Enlightened Capitalism

Essays about how to harness people's natural desire to create wealth and improve their quality of life to solve global problems such as war and poverty.

Monday, February 21, 2005


In reading the book "The Bottomless Well" by Peter Huber and Mark Mills, I came across the phrase "the bizarre phenomena of quantum physics".

It got me thinking about what "bizarre" means. We have two models which we find useful in different situations -- Newtonian physics for everyday events and Quantum physics for very small and fast things -- and it isn't easy to integrate these two models in our minds.

It reminds me of language. It seems bizarre when someone makes foreign sounds to communicate what we would say in English. We realise that other languages exist, and we mostly ignore their existence when we are communicating in English. When we switch to speaking Spanish or Japanese, then suddenly within that framework, English seems bizarre.

The survival value of models changes over time. In my lifetime (from 1965 till now) Newton's physics has been quite useful to me, in fixing bicycles, cars, and boats, launching projectiles, fashioning home-made parachutes, skateboard ramps, etc. Whereas I have used quantum physics only as a conversation piece -- usually the real subject was karma or spiritual freedom or some aspect of consciousness. Yogis, Zen masters, and new age teachers often use principles from quantum physics to make their points about the nature of things. So in this sense it has been useful to me.

However, it wouldn't be too difficult to imagine a society where quantum physics is more useful than Newtonian. Perhaps Los Alamos National Labs is already such a place. But I mean even for a nonscientist, the value of Newton's physics might be insignificant, and Quantum physics might be really important, if it was somehow made integral to the culture, as among physicists, or among the Yogis I referred to.

And then, one might go about thinking of Quantum physics as normal, and Newtonian physics as "bizarre".


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