The illusion of control, existence and everything

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Long ago, as a young man (I’m an old fart now), I heard or read that matter, everything that we see, is mostly empty space. The number I read was that matter is 99% empty space. Every once in awhile I revisit that topic in my mind, to remind myself to…

Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream
Merrily, merrily, merrily
Life is but a dream

In my house, I have Google Home devices. I like them because I can use them to play music on demand, get trivia answers on demand and play a game of blackjack. I have only scratched the surface of their utility.

And yes, I know there are some who fear that Google Home is being used for surveillance. Maybe, maybe not. But despite all that data gathering, somebody still has to review the data and determine if it’s actionable. That, I think would be an incredibly boring job, even with artificial intelligence helping you out.

Anyway, I was just putting around and I asked Google:

What percent of matter is empty space?

The response?

99.9999999999996% of matter is empty space.

There are 13 decimal places to the right of the decimal point in that number up there. I had thought it was just 1% of mass and the rest is empty space. It’s so much smaller than I ever thought: 4 ten-trillionths of one percent of everything we see and touch we see as matter has any substance at all. In scientific notation, that looks like this:

4 x 10^–13 of one percent

I just had to use the superscript notation. I love that I can finally get that stuff to work because for a long time, that was the hardest thing for me to do in Markdown or HTML (on, anyway). But I digress.

What is interesting here is that matter occupies such a tiny, tiny fraction of the world we see today. That image at the top of this post? It’s definitely not to scale. To get a true sense of the scale of the atom, consider the proton at the center of a hydrogen atom as being the size of a basketball. The electron buzzing around that proton would be in “orbit” some 20 miles away from the nucleus.

Matter, in a very real sense, is ephemeral. It is almost not even there. Some people like to keep a positive attitude by saying that “the glass is half full”. I’m saying that its’ not even there.

Considering this tiny fraction of existence is matter, it is a fair question to ask if we even have control over it. We give so much weight to water, skin, bones, uranium, wood, metal and glass. They seem real, solid to us. We feel them because the electrons in our fingers are repelled by the electrons in that wood, metal or glass. They have weight because of the weak force of gravity pulling them while we lift them.

Quantum Mechanics, is all about probabilities, not certainties. Quantum Mechanics gives us the probability of finding an electron at a given place and time. When we’re not looking, it’s a probability. Even when we’re looking it’s still a probability.

If you’re into control, you might find the next passage of interest. Quantum Mechanics says that our bodies and everything around us are composed of a buzzing cloud of elementary particles that no one has ever seen directly. Electrons, protons and neutrons are still theoretical constructs we have created to explain reality. We have only indirect evidence that they are even there, everywhere we look, touch, hear, taste and smell.

All of that is represented by matter that only takes up just 4 ten-trillionths of the space around us. Consider the humble computer monitor. The typical 22" monitor has pixels that are 0.2537 mm across. That is the maximum resolution on a monitor.

In an article on the subject of gravity waves, I can recall that the discussion turned to the maximum resolution of the universe — the smallest measurable distance. That distance turned out to be something like 10–43 meters. That is a fantastically tiny space. Sometimes I wonder if God is there, down there, in the universal matrix — if there is a god.

So if you’re upset about something, consider that reality is much ado about nothing. Well, almost nothing. If you’re living in abundance and happy, remember that most of what you’re seeing is really just empty space. Consider the possibility that the entire thing, life, the universe, everything, is just a hologram.

I say this not to minimize your pain or your joy. I say this to put it all into perspective. If matter is such a tiny part of our experience in life, then mind over matter becomes a distinct possibility. Like the random number experiments where people were placed in front of computer screens and told to watch random 1’s and 0’s appear and think about more 1’s. There were more 1’s and it was a measurable statistical deviation from random.

Life, our experience of it, has more to do with our intentions than we have been taught to believe. Matter is such a tiny part of my experience that I have real freedom about how to interpret what I see around me. I can decide if the glass is half empty, half full or not even there.

Then I can wait to see what happens next.

Write on.

Written by

Husband, father, worker, philosopher, and observer. Plumbing the depths of consciousness to find the spring of happiness. Write on.

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