Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The "enlightened" saint, the "about to die" junkie and the "nobel-winning" physicist.

This conversation is about present ways of science and what may have been wrong, before you judge me as a reactionary, please give a thought to this conversation…

Saint: So did you feel it?

Junkie: yeah, it was really different, everything around me changed.

Saint: So, we know the answer, but don't know the question?

Junkie: I guess.

Saint: So what did you feel?

Junkie: Well, 0.2 mg of LSD and I was high... It’s hard to explain, first the images started to blur, colours and shapes were suddenly more important than the spatial relationship and time. The time stopped flowing and there was a constant and perennial present rather than the future or past.
I could not agree or disagree to the feeling but it simply “was”, and there was no alternative. I was in a different world, it felt like I can see everything, moment by moment in its entirety. It was like a miracle.

Saint: All that is strikingly similar to the feeling that we have when we reach ultimate point in meditation. There is constant feeling of perennial happiness- as described by “sacchidanand” in Hindu myth and “Zen Koan” in Chinese.

Junkie: It seemed my blocked mind was suddenly open, and I could see the universe in entirety.

Saint: To enable us to live, the brain and nervous system eliminates unessential information from the totality. Psychedelics remove those restrictions; your feelings are justified.

Junkie: So taking psychedelics and being high is a shortcut to Nirvana?

Saint: May be, but shortcuts are not recommended (smiles). Meditation is the way where we achieve to remove those restrictions from mind by practising extreme control. It’s the tough way, but ensures that you‘ll live longer as compared to taking dopes (smiles).

Physicist enters. He had a bad day ... really pissed off…

Physicist: There are no constants in this universe. As soon as we start settling up with some thing, they will again come with some bull and cock theory... now they say that protons are made up of quarks. So there are further divisions… more subatomic particles… What a mess…
First Dalton said atom can not be divided, and then Rutherford came up with experiment showing divisions of atoms... fair enough… but now the developments of quarks suggests laws of conservation of mass will not hold anymore. I am done with physics.

Saint: I never agreed with the way in which the particle physics is going. They keep finding new rules. They are trying to understand the universe in framework which is just not correct. So every time some unexplained phenomenon occurs they change the entire framework to explain that… invent new dimensions to make the math work… And they call it revolution. Logic may not be the right way, may be physicist can use some intuition… (smile)

Physicist: You remind me of Chaos theory and fractals- another branch of physics and maths- really popular in some factions of research.

Saint: isn’t that about recursively detailed images?

Physicist: Yeah, patterns under patterns till infinity- The Koch curve, the Mandelbrot set, the Julia set… its all been well documented.

Junkie: hey... I see something similar when I am high.

Physicist: Really? What do you see?

Junkie: I see patterns… everything breaks down into infinite patterns. Similar shapes inside shapes extending to infinity till they are so small that I cant see them.

Physicist: That’s strange because fractals are mathematically defined shapes.

Saint: That’s the mistakes science is doing, trying to theorise everything and convert it into a logical consistency. But real world has no consistency, there are no constants. Trying to understand the universe based on the formulae is like saying that hey I am trying to find the exact perimeter of the Australia.

Physicist: What’s wrong with the perimeter of Australia, you can always measure the coastline.

Saint: …but not exact coastline, at max you can break into geometrical shapes and find the sum of all perimeter of all the shapes- line, arcs etc. But again when you magnify individual shapes ... more shapes will come.

Physicist: That’s where fractals come in picture, I guess.

Saint: That’s what I believe, Chaos is the real answer to the question and it’s not logic that tells me that but its the just ... intuition… I have experienced it one of my deep sittings.

Physicist: I don’t know… So now even a junkie is more learned than me because he can “see” the “reality” of universe when he is high, because he can see fractals. Phewww….

Junkie: Told you … you gotta try drugs (smiles).

Saint: I guess we have the question, that we had answer for.

Junkie: You are right… understanding universe.

Saint: Yeah, its about everything, question is what is the truth, what is this universe, do we even need to understand it, what if we found the real answer, then what?

Physicist: Then what? You mean what if find we find the reality of this universe? Are you crazy? That has been the aim of particle physics ever since the science started. That will change everything.

Saint: Greatest of saints have already been there, the ultimate reality of the universe, the nature of the things from their root. Hindu and Chinese philosophy is full of such experiences.

Physicist: Well, can you explain that ultimate experience and their vision of universe to me?

Saint: But it’s not the nature of the things that these things can be explained. As chinese says-“One who knows cannot speak, and one who speaks does not know.”

Physicist: It’s a nice trick; you are skipping the most important part and claiming that you know it.

Saint: (smiles) Well, suppose I “explain” a joke to you, will you laugh? You will not. You have to listen and understand it for yourself, then and only then you will have a natural laughter. You listen to it, and then in a flash it makes sense and then that sudden moment of “enlightenment” will make you laugh. It’s the same thing with Nirvana, it cannot be explained, it has to be felt and experienced by your own. No-one can tell you the true nature of universe; you have to experience it on your own.

Saint pauses… and continues...

Well in today’s world people want to understand the true nature of universe, because they want nobel prizes, its career to them. Sadly, it doesn’t work like that even if CERN proves Higgs or disproves Higgs it doesn’t matter, because just as this discovery will change present rules and standards after 100 years new theories will come, new framework will be developed, more surprises with no guarantee of true
“formula” for universe.

Physicist: I guess, I am not getting novel prize… Am I ? (smiles)

Saint and junkie: yeah I guess…

Physicist: Nevertheless… (smiles) got to make it in lab 8:00 AM sharp bye …


dream weaver said...


too many questions ...too few answers said...

bhayanak !! at half way point itself ..exhausting man !

Shubhendu Bhardwaj said...

haa .. expected to be :) taht way .. couldn't make it more concise ....

blackcat007 said...

Nicely written, but the physicist has a very weak character, ie. he is unable to provide the apt reasons and cogent arguments to the questions and statements of the saint eg: the discovery of quarks never made a mess, infact it strengthened and completed the standard model that we know today. The physicist is quite whiny, since its apparent that he is a bit irritated because Rutherford proved Dalton wrong and expanded the realm of Atomic physics, he should have been happy and excited to know the truth. Yes there were many ad-hoc rules in particle physics but they were back in 1960's, now we have a consistent theory the standard model which explains the behavior of the known particles precisely, ofcourse the realm of the confluence of quantum field theory and gravitation is still hazy, but thats what we are working on. The very statement "there are no constancy in this universe" is I think the best answer to pursue further in physics, if things were constant, there would be no beauty in nature, the constant need to update and upgrade things and ideas is the driving force of science. True intuition plays an important role in research, but the only way to prove one's intuition correct is by logic, otherwise, different people have different intuition, how can we then generalize all such intuitions? in that case every other person will have his or her own picture of the universe, which is absurd. About australia's perimeter and chaos: I think we should learn to identify the important information than the unimportant ones eg: say we have a container filled with gas, finding its pressure and temperature, rms velocity are important and observable parameters, but if one tries to find the velocity of individual particles then its hopeless since the motion IS chaotic, but ofcourse there are many phenomena which are chaotic and are of importance and thus we do have chaos theory and the non-linear dynamics. Trying to make everything clear and representable for everyone is the basic aim of science, thus I can't really go with the Chinese saying "One who knows cannot speak, and one who speaks does not know." If we don't question and try to explain things, then its like the classic agnostic view of the quantum mechanical interpretation question "where is the particle when we are not looking at it?" agnostic view: "this question is absurd should not be answered, its like asking how many angels can sit on a point of needle". I might as well add "A silent audience is a dangerous one"

Overall this blog reminds me of the classic conversation based experiment of Galileo for finding the speed of light in the "Dialogue concerning two chief world systems"

Shubhendu Bhardwaj said...

well the character of physicist is definitely weak and he is a little frustrated and frankly speaking I dint know too much physics to make his character strong... :) I might need your help in next this type of post...

Anyway, the idea of the blog is not to propagate the idea that we should just sit down and not ask questions, but is to present other side of the story; The areas that science never recognized as scientific. The forgotten tradition of unity of science and philosophy.

And about identifying the important information than the unimportant ones; If I am not wrong one of the aims of physics is to come up with the consistence Unified theory- a single theory explaining every phenomenon in this universe- movement of particle to movement of galaxies. If you consider that way you will find present physics is far from that. There is no theory that can provide the nature of the things at macro and micro level both... Chaos seems to have answers (refer chaos theory by James Glieck/ and other books like Tao of physics by Fritjof Capra)

About agnostic view of quantum mechanical interpretation question-
Well if I ask the question "What was before Big bang?" Someone might answer- there was no time before Big Bang so there was no concept of "before and after". So this " question is absurd " that would be right. So why is agnostic view wrong? (unless its not encouraging spirit of asking questions)... its just that our questions are absurd because we are thinking in wrong framework ...

I would love to read your blogs on physics ... if not writing yet .. start soon :)

"when god's in his heaven , all's right with the world.." said...

brilliant man, very disturbingly though provoking, but more interesting were the comments that followed...