The Void

            Ignorance is believed by millions to be part of a void, the "mother of all", responsible for all that exists and does not exist. The tempting shade of a tree and the silences between the notes of a song are believed to be similar manifestations of the one great void that allows everything to be useful and meaningful. Hints of its nonexistent existence everywhere we look. A mystery that has no properties, obeys no physical laws, and is simultaneously everywhere and nowhere connecting all of life. That might sound like a lot of meaningless gibberish about nothing, but it's nonetheless pretty useful gibberish and a decent description of quantum indeterminacy.

            For over a century physicists have struggled to find an explanation for quantum mechanics, but the mystery makes perfect sense if we merely assume our own limitations are at least part of the problem. We are using nature to study nature and, like ants crawling up the Empire State building, perhaps utterly incapable of seeing much less comprehending the big picture. In the grand scheme of things our most basic assumptions about where we are and what we are doing could be nothing more than a collection of misleading myths, legends, and metaphors for what is ultimately humanly inconceivable. Einstein disliked the idea and insisted, "God is subtle, but not malicious" to which Allan Watts might have replied, "God is playing peek-a-boo, and she's really good!"

            The idea can be tested against our bedrock assumptions, such as existence and nonexistence, to see if eventually they fail to describe observations. This is a contextual or systems science approach and since Bell's theorem the mounting evidence is that quanta are contextual or, in other words, context trumps content. Using the context to define the properties of the parts Contextualism can do an end run around metaphysics altogether because the context alone suffices to describe everything we observe. The more vague the context the deeper we peer into the void where, for lack of context, everything becomes progressively less meaningful often in the most bizarre ways. In quantum mechanics the effect is observed as the various properties of the quanta themselves fade into meaninglessness often in discrete increments as if having reached the absolute limits of what is meaningful.

            Conversely the more explicit the context the more demonstrable, meaningful, and useful. Ancient metaphysical assumptions about truth, reality, causality, logic, etc. are increasingly being challenged by quantum mechanics and, in the midst of the ensuing chaos, determining what is demonstrable and useful has taken center stage. Demonstrable generally refers to that which can be most obviously demonstrated or, at least, can be demonstrated to some degree. For example, the fact I am writing these words down can be considered an obvious demonstration in and of itself that I'm writing. Just as quantum mechanics seems to always lead back to the Indeterminacy Principle, so too does meaning itself appear to always lead us inevitably back to the void as the one indispensable context for what is demonstrable and useful.

            Ours is apparently a universe of unceasing change where it can be demonstrated the void must exist and, yet, cannot exist by definition and is quite possibly merely a useful metaphor that implies all concepts are metaphors. Therefore spontaneity remains the most demonstrable of all things with the possible exception of the void. That includes our own spontaneity as human beings which many people describe as their most immediate and personal connection to themselves, God, and the void. Thus, if for nothing else, the void can serve as a useful metaphor for a bottomless pit of endless nonsense into which anyone, including agnostics, can surrender anything and embrace their ignorance regardless of their individual beliefs. 
wuliheron wuliheron
3 Responses Dec 11, 2012

Well written sir, excellent story.

Absolutely! Richard Feynman's insight about the void, that Nothing is actually a local sum of all possible things that happen to cancel out at a given point in space and time. Mix with Einstein's proof that the value of an observation is always affected by the state of the observer, apply that philosophical outlook to the multiple beliefs about what we cannot know. It is within the range of probable outcomes that we are all correct about the Great Why -- that's how the rules work out, most of the universe is hidden from our ability to dissect, measure, and claim as part of our eminent domain. Is Schröedinger's cat alive or dead? The question is meaningless, the answer is "Could be".

The answer is the question is meaningless without a specific context. Along the lines of asking which way is up in interstellar space or what came before time. There is also a new study that shows a possible reason we don't perceive entanglement in everyday life is simply because the accuracy required to perceive it in macroscopic objects is so high even a quantum computer would struggle and the poor human brain isn't powerful enough. Essentially, whether we perceive Shroedinger's cat as alive, dead, or in superposition is merely a question of what instruments we use in what context.

Wow. Quite a bit there. Is this how you think all the time? Is that first part honestly a description of quantum indeterminacy? Sorry i'm new to all of this. How old is the general Quantum theory?

Quantum mechanics is roughly a hundred years old and, yes, that first paragraph is about as good a description of indeterminacy as any. Roughly half the human population believes life, the universe, and everything emerge from the void and go right back into it. You could think of it as a kind of horizon effect where no matter which direction you move the horizon always remains at the same distance on all sides.