Thursday, 8 May 2008
Imagining the unimaginable?
There are many challenges in my exploration of ideas. My attempt to fit a small understanding of String theory into the earthbound topographic universe via lawn strimming is fraught with the potential for misinterpretation and retreat from the unimaginable.
I am reminded of Father Dougal in 'Father Ted', trying to do a jigsaw with a hammer. If at first you don't succeed, hit it until it fits.
In balance, the small understanding that occurs may be a 'good enough' payoff. Hardly Socratic, but close...
It pays to adopt a Lewis Carrol attitude I think. (I know, I know, the quote is 'Wonderland', the image is 'Looking Glass'. More of this later!)
"Alice laughed: "There's no use trying," she said; "one can't believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
Alice in Wonderland.
The concept of multiple dimensions, accommodating particles and 'states of matter' in various ways has been elegantly played with by Greg Egan, Isaac Asimov, Stanislaw Lem and many others. Fiction is the common starting point for so many ideas and mental journeys. It is through these writings that I have formed a curiosity.
There are times when the sheer unlikelihood of a thing shocks you into a more receptive, less logic bound state. It is this shock that keeps me entertained by my scant acquaintance with Physics.
I read in the Guardian today of one such unlikely thing.
I mean, first off, just how unlikely is this thing?
It gets better. Apparently, the Platypus has new secrets recently unlocked.
We humans, not far along the evolutionary scale from these fabulous creatures, have two sex chromosomes X and Y. The Platypus has ten. Five of each kind. In humans, sex is determined by one pair of chromosomes: a woman has two X chromosomes, and a male has an X and a Y.
One of the platypus's sex chromosome pairs contains combinations similar to these, but another resembles the ZZ/ZW sex chromosome system found in birds. This raises an opportunity for an Impossible thing moment. How would you perceive a sex that was neither male nor female? Is it necessary to define gender if exploring this concept? Does sex decide reproductive function? Is it necessary or desirable to have complimentary sexes? Should we ask the gastropods?