Archive for September, 2021

Oh Wow!

Monday, September 20th, 2021

Last night I woke up around 3:00 and had trouble going back to sleep. I did what I often do… I grabbed my tablet and resumed reading my current book. This one is called, The Cosmic Landscape by Leonard Susskind. This is not the kind of book you have trouble putting down even if you are sleepy, so it seemed perfect for some reading while the mind was trying to settle down.

I ordered The Cosmic Landscape after watching a YouTube ™ in which Leonard Susskind was interviewed. He had such a clear way of explaining things, and seemed like a pretty nice fellow. So I went to Amazon ™ and bought his book then and there. I’ve been reading it for some time now and am just a bit over half way through. I will admit it has been a bit of a slog now and then, but I’ve hung in there with him, and boy am I glad I did.

My main reason for choosing this book is because it promised to explain string theory. I’d heard this before, but had not yet encountered the writing that explained it to my satisfaction. I’ve long thought that we are multi-dimensional creatures that have evolved with 3 dimensional senses. This gives us the illusion that there are only 3 dimensions, but string theory predicts there are 9 (plus one for time). Thinking about the complexity of moving from 1 dimension (a line) to 2 (a plane) to 3 (a cube), I had trouble wrapping my head around what 4,5,6 dimensions must be like. We believe that a tesseract is the shadow of whatever 4 dimensions looks like, but as near as I have been able to figure out, no other clues of dimension 4 have presented themselves.

Leonard Susskind is an original discoverer of string theory. He has also spent his life as an academic, and it shows in his writing. He has a knack for explaining things, and uses language to keep the reader interested. I’d just made it part way through his chapter on string theory when I was starting to get sleepy. But the content was interesting. He talked about how strong these strings were, and how long they could become. For a string that holds subatomic particles together, it can be long indeed, spanning the entire universe.

I like to think we exist inside bubbles. They are invented and maintained by ourselves, and the purpose for them is to have a model of the universe at hand. Instead of having to figure out any new piece of information that we encounter, we file it inside the model if it fits. If it doesn’t, we often toss it, because it is dangerous to start messing around with our model.

As I was reading the chapter about strings, I could feel some excitement, as though a breakthrough was about to happen. It was almost like pieces of a lance are swirling around in my head, and at some point, the lance assembled itself and pierced my bubble. I had a glimmer of what strings might be and how they work together to stitch our universe together. I had an “Oh Wow!” moment.

I suppose we all get them now and then, but I can say I cherish these moments every time they come along. I get them in the Grand Canyon sometimes, and at art museums. Music sometimes does it for me. It seems to happen when the current model is no longer adequate to explain something, and a hole gets pricked. The light from outside comes shining through for a brief time before the hole heals itself. I wonder if the bubble got a little bigger because of the event, or if it just patches itself and resumes as before. I hope it gets bigger, because that is what I think growth is. If you don’t look at things from a new perspective now and then, you’re doomed to just relive the same series over and over.

I now have another Oh Wow! behind me, and am eagerly anticipating the next. I’ll see you in the 4th dimension.

I Declined

Tuesday, September 7th, 2021

I recently received an invitation to a party commemorating the 50th anniversary of my high school graduating class.  I politely declined.

My time in middle/high school was, for me, the worst episode of my life.  For whatever reason, although I wanted to have friends, I didn’t have any until around my junior year.  I tried hard to make friends, much like an overly zealous puppy, but never seemed to make any breakthroughs.  The niche I managed to fill throughout most of my middle/high school career was as the object of bullying and ridicule.  This was mostly a daily occurrence for me.  I was repeatedly slugged in the arm, and humiliated in front of other students.  I continued to try to hang out with the guys bent on making my life miserable.  They seemed adept at tossing a crumb of friendship my way often enough to keep my hopes up, and then using their power to grind me into the dirt.  The adults running the school, along with my parents, where no help. 

There does appear to be a couple of kinds of people in the world; those that enjoyed their middle/high school careers, made friends, and eagerly anticipate reconnecting with these old friends every so often, and those that would just as soon forget the whole experience, and all the people that worked so hard to build themselves up by trashing the weaker among them.  I throw in my lot with the latter.

I’ve often wondered, what is in it for them?  It must take a lot of time and energy to bully others.  Does the bully get pleasure from the event, even though it is repeated over and over?  I came up with one possible answer, one that surprised me and might surprise you.  Adolescent years are in place to prepare children for navigating the adult world.  That world is populated with people of every personality type.  A fact of life is that throughout one’s existence there will be people with power over you.  How you react when that power is wielded, whether fairly or not, can be a factor in your success in life.  Maybe the people like me, little naïve puppies, need to be hardened up so they can navigate the world of adults; a role the bullies played. 

If asked the question, “How do you evaluate your current mental state?”, I’d have to say my mental state is good.  I am confident, feel capable, have taken good care of myself, and feel the work I do is appreciated within my community.  Every person alive was given a set of genes, over which he or she had no control, usually a set of parents, again outside their control, and a cohort of peers.  Each of these has a strong effect on the shaping of a person’s character.  Although my middle/high school years were miserable, like it or not, they did contribute to my development.  And assuming I am content with where I am in life, can I honestly say that the character shaping events that led to today’s Ted were bad?  Unnecessary? 

Any one person’s life is a complicated jumble.  Throw into the mix other people who may be your social subordinates, equals, or superiors, and the complications climb up the chart.  The challenge appears to be, embrace your life’s experiences, because they made you who you are, and try to be a mentor to others if at all possible.  Perhaps the greatest gift you can give to someone is an example.