main page

Scientific Knowledge and a New World-View

Even though we know that this world consists of atoms and waves and forces and strange space time distortions and even stranger quantum states, we still live our daily life happily ignoring these facts. We approach our day to day with a very simplified view of the world - what goes up must come down, and the world is just as our eyes tell us it is. Our brains can't readily make the connection between abstract science concepts and the mundane.

Yet i wonder, if people that are submerged into the world of abstract science all day long, don't start to see and hear and feel the world around them in a different way.

This is a collection of quotes from scientists and thinkers.

"This is one of the great conundrums, it seems to me, that what you learn in science is so different than what you feel in your regular life! How do you live between those two worlds when what you know and what you feel are so different?"

Brian Green
"When I look at the tabletop, I delight in the fact that I can, in my mind, picture the atoms and molecules and the interactions between them and the mostly empty space that’s in there. And that when my hand touches the tabletop, I see the electrons of the outer surface of my hand pushing against the electrons in the outer surface of the table. I’m not really touching the table! My hand never comes into contact with the table! What’s happening is the electrons are getting really close together and they’re repelling each other. And I love the fact that I am, in essence, deforming the surface of the table by making my electrons come really close to it. That enriches my experience."

Brian Green
"It’s all really there. That’s what really gets you. But you gotta stop and think about it to really get the pleasure about the complexity, the inconceivable nature of nature.”

Richard Feynman
"The real change that's around the corner [is] in the way we think about space and time, [...] We haven't come to grips with what Einstein taught us. But that's coming. And that will make the world around us seem much stranger than any of us can imagine."

David Gross
"People don’t understand how I can visualize four or five dimensions. Five-dimensional shapes are hard to visualize — but it doesn’t mean you can’t think about them. Thinking is really the same as seeing."

William P. Thurston
"History suggests that our worldview undergoes disruptive change not so much when science adds new concepts to our cognitive toolkit as when it takes away old ones."

"We are so familiar with causality as an underlying feature of reality that we hardwire it into the laws of physics. It might seem that this would be unnecessary, but it turns out that the laws of physics do not distinguish between time going backward and time going forward. And so we make a choice about which sort of physical law we would like to have."

Nigel Goldenfeld
"We find ourselves here on the very path taken by Einstein of adapting our modes of perception borrowed from the sensations to the gradually deepening knowledge of the laws of nature. The hindrances met with on this path originate above all in the fact that ... every word in the langauge refers to our ordinary perceptions."

Niels Bohr
(via The Accidental Universe by Alan Lightman)