Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The cooperative universe

Sometimes, I think about reality and what "it" is. Max Planck, the famous theoretical physicist, one of the fathers of Quantum Mechanics has this to say:
"As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter." (emphasis mine)
I have noticed that in humans and elsewhere in the animal kingdom, where there is cooperation there is peace. Yes, there are predators and prey, but even the predators know, by instinct, not to eat all of the prey. They can't for if they do, well, they become vegetarians. Everywhere I choose to look, I can find cooperation.

Birds seem to vote on where to fly together. Ants cooperate to forage for food, collect it and store it. Plants live side by side, with symbiotic bacteria and fungi eating and creating fertilizer for the plants. Some actually fixate nitrogen to make that fertilizer. In almost every case, I can see more cooperation than conflict.

Turning to my own body, I am composed of trillions of cells. Each of these cells are specialized by design to do a little slice of the work of living. There is no negotiation. Only cooperation so that all may live another day. I've observed the death of mentally ill and very elderly patients and upon those observations, I've come to the conclusion that death to the body occurs when the cells can no longer cooperate and coordinate their action.

Turning again to that quote by Max Planck, I find myself looking for evidence of that mind. What is that fantastic source of energy that makes electrons orbit their nucleus? What energies make an atom vibrate? What energies provide us with the sense of repulsion when we bump into a door?

Sometimes I worry that I don't have the discipline to do this or that thing. Then I look at the walls. They have discipline. They've been in the same position for years, unyielding to my actions, permanent for all intents and purposes for my life. But the constituent atoms, like the atoms in rock, are cooperating to be a wall. Atoms everywhere are cooperating in some fashion to give us this reality. 

If there is any discipline to be found in matter, a good place to look is the proton. The estimated half-life of protons is about 10^35 years. That's 10, followed by 35 zeros. That's a long, long time.

Some scientists say that if man has freewill, he derives such a will from matter. If that is true, perhaps the greatest suffering of man comes from failure to cooperate with the will of his constituent atoms. The unwillingness to cooperate with others. The inability to say, "please". The use of force against another. Atoms seem agnostic, maybe even indifferent to our subjective whims and wills, but we still know suffering when we fail to cooperate with others.

Atoms have been of service to life for a billion years on this earth, cooperating, facilitating, teaching, and learning. Heisenberg says that we can know where a particle is going, but the more we know where it is going, the less we know about its location, and vice versa. The only way we could know anything is by the cooperation of the particles within us and without us.

Mankind, of late, seems to know of itself, neither velocity or location. But when we do figure that out, perhaps we can finally cooperate and live in peace. Together.
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