The Words We Use

This is something of a ramble through my etymology hobby.

Eternal is from ancient Greek, aeon-ternus, meaning age-lasting. We often use eternal as meaning no more than this, going on for ages, or as long as the universe lasts, but things have changed.

The discovery of the Big Bang in which the cosmos came into being at a finite time in the past, brings the need for a much wider definition as it implies the existence of something other than space-time for which we have no words. This is nothing new; a wider definition has been necessary for some millenia since the earliest descriptions of a being outside, other than time and space, but also from the invention of an obscure, ancient, grammatical concept.

The past, the present and the future walked into a bar. It was tense.

But the aorist tense needs no companions – wherever it is, it is always tense. When God says, ‘I AM.’ it is a single, defining statement. The original is in the aorist tense, implies ‘I was, I am, I have always been and always will be.’ Or if you prefer, ‘I ETERNALLY AM’

This is far more than simply lasting forever; it is something other. It is more than time or space. It may give birth to time and space, but, Oh! Man! it is something else.

The Aorist does not walk into a bar, its spirit is suspended eternally in the optics.

So here is the problem. In an earlier post I wrote about something and nothing and came to the conclusion that we have no true word for nothing because nothing cannot exist. We see this in vacuum physics where it has been found that there is no such thing as the popular idea of a vacuum. Instead the more vacuous the space the more it teems with virtual particles or eddies popping in and out of existence, reacting and responding to each other. The word virtual, unlike its use in ‘virtual reality’ stems from vir, an Old Latin word for potency or Man.

To avoid confusion ‘Man’ above has  a capital letter to identify it as a species word rather than gender. The male of the species Man is homo-man in which homo is Old Latin for humus or earth , not the Old Greek for self.

World comes from the Anglo-Saxon wer-alt meaning the age of a man. we still use wer today to mean man in werewolf (man-wolf).

There is no word for this full meaning of eternal. Eternal simply means ‘lifelong’, but we seek for more, even if life is taken as the life of the universe it takes no account of that Other, the Allos, outwith space-time.

Universe is from unusversus ‘one turned’. It is tempting to think of this in terms of the universe seen as the turning stars, but it means turned into one in the sense, all there is, seen as one. And can we become one with that other One?

Cosmos comes from the Old Greek word for order. The reason I have not posted anything for so long is that for my wife and I the past year has been anything but cosmic. We have had a tough year. My posts will probably be monthly for a while.

 

The Eternal Possesses Time

As in the poem ‘All the Time in the World
the nature of an eternal ‘Other’
that pervades space and time,
cannot be defined in spacetime words,
though they are all we have.

Something other than time and dimension,
pervading space and time
but independent of them,
needs words outside our range.

So how can we talk or think about it?

We do not use language as much as we think.
Multilingual people are sometimes asked,
‘What language do you think in?’

Their answer is often delayed;
rolling language thoughts around,
they usually give an answer
set in the terms of the question.

But many thoughts do not use language
though we may not notice it:
sunlight through leaves, the flight of birds,
fatigue, frustration, longing,
the body language of a friend,
and expressions on a face,
do not need words.

When we communicate with others
our words have personal qualities,
‘qualia’, arising from our past life.
A mountain, a falling leaf, a knife,
each have qualities which differ
from one person to another.
No two people have the same past,
the same experience of any thing.
Your words, my words, have different qualia,
different emotional tones.
You hear my words,
spoken out of my past
and interpret them out of yours.

I heard of an itinerent priest
who preached in town and village churches
when local vicars were away.
It could be several churches on one day.
He joked about breaking the speed limit.
Those listening –  drivers, non-drivers,
who had known or not known past accidents –
would have different thoughts about speeding cars,
different qualia,
different reactions.

But we can understand in some degree
the qualia of those different groups
by extension of our own.
Our own qualia can be enlarged
by poetry, story, music,
by the emotions of others,
or our ideas of what they might be.

Physics, mathematics or words of spacetime
cannot define or describe the Other,
but emotions give a feel for it.
Physics, mathematics and words
do this when they stir emotions.
Some find beauty in a formula that others find in music.

That feeling of beauty,
rather than formula,
rather than musical notes,
is close,
perhaps as close as we can come,
to the language of the eternal.

The word eternal, ae-ternus,
simply means lasting an age,
an infinite extension of time,
but emotions tell us it is more than this,
something more than the word,
more than mere length of time.

The Eternal possesses time.

 

Why is there Something rather than Nothing?

This is for those who like trying to imagine travelling to infinity and beyond! It is a sort of sequel to ‘Eddies in the Stream‘.

Why is there something rather than nothing?
Something is something we can understand –
things are all round us, but why are they there?
Why is there sunshine and birds in the air?
nothing is no-thing, and this seems absurd,
nothing is something for which there’s no word.
Nothing is absence, and that is something;
no song for no singer that no-one can sing.
What are those things that just cannot be?
Just between you and just between me,
nothing is something, and that cannot be.

Why is there something rather than nothing?
Is there a Maker that calls us to be?
an infinite-finite source of all being?
or multiverses to infinity?
Religion nor Science have answered the question,
‘Why is there something where nothing could be?’

Nothing is no-thing, and that is a problem,
it describes both a void and things that are not.
I search for a word that speaks not of things,
that does not suggest an absence of what?
for a void is a something, and an absence is too,
and nothing is something that just will not do.
I search for a word and zilch is no answer;
I search for a word and get diddly-squat.

Why is there something rather than nothing?
Why is there something where nothing could be?

There is no word for nothing
that does not mention things,
or speak about the void
the absence of them brings,
then nothing must be something
and so we talk in rings.

So surely it is possible,
and some may well say probable,
that something so intangible
can simply not exist.
Then nothing is a no-thing,
an impossible-to-go thing,
so surely there is something
rising from this mist.

Space and time and energy
are something we can feel:
eddies whirled in spacetime,
an expanding, whirling reel;
a dark, flowing energy
with eddies of its own,
spinning, ever spinning,
in this turning cosmic wheel

And those we see and know
as fundamental particles,
atoms, light and molecules,
flying to and fro,
may be eddies within eddies,
that draw the flow around them;
eddies in those eddies.
that make this cosmos grow.

Eddies bend the space-time flow around them.
Spacetime tells the eddies how to move.
Something more than nothing is no problem;
but something we can wonder at and love.

I have a sort of feeling that your mind like mine is reeling.

– – –

Scientists often say the language of the universe is mathematics, so is number an essential thing? an irreducible something, the reason for ‘something rather than nothing’? Perhaps, perhaps not.

We cannot explain numbers to children without words; sometimes lots of words. As children learn numbers in words, so students learn mathematics – plus, minus, times, divide, integrals, calculus, matrices, in many, many words. The most complex mathematical concepts, cosmic infinities, sub-atomic minutiae, could probably not be said in the words of a mathematician’s lifetime. A neighbour in Sue’s Birthday Bunnies called numbers the collapsed waveforms of words, a shorthand for the infinite words that might define this universe.

They take out all the hassle.

But in the beginning was the word.

There is another word for which we have no word. See you in two weeks.

Eddies in the Stream

When rain clouds rise from oceans
like sea-waves in the sky
from sea to land and onward,
to hills and mountains upward,
to pour down from up high.

Where storm-rains lash the heather
to soak in moss and peat,
where dark deer-runnels ooze and drain
and ocean’s loss is nature’s gain,
for streamlets swell to run again
to rivers pure and sweet.

Where alders dip above the run
and boulders break the stream,
and eddies, whirling as they go,
dance with each other in the flow
like dancers in a dream.

They turn and fill and ebb and flow –
and catch the eye so well –
small points of action in the stream,
the focus of the swell
as though the river’s swelling run
is focussed in their spin and turn
and river, sea and rain are one;
a cosmic carousel.

We spin in busy circles,
swirled in life’s foray
while the great stream flows forever
to an ocean that is ever
beyond this little day
where the depth and breadth and wonder
of this turning cosmic reel
is just a little bay
in which the eddies play.

Two weeks ago I suggested that you watch two interesting ‘You Tube’ illustrations of eddies and harmonics:

‘Physics Girl’ Dianna Cowern here, and James Dann here.

If physics girl held her plate in a running stream instead of a still pool the eddies would be relatively still while the stream runs powerfully on.

If you watch James Dann’s setup closely you can see flickering waves within the ones he shows. Later, when he shows the first harmonic, at the wave’s highest and lowest points, top and bottom, there are nodes in the string outline which are not part of the demonstration. You can capture them, as well as the flickering internal nodes and harmonics, by pressing pause at various points. They can be seen as wobbles in the slow motion capture by the high-speed camera. They happen because the  string is never fully at rest before the demonstration starts. Dann moves from one example to the next without letting it fully settle down, but even if he did there would still be a fine wave background due to circumstances outside his control, an in-built uncertainty.

We are used to the idea that energy and matter are compatible and can be transformed, one into the other (E = mc2). Matter has been described as the collapsed waveform or point of action of waves of energy – the ‘hit’ where energy makes its impact. It forms interactive, bound clusters of these points of action which we call particles, atoms, molecules, compounds, chairs, tables, you.

Another word for the particles of which all things are built is nodes, from the latin for knot. It is as though energy is a vibrating violin string whose action, such as playing the note C, is marked by a point at which it is held at the bridge or the violinist’s finger.

These slower, harmonic notes point to a strange possibility. Nodes have little of the energy of the string, they are points of relative inaction. If we think of particles of matter as harmonic nodes in the total cosmic energy, then they are not points of action or collapsed waveforms, they are foci or regions of relative steadiness, eddies in the stream as the stream runs powerfully on. They swirl dramatically, like points of active energy in a stream’s flow, but the stream’s energy is far greater though less visible than its eddies. It is more like the dark energy unexpectedly accelerating cosmic expansion. Seen this way particles are not points of action or building blocks, they are eddies in this expanding cosmic ball; harmonics in the cosmic wave-function.

And is this universe what Dame Julian saw in a vision? something as small as a hazelnut in the hand of God, our Father and Source of all creative energy?

A Quantum Genesis

Back again (although still with lots to do) it seems apt that with a new house and a new beginning, to return to the theme of genesis, so here goes!

I have written Genesis and Science creation posts before (view here) but here I try to put a modern quantum physics and evolutionary version in the language and form of the book of Genesis (Bereshith in the Hebrew Pentateuch). Genesis bears evidence of originally being a collection of prehistoric oral records put into writing sometime before the early bronze age, and brought together at the beginning of the iron age. There is evidence to show that such generation to generation passing on of oral racial memories maintains an accuracy that exceeds that of the written word. One reason may be that the spoken word depends far more upon accuracy than the written in that hearers’ criticism of error is more immediate than that of readers of written records, making the speaker more conscientious. The point here is how a very early world view, predating any modern scientific approach, comes so close to producing a thesis similar to modern physics and evolutionary theory – something much more than ‘truth dressed up as story’.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Creation was formless and void,
darkness was on the face of the deep
and the Spirit of God brooded over the waveforms.
God said, “Let there be light.”
and there were waves of light.

God saw the initial conditions were good,
dark gave way to light.
The first era dawned.

God said,
“Let a space spread in the waveforms,
to separate waves from waves.”
An expansion separated the waves
and it was so.
Fermions, unable to cling together,
flew apart;
baryons permeated space differently,
providing driving and drawing forces.
Spacetime and the heavens formed.
The second era dawned.

God said,
“Let waveforms condense in spacetime
let gravity draw them together
and let matter appear.”
It was so.

Baryon waveforms – distinct from fermions,
permeated one another,
permeated spacetime.
Fermion waveforms gathered in spacetime,
drawn by the forces of baryon waves:
weak forces,
strong forces,
gravity.
Here the Earth formed, with dry land and seas.

God saw it was good.

God said,
“Let the land produce vegetation:
plants yielding seeds according to their kinds,
trees bearing fruit with seed
according to their kinds.”

It was so.
Organic compounds forming a primordial ‘soup’,
organic compounds,
self replicating molecules,
primitive vegetal life,
single cells feeding on each other
until, some a single event,
the absorption of one cell by another,
formed a symbiosis,
both cells surviving as one,
reproducing as a single entity,
forming the first nucleated cells,
the cellular building blocks of the first plants
evolving into plants yielding seeds according to their kinds,
trees bearing fruit with seed
according to their kinds.

God saw it was good.
The third era dawned.

God said,
“Let the lights in the sky’s expanse
separate day from night,
drive seasons, days and evolution.
giving light on the earth.”
It was so.

The greater light ruling the day
the lesser light ruling the night,
the stars also,
shining on Earth,
driving tides, seasons, evolution.

God saw it was good.
The fourth era dawned.

God said,
“Let the water swarm with living creatures.
Let birds fly above the earth,
across the expanse of the sky.”

God created the great sea creatures,
every living, moving thing
with which the water swarmed.
Life spread to land.
Over millions of years, the time of the dinosaurs,
birds evolved.

God saw it was good.

God blessed them and said,
“Be fruitful, multiply,
fill the water in the seas,
let the birds multiply on the earth.”

The fifth era dawned.

God said,
“Let the land produce living creatures:
cattle, creeping things, and wild animals,
each according to its kind.”
It was so.

Wild animals evolved
cattle according to their kinds,
all creatures that creep along the ground.

God saw it was good.

Then God said,
“Let us make humanity in our image,
to rule over the fish of the sea,
the birds of the air,
over cattle, and all the earth,
and all creatures that move on the earth.”

God created humankind in His own image,
in His image He created them,
male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said,
“Be fruitful and multiply!
Fill the earth and subdue it!
Rule over the fish of the sea,
the birds of the air
every creature that moves on the ground.”

Then God said,
“I give you every seed-bearing plant
on the face of the entire earth;
every fruiting tree with seed.
They will be yours for food.
And to all the animals of the earth,
to every bird of the air,
to all creatures that move on the ground –
everything with the breath of life –
I give every green plant for food.”

It was so.

God saw all he had made –
and it was very good!
The sixth era dawned.

The seventh era lasted less than a millisecond, all was done.

Quark Flavours

There are six flavors of quarks: up, down, strange, charm, top, and bottom.
Up and down quarks have the lowest masses of all,
but heavier quarks can rapidly become lighter, changing to up and down.

A quark is a many flavoured thing,
with its ups and down, and a certain charm,
yet the strangest thing,
when it’s heavy, given time,
it will lighten and be fine.

Though stuck inside a shroud
of the proton – neutron crowd,
it’s position is uncertain,
as though hid behind a curtain,
part of the cosmic harmony,
dancing with its destiny.

We think of quarks as small,
almost not there at all,
but there is still a stranger thing to say.
Its unpinned-down position,
surely here but perhaps there,
gets more doubtful as we travel far away;
yet the chance that it is elsewhere
stretches faint and far forever,
this little shrouded entity
harmonic in eternity,
of limitless potential grace
throughout all time and space,
it is this that holds the universe together.

Sea Waves

How shall we describe the world?
With what shall we compare it?

The world is like a sea
over which the wind blows.
Its ripples chase the wind and one another,
‘I am a standing wave!’
‘I am a running wave!’
‘This sparkling expanse is our world!’

None know of the depth beneath,
and little of the wind above,
or unbounded space and time
where other waveforms speed.
All fear the shore where they will die.

They are each a focus of the whole:
the depth below, the wind above,
the sea, the shore, the great beyond;
that symphony in which their echoes carry,
which makes the world ring,
where their souls sing
in harmony.