When Science dances to a cosmic rhythm

I often imagine a book as a wormhole because it usually provides the necessary shortcut to the universes of abstractions. Every book in this framework is thus rendered its own galactic system in a potentially different universe. The analogy seems consistent to me because even when I am not reading, the universes can continue to evolve. It also gives me the freedom to hop on a spaceship anytime (read) and content myself with an observer’s status. Moreover, an observer’s status when extrapolated to other readers accounts for the different point-of-views about the same idea.

The abstract worlds are exciting and it is fun to occasionally transcend into one, but they are rarely advantageous in solving real world problems. The what-why-and-how of existence, creation-and-destruction, source of life are therefore dealt by only a few, namely mystics and scientists. While the former claim to have consistent theories for these inexplicable phenomena, the latter are still busy seeking answers. In the book, The Tao of Physics, Fritjof Capra delineates the inexplicable while drawing parallels from the two worlds of mysticism and physics. With a succinct introduction to the philosophies of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and Zen the book in its later sections convincingly unfolds the numerous parallels between these philosophies and modern physics. Written from a physicist’s perspective, the book incisively elaborates on these parallels while unearthing new insights about the philosophy of science.

The development of the Theory of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics remain the cornerstone of scientific research over the last century. They phenomenally changed the way we perceive reality. Space and time became spacetime and matter and energy were unified as manifestations of fields in this inconceivable four-dimensional framework. Similarly, Quantum theories led to a unification of an observer with a system. It was no longer possible to consider isolated systems for experimentation. Unifications of conventionally compliment domains was not a new concept for mystics. Be it Hinduism or Buddhism, philosophers have always emphasized on viewing things through the unity-of-everything-lens.

Another striking resemblance in the philosophies of mystics and scientists lies in their theories about impermanence of things. While mystics have always believed in a dynamic universe, modern physics cemented this for science in its exploration of subatomic particles. The flow of energy and consistency of structure gained prominence over the materialistic existence of a particle. Owing to the research on virtual-particles even the void danced to a cosmic rhythm much like Lord Shiva as Nataraja.

Statue of Nataraja at CERN, Geneva
Statue of Nataraja at CERN, Geneva

Even though physics begins its enquiry in experiments, unlike mysticism which focuses on meditative experience, they both tend to reach similar conclusions about the grand scheme or the harmonious whole. Both continue to strive with an unflinching desire to unify the two realms of the abstract and the real.


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