Wednesday, January 30, 2008


one time, when i was a boy, my dad offered a suggestion to help me fall asleep. my issue wasn't so much of a rebellion against bedtime but an overactive brain. dad told me i needed to stop thinking. he told me to close my eyes and think of the color black, like i'm suspended in an infinite sea of blackness. sure enough, before long, i was out.

about a week ago, i was lying in bed, exhausted and kicking the blankets in a mixture of confusion and frustration. i couldn't sleep. i closed my eyes and tried my dad's trick. as i focused on the darkness behind my eyelids, i imagined myself moving beyond the light spots that are forever in my periphery. seeking only black. mentally, i was moving forward into the endless void. i stopped thinking of black and just drifted. until it all backfired and i started thinking...

as i floated through an infinite fantasy, i thought of the quark.

an atom is, as far as we know, almost entirely empty space. a hydrogen atom is (i had to look this up) approximately 1/10,000,000th of a millimeter in diameter. the proton in the center of that atom is approximately 1/100,000th the size of the atom. the sole electron orbiting the proton is 1/1,000,000th the size of the atom. the distance between these two particles is enormous. to help grasp the scale, if an electron was as big as i am, the proton i circled would be almost 60,000 miles away.

these aren't even the smallest parts. they're made of smaller things. enter the quark.

the behavior of both atoms and galaxies are fairly similar. at least when you break it down to its simplest. the electron spins around the nucleus like the moon around the earth. like planets around our sun. like our solar system around the center of our galaxy. like our galaxies around yada, yada, yada... and on and on and on. there isn't a whole lot of difference between the big bang and the splitting of an atom, short of scale.

so, if we were all quarks, we couldn't comprehend something larger than an atom. it would be like how we can't comprehend something larger than the universe.

what if the universe, the biggest thing we can imagine, is actually like the atom - a finite piece of a much bigger puzzle that's simply too grand for our scope?

what if the we're just quarks hitching a ride?

i'm sure that any intellectual analysis of this idea of absurd insignificance would crumble it to it's foundation. i see holes in the logic already. i can't claim to be a scientist or a mathematician or a physicist. just a guy lost in a tangent of thought. still, the notion perplexed me for hours as i lay in my tiny bed, in my tiny room, trying to think of black.


Monica said...

(I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again)“Simplicity is a sign of perfection.”
The simply complexity of a galaxy is (for lack of a better word) perfect.

Monica said...

There is perfection in imperfection.
Simply = Simple