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Saturday, October 30, 2010

some generality of science

I've been on a critical direction for awhile, and looking to find a more constructive direction.
I'd like to get back to some of the excitement I've had for science. And it really covers a lot of good stuff.

So what are some of the important things we know? I think Feynman said that he thought the most astonishing and important knowledge was about atoms. Here is something like a universal knowledge. We can take anything we find, anywhere, and if we break it down in a variety of ways, we find that there are atoms that made it up. Maybe often you get molecules instead of atoms. But this idea of breaking material apart and always getting something of a fixed set of elements. This does seem to be pretty significant knowledge, and to always be true. Does this mean that atoms are the "underlying story" of everything? Maybe.

So this seems to be a kind of reductionism defined operationally. Stuff can always be broken down into atoms. (How to make it more precise? Step 1. Find something. Step 2. break off a little piece. Step 3. break off a little piece of that. Step 4. heat it up? explode it? ...)

What else do we have? We have light. There are radio waves, and visible light, and ultraviolet waves, and xrays. You can't really talk about light in the same way you talk about matter. You don't break stuff apart and find light at the bottom. Stuff goes through some transitions, and light is emitted- it makes other stuff go through transitions.

I really don't want to end up with a network here, with nodes and messages being passed between the nodes. Yuck. I'm sick of networks.

Anyway, yeah, there's stuff, and there's light.

What about a beautiful forest- an intricate ecosystem? Stuff and light? Does that get us very far in understanding and appreciating it? More work for another day.

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