I Can Write, Can You Read?

Symmetry yrtemmyS: Nothing's perfect

The Meaning of The Meaningless Pursuit

My recent visit to the library was nothing out of the ordinary; I walked in, grabbed a few appetizing texts from the shelf, plopped on down and proceeded to read. The few books ranged from F.A. Hayek’s The Road To Serfdom to an exploration of the life and works of Albert Einstein by Michio Kaku entitled, Einstein’s Cosmos. Feeling not so white, angry, and political today, I opted to open up the Michio Kaku work.

English: Albert Einstein Français : portrait d...
English: Albert Einstein Français : portrait d’Albert Einstein (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Though I only managed to read a mere two chapters of this book, it had, nonetheless, given me a great deal of insight into the man whose surname has become synonymous with genius and in the right (and indubitably sarcastic) light, an insult – Albert Einstein. While it is well known that the man was a genius, his quirky character and near “insanity”, which are essential to obtaining that level of genius, are quite often ignored.

Einstein was not, at least at the time, a good visual representation of the prototypical scientist. The wiry haired old man who would pick cigarette butts off the street as a means of supplying his tobacco pipe; the elderly professor who enjoyed campus strolls with a five-year-old boy because Einstein was glad to have someone ask him a question he could answer; and the theoretical physicist who was rumored to have failed mathematics (No, he actually didn’t). No, the revered scientist, who had believed “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself”, was not the human fronted intellectual, number crunching machine that was typically conjured up in one’s mind when the term scientist was mentioned. Rather, Einstein was a human being, governed by passion and ambition. However, once again, unlike the classic scientist, his passions were aimed toward the impossible and implausible – “a theory of everything”.

Einstein spent nearly 30 years of his life attempting to create a theory that could explain everything in the universe, and the idea of trying to create such a theory was scoffed at by fellow physicists. By 1955, the year in which Einstein had passed away, much of his fame had been frittered away through the useless endeavor of searching for a theory of everything. In fact an Einstein biographer by the name of Abraham Paris even said that Einstein’s fame “… would be undiminished, if not enhanced…” in those last thirty years “…had he gone fishing instead.” Einstein had gone from the most respected scientist to a perceived nutcase, chasing after a theory which proved to be implausible, and failed to come into fruition each and every time Einstein tried. Clearly Einstein was guilty of insanity, a word which he himself had defined as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” To the physics/science community this was just what it seemed Einstein was doing – chasing after the same elusive idea coming up empty every time, yet continuing to do it again. Einsteins ill advised passions and need for thesis confirmation had got the best of him; however, today it seems that his “ill advised passions” were actually onto something – something big.

Today in science we are witnessing one of the greatest theoretical discoveries of all time; call it M-theory or Superstring Theory it may be – The Theory of Everything. The theory uses the ambitions to discover a unified field theory as the premise for its scientific hypothesis; the unified field theory being a theory that hopes to subsume all the laws of physics and field theories under one general hypothesis in a way which will create harmony between all such ideas.  To create such harmony among theories, M-Theory extends classical string theory’s 10th dimensional hyperspace to 11th dimensional hyperspace. Under these 11 dimensions it seems as though, mathematically and theoretically, all the laws of nature/field theories work together. This is in fact, a unified field theory; the theory that Einstein was searching for all along.

It’s crazy to even imagine that scientists using a theory that has been long noted as being written off and implausible as a starting point for a scientific endeavor; let alone for that once discarded hypothesis to now, over 50 years later, be depositing some startling and highly justified results. It is for such reasons that this can be seen not only as a victory for Einstein, but also as a victory for everybody who lacks definite answers, yet continues to fight.

Many scientists discarded Einstein’s unified field theory simply because it had not yielded any significant results or justification for its truth; to them the venture for a theory of everything was petty and meaningless. However, Einstein would not go to accept the fact that field theories could not be contained under one general theory; it just didn’t fly with him! The minds of other scientists were saying that he was wrong; but, Einstein’s passions told him there had to be an answer.  There was some end to these meaningless pursuit that he had long ago signed up for.

This is what gives me hope for all journey’s we in life embark on. While unlike in science where the end of something is not immediately apparent and its meaning is relegated to description, in our life, the answer to many of the great questions are not always self-evident. And that’s what gives them meaning in the end; the journey to discover is more meaningful than the answer itself. That is the same reason that the great scientific discoveries of our time have been so meaningful, even though they are just mere descriptions of natural phenomena. These theories have been created and accepted, not easily, but with much reluctance and often time, the fact that we may be the only one’s who believes in such an answer, results in isolation or exile (See:  Socrates, Galileo, Etc.)

In fact, if a question is not answered without much distress, it is probably not an answer that is worth knowing at all.

Science is full of meaningful answers that are simply descriptions, and therefore have no intrinsic meaning or value in their information. But, it’s the journey to discovery and it’s future questions and implications that give the meaningless some sort of meaning. How valuable something is may be relative, but the story of who it’s valued by never changes. Someone out there is affected by every answer; and even if we bear no relevance to the questions answer, perhaps it is still worthwhile investigating in order to help someone else. That’s as nihilistic as the endeavor to answering a question goes, and it still has some sort of meaning/value.

Einstein let his passions get the better of his mind and he came out being right, even in the face of nay-Sayers who believes his quest was worthless and meaningless. So why should you let anybody take any value/meaning away from your passionate beliefs, when in the end you may be right, or you may never receive an answer. After all, it’s those questions in conflict, lacking a definite answer that are weightiest in life; and therefore are the most meaningful to pursue. (Incoherent Rambling Over.)

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This entry was posted on May 16, 2013 by .

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