Sunday, March 25, 2012

Chaos and complexity

Fractal
Fractal by Rao Anirudh. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
In the bustling days of the average Joe or Jane as they shuttle between home and the workplace, there is often very little time to daydream or ponder about the wonder of the world around. In between shuffling reports, relegating orders to peons and receiving an earful from the superior who commands your respect but doesn't quite deserve it, one scarfs down a meal from the canteen, thinks about what's featuring on the idiot box at 9 pm and also about the long uncomfortable train journey home with all the sounds and smells. Indeed, in the already complicated lives of the average person, one has no time to figure just how complicated and mysterious the Universe and the fabric of Nature is.
True, the consequence of such elegance and mystery will humble and inspire some of us and for others it may be a crass rephrasing of the question, "So what's it to me?". I have yet to find such an individual who hasn't atleast shown some awe when confronted with the fact that the Universe is expanding rapidly and in billions of years the human race (or the highly evolved new human species); if it doesn't wipe itself out by strife and war, will be alone in the supercluster. As Hubble rightly proved, the galaxies would have moved away so far, even the speed of light (the upper limit of velocity) will be humbled by the distances and the galaxies would be out of sight. The Cosmic Background Radiation, currently hovering a few Kelvin above absolute zero, would drop even more so. Were it not for painstaking preservation of texts and photographic material in the file formats of the future, the members of that advanced civilization would have lost the means to the cognizance of the Big Bang itself. We will return to a pre-Copernican era where we will be under the impression that we are at the center of a static, unchanging Universe and there will be no testable hypothesis based on observation to prove it.
With the exception of the Moon missions and the unmanned Voyager crafts, the human race has not not even made the baby steps of space exploration that is made to appear so banal and yawn-inducing in the mounds of published science fiction. Even then we have peered into the outer reaches of your Universe, as far as our technology would take us; the near infinite number of galaxies, each with its own stars and planetary systems and its little green men and bug-eyed aliens; we have made startling discoveries that empty space has energy in it; that particles and anti-particles emerge and destroy themselves within a time scale so infinitesimally small; chaos interspersed in order and order interspersed in chaos- all without ever leaving our little globe of blue and green.
Everytime you think that there is nothing left to excite you, think again. Every instant is a good opportunity to remind ourselves that for the few hundred thousand years since our evolution, we have achieved greatness, yet held out short by Nature. We have everything to see and no time to see it. We are but a small speck in the smallest subsets of a Mandelbrot fractal that is our universe. It is haunting, humbling and inspiring all at once.


Just something to think about at the water cooler on your coffee break. 

3 comments:

Dee... said...

What are you ?
Never read Such an intense article in my recent times.
After reading the word CHAOS, i had a thought "It's gonna be a bluff on physics...

i can see a quality in your post..
i have been to this blog few times, you write so good and you write something which i cant....
of all your lines i loved this

" We have everything to see and no time to see it. "
i can completely relate it to your blog.
i will not comment in paragraphs.
few exception are there like your blog.
kudos to your complex stuff

prateek mathur said...

This is vintage Nikhil man...awesome piece...it's very fast paced and goes along like the speed of light! :)
I prefer this over book reviews and japanese comic strip stuff :)...something about u and space coming together...ur piece salesman is still stuck in my head :)


One sincere advice, change the color scheme or the text size or both in your blog...it's harder to read and becomes a tad monotonous.

Vyaas said...

Good post.
|We will return to a pre-Copernican era where we will be under the impression that we are at the center of a static, unchanging Universe and there will be no testable hypothesis based on observation to prove it.

I feel the "pre-copernican" era gets the dead horse treatment these days. Revolutionary ideas have always met with opposition from religious or simply self-preservative mad men.

Besides, there were civilizations that had figured out celestial motion centuries before Copernicus wrote "De revolutionibus orbium coelestium". Aryabhatta for example deduced the correct positions of the Earth and Sun by observing eclipses. And lets not get started on Egyptian and Persian contributions. Most of these texts and many more exist are well preserved and re-documented. Yes, the west has contributed tremendously to science and philosophy,but it would be imprudent to pin the tail of worldly realization on Copernicus' revelation. A good half of the world had no problems with the idea of heliocentry and were doing just fine.

IMO Copernicus' true contribution lies in sending shock waves of self doubt through academic circles /ellipses across Europe. The Sun being at the center was simply an artifact in a historic cleansing that set the stage for super-human intellects like Newton, Boltzmann, Maxwell, etc. to shine.