Friday, September 19, 2014

Max Tegmark on Plato and Ultimate Reality

I've been reading physicist Max Tegmark's Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality. I used this example in one of my philosophy classes yesterday. Like the Pre-Socratic philosophers, Plato, and Aristotle, the search for ultimate reality takes us behind the appearances into a world that often seems counterintuitive. Tegmark writes:

"Not everything is the way it seems at first, and this goes even for trucks and reality itself. Such suggestions come not only from philosophers and science fiction writers, but from physics experiments. Physicists have known for a century that solid steel is really mostly empty space, because the atomic nuclei that make up 99.95% of the mass are tiny balls that fill up merely 0.0000000000001% of the volume, and that this near-vacuum only feels solid because the electrical forces that hold these nuclei in place are very strong." (p. 4)

Tegmark concludes: "If my life as a physicist has taught me anything at all, it's that Plato was right: modern physics has made abundantly clear that the ultimate nature of reality isn't what it seems." (p. 8)