Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Universe in a Glass of Wine

For Billy Stiltner of Virgina on his 30th Birthday with thanks for his work on Fractals, and Sheila Whitaker of Tennessee for keeping the Astrophysics and Solid-State Physics alive, and overall great sense of humor.

"A poet once said 'The whole universe is in a glass of wine.'

We will probably never know in what sense he meant that, for poets do not write to be understood. But it is true that if we look at a glass closely enough we see the entire universe.

There are the things of physics: the twisting liquid which evaporates depending on the wind and weather, the  reflections in the glass, and our imagination adds the atoms. The glass is a distillation of the earth's rocks, and in its composition we see  the secret of the universe's age, and the evolution of the stars.

What strange array of chemicals are there in the wine? How did they come to  be?

There are the ferments, the enzymes, the substrates, and the  products.

There in wine is found the great generalization: all life is fermentation. Nobody can discover the chemistry of wine without discovering, as did Louis Pasteur, the cause of much disease.

How vivid  is the claret, pressing its existence into the consciousness that  watches it! If our small minds, for some convenience, divide this glass of wine, this universe, into parts - physics, biology, geology,  astronomy, psychology, and so on - remember that Nature does not know  it!

So let us put it all back together, not forgetting ultimately what it is for. Let it give us one more final pleasure: drink it and forget  it all!"

... Richard Feynman

Feynman Flowchart (What Would Richard Feynman Do?) :

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