Monday, 4 May 2009

Truth shall set you free?

Have you ever noticed the further one believes one side of an argument or discussion to be true, the less they are willing to see the other side of the story? Some people just won't budge from what they think to be true, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. I think this causes a lot of complications in life, these strong entrenched stances we all sometimes take. In doing so, we deify this word, truth, muttering it as if it were handed down by God.

In 1925, the Physicist Werner Heisenberg, while trying to measure the properties of molecules in motion, formulated what is known as the 'Uncertainty Principle'. What Heisenberg discovered was that the more precise the measurement of a particles position, the less precise was the measurement of its momentum, or wavelength. In layman’s terms, it means that both the position and the wavelength of a particle can not be measured precisely at the same time, and the more one side is pinned down to an exact answer, the more the other measurement will be off. This isn't a problem with measurement or instruments; it is in close relation to another quantum theory known as the Observer effect.

The observer effect simply means that by the mere act of observing any phenomena, the outcome of the event is altered. Many times the example of mercury in a thermometer is used. Just the simple act of the mercury measuring the temperature of any object, it has to absorb some of the heat, therefore changing the actual outcome of the measurement. For instance, if you magnify this explanation to a giant scale, say the true temperature of the ocean is 70 degrees, but place a giant thermometer in it, the mercury will absorb some of the oceans heat, therefore giving you a reading of say 69.8. Well, both are correct, right? The ocean is both 70 degrees and 69.8. And all depending on what you think is ‘really’ true, the answer is different.

What does all these physics theory’s have to do with the way one thinks and believes? It has to do with both how we are unequivocally interconnected with all things and how the further one conceives an assumption to be true, the less correct the other side seems. I realize this is yet another confusing science post by me, but bear with me. What we think to be now and real is always and only an approximation of what is really going on. We do know what is going on around us, we just tend to attach to one view, and solidify it in our minds as the "truth". In this we forget we are in fact entangled with everything, dependent on everything else that is, even that which we are making determinations about.

But this post isn’t really true, is it? I guess it’s all in how you look at it.
“What then is truth? A movable host of metaphors, metonymies, and; anthropomorphisms: in short, a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred, and embellished, and which, after long usage, seem to a people to be fixed, canonical, and binding.”~ Friedrich Nietzsche


  1. I like Keats' notion of Negative Capability:

  2. I know I'm a little slow on the draw here, but... The 'observer effect', as you call it, or "Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle," unequivocally does not state that the act of observing something changes it. It rather states that one cannot simultaneously measure the position and speed of a sub-atomic particle.

    Sorry to be a persnickety geek. I will say that I like your blog in general, though, and I do thank you for your efforts to bring Buddhism to the West.