“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Tree in the Seed

The astonishing thing about the universe is that such enormous complexity - so many widely varied and intricately interrelated diverse emergent phenomena - are generated by such bare elemental simplicity in the fundamental physical structure. Consciousness, and giraffes, and the internet, come out of quantum fields interacting in (and with) spacetime. In a sense, it is like something coming from nothing. It is counterintuitive to us, but empty expanding space can generate vast numbers of particles, and a uniform sea of particles can self-organize gravitationally into stars and planets, and simple combinations of particles in the right environment can duplicate and produce very peculiar, animate complex objects, "life," and so on. We can reproduce some of it with numerical simulations before our very eyes, and we can understand each step, but there's still the baffling sense that an incomprehensible miracle just happened.

The very deep and mysterious reality is that the potential for all this complexity is there - really there - in the laws of physics, just like the information of a tree is present in a seed. And that hidden potential for everything from death to sexuality (and much more beyond the human experience) is part of what it means for the laws of physics to be what they are. To fully understand those laws at a fundamental level (say, string theory), you would really need to understand everything that can come out of string theory. Only then could you understand what that "seed" really is.

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