Welcome back to EIRW, the weekly article where I attempt to take the greatest achievements of thought in the history of mankind and boil them down for mass consumption. I can't tell if that sounds noble or horrifyingly condescending. Either way, let's move on!
This week, I bring you two concepts that will be very, very difficult to grasp. I have, in the past, tried to explain these to people, and they end with screaming fights about our very concepts of reality. Aka, superfunawesometime! So now, I bring them to you. We begin our journey in… well, Ancient Greece, obviously.
Yup, these guys again. My bad.
Zeno was a dick. I'm just putting it out there before we go any further. He was a pre-Socrates Greek Philosopher, and a giant swollen throbbing dick. He did damage to the credibility of academia that we are still recovering from. Granted, he had a brilliant mind, and I give him full credit in coming up with his Paradoxes. They are pure genius. They also make him the world's first pre-internet troll.
Zeno had a thing for trying to prove that reality itself was impossible. He wasn't doing this to actually claim that reality was wrong somehow, he simply wanted people to understand that it was possible to logically prove something that was actually false. Basically, he wanted to make everyone else look stupid.
But the one I'm really here to talk about is the Fletcher's Paradox, or the Arrow Paradox. If you take anything that is currently in motion, for example an arrow, and look at it during any given moment in time, it is motionless (look at that, even 2000 years before the pause button was invented). If it is not moving during any individual moment, then as a whole it has not moved. Thus, nothing moves ever, because in any isolated moment it is not moving.
Is it true? No. It's it perfectly logically viable? Yes. Does that make it the most terrifying thing ever? Absolutely.
Because we don't realize how important logic is to us. Logic is what lets us know that there is going to be a floor to stand on when we get out of bed in the morning. It is the nuts and bolts that hold the ramshackle construction we call human society together. And Zeno just walked up and said "Hey, guys? Those might not exist all the time. Later!"
You could shoot him in the face, but would the bullet ever get there?
The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle
Okay, bear with me for a second, cause this is going to get confusing. Originally created to explain occurrences that are unique within quantum physics, the Uncertainty Principle has helped us understand our own limitations over the last century exceptionally well. However, it also casts doubt on pretty much every single on of our preconceived notions about reality as we perceive it. A few trillion microscopic steps forward, then all the steps back, I guess.
Here's how it breaks down. Werner Heisenberg surmised in 1927 that the reason subatomic particles didn't act the way they should when we were watching them was that our very observation was having some effect on them. Basically, by perceiving something, you change it. It seems obvious when you think about it, but the implications are mind-blowing.
If that hasn't blown your mind, let me explain why it should. You can not experience anything in it's natural state. Simply by knowing that something exists, you alter it. Pure knowledge does not exist.
Everything smells a little like your upper lip.
I don't know about you, but I can't handle that. That is doubt on such an unbelievably massive scale that it terrifies me. But it's awesome. And not even the modern abused form of the word. It is something that inspires awe. Everything you know has been changed by you, without your knowledge and prior consent.
Deal with it.