Although I've never met him, Frank Close strikes me as a kind and thoughtful man. His writing has a gentle, pragmatic quality about it, full of wonder at questions to be begged. In the early hours of this morning, while blogging on another site about another scientist whose writing could not be more different, I found that Frank had posted a Radio 4 news item on John McCarthy's hostage years and his relationship with numbers. John had apparently found solace in numbers during his long confinement, and the BBC commissioned an interview in which John and Frank discuss the subject of numbers in relation to faith.
Yet another bridge exists here between science and religion. There are countless examples of numbers and numerology used in religious contexts all over the world. Every version of a Book of the Word is stuffed with them.
Whichever god is your god, he's bound to be building his boats and manufacturing his metaphors around the digits 1 to 9. Here, zero is the one thing which differentiates the scientist from the scholar. To a religious man, O's an addition which makes things bigger. To the physicist, it carries the threat of infinity.
Numbers and synchronicity seem to have strong connections, and although the BBC offering is yet to be aired I wouldn't mind betting that this crops up in the telling of the tale. Numbers have the power to convey abstract connections to us and forge links to ideas. You don't have to be a formula merchant to appreciate this fact. All numbers have meanings; the way I was given to understand it, every sum renders down to one of the 9, and follows a sequence of a cyclic nature:
1 - Birth
2 - Development
3 - Strength
4 - Learning
5 - Change
6 - Dark
7 - Light
8 - Unity
9 - Completion
I must confess not to have studied numerology, so there may be connections to be found between this sequence and others. Whatever you make of the meaning, or indeed whether you make anything of such meaning at all, numbers are important in the shaping of our worlds. Mathematics has been described as 'art' and 'language' - its lovers will make of the truths found within it whatever they choose to make, some of which will be fleeting as sacred art is deigned to be. Such is the nature of the Universe, of which we are humble parts. Creation is the key to progress, and to create, things must be destroyed. John McCarthy will have faced destruction many times during his engagement with living hell, and right now the forums of physics are debating the imminent annihilation of Supersymmetry, along with (quite possibly) the beloved Standard Model. Such inevitabilities lead to greater things, as the loss of social belief in a flat world made way for public knowledge that our planet is part of a greater orbital system. My incredulity knew - and still knows - no bounds on learning that cosmologists believe the Universe is flat. Yes, I've been told I don't understand the topography. I do, but I don't buy it, that's all. Beating the Universe down to a paper sheet strikes me as something of a retrograde step, with deep echoes of time waves from a retarded past. There is so much more to be opened of our presents, so why pore protectively over dusty boxes of ancient history?
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Kathy is the author of Quantumology. She met up with quantum mechanics in 1997, pledging allegiance to its sources thereafter. These are her personal thoughts and testimonies.