Tuesday, October 9, 2007

What is the matter with antimatter?

BBC's In Our Time gave a shot at antimatter. We have had tough physics concepts before. I recall enjoying the issue about gravitational waves, but this time around, the show was lost on me. Not that is was bad, quite to the contrary. In Our Time was as excellent as it always is; antimatter just didn't click with me. It remained totally esoteric.

Isn't that a paradoxical thing? That a discipline as concrete as physics eventually runs into such immensely flighty concepts as antimatter? Apparently anywhere, no matter how concrete and practical, if you look long enough, dig deep enough, think persistently enough, you'll find yourself in a maze of abstractions. You can be as naturalistic, rational and fact oriented you like, but nothing helps. You have to interpret, generalize, construct and deconstruct and before you know it, you are playing a game of words.

Another thing may chip in. Something that was said on this show of In Our Time. As far as our reality is concerned, what we have access to, the world of matter (mostly) consists, in hard physics terms, of only one billionth of all there is. In other words, all that we can possible observe and lay our hands on, can never be more than a tiny fraction of the whole of nature. It is like trying to read a whole library of books while having access to one printed character in it. Try imagining more characters, whole words, sentences, a printed sheet, the semantics, the syntax, the whole book. More books, different books (non-fiction, fiction, poetry, drama), magazines, newspapers, microfilm, index cards, digitalized text and other media. All in the library, but from the one character, sheer conjecture and crazy conjecture at that.
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