Monday, January 26, 2009

In a state of utter confusion...

Just occasionally in life, you come across something that not only causes you to stop and think, but something that totally challenges everything.

This happened to me today.

Now, I’m not trying to be immodest here, but I’ve had a pretty good education. I’ve been very lucky. I went to a public boarding school (that’s private school to most of the world) from the age of 8-18 and while I didn’t enjoy it, I’ve got to say that they did their best to educate me to within an inch of both my life and my sanity. I went to a very good university and although I possibly didn’t leave with the best degree (for a variety of reasons), life at uni continued my education in not just an academic sphere but also in a general ‘this is how to live’ kind of way.
I enjoy reading. I read widely and have an interest in politics and current affairs. I like to debate topics with friends and family.
I am, admittedly, very bad at maths and not so great at science.

It is this last fact that should have alerted me that what I was about to read was going to cause problems.

Having read this post on the wonderful Dilbert blog I clicked on the link to the article: Our world may be a giant hologram (New Scientist website)

Interesting, I thought.

I understood about one word in ten. And it isn’t so much the words themselves, but the way they’ve been put together. They made things that look like sentences, but don’t make any sense:

“If GEO600 really has discovered holographic noise from quantum convulsions of space-time, then it presents a double-edged sword for gravitational wave researchers.”

Even the bits where theories were ‘explained’ make distressingly little sense to me:
“According to Craig Hogan, a physicist at the Fermilab particle physics lab in Batavia, Illinois, GEO600 has stumbled upon the fundamental limit of space-time - the point where space-time stops behaving like the smooth continuum Einstein described and instead dissolves into "grains", just as a newspaper photograph dissolves into dots as you zoom in. "It looks like GEO600 is being buffeted by the microscopic quantum convulsions of space-time," says Hogan.”

Concepts, theories… I just can’t get my head around it and this really upsets me! Its like a nightmare and I can't escape.

Most things, if I don’t understand the details, I can look up some background information somewhere and end up with at least something approaching understanding of the topic. With this, I have no hope. None. I just don’t get it. And I really hate that I can’t understand it. I am now in a state of nervous tension with an image of a me, stuck to a giant hologram, floating in front of my eyes. I can’t think about anything else and its freaking me out…

This state of mind is the thing that has really got to me. In a way, the contents of the article are neither here nor there. But it is this feeling of utter bewilderment. Complete confusion. The only time I've felt like this was in Poland where (despite speaking Russian) I understood virtually nothing of what was being said. It is a horrible feeling and now its back. I'm in hell.

So, in order to restore my sanity, if anyone can explain the concepts in the article to me using not just words of one syllable, but also explaining the theories behind it in a way that even an Iron Age woman might understand, then please, please help!


Akcium said...

Well, if someone explain to you this article, what will you do if you find another science article? You can't know everything it this world, dispite this article looks very interesting, but it takes some time to understand it, and not to mention that you must have some physical education ...

Mylissa said...

Oh, its very simple - I just wont read any more New Scientist articles ever again...

I agree that I can't know everything, but if I come across something that I don't understand then curiosity dictates that I should see if I can find out a bit more about it. And that doesn't prevent any form of exercise!

Akcium said...

I understand, so, envy you, because usually when people came across with some interesting stuff, they just wish that they know/understand it, but they haven't such desire to unrestand it like you
Well, unfortunaly I don't know physicists which know english
If it is an article in russian...:)

Mylissa said...

Thanks Akcium!
Part of me wonders if I wouldn't find it easier to understand in Russian...