Wherefore art thou Fermilab?

Nasruddin will guide us

Before we go looking for Fermilab (http://www.fnal.gov/), let’s hire a guide.  My choice would be Nasruddin (http://www.nasruddin.org/).  Who’s Nasruddin?  He’s this wise fool from Islamic folklore, telling stories that are contradictory, often with a deeper meaning.  Other traditions have an equivalent hero.  In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, we have the Holy Fool, which often does foolish acts for Christ.  The Native American tradition has the Heyoka, which Wiki says, “are thought of as being backwards-forwards, upside-down, or contrary in nature.”  This is exactly what modern physics is about.  Everything appears to be, “being backwards-forwards, upside-down, or contrary in nature.”   Welcome to Fermilab!  Here you will find many physicists – including agnostic and atheist – who find God in physics.

“I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings.” (Albert Einstein)

Nasruddin Vs The Philosophy Club

I normally join a philosophy club, where we have a couple of  “Armchair” language (they own certificates in logical positivism, by trading in Bazooka bubble gum wrappers) philosophers, and a Sophist that “specializes in Utter Nonsense”.  I will just note in passing many people there seem to have a working knowledge of physics. Does that come from having taken undergraduate and/or graduate courses in physics, sitting down with PhD working physicists in actual discussions, watching TV programs like Discovery or Public Broadcast Station, listening to the BBC, reading some books about the topic, or reading news items in Tabloids? No offense to anyone – just trying to understand – following Socrates.

Here is a question for everyone  there – me included – as many virtual fights break out. If philosophy is supposed to make us wise, and behave like rational beings, why do we behave like the famous philosophers in the book at amazon.com/Wittgenstei…?

Journey Close to Home

For me, Fermilab is a journey close to home.  Actually, it’s less than 30 minutes away, in Batavia, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago in the USA).  You can see a particle accelerator, buffalo roaming among the prairie, and a modern era, fancy building.   Actually, one of my favorite components is the cultural and entertainment program, provided at a reasonable cost.  You will find them under the link “public events” at http://www.fnal.gov/.  Let’s celebrate physics with a famous Nasruddin story:

Searching for the Needle

There is this old woman staring at dust and pebbles in the street:
“What are you looking for?”
“I don’t know for sure, I think I lost my needle.”
“And where did you lose it?”
“I believe I lost it in the house”
“Then why are you looking outside in the street for it?”
“Well, because it is dark in my house and I can see better outside. I search for where I can see well”

Are you really looking for your Needle, or are you search “in the light” regardless of where the Needle might be? This question is about one’s search in the darkness and/or his/her house, where (perhaps) the needle was lost.

A response to Nasruddin’s riddle

Here is a response to the above Nasruddin riddle someone shared:

“When I wrote a proposal for the research I thought the answer of my question could be found in an analogy with scientific research. An artificial representation of reality (what was my definition of the art I was talking about) could already be found in scientific research by computer simulation. And computer simulation was very useful for fundamental scientific research. But I wasn’t allowed to search for it in that way. No, I had to look to ‘normal’ experimental research in science: empirical research. Why? Because of the bright light that was shining on it. In philosophers land the dual system (theory-empery, induction-deduction) is so common used that there was no light on a triadic system (theory-empery-simulation, induction-deduction-abduction). I was forced to look to literature where I couldn’t find the answer at my question, and I knew it.”

This is from an email by Evangelical minister Larry Ollison:

“Recently, I was reading a nationally known magazine and I came across a very interesting article. A group of scientists and mathematicians stated that they could mathematically prove that an atom on this earth could also be light years away in another galaxy. They didn’t say that the atom on earth and the atom in the remote galaxy were identical, they said they were the exact same atom in two different places, light years apart, at the same time.”

Stop on by

If you are ever near Batavia, Illinois (USA), be sure to stop by, and visit Fermilab.  Nasruddin might not be available for guided tours, but the physics is as mind boggling as the Nasruddin tales.  Tell them Nasruddin sent you.

Randy Kemp


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