April 25, 2009

O Zeno, what a pretty kettle of fish your arrow has opened!

The thought experiment is deceptively simple. Shoot an arrow at a target. Now stop it, mentally, in mid-air. Don't interrupt its flight, just imagine that split second when the arrow is exactly here and nowhere else.

Now take another arrow, completely motionless. Set it into exactly the same surroundings and in the same attitude: but this arrow is going nowhere. It is just going to stay exactly where you placed it.

In that split instant between moments, is there any difference whatsoever between the two arrows? And if you said that one arrow is in flight while the other is static: in that split second of time, how does it 'know' that?

Does one arrow 'know' it is actually travelling, just not in each individual split second? Does the other 'know' it is standing still?

Einstein said no, it all depends on the frame of reference. (Which, if you think about it, is a very odd conclusion for someone so spiritual.) Quantum physics said yes, an object's behaviour depends on anticipating what it will find and how it has previously been linked to other objects -- and Einstein fought it, body and soul.

The Large Hadron Collider will be firing up again soon. Maybe 90% of physicists who have expressed an opinion are supporting it unequivocably, telling us that there is "no basis for any conceivable threat." Oh, it could definitely create a tiny black hole or two -- yes, the CERN scientists themselves acknowledge this -- but Hawking radiation means it would evaporate almost at once. Of course, new findings are challenging whether Hawking radiation actually exists, but again, that is what the LHC is there to find out. And the odds of anything really bad happening are so small, just a calculated 50 million to one.

Do you play the lottery? Those are not ^15+ quantum odds or the necessary statistical 'out', those are better than real life odds of 'winning' the jackpot.

But -- no danger. Nothing bad could ever happen from those odds. So sayeth the canon of physicists, most of whom also firmly hold to the theory of evolution ... which absolutely requires a long series of events at much smaller odds, individually and collectively, to result in -- us. Most of these same physicists would rather believe in these short odds of blind evolution than even consider intelligent design. This, they consider rational.

At the same time, for some reason the same blind chance somehow does not apply where the LHC is concerned. The CERN physicists are perfectly willing to bet, not only their own lives, but the whole earth on it.

And if that is not blind faith, I do not know what is.

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