Friday, September 09, 2016

The Physics of the Universe

I have always had a strong interest in science and its relationship to life. When I started college some decades (!) ago, I started out as an engineer. In the mid-1960s any student who showed any aptitude at all was directed that way. Well, it didn't work out so well for me, but I never lost my interest in science. In these past 50 years the world of science- and particularly physics- has exploded in all kinds of directions and insights that are nothing more than mind-twisting. Quantum physics and everything related to in has made the universe so much more complicated and interesting.

Sometimes things come together to pique my interest even more.

  1. This particular tweaking of my thoughts started about a month ago when I came across the book, The Jazz of Physics by Stephon Alexander. I had just finished the "biography" of physicist extraordinaire, Richard Feynman by James Gleick. When you begin combine jazz and physics I knew it had to be interesting, even if it did look a little more in-depth than I could begin to understand at times.
  2. I hadn't had a chance to start it when I was visiting with an old friend. We were talking about all kinds of topics, including religion when he said, "Try this one on for size. What if Einstein's theory of relativity was a way of describing creation?" I no direct answer and kind of filed it away since supper was ready anyway. (Eating and heavy thinking don't often go together. Something about doing two important things at once.) With this question in mind, I picked up the Jazz of Physics book that evening where I found out that Alexander was using jazz as an analogy for physics as a way of coming to an understanding of how the structure of our universe was created. Alexander wrote:
    It had never occurred to me, he wrote, that galaxies and superclusters of galaxies were organized structures, let alone that they could tell us something profound about the nature of the universe, including what it is made of and how it came into being.
  3. Next came the fun day in New York City last week with a young friend we have known since he was a young child. One of the things he is working on in his own mind has to do with music, physics, and how humans have "musical sounds." Which is exactly what Alexander does in his book.
Such a confluence of events and thoughts amazes me. Call it serendipity, synchronicity, or plain old coincidence, it usually gets my attention. I have now worked my way through the rest of Alexander's book, often scratching my head at the physics, but understanding the basics he was trying to describe in both physics and jazz. I would describe it in my own very non-technical and
very unscientific way like this:
We are all made of music! And music made us all.
Way back at the beginning of creation when all was infinitely small and of an infinite mass it was the very quantum vibrations of the smallest of particles and anti-particles that began the movement into the universe beginning. Sound, music, is simply vibrations and that early vibrating energy had a tone, a type of "music." Photons and electrons and positrons and whatever else I don't understand, kept the vibrations moving at that quantum level. Somehow or other the building blocks of modern physics including Einstein's work on relativity and Heisenberg's Uncertainty play into this.

Beyond that, I am lost. In fact all I wrote in and of itself is probably so wrong as to be an embarrassment to anyone who knows physics. But that's okay for me. I'm just learning. I may take some time to do some digging into the physics Alexander writes about. In some mystical and marvelous way this relates to improvisation and an understanding of how knowing your next note in a line opens up the possibility for ALL notes.

Underneath it all for me is the idea that we are music. We are energy vibrating, perhaps at our own unique wavelengths. Who knows but that we are finely tuned instruments who respond at our quantum level to the music and vibrations, the energy and pulsing rhythm always surrounding us.

Or, I may be all wet. But I feel the music, I hear the sounds, and something in me responds. Whatever it is, I am grateful.

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