Archive for May, 2016

150 – Making Sense of (S[e=mc2]) …

Sunday, May 15th, 2016

It is challenging for the non-scientific, non-mathematical mind to comprehend the concept of Einstein’s E=mc2. In his own words, “The mass of a body is a measure of its energy content.” But it will be less challenging when instead of the mathematics, the ‘body’, the system, becomes the main focus of the equation.

The distances between the planets, the stars, and the galaxies in our Universe are vast. And so, to have a vague idea of what those distances are, let’s review some of the information we already have. Let us start with the picture below taken by the Cassini Spacecraft in 2013, which shows Earth from Saturn’s rings as a tiny spec of light (click on the image to enlarge it).





To simplify the distances between the Sun and the planets, astronomers use Astronomical Units. An Astronomical Unit, ‘au’ for short, is the average distance from Earth to the Sun at 150 million kilometers (93 million miles). And so, taking ‘au’s as measurement, the distance from Earth to Saturn is ten ‘au’s, and the distance from Earth to the Heliopause is 100 ‘au’s (see the chart below showing Voyager 1 crossing the Heliopause in 2014 after 36 years of travel), and the distance from Earth to the farthest edges of the Oort Cloud, the theoretical boundary of our Solar System, is ~100,000 ‘au’s. Keep in mind that our Sun is an average-sized star in the Milky Way galaxy, where some stars are a hundred times more massive and others just one-tenth of our Sun’s mass.





But because the astronomical distances beyond our Solar System are so much vaster, astronomers use light-years, which is the distance light travels in a year at 299,792 kilometers (186,000 miles) per second. And so, for instance, the distance from the Sun to the farthest edge of the Oort Cloud is 0.3 light-years, and the distance from our Sun to Alpha Centaury, our nearest star, is 4.3 light-years.

Now, if we can imagine putting together 1 – an estimated 200 to 400 billion stars, 2 – keep each star from its nearest neighbors at a distance proportionate to its mass, and 3 – embed all 200/400 billion stars in a sphere estimated to be ~180,000 light-years in diameter, we can then begin to fathom the magnitude of our galaxy, which is just one of an estimated 100 billion galaxies in our Universe.

Now, if we can imagine 1 – keeping each one of the 100 billion galaxies in our Universe separated from each other at a distance proportional to their mass, and 2 – embedding them all in an expanding bubble estimated to be 93 billion light-years in diameter, we can then begin to fathom not only the magnitude of our Universe but the expanses between its galaxies; the expanses we currently believe to be empty space and call “Dark Matter or Dark Energy.”

Now, if we consider 1 – the size of our Solar System, 2 – the fact that the Sun embodies 99.8% of the mass content of the entire system, while the planets, satellites, asteroids, comets, dust, etc., embody the remaining 0.2%, and 3 – that the rest of the Solar System, what we perceive as ‘empty’ space, is the energy content of the System – the pull and push, the centrifugal and centripetal forces, the electromagnetic fields – we can then begin to glimpse at the proportions in Einstein’s equation. The mass content of the Solar System (1.00 solar masses), times the speed of Light (299,792 km/186,000 ml) squared, is the measure of the energy content of the dynamic, self-regulating sphere with an estimated diameter of about 100,000 ‘au’s we call our Solar System (see picture below).







These figures, although subject to constant revisions as technology improves, are very difficult for the lay human mind to conceptualize. And yet they even get more difficult when we look at the other end of the spectrum, at the world of the atomic elements. Think, for instance, that there are an estimated 37.2 trillion cells in a human body, and that in an avarege human cell there are an estimated ~100 trillion atoms, and that each atom is a pocket of energy where to find the energy content we multiply its mass content by the speed of Light squared … think Hiroshima.

These are the proportions that e=mc2 establishes. Without regard to the size or configuration of a system, one content must be a measure of the other. This is the changing constant supporting the unfolding of manifold levels of complexity and order.

But then What or Who establishes these rules? What, Who perpetuates them while changing and being changed? What, Who operates the system in (S[e=mc2])?


[1] The distance of Saturn from Earth is currently 1,509 billion kilometers (0.93 billion miles) equivalent to 10.09 ‘au’s. Light takes 1 hour, 23 minutes and 55.8 seconds to travel from Saturn to Earth.

 Source of Pictures: Internet sites (earth-from-saturn-900Mmiles-cassini.jpg), (Voyager-1-Goes-Interstellar.jpg), (Kuiper-oort.jpg).

Revised November 2020   

Note: New posts are usually published on the 1st and 15th of the month. To subscribe to the Blog, click on the RSS feeder (orange icon) on the Home page’s left column, down below the Archives.

149 – Like Sight, or Touch, or Hearing, Imagination is an Organic Sense …

Sunday, May 1st, 2016

According to Wikipedia, an acceptable definition of a Sense is A system that consists of a group of sensory cell types that respond to a specific physical phenomenon, and that corresponds to a particular group of regions within the brain where the signals are received and interpreted. [1] Part of the definition also includes the fact that besides the traditional sense of sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste, there are other senses like the sense of temperature, direction, pain, balance, position, and movement of one’s own body.

Although we perceive reality through our senses, we know how limited they are in their narrow boundaries. The best example of these limitations is the tiny portion of the electromagnetic spectrum we can sense (see the chart below). We also know that other species perceive reality with higher intensity, capacity, and detail than we do. And so, to compensate for our limitations, we have been evolving our sense of Imagination into a tool to discover not just our world but beyond.

quality of a light source


Imagination, like the other senses, is organic; it is the result of the link between neuronal activity, environmental fluctuations, and the life history of the beholder.

Imagination is the ability to produce and simulate novel objects, sensations, and ideas in the mind without any immediate input of the senses. This definition is, to me, an affirmation of the erroneous Cartesian separation of the mind from the body.

Mind and body are inseparable aspects of the phenomenon we experience as the Self. The mind can only sense the world through its body, and the body can only imagine the world through its mind. Any new sensation, image, idea, can be imagined only through the interactions between the body and the mind as the Self unfolds amid a world that, although dictated by ancestry, is illuminated by new experiences and new discoveries. Einstein, for instance, could not have discovered his famous theory without his piercing and curious mind, nor without a propitious environment, nor without the science available to him.

We discover. We do not create.

But because the mind is frequently synonymous with thought – the private conversation with ourselves that we carry on inside our heads – and because one of its key attributes is that it is a private sphere to which no one but the owner has access, it is easy for us to believe that what the mind imagines is separate from the body.

Imagination is the indissoluble bond with which mind and body mold a self endowed with a degree of freedom to direct its own evolution; a bond that gives us a collective image of the world while making us capable to alter both the image and the world; a bond that can be deeply affected or damaged by illness, decease, or catastrophic events that rupture or impair nervous connectivity; a bond that can weave the connections that let us discover possibilities beyond our limitations; a bond that although forged by ancestral traits is amazingly malleable.

Imagination is clearly intrinsic in Nature – the unending creativity of flowers, the reiteration of the Double Helix with an openness for transformation, the reduction of the entire chemical makeup of the Universe into a mere 94 natural elements, [2] the boundless adaptability of Life in its seemingly unending manifestations.

Surpassing boundaries, Imagination is our most far-reaching sense. But it cannot exist without sensing the environment, nor without a life history, nor without neuronal interactions.

Imagination is organic.

Chart source: light spectrum

Revised June 2021   

[1] Excerpts in italics below are from Wikipedia

[2] The rest of the elements are synthetic

Note: New posts are usually published on the 1st and 15th of the month. To subscribe to the Blog, click on the RSS feeder (orange icon) on the left column of the Home page, down below the Archives.