Attack Of The Planck Constant

I’ve been disturbed for the past week by something I read in a science book.  Most people are scared by zombies or Freddie Krueger; I’m scared by quantum physics.  It’s left me with a form of vertigo.

In The Elegant Universe, Brian Greene describes the size of the little vibrating strings that are believed to be the common building blocks of all creation.  If an atom was the size of the universe, he says, one of its constituent strings would barely be the size of a tree.  In technical terms, a string is a hundred billion billion times smaller than the nucleus of an atom, or 1020, which is ten multiplied by itself twenty times.  It’s called the Planck Constant.  The microscopic nature of the cosmos seems to be a matter of compound interest.[i]

I have a hard enough time stabilizing myself in the cosmological universe.  There are times when I’m staring at the stars and get dizzy.  I think how insignificantly small I am, my brain freezes, and I go inside.  The image of strings does the same thing.  There’s an entire universe smaller than an atom, in addition to the universe that’s bigger, and I’m hanging in between somewhere.  I used to have nightmares about floating suspended above a bottomless abyss, and this is the same thing.  It’s not a nightmare; it’s reality!

We drift between a limitless sky and a bottomless sea, out of our depth, any way you look at it.  We’re too small to comprehend the universe and too big to comprehend strings.  We’re a conglomeration of vibrations fantasizing a life.  Any sense of being in control, or having some type of importance, only exists within the worlds we invent.  In reality, we’re literally a vibe.

It’s easy to get caught up in those inventions.  It’s no fun knowing you’re in the middle of nowhere.  The dream of daily life takes over and we forget the true nature of things.  Life is an unexplainable miracle; our existence is wholly due to powers beyond our ken; and we should always treat each other with those two facts in mind.

Looking on the bright side, I like the idea of being composed of little vibrating strings.  As a White guy, it means I’ve got rhythm, even if it’s 4/4 time.

[i] The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory, Brian Greene, Vintage Books, 2000.

About Bucky Dann

I teach religion, sociology, and psychology at Southwestern Community College in the Smoky Mountains. I have worked in the United Methodist ministry and in the substance abuse field. I possess a Masters of Divinity, a Masters of Philosophy, and a PhD in the sociology of knowledge.

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