A suicidal cat, a glass of wine, and the rest of the Universe.
This post was inspired by Richard Feynman and the last part of his lecture: The Relation of Physics to Other Sciences, in which he speaks about how everything in science is connected and physics being the most fundamental of all.
A poet once said, “The whole universe is in a glass of wine.” We will probably never know in what sense he meant that, for poets do not write to be understood. But it is true that if we look at a glass of wine closely enough we see the entire universe.
The Universe does not divide science into parts. It’s what we do to make life easier, so we don’t have to deal with every detail of particle interaction, but instead, we can make use of emergent laws in chemistry, geology, biology, psychology, and so on.
What do you see in the above image?
Let me tell you what I see.
First, I see a cat, trying to escape the boundaries I have set for him. He wants to run free on the grass below, which unfortunately is two floors down. Suicidal cat? Probably not, although we like to joke about it. Please don’t jump, kitty.
I see the sun shining, almost through its butt. The sunrays sines through the thinner outer layer of his hair, makes the butt fur look like on fire. Some of the sunrays get stopped by the solid cat body because he’s opaque, meaning he absorbs all of the visible light. The electromagnetic wave, which is the nature of light, does not have enough energy to penetrate through the cat. What if the Sun was radiating more energetic x-rays instead? In some binary stars, where matter falls from one star into a massive neutron star or a black hole, while they do their violent dance, that’s the case. We know x-ray from the skeleton images, so that would be what the cat would look to us if out Sun was a binary x-ray star.
There is an artist impression of a nebula lying randomly by my glass of wine, in the form of a kindle cover. The only reason why I see the colors on the cover is that the sunlight gets reflected in different wavelengths because of the chemicals that the cover is painted with. Some chemicals absorb red and green and only the blue is reflected, while others absorb green and reflect the blue and red, which our eyes mix into purple.
I see a glass of wine and the sunrays reflecting. The crystal glass refracts the sunlight, it distorts it, making the image behind it distorted. Making the cat's tail broken. Glas has a refraction number of about 1.5 compared to air, so the sunrays bend. And what is our vision, but an image created in our head, from the information of photons reaching our detector eyes and then being interpreted in our brain? So the resulting vision gets distorted.
Who said that physics is not about art? The Universe paints Picasso style and sometimes a little bit of Dali.
The glass itself is shaped, it bends and curls and the light gathers in some spots, making it shine locally. Like small communities or cities on Earth as seen from the sky. If we zoom in, will we see small communities of light aliens, living life in the speed of light, experiencing the Universe in no time?
I see dirty spots in the glass, where the light doesn’t pass through as clearly. The dirt might be calcium from the water, or whatever, making the glass more opaque. Why is clean glass more see-through than calcium? The electrons in the glass structure require more energy than the visible light carries, to get excited to a higher level, hence visible light does not get absorbed by glass material. It might stop UV-light, but we don’t see UV. We could see it as a tan if we stayed long enough directly in the sun.
Back to the glass and the dirty spots, is it just me, or do they look a bit like stars spread across the surface of the glass? A nebula in a glass of wine.
Indeed there is a whole Universe in a glass of wine.
I see a randomly placed bookmark with the text “Mellem linjerne” which means “between the lines” in Danish. Do we need to read between the lines, when we have science and the unambiguous language of math? It depends on the lines that we define. Usually, we have to make our complex world simpler, by defining structures and lines, to be able to understand it better. If we want to know more, to answer the bigger questions, we need to go deeper and read between those lines. We have not been able to read all the small hidden letters of the whole Universe just yet, but we keep trying.
I go back to the cat, and consider his instincts and desires, which are nothing but brain cell interactions, nothing but chemistry reacting, nothing but nerve impulses, and in the end, nothing but electromagnetic particle fields interacting with electron and protons, made of quarks, or whatever the current story we tell ourselves in the current time that we live in. Whatever knowledge we have accumulated and the ways we understand the world as is. There is still so much we don’t understand, and science is the process of always striving to uncover the secrets of the world.
I see randomly written notes in my notebook, except they are not random, they are my thoughts and ideas. They are a structure, they are information, they have low entropy. Low entropy means that the atoms and particles would most probably not be able to form like this randomly. Only a small specific combination of particles would give us words written in a notebook. Low entropy that came from a higher entropy, meaning that work has been done and energy has been used. The cells in my body got energy from the surroundings, mostly from me eating other living things, whether they are plants or animals, hence locally lowering the entropy into structured proteins in my cells and making me able to form information, while leaving the world in a bigger mess and an always higher entropy, as they — we, I — leave byproducts in the form of CO2 and poop.
I once again return to the cat, which is standing on the table, which again is standing on the balcony. I see that he is pulled to the ground by the huge gravity from the Earth, but even though the Earth is so extremely larger than the table and the balcony, its gravity is not large enough to pull the cat through the solid ground. Do you know why? It’s because the force of gravity is 10⁴³ times smaller than the force of electromagnetism, which is keeping solids from falling through the empty space in the atom. Because the empty space is not empty, it’s filled with virtual particles, which we call electromagnetic force or virtual photons being exchanged back and forth between the electron and the protons. And even a small solid table would have more force to keep the cat up than the whole massive Earth has to pull it down.
I don’t see the cat’s head. Is the cat headless? No, because our mind reads between the lines, our brain is capable of saving patterns and structures and it recognizes the animal to be a cat which includes a head if it’s living and moving, even when I can’t see the head.
And even though I am not in the picture, you might see an irresponsible cat owner, either because she lets her cat get so close to the edge of the balcony or because she doesn’t let it roam free outside, as is his nature. You also fill in the blanks in your brain and make your own connections.
Look anywhere and you will see the Universe leaving its impressions. The physics is everywhere ❤ I don’t always understand it, but it leaves me with awe and wonder, and I want to know more.
Stay curious to experience the magic of reality. You don’t have to be spiritual to find the Universe fascinating and try to figure out how to read between the lines and figure out the yet unknown. This is exactly what science is for.