Words are not mine in the exam period. Spending at least 7 hours a day at the university preparing for the great finals of the year the first thing I feel like doing when I get back home is definitely not writing a blog post. At times I think I spend too much time at school. I didn’t say I spend too much time preparing for exams, mind you. I start with fresh spirits — 8am — good hopes for the day! Since I am redoing an exam in particle physics this exam period I start by reading a paragraph or two on fundamental particles in the Standard Model. Or about quark confinement, perhaps. There is no thought confinement going on in my head however, and suddenly my mind spins off ( I am sure they will find spin 1 Bensons one day) to one of the few lectures this semester where I was not only physically present in the lecture, but also mentally; the lecture on the Highs Mechanism and the Highs Bosons. Another container of new particles. And then the more fundamental philosophical question begs itself: Are they real? At this point I recall sitting in a philosophy class a few years back — freshman almost — where some odd philosophical fellow presented the dilemma of knowing whether the world is as it is because that is how we perceive it, or if we perceive it as we do because that is how the world truly is. Well… I thought; an amusing dilemma. It didn’t occupy me more than that, though. I could hardly believe, of course, that careers were (or worse; are) spent thinking on that question and the like! I couldn’t prove it, but still; of course the reality around us truly is as we perceive it. That is precisely why we perceive it that way, I would exclaim, waving my arms. Not so sure any more. Now I tend to think the other option is the more obvious one. “Reality”, as we call it, is a perception of the “real world” acquired through observational interaction with it, I would say (but not die for it!). And even how sure’em can make us that the magician put the coin into the box — even how real it occured to us — he never did so! At least not according to his reality, which prevails over our own in the end, when he takes the coin out from behind his ear. What is reality in the first place? Another question; why do we assume that we can explain the fundamental elements of the world by particles? Why do we hold the belief (for those of us who do, that is!) that particles, localized quanta of fields as they are, is a complete basis for the description of reality. That is a question I have wondered about for ages. Well — not ages, but. Are extra dimensions real? Which one is the more fundamental entity; potentials (favored by QED) or fields (favored by classical electrodynamics — and perhaps by intuition)?
And by that time my little spinning session is over, and I look back down into my book. Then the watch. The night is already there, and I realize I didn’t finish half of what I intended to. OK, perhaps I exaggerate a bit, but in the end the spinoff of all these small detours of mine is nothing but shortened time for doing what I am supposed to in the so-called exam period. Some of us haven’t got a clue what that word means yet.
Is my education destroying or building my intellect? What about me as a human being — a self reflection far more fundamental (since that is our terminology today…) than my IQ score. Does it build me?
I am sure it does. But where does all this fog come from. It is tempting to take just another infinitesimally small step down into the misty flats. The terrain looks so flat and easy down there. A nice white layer covering over every little bump. John Oxenham got the words for it, I recon:
To every man there openeth
A Way, and Ways, and a Way,
And the High Soul climbs the High Way,
and the Low Soul gropes the Low,
And in between, on the misty flats,
The Rest drift to and fro.
But to every man there openeth
A High Way, and a Low.
And every man decideth
The Way his soul shall go.