What Do You Call Two Physicians?
Updated: Sep 5
A paradox. That's what I want to discuss with you today. There is a strange paradox happening all around us in space-time, and no one's talking about it. Well that's going to change right here, right now! (Get it? Space: right here, time: right now. No, not funny? Okay, sorry.)
Folks, the scientists and mathematicians are conspiring to confuse and overwhelm us regular people by presenting two mutually-exclusive systems of physical laws!
The system for large things. This is the gravity system, for massive things like galaxies, stars, and planets. When we talked about supermassive black holes, we saw that massive things cause a curvature in space-time, and that's actually what gravity is. (Click on the underlined link if you want to re-watch the video of the coins going into the gravity well.) This system also applies to things much smaller than a planet, including pretty much everything with any mass to speak of.
The system for small things. This is the wave-particle system, for teeny tiny things like electrons, photons, and quarks. Teeny tiny things are shy and very security conscious. They won't simultaneously reveal both their exact location and where they're going next. It's like they're hiding out from the large things. (Maybe they're worried if the large things catch up to them they will curve space-time around their lunch money, causing it to pass beyond the event horizon. See, small things understand large things don't always treat others with compassion and kindness. Remember how the other planets kicked poor little Pluto out of the planet club? Shameful.) Anyway, this characteristic of not being able to simultaneously measure the position and velocity of a small thing is called the uncertainty principle. (And yes, I'm absolutely certain that's what it's called.)
The illustration shows how small things are also very accomplished surfers, preferring to travel in waves. Additionally, the illustration produces a mild hypnotic effect. That is, if...you...stare...at...it...
WARNING! It's about to get grisly, people. You may want to move small children and the elderly to positions of safety before proceeding. The truth is, scientists can't explain everything observed in reality even if they use both systems! So just like the rest of us, scientists are grappling with the true nature of reality.
(Original illustration by Thierry Dugnolle.)