Renewing Mystery

I love the intersection between the new sciences and the realm of spirit. Quantum physics often offers a scientific foundation and explanation for what we humans have considered the realm of spirit for as long as we’ve been expressing reverence.

I’ve just watched a provocative documentary by Werner Herzog called ”Encounters at the End of the World”, the end of the world being Antarctica and the rare breed of humans it attracts.

Saving the best for last, perhaps, Herzog interviews physicist Dr. Peter Gorham in the last scene. An engaging man, Gorham tries to explain the magnificence of the sub-atomic world. With helium balloons that look like long white strings when they’re still lying on the ice, the Neutrino Detection Project is trying to identify the highest energy subatomic particles known to humans. As I watch the string expand, it becomes a filmy white balloon that will eventually be a sphere 300 feet in diameter. Hard to imagine isn’t it? ( See related post about hot air balloons 9/9/2010 ) The project is based in Antarctica because once the balloon reaches the stratosphere the detector can scan thousands of square miles of ice without any electrical disturbances from habitation.

Gorham says that the project wants to be the first to identify the “ most ridiculous particle you can imagine.”  To illustrate the extent of their smallness, he says matter of factly: “ A billion, a trillion just went through my nose as we were talking and they did nothing to me – they pass through all matter all the time with no effect. They almost exist in a separate universe but we know as physicists we can measure them, make predictions. They exist. But we can’t get our hands on them.”

I apologize if that quotation isn’t exactly exact. It’s close enough to give you the idea of how miraculously small are these sub-atomic particles.

Here is the gist of what Gorham says next. Without neutrinos, the universe wouldn’t exist… no elements, no thing, can exist without them. In the earliest seconds of the big bang, neutrinos were the dominant particle. They actually determine much of the kinetics of the production of everything we know. They seem to exist in their own world and we’re trying to make contact with them.  Gorham says, “As a physicist, I understand it mathematically and intellectually but it still hits me in the gut that there is something here surrounding me, almost like a spirit or a god, that I can’t touch but I can make a measurement . . . it’s like measuring the spirit world or something . . .”

Herzog asks, “What would we see if we could see the impact of a neutrino.”

I don’t understand how Gorham can answer this question since we can’t really see these little guys, but he describes the effect as something like this: It would be like a lightning bolt ten meters long and about an inch thick and it would be the most beautiful blue light you’ve ever seen and the speed, the speed of the entire impulse would be in the range of one, one hundred billionth of a second.

I replayed that segment three times to make sure I got that speed correct.

One, one hundred billionth of a second.

Now doesn’t that give you pause? To imagine particles so small our technology still can’t show them to us, so fast that they move in billionths of a second, yet they are the foundation of our universe.

WOW.

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About Deborah

Deborah Jane Milton, Ph.D. is an artist, mentor, and eco-psychologist, mother of four and grandmother of eight.
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4 Responses to Renewing Mystery

  1. cindaann says:

    Deborah, Thank you for Renewing Mystery. Neutrinos as the fabric of life amazes and awe’s me, but it does not surprise me. Early morning on March 13, I called my husband at 12 midnight and said come to the hospital, the doctors have decide to do the emergency surgery to remove a portion of my intestine that had perforated their wall.
    Jon walked into the surgery prep room, where I was all prepped and the surgeon, anesthesia, the admitting doctor, and two nurses were gathered around the bed. He sat next to me on the bed and sit up and fell into his arms, I fell into his being and the kisses were so powerful with love, kindness, tenderness – I had never felt this depth and power of emotion – I had no idea I could touch another human sole nor can I explain in words the feelings. I can tell you – everyone in that room felt the wave of love and there is no doubt in my mind that this is the energy that will overcome hate.
    I can image this powerful emotions flying on the ‘ wings’ of Neutrinos…….

    Like

    • Deborah says:

      I love this connection you made, Cinda: the power of love overcomes any hate in its path. I add that love melts fear, too, as an obstacle to relationship. And the image of love being carried on the ‘wings’ of Neutrinos feels so RIGHT.
      Thank you for sharing that precious story of experiencing love so deeply.

      Like

  2. kenny2dogs says:

    “WOW” indeed !

    Like

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