Perhaps a secret door to a new universe of knowledge

Science is filled with mysterious numbers that defy logic and explanation. Among them are extremely small numbers that were developed in 1899 by Germany’s Max Planck.


Predictive. Largely ignored for over 100 years, today these Planck Units have opened a rather magical pathway by applying base-2 exponentiation, thus doubling each value 202 times to the age and size of the universe.

Could it become a new study within the sciences? Could it also be a science of the mind? Though possibly true, these numbers may be much more (new window).


Here the old-fashioned thought experiment could become a new art form. A high school, not far from the levee along the Mississippi River, up river from the French Quarter but downriver from the New Orleans airport, has big dreams and plenty of brains-and-brawn. Yet, never did they expect to be the place where base-2 exponential notation from the Planck Length to the Observable Universe and from the Planck Time to the Age of the Universe would be introduced.

The fateful day was December 19, 2011, the last day of classes before their Christmas holiday recess and it begged the question, “Could this possibly be the beginnings of a simple model for everything, everywhere, for all times?” More

Mathematical. For five groups of students who that day were studying the basic tenets of geometry, a strange thing happened. They saw the entire universe and parts of an unknown universe all at one time, all interrelated on one board, and organized by (1) a simple logic, (2) the Planck Length, (3) simple geometries and (4) simple mathematics (multiplying and dividing by 2). And, as noted above, it required just over 202 doublings to capture the universe.  More


Logical. It has just over 202 notations. What does it mean? What difference does it make? The first insight was that there is a deep-seated order in the universe. The order is imputed. It comes from logic and mathematics not from experimentation and measurement. Although it creates a special continuity from the smallest to the largest measurements of space and time, we can only say for sure, “Here it is,” then ask questions such as “What is wrong with this picture?” Very quickly, fifteen more key questions were raised. Also imputed are structural relations that create a diversity of symmetries that literally bind everything in the known universe. That’s quite an achievement unto itself, but it must be defended with facts that have some basis in reality.  More

Hardly intimidated, our little group believes that the facts are, by and large, self evident and that there is so much more to discover and learn.  More

Located in River Ridge (a hamlet just downriver from the airport), the Curtis School is well-known among the football quarters, not within the studies of cosmology and astrophysics. Though there are rumblings and a very small scientific group moving away from the big bang cosmology, this little group within the school could land a tackle that suddenly causes this leading intellectual theory to stop in its tracks. If their map of the universe is truly a new domain of science, the human mind may end up taking its rightful place of importance within their grid that begins to redefine who we are and why. More

M. Planck

That is enough, but there is more. To date, science has had very little to say about values and ethics. You can hear the pragmatists say, “Those are not measurable qualities.” And they would be right, yet here, if the inherent structure of science is order-continuity and relations-symmetry, extended logically, it could become a structure for value and even for a moment of perfection within what appears to be a finite universe. Two symmetries interacting over time, give us the first dynamical moments that have a harmony which unto itself is a compelling infrastructure for valuation and ethics. More

Rational. Also, deep in the heart of this discussion is the place of the finite-and-infinite, and geometry-and-calculus. The old world of geometry gave us a special grounding. Structure was everything. Then, the newer world of calculus came in and slowly began to give us a new sense of change, openness, and a very long vision. People thought they could see forever. Professor Max Planck was 41 years old when he did those special calculations back in 1899. He was 60 years old when in 1918 he received his Nobel Prize for his work to define a quanta of energy. By 1944, now 87 years old, he penned these few special words that could set the stage for a science of the Mind.  More

Throughout it all, his precious Planck Units had been virtually ignored. It wasn’t until 2001 before his earlier calculations, now over 100 years old, began to see the light of day. In a series of three articles in Physics Today. Prof. Dr. Frank Wilczek of MIT (Nobel laureate, 2004) acknowledged their presence and potential importance. Finally, the Planck numbers gained a little respect as the conceptual limits on the smallest side of every equation. It seemed to suggest a way to begin to see the universe as a finite place. Rather suddenly Planck’s work gained a solid foothold. Also, science had advanced far enough to begin to suggest that there are upper boundaries as well. For the first time in centuries, the finite was gaining ground; the infinite seemed more ephemeral. The kids had plenty of ideas and comments. “This is a great STEM tool. Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics all makes sense here.” Another said, “Let’s keep the small “I” of the infinite so all our atheist friends have something in which to believe so they don’t have to believe.” More


Our “Planck students” soon discovered that they were not alone in their sense that the universe could be reduced to simple, logical working principles.

In 1957 in Holland a little-known high school teacher, Kees Boeke, wrote a very short book, Cosmic View, The Universe in 40 Jumps. In 1968 a film was made about it and then in 1982 a coffee table book was published. In 1996 an IMAX movie was made. In 2007 another IMAX movie followed.

By 2001, the scholarly community had become familiar with Boeke and base-10 notation. The River Ridge group was just getting to know him, base-2, and base-10.

They quickly acknowledged that Boeke’s book was the very first universe view. But because he only found 40 of 62 base-10 notations, it was dubbed “universe-view light.” Yet, base-10 has an important place in this discovery process and work with it is still being done. In July 2014, Gerard ‘t Hooft and Stephan Vandoren published a book, Time in the Powers of Ten. Of course, base-2 is much more granular (3.3333 times) and mimics cellular reproduction on one hand and chemical bonding on the other. More importantly, this base-2 work is rooted within the Planck base units and basic geometries where space and time are seen working together throughout the 202 notations that define our universe. More

There are several next steps. A few students (and their teacher) speculate:
Let’s make a movie about it that focuses on our most speculative guesses.”
Let’s focus on that small-scale universe and try to figure it out.”
“There are doctoral dissertations in there.

“Let’s get other schools involved and promote this simple model as a powerful STeEM (Science-Technology-[Education]-Engineering-Technology) tool.*

Endnote: The following Max Planck quote is currently linked to the place where the source pages are housed in Berlin at the Archiv zur Geschichte der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft:

All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.” (opens in a new window)

From “The Nature of Matter” within the Archiv zur Geschichte der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Abt. Va, Rep. 11 Planck, Nr. 1797, 1944

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