October Update

Bought a standard poodle puppy.  Bringing him home October 5, so October will be full of housebreaking, and FUN.

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Wednesday
Dec092009

Quantum Physics and God

The history of science records an evanescent portion of God’s eternal inner conversation.  First there was nothing, and from that nothing, after the big bang, came everything—and eventually, after some 14 billion years, came us.  And ever since, people have been trying to understand.  We are thoughts in God’s mind, impassioned in our effort to understand the universe in which we find ourselves.
    Timothy Ferris' Coming of Age in the Milky Way, is a wonderful contribution to the history of science.  Ferris’ book “purports to tell how, through the workings of science, our species has arrived at its current estimation of the dimensions of cosmic space and time.”
    The book is certainly about that, but it is much, much more.  Ferris gives us fascinating biographical sketches of Eudoxus, Ptolemy, Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Lyell, Darwin, Einstein, and many more.  (I am moving through this book in leisurely fashion, reading it only at lunchtime, so I am now just at the early 20th century.)
    The latest section I have read is about the discovery that energy and matter are quantized.  This was a dazzling, troubling discovery.  We are still dazzled and troubled by it today.  
    One part of this discovery concerned electrons in atoms:  If we aim photons of light at an electron in an atom, we may kick that electron out of its ground state energy level, up to a higher energy level.  But the electron does not pass from level to level the way we climb stairs.  It simply vanishes from the ground state level and simultaneously appears at the higher level, without ever passing in between.  The same thing happens if we repeat the procedure, moving the electron up a few more levels.  Or if we leave the electron alone, it will drop back down, instantaneously disappearing from the high energy level, emitting a photon of light, and reappearing at its ground state.
    How can this be?  It’s “Star Trek” made real.  Or actually, with regard to our minds, reality turned into science fiction.
    We say that the electron is “quantized.”  It makes a “quantum leap.”  The electron can only exist at energy level 1 or 2 or 3, etc.  It cannot exist in between.  
    We are dazzled by this divine mystery, troubled by our inability to understand how it can be, humbled in our quest to understand the universe in which we find ourselves.

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