“Beyond the range of our senses”…..

Which most definitely includes that of “common sense”.

Just before the conclusion of chapter 1, of the book The Quantum World, the author Kenneth Ford pauses to ask…

Why the subatomic world is so strange, why it is so weird and wonderful.  Why do the laws governing the very small and the very swift defy common sense?  Why do they stretch our minds to the limit?  Their strangeness could not have been predicted.”

He goes on,

“The classical  scientists (pre-1900) assumed, rather naturally, that ordinary conceptions from the world around us, the world of our senses, would continue to serve us as knowledge accumulated about realms of nature beyond the the range of  our senses – about things too small to touch and too fast to glimpse.  On the other hand, those classical scientists had no way of knowing that the rules would stay the same.  How could they be sure – how can anyone be sure – that the ‘common sense’ derived from ordinary observations will serve to account for phenomena that can’t be seen, heard, or touched?”

“In fact, the physics of the past hundred years has taught us that common sense is a poor guide in the new realms of knowledge.  No one could have predicted this outcome, but no one should be surprised by it.  Everyday experiences shapes your opinions about matter & motion and space & time.  Common sense says that solid matter is solid, that all accurate watches keep the same time, that the mass of material after a collision is the same as it was before, and that nature is predictable: sufficiently accurate input information yields reliable prediction of outcomes.  But when science moves outside the range of ordinary experience – into the subatomic world, for instance – things prove to be very different.  Solid matter is mostly empty space; time is relative; mass is gained or lost in a collision; and no matter how complete the input information, the outcome is uncertain.” 

And he soon concludes:

“Why is this?  We don’t know why.  Common sense could have extended beyond the range of our senses, but it didn’t. Our everyday worldview, it turns out, is a limited one, based on what we directly perceive. We can only echo the parting words of the respected old TV news anchor Walter Cronkite: ‘That’s the way it is.’ You can be enchanted, you can be amazed, you can be befuddled, but you shouldn’t be surprised.”

Kenneth Ford is no doubt a brilliant man. Although, I found it “surprising” that he would resort to “it is what it is” to conclude of all the whys of the subatomic world which seemed to me as “end of story” kind of talk. Besides spinning my mind into another tangent of whys, I came to the conclusion that this way of thinking is a common trait of humankind in general. For the majority, we wander around blind to the world around us. We often take what the news media feeds us to be fact. We believe our side to the story is the right one. However, we have forgotten there are three sides to a story. In other words, we have convinced ourselves things are what they are and this tends to serve as closure. But in reality, this also serves as a limitation. It contributes to the close-minded way of thinking that encourages us not to think outside of the limits and prevents us from imagining a world far beyond imagination.

I believe it is safe to say that we can thank all the wonderful people that have existed, who refused to believe “it is what it is”. THose who went above and beyond to question why time after time, which eventually led to some of the greatest discoveries known to man. THose who showed us that “surprised” was still a word in our vocabulary.

“Physics of the past hundred years has taught us that common sense is a poor guide in the new realms of knowledge”. To say the least, it may not be such a bad idea to ignore the idea of “it is what it is” or “that’s the way it is”. After all, most everything might be nothing more than an “approximation to the truth”. With that in mind, we should continue the quest to develop a better understanding of the universe and dare to imagine a world far beyond the range of our senses.

By no means does this blog serve as a put down for the words of dear Kenneth Ford. In fact, to be honest, I can hardly keep his book down.


One thought on ““Beyond the range of our senses”…..

  1. In Hindsight, perhaps the point was that we shouldn’t over complicate things. “It is what is it” could have possibly been interpreted as not to assume more out of something than what meets the eye. However, when speaking of the Quantum World, are we really able to assume things just are what they are?? Or was this stated to prevent one for comtemplating why one particle acts the way it does and thus losing their mind. (In that case, mine is too far gone. wait was I saying? point made. *sigh*)

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