United We Stand
Journey of the Soliton
Dear Readers, of your own free choice, please hold hands in unity and join in a very important ride - the journey of the soliton.
The Soliton – Maintaining Unity
The soliton, today known to manifest in light as well as water, was discovered by John Scott Russell in 1834 in Scotland’s Union Canal. He observed a violent churning of water after a horse drawn channel boat suddenly came to a halt. A heap of water burst forward into a smoothly rounded formation, traveling steadily at 8 or 9 mph while maintaining shape. Russell followed by horse for one or two miles until the formation diminished in size and was lost in the channel windings.
The phenomenon shocked scientists, apparently violating Isaac Newton’s wave mechanics. A wave is generally slower, and also rapidly flattens or spills over. How could a large heap maintain size and shape instead of immediately collapsing?! Further, two solitons pass through each other intact. Why didn’t two equals smash each other, or a large one swallow up a small one?! The fascinating answer is that the two effects that individually would pull the heap apart, balance out in a soliton.
No Part Coerces any Other, Yet the Whole Advances with Complete Stability
Twelve years before Russell’s discovery, Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier discovered that even if a wave is not a pure sine wave, it can nonetheless be produced mathematically by adding sine waves of different frequencies (how fast they go up and down) and heights. Physically, the speeds at which these sine waves travel in water shows “dispersion,” that is, depend upon frequency. But the speeds also show “nonlinearity,” that is, depend upon the height. If the sine waves provide just the right heights for each other’s frequencies, they unify into a soliton. No part coerces any other, yet the whole advances at high speed with complete stability, even in a growing complex of additional solitons.
Contradictory Perceptions of Reality
The early 20th century brought greater Newtonian heresies, General Relativity (that the universe just curls around instead of going on forever), and Quantum Mechanics (that there’s a limit to how small things can get). These ideas are even heresies of each other! Einstein was the first to realize that these two deeply contradictory perceptions of reality can’t live in the same world. David Hilbert, as respected in mathematics as Einstein was in physics, realized that neither is in our world, but rather determine it!
Paradoxes of Infinity
Hilbert’s 1925 paper, “On the Infinite,” grapples with a more fundamental failure of Newton: his math. Calculus is very useful, but not for solving the paradoxes of infinity. For example, take a little circle and a big one, with the same center. By drawing rays out from the center, one sees that every point on the big circle has a corresponding point on the little circle. But if there are no spaces between the points on the big circle, how can that circle be bigger!? Think about it.
Karl Weierstrass proved this in 1872, beginning “the Great Crises” that threatened to undermine all mathematics. Hilbert posed the question of how nature eliminates these paradoxes. His profound suggestion – relativity and quantum – set finite limits of large and small as if total size and pixel size of a universal computer screen.
Over the next quarter century, the Big Bang understanding of the birth of the universe, and Claude Shannon’s Information Theory, enter the picture. The first shows that the universe is not merely determined by relativity and quantum, but the very stuff of physical reality is created from their complete overlap at the beginning of time. That is, they actually crash into each other as space curls up smaller than the size of a quantum.
The second implies that quantum “entanglement” (an intimate connection by similarity of potential form despite physical separation) and “reduction” (the light of a single actual reality revealed out of all the potential ones of the entangled-quantum vessel), act as the source of information. This, while on the other hand, relativity acts as a sink, swallowing this information into actualized form called “the curvature of space-time.”
Answers from High Antiquity – Nature’s Giving and Receiving
In his book, Bail Yourself Out, Michael Laitman notes that Nature was already recognized in high antiquity to reduce to source and sink actions. Translating to the conscious level, they are the production of the substance of pleasure and its absorption into form – giving and receiving, plain and simple. This underlying principle takes us from the subatomic into molecular below, to the planetary into cosmic above. Richest is here in the middle – life up to our human community, and its ecological interactions. But does it end here?
In general terms, natural history is information feeding complexity to alternatively grow it into greater systems – intricate, interrelated forms “unified in diversity,” and to sustain each level. In his book, The Physics of Immortality, Frank Tippler observes that this process appears to lead to an “Omega Point” – call it ultimate evolution, unified infinite consciousness, or communion with the Creator. The downside is that a dead-end system blocking the path signs its own death warrant, at least down to the level of components that could reconstruct, however painfully, to try again.
Component viability was a mindless matter until humans discovered that they could manipulate their environment. They could redirect information into forms that optimize their personal benefit at the cost of the general good – the harmonious growth of the whole.
The Present – The Potential for Unity
This brings us to the present, a moment of great danger and potential. The danger is that with the rise of globalization, humanity’s interdependency means it can no longer tolerate a strictly individual pleasure principle any more than a physical body can tolerate cancer. The system will not just “crash.” We “components” will be painfully reworked if not broken down entirely, to open up the way for a different path to viable complexity. If nature has to take this course, it won’t be a very pretty picture for us.
But it doesn’t have to if we would but convince ourselves without coercion to make the journey of the soliton – not just to survival, but to infinite good. Readers, we can do it!