I've been writing very little - for a number of reasons. Family and health concerns, including a brief hospital stay, have kept me occupied. And then in addition to that, somehow, Marlene and I have gotten involved in taking college level courses that are available on DVD through something called The Teaching Company.
I forget exactly how we started - but it was a Nova show that got me interested in physics. I selectd a course subtitled "Modern Physics for Non-Scientists." So now I'm deep into relativity and quantum mechanics - and am even going to try their course in calculus. Now that I've viewed a few of these classes, I'm amazed at how very much I do not know. And a fair portion of this material was available when I was in college, I just missed it.
I definitely do not understand a lot of it but was very much comforted last night when I read that Richard Feynman said that no one understands quantum mechanics. Scientists and physicists may be able to use all the theories, do experiments, make predictions, but they do not understand it at a deep level. It's too weird. And so is relativity, in my opinion. Here is one weird idea: "Einstein proclaimed that all objects in the universe are always traveling through spacetime at one fixed speed - that of light." I read that several times over (it's on page 50 of Brian Greene's "Elegant Universe".) That's a stunner. What could it possibly mean? The point seems to be that some of this incredible momentum is devoted to moving through time, which leaves a bit less to propel us through space.... I think I got that right.
The real point is how exciting this is. It's keeping me awake at night. This has a lot to do with the fact that it fits in amazingly well with much of what I've been studying over the last few years in Buddhism. For example, I was puzzling over this business of space being curved, and gravity being the manifestation or effect of such curvature. Greene remarks something to the effect that common sense has us see space as the empty container, as it were, rather than something that could have its own qualities. I'm definitely in that camp! So I was thinking, "But if it's curved, that means space must be some thing - it's not just where other things are." And that's exactly what is said in my Buddhist studies - and I'd thought I'd grasped it there. Busted. Of course it's all a good bit more subtle than that sounds, but.......
In any case, I find it difficult to articulate how much this means to me. All through my teen years and my early twenties, thinking and learning was a great intoxication. Those moments of insight were the ultimate reward. Then it all slowly faded. But now ideas are keeping me awake at night, again. And sometimes, when I sleep, I dream I'm back in school.