tend to stay away from that. And to think about it all is overwhelming. If you don’t think it’s overwhelming, you’re not thinking about it. When these thoughts flood your brain, there is little else that can function, so this is why we keep it locked away, deep in the crevices of our mind so we don’t have to deal with it.
So you never have to think about it if you don’t want to. But one must, for it is the question that has haunted all life since its beginning.
“Why do we exist?”
Mind bogglement: What if there were others, just like us, but not in our plane of existence? What if there was a different me or you going, “Why do we exist?”
Would you like a cold cup of perspective? http://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/primer/java/scienceopticsu/powersof10/
It’s an amazing, beautiful universe, and if you don’t think so, that’s pretty short-sighted and narrow-minded of you. The Existence is a terrible/awe-inspiring, both at the same time, and it transcends every thought that you thought you knew.
Now getting to the point, there is a different interpretation of quantum mechanics that allows for a whole different type of reality, philosophy, time, and choice. That very interpretation is the Many-Worlds Interpretation. Its implications are staggering. If it were proved to be true, then for every moment in our lives, there is an infinite number of different universes that spring from that moment, and the choice we make at the moment is the reality that we live in. The other infinite choices that we possibly could have made are actual realities in parallel universes. Sounds sci-fi, right?
Well, put into scientific terms, what happens at the point at which we observe electrons is the key. The Copenhagen interpretation asserts that electrons undergo wavefunction collapse and become what we see. Many-worlds interpretation states that electrons do NOT undergo wavefunction collapse and instead split into separate realities.
Each of these realities is as real as the next. There is another you and another me in another universe, exactly the same except for a minor change in the flow of our lives. And another you and me in another universe. And a universe in which we never existed in the first place. There is a reality for everything.
This is like the equivalent of freaking Sparta in science.
So this universe…it could very well be that it is unremarkable. Indistinguishable. One among infinite. One universe in the entire multiverse.
Many-worlds interpretation tries to explain Schrödinger’s Cat with the idea that in our universe, the cat is dead, but the alternate reality of it living splits off into another universe. We’d never know because we only exist in one plane of reality.
Most people perceive the flow of life as one continuous river, and maybe determinists see it as the only river. The introduction of this interpretation means that time and reality is more like an infinitely forked road at every moment in our lives. So what is time? Just a bunch of choices that we make that keeps reality in motion? Does this affirm the existence of free will and choice? Are those separate universes impossible to reach? What does this mean for what’s beyond us?
These questions are some that should address the implications of this theory. Yes, it is a little spine-chilling, yet awesome at the same time.
Well, thanks for reading! Yes, this is what I read about in my free time.
Everything you’ve learned in school as “obvious” becomes less and less obvious as you begin to study the universe. For example, there are no solids in the universe. There’s not even a suggestion of a solid. There are no absolute continuums. There are no surfaces. There are no straight lines.— R. Buckminster Fuller – Beyond Apathy
As promised, the quantum mechanics post.
Thus far, I’ve been talking about the macrocosm…basically anything visible to the naked eye. Relativity, the universe as a whole, etc.
If the posts on the macrocosm confused you, you WILL be confused by quantum mechanics and the microcosm, but who knows, maybe you’ll find it interesting!
Most of you are probably familiar with Einstein, Newton, Galileo, and others who made contributions to the understanding of the macrocosm. The microcosm, well, the story has a different cast of characters, the most famous being Planck, Bohr, Born, Schrödinger, and even Einstein, also playing a part in laying down the fundamentals of this entirely strange branch of physics.
Why does Schrödinger sound so familiar, you ask? Well, if you know me or even just see me online, you probably know that I am somewhat on the level of being obsessed with the Schrödinger’s Cat thought experiment. I mean, I have a cache of Schrödinger’s lolcat pictures and comics on my hard drive. Only me.
And those of you that don’t know what it is, a quick introduction to the bizzareness of quantum physics: there is a cat, a vial of poison, a radioactive source, and a Geiger counter. They are all placed in a sealed box where no one can see any of the aforementioned items. Once the Geiger counter detects a level of radiation, it will trigger the vial of poison to break, causing the poison to kill the cat. Or so it seems. According to the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, an atom cannot be one state or another until it is actually observed. Rather like idealistic quantum mechanics. Anyways, Schrödinger applied this to an everyday object (a cat) to demonstrate the absurdity of this claim. Yes, Schrödinger was, in fact, trying to point out a flaw in the Copenhagen interpretation, not make his thought experiment a valid claim for the Copenhagen interpretation. Now, going with Copenhagen, the cat must be both dead AND alive at the same time since atoms are neither decayed nor normal unless one looks in the box. It is at that single moment at which we look into the box where the cat becomes dead (or alive).
Another weird factor! It’s called the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. When looking at electrons, one cannot determine both the speed of the electron and the location of it at the same time. If you determine it’s exact speed, you cannot determine where it is. If you determine it’s location, there’s no way to tell how fast it’s going.
One thing that goes along with the Heisenberg uncertainty principle is the wave-particle duality nature of electrons, light, and any other matter. When not observed, electrons are actually just waves. Schrödinger showed that these waves don’t even move, meaning that the traditional “electrons travel in orbits” theory is wrong. When you observe their location, you see the electron as stationary particle. Then look away and observe it again later, and you’ll see that it has moved. But it really hasn’t. It just appeared in that spot around where it should be. So what happens when we look away? Oh, nothing much, the electron doesn’t exist…
And that concludes Part 1.
Thanks for reading all the way…you’re a brave soul. I commend your efforts.
“What cannot be observed does not exist.”
– Beyond Apathy
The first year is coming to a close, and I should feel relieved.
But I don’t.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love sleeping in and all the great things about summer, but the end becomes “I should’ve…” for me. And then over summer, I brood, I forget about it all, then the school year starts. Then I’ll do/not do some important things, and the cycle starts all over again.
And in the midst of all this internal turmoil, my thoughts always go back to one thing…the human struggle to change our existence.
What? How did I get there?
Think of it like this—you get stabbed in a dark alleyway. Now, were you stabbed because it just happened or was it your bad luck or was it just your own stupidity? To determinists (the first reason), nothing happens for an actual purpose because this is just how things are supposed to be. So it was your destiny to be in a dark alleyway at 2 at night with psychos armed with knives lurking around, and nothing could have steered you away from your untimely death.
Or maybe you knew a shortcut to the pharmacy because you needed to buy some cough drops. Maybe there usually weren’t psychos in that alley (and you know by experience). If you hadn’t chosen to take the shortcut, if you hadn’t been sick, you’d still be alive. But no, you chose to take the shortcut, and you died while trying to buy some cough drops.
Or maybe you were being a human, and you were being stupid. Maybe you walked into that dark place, fully aware of Psycho Alley, and you thought that you could make friends with them. Well then, that’d make you mentally unsound, but it was a choice that you made with your limited human capacities.
I constantly argue with myself, “Was this meant to happen? Probably not. But will this affect me in the future? Probably. Then isn’t my future determined by what I do right now? STOP IT.” But that’s just dealing with events like my stupid choice back in sixth grade that is killing my math career right now.
If you erased a person out of your life, would anything be the same? Would your life be the same minus all the things that the one person touched in your life? Or would something drastically have changed, diverting the flow of my life into another tributary? Or would this never be an answerable scenario because all things were meant to happen (oh, you determinists, always the easy way out)? I’m probably going into time theory right now, so I’ll stop at this.
I don’t have all the answers, but no matter what your perspective on free will is, remember that the verb form of “life” is “to live”.
– Beyond Apathy