~Thoughts for Thinking People~


Picture, if you will, a pile of about four tablespoons of table salt. A little over half of that pile would represent sodium and the rest would be chlorine. How many atoms of sodium would be present? About 6.02 x 10 to the 23rd. That's scientific notation for 6 followed by 23 zeros. That's the number of atoms in 1 mole of a chemical, and is known as Avogadro's Number.

If each of the five billion people on Earth were to count the sodium atoms in this small (one mole) pile of salt, at the rate of one atom every second, it would take four million years to count them all!

Atoms are comprised of a nucleus with neutrons, protons, and a variety of other subatomic particles, surrounded by electrons in various shells and orbitals. Let's take one of the tiny sodium atoms out of the above pile. If we were able to expand the nucleus to the size of a pea, the distance between it and the outer-most electrons encircling it would be a radius of about two football fields. Just imagine a pea in the center of the 50-yard line of a football stadium. The outer walls of the stadium would be where the electron shells are.

So an atom is pretty much all space. We, and all the matter we see around us, are composed of such atoms. The real world is not "solid" matter at all, as we perceive it. It is space and energy. Our bodies are not the substance we see and feel, either. We are mostly space, too. We are what lies between that pea nucleus and the electrons, spinning around it clear out in the stadium parking lot, which is nothing.
This is a glimpse of reality that doesn't seem real at all. It is counterintuitive and beyond even imagination. The obvious is just not so.

Our sciences attempt ultimately to answer all questions by reductionism, examining smaller and smaller portions of matter. Yet when we get to the most miniscule, it turns out to be space. We are then left with nothing (space) as the answer. Confused? Me too. Don't worry; nobody else has it all figured out, either.

But such awareness, such consternation, should at least humble us. It should make us suspicious of any claims of surety (for example, brand X pet food or brand Y baby formula is "100% complete and balanced," which, of course, would require 100% complete knowledge).

Better to be open rather than certain. Better to respect the infinite complexity of nature than manipulate it with cocky impunity.

Best of health to you and yours from all of us here at Wysong.