Unraveling Reality {5} Unseen Forces

Unseen Forces

Unseen forces have long awed inquisitive hominids. The power of wind and lightning, the subtleties whereby objects reliably fall to Earth, and the miracle of how life abounds, both frighten and fascinate.

Matter is easy enough to take for granted, at least until one wonders what holds it together and affords its transformative abilities. So too the Sun, until pondering what powers it, and provides for its radiation.

The electromagnetic spectrum is a continuum of energy intensity, from low-energy, longer wavelengths to shorter. Conversely, frequency is how tightly wavelengths huddle: the more compact, the higher the energy (at the same amplitude).

The electromagnetic spectrum illustrates our feeble perceptual limits. Human vision – the sum total of what we see – is an infinitesimal range within a spectrum that we can comprehend only as a mathematical abstract of incredible magnitude.

The ecology of humanity for all time – all that humans can ever possibly experience – is trifling to what all of life on Earth experiences in a single day. Further, the duration of humanity will be some 300,000 years on a planet teeming with life for 6–8 billion years. That ratio is roughly equivalent to a single breath in a person’s lifetime.

(Life on Earth may last another ~2 billion years, assuming the planet and the Sun remain viable. Unless drastic steps are taken (which won’t be taken), humanity will wipe itself off the planet before 2100. Our species will be lucky to last another lifetime, and we will take many other species down with us.)

◊ ◊ ◊

“To understand motion is to understand Nature.” ~ Italian polymath Leonardo da Vinci

As da Vinci intimated, the seminal mystery lies not in what is, but in the endowment which makes movement: the motive for motion. Modern physics was forged from explaining fields and the forces that impel them; an invisible realm to us, with only effects to guide comprehension. This is the first lesson of physics: that what is apparent is either only part of Nature or is wholly deceptive.