Saturday, April 9, 2011
Measuring Meaningful Mathematically
It was a long hold to have Brian Greene's new book "The Hidden Reality" arrive in my hands this week. And I'm going to take it back today, not because it isn't interesting and worthwhile, but because I don't need to read it. Page 31 decided me. "And so, the essential conclusion is at hand. Classical physics makes clear that perfect resolution is unattainable in practice. Quantum physics goes further and establishes that perfect resolution is unattainable in principle. If you imagine both the speed and the position of an object - be it a fly or an electron - changing by sufficiently small amounts, then according to quantum mechanics, you are imagining something meaningless." He's writing about Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, and I'm quoting out of context, but the paragraph resonated in my solar plexus. He explained what a sufficiently small amount is, in detail, with everyday metaphor. Nonetheless I'm more interested in the word meaningless. Meaningless because the results are inconsequential mathematically? To a mathematician or quantum physicist, of course. Whether the universe is infinite, or finite in so large or so small a degree that we'll never see the end of it, is meaningless because we cannot measure infinite or finite beyond our measurement tools. And Dr. Greene explained what perfect resolution is, and undoubtedly will explain further and well in the following hundreds of pages. I've finally concluded that what I wanted from reading about parallel universes, the cosmos, quantum physics is already in my psyche. Measurement is not where meaningfulness lives. Meaningful is not a hidden reality: meaning is accessible and welcome imagining. Perfect is how we view perfection. If we make up our own reality, if the universe is expanding, contracting, infinite, finite but beyond our ability to measure, it's all the same to me. The measuring tools on a universal and subatomic scale are not in my toolkit, may very well be collected in scientists' toolkits, but the realm of perfection and meaning resides in the toolkit of whomever or whatever I - and you - imagine holds that perfection and meaning. I am changing in small amounts, whether those are sufficiently small, infinite or finite, I find these changes meaningful in principle and I hope the changes are seeking perfection in the meaningful way I imagine.