The Miracle of Measurement : a contemplation of the Infinite

                                                  ( Rating= ♥♥♥, no equation !!) 

This post is about a question dear to my heart, the relationship between the exterior and the interior of the Kosmos [by Kosmos I mean all that surrounds us], this is viewed by the young girl that I was, roughly age 10.   So here is an early age scientific tale…which maybe will let us make a  most wanted bridge between  Science and Spirit !

It is a great day for little C, first day of the new school year. She has just received a fantastic  present, a beautiful  plastic scale, a square ruler…she like everything about it, the plastic texture, the beautiful square angle. This just a wonderful tool and little C is perfectly happy, she loves the squares, she loves school, life has reached some perfection of happiness.  The ruler does not cease to fascinate her imagination. It has some  marks on it, very reassuring ones.  With them one can know distances for sure. Isn’t it written on the rulers by  adults ?  they let us  know for sure whether a piece of paper is one cm long or 2 cm long, or 10 cm or ever greater, like 30 or 50 cms. Whether the window of the room is 20 cms or 5 cms long. This is just wonderful. She can measure all her toys, all that belongs to her.  She can not only know how long is  any object in the room, but she can add the  length of two toys put close together, like her beloved little monkey and the fluffy bear.

It is when she starts to notice something very intriguing. The more she looks at the scale the more it is mysterious. There is one mark here for sure, and then later there is another mark and between, the scale is saying “ 1 cm”.  Is it for sure 1 cm ? I mean sure sure ? certain ?  how about a little bit more a little bit less ?  the  writings on the scale for sure bear a huge authority with them but is it really real, really for sure ? A terrible doubt starts to enter her mind. The more she looks at the two marks, the more the certainly of the  reality of the  cm is starting to fade.   Her beloved fluffy monkey is for real, that is for sure, as well as the fluffy bear, but the distance between the two marks of the scale, the 1 cm … how to know for sure that it is real, that it is right ? well, Ok there are 9 little marks in between the two intervals  which mark the  1 cm length, each of them is 1 mm. So doesn’t it  show that all the small  1 mm marks do add up to one 1 cm ?  isn’t it enough to prove the existence of the 1 cm ? for sure the small marks will add up, but then, how to be sure that between two 1 mm marks is really 1 mm ?   the fall from then is vertiginous, indeed if she cuts 1 mm into smaller pieces they will add up, but how to know for sure that each smaller piece will be exactly the  size that is written for them ? how to  connect to this size , how to be certain ? she is perplexed and the more the thinks of it the less certain she is, she finds absolutely nothing inside her to tell her for sure that 1 cm is the reality. The only thing for sure is that it is written not he scale, and that “everyone knows about it”. Beyond this, an infinite space is now  opening itself between  the two marks of the scale.  Those two marks seem now to float in some inscrutable  infinite space, like two  lighthouses in the sea.  She doesn’t know any more… she feels  strangely compelled by this mystery, very attracted, as if some incredibly wonderful hidden secret was just under the the cover of “what things seem to be”, but that somehow things are not at all what they seem like, and that  distances are never finite but hide a whole universe, a whole infinity in the hollow of their concretion. The world is wonderfully mysterious and nobody could have guessed how mysterious indeed it is. It is a bit scary too…

And then  suddenly  something happens, suddenly the  she switches back to the  normal square, suddenly it is trivial that this distance between the two marks is 1 cm. Everyone knows it and she feels she always knew it. She also knows before thinking  how to add all those lengths and how to subtract and how to  do wonderful operations with them. Suddenly the world is so reassuring, she know  “everything” there is to know. A square is simply a square and she can talk about it and use it…

Oh! this wonderful world of science and technique, where “things” are finite, and measurable, and calculable and representable, and talk-able and doable. Oh! this wonderful world of objects, of possession, of prehension, of having, of counting, of making things work out, one into another.

Little C became a scientist.

Twenty five years later, a beautiful morning, she  woke  up and the Infinite was  once again  at her door. This mysterious sense of Otherness  was calling, unmistakably, and the part of herself who didn’t know about the distance, knew with the most Absolute certainty that the Call from the Otherness was Real.

Is there an interior to every-thing ?  how do we know about it ?  is the interior infinite ?

hummm…. what do you say ?

7 comments

  1. a late sleepy ( non) response. So forgive the fuzzy logic ..

    to measure the interior between the 2 marks of the ruler of our little C. girl, we could measure the time light is taking to join them ..so interior of space is linked to time ..now can we measure the interior of time ? to help us, we may use the movement of particules of an atomic clocks, which movement is itself measured within space/time…oh, did we not already talked about the interior of space and time ? ..

    is infinite just a way to point at our ignorance of space and time?

    bonne nuit.

  2. Hello Dom… for the moment I would like simply to answer you with one of the most famous citation of the French literature. This is coming to us from Blaise Pascal :

    “Le silence éternel de ces espaces infinis m’effraie”

    I tried to find a translation of this in English because it is extremely difficult to translate, and I found the following from the Cambridge French-English Thesaurus :
    [ Pascal expressing his awe in face of the unknown universe in his Pensées, first published in 1670.]
    Translation : The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me.

    Isn’t it crucial to talk about the Infinite, as Pascal and Descartes were talking about in the old days ? this conversation has turned short with Modernity, but ironically modernity was born out of a deep dialog of this type. Descartes, Pascal, Leibniz, had some of the most intense debate on the existence or not of Emptiness. Pascal was maybe the first scientific believer in it, and it lead to his Traité sur le vide ( Treaty on Emptiness) where he enunciated the law of pressure.

    Love and more soon, C.

  3. Good to hear that the quest of the little C. girl is still so much alive…

    Pascal was talking about two infinites , the one at the quantum level, which is inside what you call Emptiness, and the one at cosmological level, which is going beyond the observable universe ( which limits expended considerably since the time of Pascal).

    In other words, Infinite seems the word we are using to point out the Unknown, the reality we cannot sense, and understand. What is beyond our limit of our ( today s) perception.

    This doesn’t necessarily mean that what is unknown is “infinite”, in the sense we usually think.

    Also, Infinite refers usually to something which never ends, so beyond time, and again we come back to your favorite topic, Time.

    Finally , all these concepts ( infinite, time,unknown at the lowest and highest scales) seem to be related to each others, probably because they are dealing with a reality we cannot yet grasp.

    It looks like an “infinite” struggle..Isn’t it?

    But we have all the time for it..

  4. by the way this unknown part of the reality which is between or beyond space measurements, is the one we can not grasp, and gives little C. this sense of infinity and timeless.

    It is indeed silencious , as Pascal would say , because it is silencious to our senses and our mind ..

    Don may say it is not silencious to our deepest awareness , and he calls it Absolute Consciousness…( correct me if I am wrong..)

  5. Dear Domphy, I like indeed very much your comments. Actually after writing this post , I got the desire to write another one about the “other Infinite” you (and Pascal) refer to, the cosmological Infinite. In a fascinating way we have here the Being and Becoming, viewed form a scientific perspective which opens to the Unknown, that is to mystical insight.

    A little comment on your sentence :“This doesn’t necessarily mean that what is unknown is “infinite”, in the sense we usually think.” I completely agree with it, and I think at this point, Pascal would convey us to make a leap of faith. Indeed we can probably never know whether the Unknown is finite or Infinite, but somehow to approach the Unknown as Infinite, and to discuss the possibility that it is Infinite is extremely creative. It is potentially culture-changing. I am in awe with this wonder, really. Just for humans to approach together the concept of Infinite has led to considerable developments in Math, Physics, Philosophy, as if the source of our human creativity was immediately awakened by the near consideration of Infinity.

    I find it purely amazing. Even making mistakes in considering it ( Infinity) , which will inevitably happen, leads to Evolution. And this leads me to the next post…

  6. Thank you for your words Cat.

    Talking about the Infinite:

    It could be that what we call “Infinite” is concerning “something” we cannot see the limits ( because it is too big, or because the limits are not sensed) , which doesn’t mean necessarily that there is no limits. So the Infinite, taken in that sense, could be subjective to the human species,and objectively could well be “”a Finite which limits cannot be reached by the human brain”.

    Also, trying to understand Infinite with our brain, leads automatically to think about “a time which is not ending”, and our brain cannot do that, because our brain is built within time, and made to model reality with time. It can only vaguely imagine conceptually the possibility of a””never ending time” or “no time” , without knowing what it really means, in relation with the physical level. (agree that with maths , one may work with Infinite , but still there is the question to know what this means for physics).

    I’m curious to see you next post.

    Cheers

  7. NO TIME, TIMELESS

    We all know that the brain can have the feeling of “no time” or “timeless”, in meditative states. But this is just a feeling, a ( strong) experience. In practice , if an observer is looking at the meditator , he or she would know that the meditator is still within time. Even more, the moment the meditation stops, time comes back immediately to the meditator. I do not think that time comes in and out, according to the brain wavelengths: in addition, wavelengths are themselves physically taking place within space time.

    During the deep meditation, the meditator is, at the same time, very conscious ( not sleepy..) while minimizing the thought process: it automatically gives a state of “unfilled consciousness”, where the sense of causality disappears with the “thought scarcity” , and therefore, leads to the feeling of no time, timeless consciousness. Fair enough, but this doesn’t mean at all that time disappears in the Universe. It just means that the brain is less sensitive to causality, and to the time grasping which goes with it.

    Having said so, it is very interesting to put oneself into deep meditation, as it gives access to a broad and free mind, open to new intuitions, that would be difficult to get with a busy conditioned mind. But one must make sure that he doesn’t confuse this feeling, with the real intuition. It is a very delicate process and issue..

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