Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
I thought this was a beautiful book with clear, simple prose about the complexities in science that are so often too dry to enjoy.
In quantum mechanics no object has a definite position, except when colliding headlong with something else.
Or does it mean, as it seems to me, that we must accept the idea that reality is only interaction?
This lesson is made up mostly of simple drawings. The reason for this is that before experiments, measurements, mathematics, and rigorous deductions, science is above all about visions. Science begins with a vision. Scientific thought is fed by the capacity to “see” things differently than they have previously been seen.
Quantum mechanics and experiments with particles have taught us that the world is a continuous, restless swarming of things, a continuous coming to light and disappearance of ephemeral entities. A set of vibrations, as in the switched-on hippie world of the 1960s. A world of happenings, not of things.
Paul Dirac, the great architect of quantum mechanics and author of the first and principal equations of the Standard Model
It is hardly surprising that there are more things in heaven and earth, dear reader, than have been dreamed of in our philosophy—or in our physics.
A handful of types of elementary particles, which vibrate and fluctuate constantly between existence and nonexistence and swarm in space, even when it seems that there is nothing there, combine together to infinity like the letters of a cosmic alphabet to tell the immense history of galaxies; of the innumerable stars; of sunlight; of mountains, woods, and fields of grain; of the smiling faces of the young at parties; and of the night sky studded with stars.
Here, in the vanguard, beyond the borders of knowledge, science becomes even more beautiful—incandescent in the forge of nascent ideas, of intuitions, of attempts. Of roads taken and then abandoned, of enthusiasms. In the effort to imagine what has not yet been imagined.
Twenty years ago the fog was thick. Today paths have appeared that have elicited enthusiasm and optimism. There are more than one of these, so it can’t be said that the problem has been resolved. The multiplicity generates controversy, but the debate is healthy: until the fog has lifted completely, it’s good to have criticism and opposing views.
Where are these quanta of space? Nowhere. They are not in space because they are themselves the space. Space is created by the linking of these individual quanta of gravity. Once again, the world seems to be less about objects than about interactive relationships.
The difference between past and future exists only when there is heat. The fundamental phenomenon that distinguishes the future from the past is the fact that heat passes from things that are hotter to things that are colder.
We are like an only child who in growing up realizes that the world does not revolve only around himself, as he thought when little. He must learn to be one among others. Mirrored by others, and by other things, we learn who we are .
The border is porous. Myths nourish science, and science nourishes myth. But the value of knowledge remains.
Our moral values, our emotions, our loves are no less real for being part of nature, for being shared with the animal world, or for being determined by the evolution that our species has undergone over millions of years.
It is part of our nature to love and to be honest. It is part of our nature to long to know more and to continue to learn. Our knowledge of the world continues to grow.
There are frontiers where we are learning, and our desire for knowledge burns. They are in the most minute reaches of the fabric of space, at the origins of the cosmos, in the nature of time, in the phenomenon of black holes, and in the workings of our own thought processes. Here, on the edge of what we know, in contact with the ocean of the unknown, shines the mystery and the beauty of the world. And it’s breathtaking.