Not This Again

A few hours ago, someone I know on facebook, apparently without any sense of irony, posted the following macro:

Now, I actually find this one to be fairly humourous, on account of the fact that it actually does sound very much like the sort of “revelation” that one might have after dropping too much acid. However, the person who posted it seems to think that the humour arises from the fact that the revelation is genuinely profound.

Now, of course, I’m not in the business of denigrating other people’s religious beliefs*; if you want to believe this mystical notion that existence is only a dream that the Universe is having, then more power to you; I certainly can’t prove you wrong.

However…I can’t help but notice the fact that first line in the lower caption (“all matter is energy condensed into a slow vibration”) makes absolutely no fucking sense whatsoever. Now of course, my brain has been assiduously trained to try to assemble words of this nature into some sort of coherent sense, and as such I find such pseudo-quantum word salad to be physically painful to read. I realize of course that most people who are not physicists are not going to respond in this fashion: but what I don’t understand is how it is even possible to read such a thing without at least wondering what it means.
If you are going to treat this as if it is a profound revelation, then surely you should at least be able to explain what it means! You should be able to answer any of the following questions:

  • What do you mean by “energy?”
  • In what sense is it possible for energy to be “condensed?”
  • When you say “a slow vibration,” do you mean it in the sense of a low frequency? If so, shouldn’t that mean that it has a long wavelength? If so, how can it be “condensed?”
  • Why should the fact that matter is interchangeable with energy have any bearing upon anything else that follows afterwards?

I have of course commented on this before: people are accustomed to recognizing certain words and constructions as sounding “science-y” and therefore worthy of respect. But I must admit, I do find it amusing to see the terminology of such a purely functionalist discipline being used, essentially, as decoration: as if by so doing you are somehow invoking its power. A very ironic display of magical thinking.


*Unless, of course, you are using those beliefs as a pretext for oppressing other people, in which case I consider it my moral duty to point out just how arbitrary or even counter-factual such beliefs actually are.


About thevenerablecorvex

I have the heart of a poet, the brain of a theoretical physicist, and the wingspan of an albatross. I am also notable for my humility.
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16 Responses to Not This Again

  1. David Yerle says:

    I blame this stuff on “What the bleep do you know?” People kept coming to me asking if it was true that quantum physics let you “choose your day” or that water formed beautiful crystals if you told it you loved it. It required a lot of patience of my part to answer without losing my temper.

    • I think it predates “What the Bleep do we Know” by a few decades. Really, I think that it’s rooted in what Richard Feynman called “Cargo Cult Science,” where basically make the fallacy that just by appropriating the aesthetic trappings of science, what they say *will be* science.

      • n8chz says:

        I always thought cargo cult science is simply being a consumer of science w/o being a producer (or even understander) of it.* I assumed cargo cult science is to science as cargo cult programming is to programming…

        * For example, w/o science there would be no television, and w/o television there would be no televangelists…

        • I think by cargo cult, he actually meant it in the sense of certain societies of pacific islanders who (supposedly) built things that looked like airstrips out of wood in the hopes that cargo planes would come land on them. Thus “cargo cult science” is adopting the outward appearance of science without really understanding how its interior mechanisms actually work.

  2. zinemin says:

    The “energy condensed to a slow vibration” is really funny. I still do not know how to react to statements like this, especially if they are made to me by people in real life and if you don’t want to offend them.
    Have you seen this?
    An optometrist and homeopath explains why in the formula E = mc^2 you can just “cross out” the mass, and end up with E=c.

  3. n8chz says:

    But I must admit, I do find it amusing to see the terminology of such a purely functionalist discipline being used, essentially, as decoration: as if by so doing you are somehow invoking its power.

    Power is that which is measured in watts.

  4. Lindsay says:

    I’m not a physicist, but I wondered how energy can be condensed too. I gave up on the rest.

    I’ve noticed that “energy” used in this way seems to imply “consciousness,” which I find mystifying. The energy I have dealt with (the kind contained within chemical bonds, that is released when those bonds are broken) certainly doesn’t have consciousness.

    The whole statement kind of reminds me of Firesign Theatre’s “A Child’s Garden of Grass.”

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