Thursday, 16 September 2010

day 13: The Void

Tomorrow is the last day and I’ll post a draft of the introductory chapter...

Here’s a concept for the cover I made this evening. While writing the introduction I was looking for a good example to explain that the questions you can ask of reality depend on what you believe to exist in reality. The four elements and the four humours are always a good example, but you can read about that later.

The interesting thing is of course that there are five elements in almost all cultures. The Chinese have: wood, fire, earth, metal, water. The Japanese: air/wind, fire, earth, water and void. Pagan: air, water, fire, earth and spirit/soul. The Greek had Æther as the 5th element.

The question of the existence of Æther has been an important subject in physics for a very long time. In short: when something moves in the univers, it has to move relative to something, and this is the Æther. Einstein's theory of relativity appeared to have made the final point against the existence of Æther. Well not quite, because in 1951 the brilliant Paul Dirac who is one of the fathers of modern quantum mechanics publisheda paper in Nature called: “It there an Æther?” in which he suggests there might actually be such a thing!

Ok, I think this it is safe to say it is not a concept, but the real thing, what do you think?

Thank god for the web!
I found a quote by Henry Poincaré from the days before 1905, before Einstein's publication on special relativity. He describes the position I think is necessary to advance science, be aware that any theory and ontology is just a means to an end: Trying to understand phenomena. If it turns out you were wrong, well, then you were wrong! What remains however will always be some useful insights, some lawful behaviour or first principles that may be integrated into a new theory or ontology.

Here is the quote from the 1905 translation (out of French from 1889):

Whether the ether
exists or not matters little – let us leave that to
the metaphysicians; what is essential for us is, that
everything happens as if it existed, and that this
hypothesis is found to be suitable
for the explanation of phenomena.”

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