Monday, 22 June 2009
All items reduced... part 1
If monolith of science can be described as having a ‘general tendency’ it would probably be fair to say that this has been to reduce the universe down. No we’re not talking about a giant shrinkage experiment to create a new kind of Lilliput. What we are saying that in order to understand the world science has tried to reduce it, break it up, to its component parts. So the computer that I sit at to type this out can be broken down to keyboard, mouse, processor chips, memory cards etc and these in turn can be broken down into their basic materials, silicone, plastic, aluminium, and then even further to atoms, molecules, and whizzing electrons, and then… You get the idea. The great thing about this process is that, hopefully, as we reduce down through the various orders of magnitude, like peeling back the layers of an onion, each layer explains how the last one worked. So, the passage of electrons through conductors explains how computer chips work, for example.
This procedure has yielded outstanding results in practically every single discipline of science and as such has led some people to suggest by reducing the world down, again and again, we will eventually be able to explain our entire existence. Is this true? Or being drunk on our own success have we missed something?
Consider the image above. What is it?