Queerer …

Wed, 13th Jun, '07

How this word came up is how I asked my immediate neighbours then to have a look at a talk delivered by Richard Dawkins. Strangeness, unusualness is what queer means, barring the sexual orientation connotation here. I could have linked the video here but I want you to go and check www.ted.com for more. Maybe you won’t find the video of the talk, but you will feel more benefitted if you actually did visit the site.
What got me from the talk is strangeness of observing things. The Sun revolved round the Earth??? …. because it looked like that???? well what do you expect to see if the earth were revolving round the sun. Pre-conceived half-matured notions. We, at the centre. We, know it all, or atleast can explain it. Like we do to our children folk. I think the children gave us this habit, of coming to us and asking something and our promptness to cook a story and telling something that has the least chance of being challenged.
When I was a kid, we had a science supplement delivered weekly alongwith the newspaper, the newspaper in question being, The Telegraph and the science section being KnowHow. Now I just wanted to go through the science section and waited 7 days to lay my hands on each new edition that came along. Now I may sound like Ross’ dream child, but I was like that. I kept them in my study room and that was my first library. All the supplements since they started it. That supplement was what ted.com is to today’s generation. It carried a cover story mostly revolving around quantum physics, astronomy, supercomputing and sometimes evolution theory. I always had to give myself a whole week with an edition explaining the ideas to me, any which way it could make sense to me. Nobody around was of much help. Now I may need only 6 days because I now know what beer is and invest the seventh day in it.
The most queer thing[is the use correct??] I had once read in it went something like this:
So you think you are free. You are free as a human being to do whatever you want to, or atleast think whatever you want to. Now there are no limits to the range of thoughts you can process and the swiftness with which you can move in and out of any thought. Impressive. But what is a thought?? Perhaps the state of some neurons in the brain processing some input. Who provided that input?? Some other neuron sure, cuz nobody else interacts with a neuron. And how do neurons communicate??? They send electrical pulses through links called synapses. And those pulses are generated by reactions occurring within a neuron. Now the stomach turner. If no amount of man-made-technology present can hold and make an atom “react” with another similarly held atom in a controlled manner, then does it in anyway imply that the chemical reactions within the neurons are essentially random??? We sure can’t control the gazillion atoms reacting every femtosecond within the neurons present in our brain, we can’t, and hence this implies that we can’t control our thoughts. So we aren’t free. If we can’t control our thoughts and still be having organized thoughts, either we are being controlled by something else or that our thoughts are actually random. Just that we have learnt to live with the randomness and those shortlived albeit random thoughts seem long enough that we feel we ponder over them . In the first case, it postulates the existence of god and the second case essentially dictates that we all are lunatics. In any case we aren’t reasonable free creatures. So where is that idea of freedom??
Now that was the first lesson in philosophy for me. That is how I explained it to me. This wasn’t science to me because science as I knew it then failed to explain this to me by any means. Years have passed and I know much better of what neurons and synapses do, but I am still to explain this to me someday in detail. Until then I will swear by this and whatever little sense I made out of it.


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