Thursday, November 24, 2016

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics and other related books

This blog post is a different exercise. Free writing all my thoughts after reading Carlo Rovelli's Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, and then supplementing it with Stephen Hawking's lectures (The Theory of Everything).

I read Rovelli's book twice in the same day. It is a tiny, 70 page book. A series of newspaper articles. The book beautifully simplifies the complicated concepts for a layperson - boiling them down to essentials. Hawking's book helped me in further understanding some of the questions raised by the first one. But I have not completed it yet. Read through most, and got a big list of things to look up further and ended up reading a lot of other science sites/ books and wikipedia.

I often start reading science books. As they say, they are good for the soul. To instill and reignite that sense of wonder, awe and humility. To realize that how tiny a speck we are in the grand scheme. I start reading these science books with high aspirations and then at some point, when the things I do not understand become greater than what I do understand, I end up giving up the book, instead looking up the not understood. My bookshelf is full of tomes which have been lovingly collected, but never fully read. Carlo Rovelli's is a finish in a long time.

After every such full/ partial read, I come away brimming full of ideas and notes, and following is the spillover. Indulging myself and putting them here. Bear with me

~ The concept of  'here' relates to space. The concept of 'now'  is similarly related to time. Carlo Rovelli notes that past is different from future because of heat. Only because of heat. If you take heat out of equation, one cannot figure out the arrow of time. Or something on those lines.

~ Space is made of quanta of space. Joined together. Einstein's second relativity paper - the general one, not special.

~ Bulges in the space-time fabric because of mass. Earth makes a bigger bulge than moon. And sun even bigger. So the space is bulged and curved because of the mass of so many different bodies. And so is time. For a moment, I can grasp space being curved, the same way that even though all around us we see flatness, we know and can understand that we live on a curved earth.

~ As someone said, we learn the unknown in terms of the known. Or the new in terms of the known.

~ Gravity is part of the fabric. The space time fabric. The bulges are the reason things move. Sun bulges the fabric majorly, and teeny-meeny earth is sent on a forever kind of roll around the sun’s bulge's funneling incline - what we call the pull of gravity. (There is no up and down since we are already in 3D, and all this bulging is happening in 4 or 5D) So it is up and down both.

~ So space being curved means what we see is not straight out there, but somewhere on a wavy thing, bobbing up and down if the waves move swiftly, or just hanging there if the waves move slow. And as the bulges curve the space, what does it mean? And now, trying to picture time being curved.

~ I once saw negative space chessmen. Where the chess pieces are cuboids. And the emptiness inside them is the shape of the chess piece - a pawn or king. It is the void which defines, not the substance. So gravity is akin to negative space. What we think is empty and pulls, is full of space quanta and is bulged hence the pull!

~ And now, coming back to time. Time passes much more slowly near the surface of earth.

~ They say time inside a black-hole will pass in an instant (a black-hole being a rebounding star), the time outside, or as for us, as observers, it will take forever. Because the space-time near and at singularity is fully curved. Nothing escapes, no light, no time?

~ Another interesting fact – the bigger the star, the shorter its life.

~ And a speck of dust is to Earth as a subatomic particle is to speck of dust!!! I still can't get my head around it.

~ Are blackholes some kind of punctures in the universe?

~ Everything swooshing out of them. Going where?

~ The universe is somebody’s big tyre.

~ And blackholes are the puncture.

~ Coming back to time. How does ‘now’ relate to 'here'? When I go away from 'here', I am the one gone, ‘here’ still stays as such. I can come back to 'here'. And I’ll find it so, at least what is perceptible to me. The placement of atoms and quarks may be different.

~ When I go away from ‘now’ can I come back to now? Will 'now' still remain as 'here'?

~ Or the 'here' is the planet

~And 'now' is the time scale of this planet

~ To a bug, a full life is a day. The timescale for a bug. 

~ To humans, life is several decades. Still, nothing.

~ To human species, life is a few million years?

~ To the sun, life is 10 billion years. Middle aged Sun.

~ To the universe that we know, since the big-bang, life is 14 billion years so far. Young or old?

~ Expanding, wavy, rippling away.

~ What we see is there and not there.

~ We move through space, and time moves through us?

~ Another amazing fact: All elements are possible solutions to a single equation. The whole periodic table.

~ And that is what all the reality that we see is made up of.

~ Different possible solutions to a single equation!

~ And at the heart of the solidity of what we see, the predictability of interactions of these elements that we have based our lives on, there is a probability function.

~ An electron can be there or not there. It ‘manifests’ itself doing quantum leaps

~ So we are probability manifestations. So there'll be a probability manifestation where the non happening events exist. Or it doesn't matter. We are all hypothetical.

~ How does this differ from the old Hindu philosophy, that everything that you see and understand is some sort of illusion, Maya. You need to step up and away from the manifestation of the form, to see the content.

~ Like the 'ineluctable modality of the visible'  as James Joyce notes in Ulysses (my other current aspiration read), so in our life, we are forever doomed as a species to see form over content - the illusion?

~ In universe, in a way, everything is super simple. There are just a few basic alphabets. And they combine and manifest in myriad ways to form this book. This saga of universe? Or this little Koan?

~ So are we some kind of expression for someone with multidimensional capabilities. Here, Exhibit A is Universe, Exhibit B Black Holes, Exhibit E Earth and here be consciousness in living matter.

~ Should we meditate on this, and wonder, or keep trying to push the boundaries of our understanding. May be that is the purpose of consciousness. Do you ever get to fully comprehend what is it that you are?

~ We understand the new in terms of the known.

~ So there were times, when Earth was thought of as flat. Then times when everything moved round and round the earth,

~ And now we do understand that we are in some far flung arm of a mediocre galaxy

~ And we are just one set of representation of chemical equations

~ Have we, as human beings ever tried to form something as elegant as this universe? Basic few blocks, a beautiful equation with multiple solutions and then each solution so different from the other?

~ Or the difference is just a small block on spectrum? Like visible light on electromagnetic spectrum. We think we see everything, until you see the wavelengths that are visible. It is a revelation. A humbling experience

~ And so the chemical solutions of equation, is it all we see because that is what all we can see?

~ Coming back to the slippery slope of fathoming time. How do you figure it out?

~ Imagine a big massive ceiling fan, with really long blades. We are on one blade, at the very far end, towards the edge. And a blackhole is in the centre. In one second, say (or what? I thought one second is one second wherever it may be). But say for a recorded period, we move the arc a particular distance, since we are tracing a bigger circle, and for the same period, someone at the centre, moves a lesser distance since they are tracing a smaller circle. Now suppose the distance we are covering is that of time. Then does it make sense? The time we cover is more for the same recorded measure as the centre traveller.

~ But then how can we measure time both for marking the experiment and for the distance!

It is frustrating. What constraints does human mind and lifetime have! So much, so much, out there to understand, and we get limited by our visible spectrum and whatever chemical elements made us and left us floating in this bubbly bulgy space quanta ocean of time where the ladder of the known leads us only a little bit further, to larger and bigger unknowns.

The supreme perversity of the ineluctable modality of the visible!

This doesn't even make any sense.

I know we have come far from the days of flat earth. It is just another sand particle worth of distance covered on a mile long beach. Here's wishing with all my heart that we get to understand some more of this amazing wonderland that we live in!

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