“Why Do I Study Physics?”
by Xiangjun Shi
The Physicist’s Dream to Find the Circle
by Erik Andrulis
Why study anything? Is there a point to all this study or is there no point at all? Have you given consideration to what would happen if the discovered that point? And what would you do if you realized that there was one point, one solution to your course of study? Then what?
So many questions. You know, I disenjoy that method of querying the reader, as I’m really just querying myself. And, as such, I both already know and don’t know the answers to my questions, and I just don’t care.
Anyhow, I recently discovered a ~3-minute video that asks one such question. It’s entitled, “Why Do I Study Physics?” by Xiangjun Shi (goes by Shixie), as part of her graduation project at Rhode Island School of Design 2013. I gather that it’s also part of a science communication project from Brown University Department of Physics.
The video is interesting…for both the right and wrong reasons. I’ve called out certain passages.
0:38 “maybe…I’m just a temporary, accidental collision of two energy waves…”
This quote invokes the unproven and invalid purposeless nature of life popularized by Monod in “Chance and Necessity.“ Seeing as that worldview doesn’t explain the origin of life, then, maybe not. Or, maybe I should be more blunt: I’m not.
0:51 “Through its lens, the world seems beautiful”
The lens that Shixie is talking about here is the lens of mathematical physics—that is, the use of equations to describe the transformation and interplay of energy and matter. The only problem with Shixie’s statement is that, in the video, it is juxtaposed with a Cartesian mechanistic image of a cow with gears inside. Couldn’t be further than truth, and, hence, perhaps why the world only “seems” beautiful rather than “is” beautiful.
1:25 “Everybody is a circle…It’s the physicist’s dream to find the Circle of our much more complex universe. If it does exist, it would be the fundamental law that describes all physical relationships, the concept that maintains its integrity throughout all transformations, and perhaps you could say, ‘It’s the equation God used to design this Universe.’ But does It really exist? People have been looking for this Circle for centuries’ [My caps, my bold]
A remarkable passage, for several reasons. Shixie says physicists seek the Circle, “in a hypothetical two-dimensional world,” and, further, claims the Circle to be an equation.
Further, Shixie implies that the Circle is unchanging and in all things. If physicists—and other scientists—were to recognize that the 2D circle is a 3D cycle is a 4D gyre, then they’d have a greater appreciation of the Circle. And if that gyre were fit to the empirical evidence, then the physicist would understand life, the universe, and him/herself. And would know what it means to be Ouroboros. But, alas, physicists keep on dreaming, rather than waking up.
2:48 “This world is a schizophrenic character, wanting to be two opposite things at once. And, it’s funny, I think, how I can live with that.”
The world “wants”—that is, I, Shixie, want—to be two opposite things at once? Heh, I am. And just two? That’s true, but incomplete. Try being All things at once. There, now I’ve got it.
And, finally, the length of the piece, chosen “exactly and deliberately“:
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