The Smallest Particles part 2

I posted the other day on the CERN experiment to explore the tiniest parts of our universe and try to learn something of our nature. I was thinking about this further and don’t feel that I made the point as clearly as I could.

Imagine you had never seen an E-type jaguar, or perhaps even that you had little idea of what an automobile was, and in order to explain it to you I shipped you out every single nut and widget that went to make the car in one great big box. You tip them all out and there you are, staring at all these bits and trying to envisage how they fit together.

Now if you are clever enough and patient enough, you might end up working out how they fitted together and you would indeed have learnt some about an E-type. However you couldn’t possibly learn about all the non-physical things that surround this object. What the Jaguar brand stands for, its history, the teenage dreams it might represent.

Objects and systems are so much more than just their physical components and perhaps one of the sad thing about our times is that we spend so much time in studying the bits and never get around to understanding the systems that they are part of. One only has to look at the state of modern medicine to see this. On one hand we are bringing about miracles and literally helping blind people to see, on the other, we are ruining thousands of lives with poisonous drugs.

By all means look at the component parts and their interaction to try to increase your understanding but never make the mistake of thinking that these bits add up to the whole.

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