Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Dark Matter: Dark Energy
I, like many a philosopher I’ve read, seem to have the flimsiest grip on reality when it actually comes down to it. Part of me exists somewhat awkwardly in the world of matter and part of me seems to get lost in labyrinths of thought. I’ve always wanted to know why things work. It began when I was about five and started taking to pieces anything that my parents decided did no longer work. In time I took apart clocks, starter motors, locks, air guns and the like. My parents’ joke was that I was ‘mending’ them. The irony in this was that I rarely made anything work by my investigations. On the other hand, I learnt basics about how things operate in this every day world of matter. I cast light on what had been dark. Much of it was pretty basic. Children often throw things against the wall or beat them with a heavy object, just to see what comes out. Removing the skin of a golf ball with a knife led me to discover that inside it was a mysterious liquid sachet, wrapped round with fine rubber banding. I conjectured that the liquid was acid. I used fire to make different coloured flames; or to heat a soldering iron so that I could melt and fix a hole in a plastic ball; or I made my own lead weights for fishing, or pellets for my air gun.
In short, the child’s view is that if you don’t understand something, take it apart. If you don’t have the tools or nous to do this elegantly, then you smash it to hell and back with something blunt.
The CERN experiment involves the Large Hadron Collider which will propel protons towards each other at nearly the speed of light around a 27 kilometre underground race track. Scientists seem to be just like I was in my childhood.. They can’t take these invisible mysteries and unlock them elegantly so they bash them around to see what happens.
It appears that they believe the vastness of the universe is inhabited mostly by dark energy and some of it by dark matter. The fraction left over is the stuff we regard as normal physical reality. They want to make all the darkness visible. It’s a model quite close to the one I developed when I began reading Zen, at the age of 12 and which accounted for my own existence. The body is physical matter, the mind is mysterious dark matter and death results in dark energy being released back into the pool of Jungian universality.
I might, like some 19th century biologist, have taken a human being apart to see what made it tick or have beaten it about to see what emanated from the collisions but my dark matter contained something called a moral conscience and so that route was, fortunately, barred. So here I am, scratching for meaning, banging my neurons together with little sense resulting. I hope the child scientists at CERN are doing somewhat better.