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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Notes on "The Subatomic Meson"

The idea for my poem the 'Subatomic Meson' occurred to me when I was at college, when quarks were first named by physicists Murray Gell-Mann, and George Zweig. There were six quarks in all, named Top, Bottom, Up, Down, Strange, and Charm by advanced researchers during the 1960's and 70's.

It was a heady time, and very liberated. I realized there was a decidedly bizarre mythos running through the names of subatomic particles, in fact through all naming processes.

'Physics' is a 'naming process', and being a 'science', is not exempt from the capriciousness of physical scientists. An alien mythologist might argue that science is an 'Earth-mythos', one that advances names, as the cutting edges of new myths.

If protons and electrons hold a charge, well then they either attract or repel each other. Energize an atom enough, and electrons move from a higher 'orbit', absorbing or emitting photons to advertise the change. That we have from our old Bohr, Niels. Ditto the subatomic particles, ditto the words. Ultimately, fundamentally, as atoms relate, so must we - they are our ancestors are they not?

That was the old physics.


If you are with me so far you might accuse me of steering my argument into the direction of physics as conceived by Hindu myths, but I am not. I don't consciously hold to any myths at all, but also know that my life, like everyone else's, is conditioned by myths.

The illusion of freedom, while knowing that one lives within mythic structures, is subtle. As Carl Jung pointed out, a modern scientist who professes not to believe in God may still hide Easter eggs for his children, or tow a tree into his living room near the end of December, or instinctively lower his voice when entering a Church or library. The instincts within us are more ruled by myths than the conscious layers of our minds, which we use to reason away the various causes of why we do what we do.

So while I make attempts to 'resist' mythology, myths are my makeup, and compose much of the wiring of every human on this planet. We could say myths are the closest parallel to hardwiring in a computer, and while there is no evidence that structural beliefs are in any way associated with genetic inheritance, they certainly are a software development that takes form within our individual minds at a very young age. The educating bodies, our societies at large, pass on these stories when we are very young and strengthen them throughout our lives. Wasn't it Carl Jung who argued that the most powerful myths are the ones we cannot see?

Any human endeavor, will automatically select and contribute to a mythos, as if that activity were just a particle itself and bending in trajectory because of larger forces at work, just as light bends around a star. If we accept this model temporarily, myths function in the same way as explanations for gravity, or electromagnetic fields.

Gravity and electromagnetism act. To date, those forces remain unexplained, though we know extremely accurately how to describe their actions. The distinction between explanation and a model for action is an essential one in science. Does an equation explain or model behavior? Clearly the latter. The frontiers of science provides models for inexplicable behaviors without so much as a shred of evidence explaining a deeper 'why'.

Yet myths, just like theories, also attempt a 'why', and these explanations inform everything we do.

Mythos, as a category. takes a role within a psychological model for behavior similar to the way mathematical theories describe the actions of physical forces. If scientific theory and mythos have parallels which we recognize, then the basic forces of nature as defined by science have parallels with the psychological archetypes as defined by psychology.

We acknowledge that we are ultimately shaped by the truly massive forces that shape everything. We acknowledge there are forces from which life provides no escape, via the hardwiring of our tiny beings. The design of the universe is recked with myths. Our deepest understandings of the world about us are informed more by mythos, than by the current investigations of science. Yet science is aging, and so, science itself is becoming a mythos not dissimilar to the Christian, alchemical and astrological myths that preceded it.

I stress the similarity of light bent around a star by the force of gravity. So the deep sources of our behaviors are offered the explanations of a myth. Myths and theories, one subconscious, the other conscious, may be imagined as metaphors, or teaching constructs.

Succumbing to the forces of the archetype is ultimately disastrous, as Jung recognized. Yet it happens to us all. We die. A moth diving into the lure of the flame, a jetliner plummeting in obedience to the massive attraction of our planet. A heart stops. Every auto decays in rust, is remelted, or shredded by the actions of wind and water. A quasar brilliantly illuminates a corner of the universe while falling, dying, into a black hole.

So our subconscious images to cope with such forces, employing the forces of myth and naming. Our language is wired by our myths to deal with such forces.

Naming and language hold equal roles in myth construction and maintenance. Just as we are married to the languages used to structure imaginative thought, those languages are in turn married to myths that imagine modes of mind, soul and spirit. The two are as inseparable as form and content.

With complete freedom from the attractors of linguistic birth impossible, a temporary release from incarceration by a the archetypal ancestors of language is possible, by learning another, or better, by devising another language.

Learning romance languages for an English speaker does shift the ground ever so slightly. Mastering ancient pagan or aboriginal tongues, will bend the plane even more. But on earth at this time when access to multiple languages is more possible than ever before, languages everywhere are in a kind of common gravitational collapse, with human activity across the planet compressed into similar bodies of myth that develop inside us. The smallest languages are having the electrons stripped from their atoms by tidal forces as the entire species of human language continues to fall into the attractor beam of the linguistic archetype. Evolution never stops. We accept the very notion of separate languages, a notion that is also a myth.

There's no escape from the archetypes, though, it must be said that languages, science, and the activities of the human ego, are noble attempts at freedom. To escape the archetypes means loss of life as equally as collapsing into their center. These are the patterns that make life possible, that give the beaver its intelligence to build dams, that inform all the patterns that make for intelligent life. Nothing ever becomes so indistinct as distinction. For our momentary life as particles of light, our thoughts fly away the galactic mother that gave birth to us and propagate through a universe of reason and feeling, before being swallowed up by the same massive body.

Thus naming subatomic particles 'ancestors' is just the kind of farcical statement that will outrage any physical scientist. I'm poking fun at the cosmology of the Big Bang, the very notion that the whole thing has a point source of all energy and matter, and thus, is everyone's ancestor.


Language, and human myths, for there is evidence that a kind of mythos informs all living species, co-evolved alongside science and technology. Linguistic equivalents of new theories of matter and energy have popped up as quickly as new quarks under hundreds of giga-electron volt energy beams from very expensive pieces of equipment. As science evolved, so did our mythos of science.

The language of physics does tell a story. It begins with ancient notions of energy and mass, fire, air, earth, and water. The Greek 'atom' had little detail. It was simply the stuff of existence that could not be divided into smaller pieces. Yet this notion of indivisibility was itself a kind of mythos.

Christianity posed a challenge a challenge to this notion. Jesus divided bread more ways than was theoretically possible. It upset the pagan myth of a building block, that could not be broken into pieces. In a way the story became the hint of new forms of thought to follow.

By the Middle Ages the alchemical 'elements', energized by a testosterone desire to 'transmute' base metals into gold, brewed a mythos of alchemy into modern physics and chemistry. Star-gazing astrologers became astronomers, as the biblical/pagan cosmology yielded to the observations of science. Alchemy commingled Christian, pagan and ancient Arabian myths, with astrology and folk traditions, but it gave rise to much 'usable' science.

The true alembic was the mind itself, as older explanations yielded to new powers of observation made possible by the development of new scientific instruments, and discovery of new earth elements.

Similarly astronomers found actual observation of the heavens yielded mathematical models of understanding that stood apart from older astrological assumptions. The new methods required careful and precise observations, with new instruments and methods. Yet it was less ambitious in ways than astrology had been. Whereas the new star science sought to explain the behavior and movements of the planets, moon and stars, the older system sought to explain the behaviors of men, the weather, according to the aspects of the stars. "'The soul of the newly born baby is marked for life by the pattern of the stars at the moment it comes into the world," [Kepler, Harmonics Mundi].

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz recognized that Kepler, despite his deep astrological roots, would be the man "the angels had watched that he might be the first among mortals to publish the laws of the heavens," [G. Leibniz (1689), 'Essay on the causes of the motions of the heavenly bodies']

Galileo, Newton, all were focused on the new means of understanding based on precise physical observations  Astrology, which had sought to link the destiny of human beings to the stars, surrendered its heavenly design to a new skeptical science. The destinies of men and movements of stars and planets must be independent. A link, if one existed, was too complex to prove.

Whereas modern science does not credit its historical roots, it does credit the past in naming. Kepler, who had distinguished himself as an astrologer and mathematician at an early age, and made many precise predictions regarding the lives of others, believed the earth possessed a soul. He continued his astrological work throughout his life and maintained that assertion.

Modern science has no easy answer to the problem of the soul. Science as a discipline, injured at birth, dodges the question entirely.

Science, constructed about observations with mathematics as its internal computer, eschewed notions of soul and spirit. Modern psychology persists in this bias, skirting a lack of hard evidence in experiments that have proved fruitless, experiments with extra sensory perception, remote viewing, telekinesis, and the existence of a soul. The researches of Carl Jung are considered para-science by the mainstream. Jung's mentor Freud, whose clinical orientation embraced a scientific method, and more particularly a clinical myth. He insisted that the doors to the universe would open solely through observation.

Again these modes of thought, observation, then hypothesis, then theory, obey the laws of scientific mythos, but clearly construct a process of understanding that is influenced and controlled by human actions. We are priests worshipping Gods of our own creation, still.

Embraced in the new scientific mythos is an assumption of control. We are masters of the universe, our technology is unprecedented, and our understanding is complete, or soon will be. What matters was the method for challenging paradigms, a way of thinking. What in the rules allows us to disrupt the rules?

Newton was right, until the last century. But even Newton recognized the deep gaps in this theories for describing the behavior of light and energy. His theories of motion and gravitation have required extensive modification. Without modification, Newton's laws of motion and gravitation, science admits are false.


The new science offers nothing concrete. All scientific endeavor is washed up onto a very desolate shore of unsupported theory. Theories all have limitations. Any one could be disproven without science itself being unseated as the supreme method. Again the dictums that no scientist will argue against, are the founding myths of science. Scientific explanations may change, but science won't.

Or can't.

This is a key idea - science was the process, the method for obtaining knowledge. We have not begun to question the process through which which scientific knowledge is revised. We question the models science uses, but not overarching doctrine of scientific method.

Experimental scientists propose methods to test and stress those models. Science took the supreme throne, as a methodology and a ritual, replaced 'Dios'. The Church reacted. Galileo was thrown into prison. The Protestants of the North initially tolerated science, the Catholic south, less so.

Eventually the new methods usurped the role of the church in determining outcomes in many fields of endeavor. Medicine, industry, agriculture, all heeded the new fruits of science, for guidance. Workers in science reported to the method, a new creed, which itself was used to cross-examine the results of experimentation and observation.

The scientific method has not been mankind's only successful endeavor. The development of  many human technologies, agriculture, ceramics, and steelmaking all reached high levels of attainment without science.

Processes of naming, give 'character' to scientific discoveries, naturally turned to older mythologies for those names. Whether the moons of Jupiter first viewed by Galileo, or the radiation emanating from an atom sketched out by Ernest Rutherford, the choice of names for new scientific discoveries is one area where subconscious 'freedom' exists.

Rutherford termed the first forms of radioactivity he observed, 'alpha' and 'beta'. That was his choice, his freedom. Yet it was in many ways a logical choice, stemming from the Greek alphabet, and the painful development of the alphabet over many millennia, by Mediterranean, Celtic and Vedic cultures. The alphabet indeed 'radiates', permeates, as does all media, whether the letters from the pages of a letter, a book, or a web page.

Do we make truth with our science, or do we use science to discover truth?

Scientists would argue that truths are there to be discovered and it matters not who discovers them, the results will be the same. Each scientist, no matter how brilliant his methods, would admit, that unlike the work of an artist, or a poet, tactics, and method were his or her only brilliant act that he or she may lay claim to. The results of one methodology, uncovered something that a later investigator would surely discover anyway. Truth was there to be found, like the ores of metal that exist in the ground.

So in the naming their finds, science tells a different story, and so completes the work of pagan mythologists. And through this act of naming, scientists act as repressed poets. Naming becomes a plea for artistic freedom. The workers in physics, chemistry and astronomy have mapped a mythos that is directly descendent from the myths of the Greeks and early Christian writers . . .

The list of subatomic entities discovered by 20th century physicists, . . . Baryons, Hadrons, Mesons, Quarks, Leptons, Bosons, in all their flavors, has grown quite large. The admission of string-theory into the Standard Model of Physics postulated the existence of yet another class of theoretical particles, such as the Wino and Zino, Gluino, Gravitino, etc.

With each iteration knowledge changes. For nearly a century we've accepted that nothing goes faster than light. Now this has been challenged. The ancients thought nothing was denser than lead. Now nothing is denser than a black hole, or the universe in the first instances of the Big Bang. It seems knowledge cannot be fixed to a defining ruler of any dimension.

One wonders whether we will ever find the end to such explorations. Through massive structures such as the LHC, or Large Hadron Collider, located on the French-Swiss border at a cost of $9 Billion, and other giant budget expenditures, scientists are unlocking the basic laws of matter and energy, at least how they appear to us from Planet Earth. Whether these laws will turn out to remain the same in all parts of the universe, or in all universes, remains to be seen.

The progress of learning about these basic bits of matter and energy, from hints of their existence, to defining their mass, energy, their 'spin', their lives, rates of decay, charge, etc. has taken the better part of a century. Each of the names given to these invisible entities was done without any predetermination. One cannot help but notice that a mythos of attraction is at work.

Back to my poem which deals with names, and the myth of attraction. It is true, in my poetry, I have a predilection for such topics! But the words are there, do you doubt them? Scientists named these particles freely. These names were their fiction, their story. What story, what invention, amidst science, which cannot admit to invention, only discovery.

In the current version of the poem, the Meson is a Mason, of the Masonic Order, and a Baron besides. He believes he is going to a proper club, one where they have all of his favorite things to eat, even though the menu does sound decidedly perverted. Going with the flow he mumbles his perversion to the waitress, who says, in effect, 'You've read me wrong!" and has him thrown out.

I wondered how the words 'meson' (fr. Greek 'middle') versus 'mason', could in one spelling have a pejorative working class connotation, and sound mildly racist, like 'mestizo' or 'half-breed', and on the other hand, with a simple letter change, stand for a presumably honest trade, or membership in the Masonic Order.

Now it is true that the name, 'Pion' is contraction of 'Pi Meson', deriving from 'small' and also 'pi', but were physicists paying attention when they named the quarks, 'top', 'bottom', 'charm', 'strange', 'up' and 'down'?

What about 'bosons', particles assigned with force characteristics (named after a famous Indian physicist, Satyendra Nath Bose.

The ability of a naming structure to 'flip' between states, from a mere Meson, to a Mason, or from 'boson' to 'bosom' shows that there is indeed a kind of quantum mechanics, as well as a class structure, 'mason', 'peon', 'alpha', 'beta', existing in words, and more so, in the letters that compose words. The aristocratic 'Hadron' has a crude anagram, 'hard-on'.

Letters are the fundamental building blocks of language and carry a mythology all their own. The sound of the word Meson /mɛsɒn/ works for either meaning, the 'mason', one who lays bricks. The basic particles are like bricks, the basic building bricks of nature.

As our civilization falters, unable to cope with major issues of overpopulation, and global warming, and environmental destruction, modern physics, like the civilization that has invented it, is to a degree, out of answers. I am not saying that physics has not been extremely valuable as a pursuit to humanity. It has. But it tells a reality as surely one-sided as 16th Century Catholicism. The myth of physics is coming to a close. It's at the peak of a trajectory, headed back down.

I'm not saying this is sad or lamentable. It's all part of the processes of growth and decay. I am sure that given man's propensity to evolve continually, that the mythos that replaces physics will, in a good many ways, be more accurate.

It is true that science, and physics, both claim to provide answers. Believing that the Pharaohs came from Orion, (not likely but still not disproven), didn't prevent the pyramids from getting built, nor was construction of the Parthenon made impossible by the pagan belief structure that supported it. Similarly science, physics and mathematics now lend, and defend, the belief structure that supports modern achievements, in particular advanced technologies.

If you are a physicist, actively researching real questions, you probably have thrown up your hands in disgust if you've gotten this far. Before you do, please believe me when I say that I first look to science for explanations of reality, but that when science does not have answers, I consider other sources. Logical no? Jung sought alchemical descriptors for tackling issues such as soul and spirit, and the unfathomable mystery of dreams. Science has nothing to say on these issues.

The logos, of science continues to sweep up all that is known into it's big loose sticky ball, which over time has gotten so massive, and become so riddled with inconsistencies, not to mention the foundation of mathematics that backs it up, that it is destined to fall apart into bits, which in turn, like pieces stolen from a cactus, can indeed sprout another mythos all over again.

Science has been extremely useful. It also has led humanity into a wholesale destruction of the planet. It functions as a tool, is cherished as truth, but in reality is a belief system and mythology no more or less than the systems of thought it replaced. A human being nurtured solely upon science is woefully incomplete. As much as we wish we could trust our science, it does not fuction in many areas of human endeavor.

Paradigm shifts are in the air, and when they occur might not be noticed by the most advanced researchers of the day. New mythologies are taking rise.

The LHC was built in order to better understand the universe, in exactly the same manner as the ancient Egyptians built pyramids in order to return their kings to it. The similarity of the two constructions are remarkable. Focusing a beam of light at enormous social cost, and at best, provide a flimsy model for understanding, in return. Most of all they require a belief system to coerce those paying with funds or labor, to contribute.

If this little poem, and essay, are critical of European culture, that is purposeful on my part. The seedbed for modern particle physics has been in Europe, Germany and the U.S., and England mainly, though major contributions have been made by physicists from Japan, Eastern Europe and India. The 'charming' names assigned to particles and bosons have a distinctly English 'flavor' overall.

What I mean to do with my all of my essays touching upon science, is to continuously insist that science is first and foremost a mythology, not a truth, yet one that fits the facts at hand. Does this mean that physicists are sex-obsessed? I leave that for you to decide. Freud, a physicist of the mind, was, and would have happily admitted it.

We will be succeeded by civilizations with differing though useful understandings of the cosmos, that are nonetheless radically altered from our own, and informed with ideas that we at best have only a sketchy notion of, such as, parallel universes, multiple dimensions, non-carbon based life forms etcetera.

The logical response of Logos, when such a shift does occur, will be to lock itself in a room and continue the work, much as astrology continues to function today, as an occasional amusement to a population driven by reason. It is doubtful that astrology will ever again produce a mind the equal of Kepler, who 'shifted' astrology into astronomy, and gave credence to the validity of the scientific methods that he used.

Astrology still has it's uses. Sooner or later we all find out the ocean we're swimming in is limited in size and scale, and instead is part of something much larger.

New vision, new paradigms.

Link to: 'Subatomic Meson

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