Sometimes I like to think about geek stuff, as my wife calls it. Flying from Lodi last night I was pondering the origins of the universe and quantum theory. I know just enough about those kinds of things to realize that if I had another life to live I would have become a physicist.
Everything you were taught in high school science class about atoms, about gravity, the limitations of the Speed of Light, and the perceived certainty of life on other planets, if you are over 30 years of age, is wrong. There is no nucleus with electrons floating around it like the rings of Saturn. The speed of light may not be the barrier you thought it was and Star Trek may have been right all along. You may wonder why there aren’t aliens dropping by and you should probably spend five minutes reading about the Fermi Paradox.
Even gravity isn’t what you think it is, unless you have a working knowledge of spacetime. The earth is pushing on spacetime like a bowling ball on a trampoline, and planets are warping the fabric of the universe. Gravity has nothing to do with that burning magma at the center of the earth. Once again Science Fiction teaches us the value of physics when it is combined with creative imagination (disproving for the millionth time that being intellectually smart makes you brilliant person. But I digress, as usual.)
If you allow your imagination, or a decent YouTube video, to shrink you smaller and smaller you will soar eventually into the subatomic Marvel Universe. This is Ant Man so its ok if you are wearing a cool outfit. As you grow smaller and smaller you will shrink to a tiny ant, than to a speck and then an arrangement of molecules, until you exist in the realm of the atom. This isn’t the Physics 12 Course you took, but a quantum micro-verse of strings and motion and your imagination. On the most basic level you live among trillions of element-level blasts of energy forming everything in the universe from your toothbrush to the rocks on the planet Cybertron. Go Bumblebee. Everything that ever was and is and is to be is formed by music and motion and little bursts of energy. Energy doesn’t need a universe to contain it, it is more elemental, more ethereal, less material. Try to find a description that actually tells you what energy is in the real world. You have 30 seconds to describe energy to me without using the word ‘force’ or ‘converted’ .
Here is the bullshit explanation from Wikipedia – “In physics, energy is the quantitative property that must be transferred to an object in order to perform work on, or to heat, the object.[note 1] Energy is a conserved quantity; the law of conservation of energy states that energy can be converted in form, but not created or destroyed. The SI unit of energy is the joule, which is the energy transferred to an object by the work of moving it a distance of 1 metre against a force of 1 newton.”
It’s a property. Thanks for that. Not a tangible word about what energy is actually made up of or what it really is. It’s a property.
And when you think about it the Big Bang was nothing more than two strings of energy that went out of kilter. It’s easier to believe that energy always was – it is, after all, not really a physical thing. Energy does not necessarily need a precipitating event and we have really no idea how any of this stuff really works (although Physicists are much much closer than you may have heard).
Tell your kid to become a physicist. As Ernest Ruthford said, “Physics is the only real science. The rest are just stamp collecting.”
Energy is just a thing. Maybe it has always been there on some astral plane we don’t yet understand and those non-particles interacted and created more energy and that energy eventually became a thing; and like the Vidal Sassoon commercial taught us, they told two friends who told two friends and here you are today trying to figure out where that water is leaking from on your basement ceiling.
*thanks to Josh Clark and the excellent podcast “The End of the World With Josh Clark” for some of this information and the spark to get my philosophical muscles twitching.