Nature's Diamonds, and where they are
This is our planet viewed from space during a solar eclipse. The 'diamond ring' effect takes place for just a few seconds as the exact alignment of two bodies positioned in exactly the right size/distance proportion to achieve a total eclipse moves back out of phase. The eclipse event is rare, but the fact that it happens at all is due to a cosmological coincidence.
Although the sun is about 400 times the diameter of the moon, the sun is also 400 times further away from us. The illusion this creates is one of perfection, perhaps purely for our benefit as we are here on Earth to appreciate it.
Our planetary home is absolutely enormous to us, and if we traverse just a little of it, we're doing well in life. Even if we are able to go right round it, or visit every country there is, we are still invisible specks of living matter existing on something billions of times bigger than we are, and the effects we cause as a destructive species, devastating though they may be as seen through our personal perspectives, are invisible from a distance in cosmological terms. The illusion we have that we are powerful enough to do serious damage to this planet may in itself be an illusion, a trick of light and time that makes us think we are able to affect the course of cosmic history.
You'll see from this picture that an atom has electrons zipping round it in a cloud, in much the same way as we move around the Earth. Electrons, although very energetic compared to the static nucleus of protons and neutrons, are still inclined towards 'ground state', which is the lowest amount of energy necessary for them to exist. All electrons want to be in 'ground state', but photons keep interfering. Light particles interact with electrons to make them more active (when the electron absorbs one) or less active (when it releases one). One can wonder whether the electron has much choice in whether it absorbs or releases a photon, but we can never know this because at the quantum level, thought processes are totally unknown to us. We have no way of proving an electron thinks, but we have evidence to suggest that it does, in some form at least.
Behind the picture is an article published last year which brings to light evidence that the electron is more complicated than we first thought. In fact it can split itself in two, if the conditions are energetic enough to make it (want to?) do so.
While arguments may (and indeed should) rage about whether the electron is conscious, the coincidence that we seemingly behave very much like they do is suggestive of the truth in "as above, so below".
As in the macro, so it is in the micro. The small and the large are reflective of each other.
This is our planetary home again, seen from space. When we can realistically comprehend our size, we can start to grasp the quantum nature of our existence much more freely. Only by holding ourselves aloft with egos which make us feel like the most important things in the Universe can we remain drowning in the illusion that we are not of the quantum world. We are quantum, we are small. While many, many things are much bigger than us, we tend to take our role as observers to an extreme, verging on a belief that we could be the only life form in the entire Universe, which of course is totally absurd. But then, we do live in the Goldilocks Zone, and fairytales originate from the strangest psychological places.
The article behind the picture gives an even better sense of perspective. Perhaps our place in history is determined by Fermi's Paradox, and the odds of our beating the odds of the paradox are the only odds worth knowing about, to the Universe, that is.
I'd credit Abyss Uoregon if I knew where to, but I don't, so may the Force be with you wherever you are.
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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.