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How weird is Reality and why should it matter?

How weird is Reality and why should it matter?

Posted on July 15, 2017

Reality is very complicated. Reality is weird. What seems to be is not what it is. But, what our senses perceive is not complicated. We seem to see things as they are, right?. We see rainbows. Illusion. We see a blue sky. Again, illusion. We see solid objects. Now, wait a minute, that cannot be an illusion, right?. Here is a quote from Max Tegmark’s book, “Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality

Physicists have known for a century that solid steel is really mostly empty space, because the atomic nuclei that make up 99.95% of the mass are tiny balls that fill up merely 0.0000000000001% of the volume, and that this near-vacuum only feels solid because the electrical forces that hold these nuclei in place are very strong.

In other words, it is not solid but feels solid. So what, right? If someone hits me with a steel rod, knowing that it is near empty does not make the blow any softer. Then what’s the purpose of knowing that reality is weird? One good answer is that we are curious beings. We want to know. We like to know. Even though I have studied basic physics growing up, I never had any inclination or curiosity to learn on my own. Whatever was taught in the class or in the text books, I would learn it by rote and then forget after the exams were over.

Since a few years, I have become very curious, especially after watching the TV series “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” which I followed with another TV series, “Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman” and then many documentaries on a new channel on Amazon called Curiosity Stream. It is fascinating stuff. It is very interesting. It has great entertainment value. There is nothing wrong with looking to science for entertainment. Science has provided entertainment value since ages. .

Not long ago, people did not know much about electricity. We now take electricity for granted since we have a pretty basic understanding of electricity through our science curriculum. That is definitely good enough. But there was a time in very recent history when electricity and its value was not known. There used to be arguments and discussions about AC vs DC. How safe was AC vs DC? People used to flock to science exhibitions to watch scientific demonstrations on electricity. Many such demonstrations were done by Nicolai Tesla. He would hold a bulb in his hand and touch an electric current with his other hand to light up the bulb. Just imagine how fascinating this could have been for many people who did not know much about electricity and seeing electricity in action. Seeing Tesla perform this so-called miracle would have provided great entertainment value for many folks back then.

Entertainment value is just one reason. It is also not the most important one for a layman. For a scientist, it is a completely different matter altogether. I am not getting into that discussion. I mean there were times when people questioned why should it matter knowing the theory of relativity or knowing about the properties of light. Things seemed too esoteric and too theoretical to spend hours studying these things even for scientists. This criticism was labeled against Albert Einstein too and some of things that he studied as esoteric concepts are now practical applications. One such practical application is the usage of lasers now in surgery and in saving lives. So, there is a lot of practical value and I am not going into that debate because that is not my place.

My focus is on a layman like me knowing and understanding the weirdness of reality. How does it matter? Isn’t life already busy with so many distractions in so many different forms that one should look beyond? I hope I answered this question and presented my case. To me, if nothing else, entertainment is good enough. I have spent hours being entertained by these stories on science because they are well made and well presented. I mean, they don’t compare to Game of Thrones type of entertainment. (can’t wait for Sunday July 16 to watch the season begin). Be that as it may be these stories are popular in their own way. If you are not aware by now, Neil Degrasse Tyson, the host of the TV show Cosmos is a household name. He has got rock star status as a celebrity. His books are best sellers.

Having made a case for entertainment, I don’t want to stop there. There is more to it. It does matter and I will try to address this in my next blog posts. In these blog posts, I will try to elaborate this question further,

How weird is reality and why should it matter? 

(Hint: It has the potential to help us have less regrets in life.)

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day!!!

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