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Size Doesn't Matter

David Cowles

Feb 8, 2024

“…We have gone from Masters of the Universe to a speck on a speck on a speck. It would take your breath away…if it were not all BS.”

We are obsessed with size. Bigger is better. Supersize me, please! Consider Universe: from Planck scale to Cosmic scale is 60 orders of magnitude! 

You and I, dear reader, are about 25 orders of magnitude short of a cosmos (I’ve been called worse). But that means we’re 35 orders of magnitude larger than the Planck scale. From the perspective of a subatomic particle, the human body is approximately the size of the cosmos. Feeling a bit ‘lost in space’? That’s how an electron ‘feels’ inside your body. 

In less than 500 years, we’ve gone from Masters of the Universe to a speck on a speck on a speck. It would take your breath away…if it were not all BS. Our notion of size is a function of our four linear dimensions. But these dimensions are simply axes on which events are conveniently arranged, like ornaments on a 4D Christmas tree. 

Theoretically, events could be arranged in any order whatsoever, but most folks hang their larger, heavier balls on the tree’s lower limbs. To do otherwise would require a great deal more energy (kinetic and potential)…and it would look like hell

Events happen! They are sui generis. They are a response from what is not to what is, in pursuit of what might be. Events happen by alternately inheriting and rejecting various elements from their environment; that process (called ‘prehension’ by Alfred North Whitehead) generates entropy (heat). 

The so-called order of events is the arrangement that corresponds to the lowest possible entropy increase. “Heavy ornaments on the bottom,” my mother used to say. In this sense, at least, Leibniz was correct: Our ‘world’ is the best of all possible worlds…given its contents! All events are entropic per se. Spacetime orders those events along the path of least entropy. In essence, we make the best of a bad situation. 

The concepts ‘big’ and ‘little’ have no fixed meaning. Their sense is entirely relational. A four-year-old is often called a ‘big boy’ while his eight-year-old brother may be referred to as a ‘little boy’. Think about it: calling a four-year-old ‘little’ and an eight-year-old ‘big’ conveys zero information; plus, it’s demeaning. 

Events can be represented by spacetime coordinates. To the extent that those coordinates define a contiguous region, we refer to the measure of that region as the ‘size’ of the event (its domain, range, depth, and duration). The coordinates themselves encode information…as pattern.

Events are holistic. As Richard Feynmann demonstrated, spacetime breaks down at the event’s horizon. In this sense, every event is like a black hole - minus the massive gravitational attraction. 

Events create spacetime; they are not made of spacetime. Imagine the Universe as a block of Alpine Lace Swiss Cheese: the holes are the events, and the cheese is the spacetime that connects them. Ground is figure, figure ground

From spatiotemporal coordinates, we calculate size. But, as we saw above, size has no objective significance. Big is only ‘big’ relative to ‘little’. A four-year-old is ‘big’ compared to a toddler, but an eight-year-old is ‘little’ compared to a tween. 

Note: Four-year-olds and eight-year-olds are rarely compared…except pejoratively when dad yells, “Stop acting like a four-year-old.” – a high compliment, but probably neither meant nor understood as such

Zeno of Elea (5th century BCE) proved that motion is impossible in a continuous medium. Since we perceive motion all around us, we can conclude that our medium (world) is discontinuous, quantized, and quantum reality (Planck scale) is 35 orders of magnitude below the size of a human body. That’s a lot of scale! But in reality, motion only happens at the Planck scale. The 59 orders of magnitude we perceive as ‘cosmos’ are mere elaboration. Size per se doesn’t matter!

Patterns scale! Spacetime configurations are stackable. While every event is unique, patterns tend to repeat…like Russian nesting dolls. In 10th grade geometry, we called this ‘congruence’. The Bohr model of ‘atom’ is roughly congruent with the Copernican model of ‘solar system’. 

While scientists search for causal sequences, philosophers search for congruent patterns

Congruence (pattern) is just another way of encoding order. But what about those causal sequences? We say that ‘A causes B’ to the extent that the transition from A to B is ‘the least dirty shirt’ (lowest entropy event).  

Causation is the minimization of information. In a fully determined world, events convey zero information. Subsequent states are encoded in prior states. Pierre-Simon Laplace (c. 1800 CE) believed that everything is caused by something else; his contemporary, William Blake, maintained that everything is congruent with everything else: “To see a world in a grain of sand…and eternity in an hour.” Philosophy is an all-or-nothing proposition! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

As spacetime is an ordering of events, scale is a way of conserving that order by stacking those events on top of one another based on similarity of pattern. It’s a bit like zipping up a computer file. Everything works toward one goal: the conservation of pattern-encoded information. 

Information is ‘difference’ and differences are the raw material of a pattern. Sentences are patterns; music and art depend on patterns; software is a pattern; DNA forms a pattern. Even molecules are ‘patterns’ of elements.

The Universe is like the Federal Reserve; it has a dual mandate: (1) Maximize Beauty, Truth, and Justice, (2) Minimize incremental entropy. Spacetime and patterning are simply tools we use to satisfy that mandate. Size, on its own, never matters!


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