Culture Writer, The Boston Globe
2017 Nieman Fellow at Harvard
First email: 6 June 2019
Hi Jeneé –
If each of us would adopt a highly-integrated, simple-mathematical understanding of our universe, we’d get a little perspective regarding the current machinations of the human family. Generally we aren’t as bad as we think, but often we are worse.
We are such a blip and everything else throughout time is just as real. We need some perspective.
Boston was my home for most of my first 47 years; for me it all started back in 1947 in JP (aka Jamaica Plain). And then, among many other places, home was on Commonwealth Avenue. Then, regarding the MFA, at one time, back in 1993, we made knock-offs of art objects for the MFA to sell within the their gift shop. Those folks are old friends.
In 2011, working for my nephew within his high school geometry classes, we asked Zeno’s question, “How far within a 2-inch tetrahedron could we go by dividing the edges by 2 and connecting the new vertices?”
The answer should surprise you. In 45 steps within we were down into particle physics. In another 67 steps we hit the wall defined by Max Planck in 1899. The Planck scale of a units of time and length are as small as one can go. Trust me or google Max Planck and the Planck scale. It’s all quite fascinating, but here’s where it gets really strange. Multiply the little tetrahedron by 2 and in just 90 steps you are out to the approximate age and size of the universe. Check it out. This horizontally-scrolled page, https://81018.com/chart/, is quite literally a map of the universe from the first instance to this day all within 202 base-2 notations.
This story and map, primarily of our very early universe, is where the foundations of all foundations are dynamically created, all interdependent, active and seemingly forever. When you begin to get that image and it starts to settle within, it is all very humbling.
The 202nd notation where we are located is 10.98 billion years long. And, we are just within the first 2.9-to-3.1 billion years of that 202nd notation. Our 400,000 years of emergent history is such slim slice of it all; what happens at any time within our 70-110 years is a bit of a blip. We are all just trying to figure it out. Our answers are still tangential. So, one might conclude at the present time that we’ve really got to be gracious and gentle with each other. We’re in this together and if you follow those numbers, we are all cousins, sisters and brothers…
Yes, I say, “Let’s get a little perspective!”
I thought, given your article in the BG (Boston’s old daily newspaper, The Boston Globe) and your roots back into KC (Kansas City) and Alexandria, you might find these concepts of some interest.
Of course, I would love to hear from you. Thanks.