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In their aversion for the infinite and by implication the infinitesimal, their contemplation of which could lead one to madness, the ancient Greeks considered matter to be constituted of indivisible building blocks, or ‘atoms’ (from the Greek ἄτομος (atomos, meaning “indivisible”) of which, by definition, there could be nothing smaller.
The term was subsequently applied to the building blocks of the chemical elements. Unfortunately it soon became apparent that there had to be a sub-atomic order of even smaller entities, the sub-elemental world of protons, electrons and neutrons. The bedrock of physical reality, it was now confirmed, comprised little more than a cloud of positive, negative or neutral electrical charges.
Then the neutron itself was split and out poured a veritable cornucopia of ‘events’; the improvableness of which obliged a tactical retreat to the drawing board. The solution, when it came, was the neutrino. A particle without mass or charge, that spiraled but possessed little else that could be sensibly described as the stuff of matter. And that should have been the end – or the root – of it, for what in the realm of reason could possibly exist that is any smaller?
However once a critical mass of physicists had become convinced of its necessity, the elusive neutrino miraculously revealed itself in reality. And the chain reaction didn’t stop there. Further exotic, evermore ephemeral entities were speculated and again, once given a satisfactory rationale for their existence, began to turn up in the experimental data too. The almost supernatural nature of this process caused at least one Nobel laureate Physicist to call for these phenomena to be referred to not as particles but more correctly, as “manifestations”.
“In purely physical terms they have little reality. Only in the poetry of mathematical symbolism is any kind of consistency apparent. Perhaps they only exist in consciousness, and can be made manifest only in retrospect, like the memory of a dream. Perhaps too, as in dream interpretation, we should be paying more attention to the image and wasting less time on the words.”
Lifetide – Lyall Watson
or put another way:
“There are good grounds for the awesome theory that scientific discovery is the projection into matter of the exploration of the human mind.”
Rhythms of Vision – Lawrence Blair
“Subjectivity is the only truth.