touching your small parts makes me feel hot and sweaty

Is there a sixth sense? Of course! And a seventh, eight, ninth, tenth, etc. Aside from the 'basics'(sight, hearing etc), there's radar (as used by bats), and the electromagnetic-field sense that many species use for navigation, to give just two out of many possible examples.

But in each case, the same thing is being sensed. It's as if there's only one object in the universe! Consider the sense of touch.

All of the sensations of touch relate to one and the same object. Everything from the touch of velvet to the sharpness of razor blades, the wetness of a kiss, the feeling of sand on the soles of the feet: all of these sensations and more are provided by one and the same object in each case, the electron.

All material objects are made of atoms arranged in molecules. The "outside surface" of a molecule is an electron, in motion. Furthermore, all electrons are identical, so to touch water and to touch a burning coal in effect means to touch the same thing: electrons!

Now electrons are pretty simple beasts: charge and spin are two of just a handful of attributes required to fully describe an electron. Every electron in the universe can stand-in for the next: they're indistinguishable from each other.

And yet somehow utmost simplicity gives rise to infinite complexity: Every one of the large number of "touch-sensations" that we experience, all our "touchy/feely" knowledge of the material world, from the pain of fire to the softness of velvet, the sharpness of razor blades, the prickliness of an unshaved beard: all these sensations are given by electrons, only electrons, and nothing but electrons.

The experience is so different in each case. And yet, in each case the same thing is being touched/felt/experienced.

Isn't it amazing that such (apparent) complexity can emerge from such (apparent) simplicity.

In fact, electrons are so simple and so similar to each other that there is a weird theory that says there's actually only one electron in the entire Universe, and it moves very fast. Every electron is identical to the next. They all carry the same charge (negative) and mass. So they all might as well be the one particle. (Likewise for photons, protons and other sub-atomic particles (though it gets complicated with quarks)).

Imagine 100 million little spheres, identical in every respect: same size, weight, texture etc. All the spheres are made of exactly the same imaginary stuff: spherium. Now imagine that 100 trillion people touch multiple spheres multiple times. And every time someone touches a sphere, they get a different feeling.

For example, Winnie touches a sphere: it feels soft. A second later it feels hard. Jo touches a sphere, it feels wet. At the same time, Alex touches the same sphere, but for Alex it feels dry. Jack touches a sphere, it feels cold and dusty. Rose touches a sphere, it feels hot and sweaty.

Clearly, spherium has amazing properties, including the property of producing an infinite number of different sense-experiences relating to touch.

What I want to know is how one thing can feel like an infinite number of things/qualities. I've always believed / been taught that nothing is free.

The Universe is the ultimate free lunch, contradicting the philosophers' "ex nihilo nihil fit" ("out of nothing comes nothing"). The lunch is free in two profound ways.

  1. It's free in the sense of logical necessity: According to Leibniz and some other weird old dead guys, the fact that anything including the universe exists at all (rather than nothing) is inexplicable, ie it hasn't been paid for.
  2. It's free in the sense that ordinary matter doesn't have to be paid for. Subatomic particles of all types "wink" in and out of existence all of the time, emerging from nothing (the fecund vacuum) and vanishing back into nothing but only if their existence is of so short a timeframe that overall, the cosmic books remain balanced.


Humans use a lot more senses than just the senses that are part of our biological equipment. For example, we use:

  • machines to provide us with a sonar sense similar to that of bats
  • mchines to provide us with a radar sense, similar to that of some creatures (I don't know which, but I assume they exist!)
  • machines (eg tape measures) to enable us to sense distance
  • lasers to access data inaccessible to our biological equipment
  • machines to provide us with a "Doppler-effect" sense, which involves perceiving how far away a moving object is, and how fast it's travelling
  • thermometers to sense heat
  • motion-sensors to sense motion (some animals have this as part of their biological equipment)
  • gravity to sense how "heavy" an object is (I don't know how this works but I speculate that it's about how much energy / muscle action is required to lift an object?).


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mgeorge said...

One school of thought is that the Big Bang is unnecessary as (a) this process of subatomic particles "winking" in and out of existence is the source; not all particles wink out (b) galaxies and nebulae are too evenly spread out, given the elapsed time after the aforesaid Bang. Also, we are told that time, being an aspect of space-time, is not absolute. So who is to say that the 14 billion light-years we can see in any direction really means something has been expanding for that long. Note: That putting us again in the centre of this (expanding) universe is an anthropomorhic viewpoint seems to have escaped the pundits.

It seems there is enough money for the most arcane and grandiose theories and experiments. These matters are discussed in the same respectful tones as mythical economics, rapacious politics, heady sports or titilatig celebrity trivia. In this madhouse of tyranny and depravity, even the threats to the future of humanity are set aside.

masterymistery said...

mgeorge, one of these days we've got to meet and have a chat. Lot's to respond to in your comment:

The Big Bang is unnecessary to the pantheist --- Whatever the cosmological "model du jour", the pantheist says, "the Universe is alive and well, and if the Big Bang is true, includes the Big Bang".

Re (a) I was hoping nobody would point out that not all particles 'virtually' wink. But it was too much to expect you'd let that one through. It doesn't impact on the argument though, I think.

Re (b) I thought Guth's Cosmological Inflation is now believed to explain the "spreading out" problem, and other problems with the Big Bang.

Your point about the anthropomorphism of an expanding universe is well taken. But I think that the analogy of a balloon is sometimes used in this context. Take an inflated balloon. Mark some dots on it. Then inflate the balloon some more. The result is that each dot moves further away from each other dot. From the perspective of each dot, everything around it is moving away from it, therefore it must be the center of the balloon. But it isn't.

Nothing to disagree with in Your para 2. Except I would add that it's a madhouse of cruelty, incompetence, greed, selfishness, fear and hate... as well as tyranny and depravity, and those latter items are latter but not the least, items.

Thanks for your comments.

Cheers, MM

*!*!!(|..o^o..|)!!*!*+ said...

Hey again MM,

This post really resonates with my recent thoughts, antics, and sensations, so I think I will let you know what I think about this concept.

Objects are made out of protons, electrons, and neutrons. Objects aren't merely the electrons surroudning them. Electrical and magnetic forces exist between protons and electrons. When you feel an object, you apply a force to it. If I touch a rock, I am only touching some parts of its surface. If I touch a piece of grass, it feels one way, if I touch it another way, it feels a different way. If I squeeze it really hard in between two fingers, it will feel more like a rock, because my finger around the other side will add to the force on my other finger.

When we think about the electron to understand realite/, we shouldn't not think about the proton. And when we think about molecules, we shouldn't not think about the atom. So, while all things are made out of the same building blocks, all things have their unique geometric configuration which is based on the energetic relationships of force between electrons, protons, and neutrons, and whatever else there is out there.

When you touch an electron, you touch the protons that are connected to it, the other electrons that are connected to it, the neutrons that are in the area, and even other electrons,etc, that are far away. Theoretically, if you wanted to evaluate one force, you would have to consider all matter in creation.

[In a theoretically perfect electromagnetic force evaluation, you would have to know about all other charged particles in the universe, but it would be possible to simplify this by considering only stuff within a certain scientifically measurable spherical distance from the force-source, and possibly also by simplifying everything outside of that sphere into one vector.]

And now, moving past touch...

Sight and sound are what we use to evaluate materials and their status/properties at a distance. I feel that birds and insects can feel the path that they must take. So can some humans. I feel that merely by looking around, moving in the world, and thinking, we affect the life around us. I know this is true since bugs and birds can sense in their own ways and communicate through their movement. [actually, I know this is true because my eyesight and attention literally attracts bugs to my focal line] [also, I think I probably shouldn't say this, but craft like to show up directly in front of my parked car... in the air. and they always seem to know what is up] Movement is communication, to any and all possible receivers. But, different receivers are inclined or tuned to different kinds of understanding, receptivity, and response. I don't believe that it is either I, the individual, or the other that causes /all\ actions, but both.

When I'm walking on the street, or just existing, or whatever!, my behavior towards other people is based in part on their appearance, but it happens in real time. If they respond at a certain speed and at the right time, something interesting happens, and if I and the other(s) are flexible/tuneable/smart, we can communicate deeply.

Oh and we can't forget about photons, which allow near-instantaneous holograms of the world to appear to eyes so they can realize. I guess at this point I could write more but I will just say that the universe is a weird place, but that universally, location is key, configuration is key, and that amplification and focusing of electromagnetic signals (which includes light) is one function of matter, and key to life. Lifeforms use matter and hope to configure energy. I think you could say too that there are many things that are hilly, starry, shiny, and mysteriously sharp.

+Plus+, not everything is possible, but the possibilities are endless! Thou'd be very surprised what really is possible!!

Also, I thought you and others would enjoy what this guy says in this video.

masterymistery said...

Hey *!*!!(|..o^o..|)!!*!*+

thanks for your detailed comments: you raise some interesting points.

I wasn't ignoring protons, neutrons and atoms. My understanding is that being at the center of the atom, protons and neutrons have an absolutely enormous empty space (relative to their size), between themselves and the outer orbital shell of the electrons. My understanding is that the center of the atom is very far away (relatively) from its "edge"/"surface" (which is formed by the electrons revolving around the nucleus.)

So the conclusion I come to is that when you touch any piece of matter, you can't touch the nucleus without first touching the outer shell (formed by a fast moving electron.) In fact you can't touch the nucleus at all.

(Technically, you're touching the outer "surface" of a molecule -- composed of atoms in a structure. But once again, the outside of the structure is formed by the orbital shell of the electron.)

It's like, if you grabbed hold of the solar system, you would touch the orbital shell of the outer planet, Pluto. You wouldn't be able to touch the nucleus, the sun. Again, this is all my understanding. I'm not claiming to be the great expert on the subject.

But I think we are fundamentally in agreement. Whatever we touch, we are touching geometry, as you say. The question I ask in the post is how is it that geometry can produce such an enormous variety of different sensations.

Sight: Here it gets complicated, because we're not talking electrons any more, we're talking photons. And when light is observed in its wave nature (as opposed to its particle nature) the different colours we see are determined by the wavelength, frequency and amplitude of the wave.

Smell and taste can be grouped with touch. Smell and taste involve the sensing of molecules, so similar discussion applies here as applies to electrons.

Sound I'm not sure about. But I think that fundamentally it's matter vibrating, and therefore, brings us back to the molecule/electron discussion.

Your very insightful statement: "I don't believe that it is either I, the individual, or the other that causes /all\ actions, but both." Absolutely, totally agree. Perception is communication, and both are a two-way street!

Your statement: "...amplification and focusing ... mysteriously sharp" Agree. And what a lovely, poetic way you express that idea.

One of my little favourite throwaway lines is that Every Living things is an anti-Second-Law-of-Thermodynamics machine. We create and maintain islands of order in an ocean of entropy!

"...not everything is possible, but the possibilities are endless! "
Ah! There's nothing like a good paradox with which to wake oneself up. In some respects it's similar to the concept (yet unproven) of a universe that is bounded but infinite: this is one of Stephen Hawking's concepts.

Thanks for the YouTube link---I'll be sure to check it out.

I really enjoyed this comment of yours -- made me think, very hard! Thanks.

Antares said...

I love reading the comments you draw to your posts... mgeorge is a regular and always entertaining (brilliant being) but *!*!!(|..o^o..|)!!*!*+'s "name" I'm seeing for the first time... (equally brilliant)... now I have to think of something brilliant to say... ummm, let's see...

As one who finds books on quantum physics impenetrable (I suffer from a lazy left brain) I have to depend mostly on intuition and my intuition informs me that the electron in itself has no existential meaning until its motion generates a field - which is commonly labeled electricity. The proton, too, serves no purpose whatsoever until its interaction with the electron field generates the phenomenon called magnetism - the resulting synergy is what we call electromagnetism - and that's when everything starts to get interesting (if only because the male/female dynamics begin to occur as the negative and positive charges attract and repel each other, creating electromagnetic fields).

The interaction of electromagnetic fields create complex moiré patterns that generate ripple effects and the separation of frequency zones into different dimensions - and that's essentially how such apparently infinite possibilities come to be.

Substituting the technical terms "nucleus," "electron" and "proton" with mystical/mythical descriptors like Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu can lead to fascinating insights.

masterymistery said...

Well Antares, I think you're right at home among these brilliant commentators.

I'm just an enthusiastic amateur at physics, and what I know I've learned from reading the "popularised" versions, not the real hard stuff itself.

Yes, the electron in motion, the "orbital shell", that's what we're talkin' about. The commotion of motion.

What you say about Moire patterns makes perfect sense. To me seems to be the explanation, or at least part of it.

I think *!*!!(|..o^o..|)!!*!*+'s point about pressure is also part of the answer.

Ditto your reference to dimensions: it's all about geometry isn't it.

It's also about "packing", I think: If you swing your arm through the air, it feels "diffuse", because the molecules of a gas are not packed as tightly together as that of a solid, for eg.

And the molecular structure: a substance that feels it has more "give" (you press a finger into it, which leaves a small indentation) has its molecules packed together, frameworked together in such a way that a certain amount of "give" is possible.

I'm talking a lot about molecules, but of course once again the business end is the "outside surface" of the molecule: electrons in motion.

YOur point about Brahma, etc is indeed a fascinating one leading to a clearer understanding of reality. And now we also have to deal with the Higgs Boson, the so-called "God particle", allegedly "discovered in recent days.

If we take what the physicists say to be true, if it's true that the Higgs field is the underlying, unifying field of the material domain, then there's seems to be a very clear parallel/metaphor between/linking the Higgs Boson with Brahma -- the underlying unifying ground of all being.

Then, playing with the metaphors a bit more, Shiva and Vishnu : matter and anti-matter. Perhaps.

Thanks for your comments.

Cheers, MM