None Smaller

Five Day. Survived all sorts of grrr brrrr. Trip to Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill. Sickly FD SCP. Crazy motorists. Suicidal motorists. Media Arrogances.

Below the liquid -> solid phase change temperature (at atmospheric pressure) of Dihydrogen Oxide this morning. Bitter. And biter. Listened to more of the latest Linux LUG podcast. Failure. Useful information not dense enough. Off to the digital compost pile. And the search resumes for decent podcasts.

This leads me to a bit of mumblage. A week or so ago I ran across an article [Link] entitled “Is Atomic Theory the Most Important Idea in Human History?” by Carlo Rivelli. Rivelli is a physics essayist of some note.

The problem with these types of outreach is that they tend to be rather declaratory rather than discussive. I have to admit to finishing the article rather unconvinced that the idea of atoms is the most important humans have ever had. I also have to admit that I don’t have a different candidate, just that I found Rivelli’s presentation unconvincing. But it did prompt me to spend some time the last week considering atomic theory.

Incidentally, this absence of convincing is common to outreach articles. I am not sure why. I suspect it’s a mixture of academic arrogance that collegiate scientists think their word should be taken as epiphinal and inability to actually present the science in a form that bogs will comprehend (much less want to read,) and the author thinks is degenerate enough. 

Is degenerate a threatening word? Should I have said diluted and mangled instead? This is fundamental to outreach. If the bogs were nerds and could learn science then there would be no need of Dick and Jane for Adults.

The atomic theory is simply that matter is made up of atoms. (We don’t know what dark matter is or whether it exists but if it does it likely will either not me atomic or will seriously bash our ideas of atoms.) This should be inherent to anyone who got through high schule. Awake and aware, that is. Which probably excludes the jocks and to-be greeks.

What isn’t said very often about the idea of atoms is that it gives us a weird sort of closure. What atomic theory imposes is that if we take a piece of matter and successively cut it in half and throw away one half, at some point we can’t do this cutting any more. In nerd terms, there is an irreducible minimum amount of matter that cannot be subdivided. 

This means that there is some lower bound on small. Below this limit we may not go. Or know. AT least based on the presumption of atomic theory. 

Is this important? Yes, it is. Is it important to bogs who live in a social reality? Not at all.

And are these bogs human? Ah, now that’s a good question. Because it’s not as easy to answer as the one about atomic theory.