essential elements: particles of study

I feel like I’ve been at a lull as of late; too much thinking and striving for concrete or complete thoughts, which always results in stifled activity. My head’s at capacity and nothing is being created for anxiety over spark like thoughts (a flash | quick burn). So I turn to my creative catalyst: wandering the aisles of Meijer in flickering fluorescence and listening to Radiolab like voiceover narration to my daily activities.

Radiolab’s short Solid as a Rock, interviews Jim Holt on his book Why Does the World Exist?, and works to push on our conception of the universe as solid/physical matter to consider the material stuff of the world as less solid – what we can put our fingers on resembles something more like a thought, a mathematical equation, or an ethereal cloud instead of fitted blocks. Holt explains “whether, at its very base, the universe is made up of solid bits and pieces of stuff…or a cloudy foundation that, more than anything else we can put our fingers on, resembles thoughts and ideas.” He goes on “If you start slicing and sleuthing in subatomic particle land — trying to get to the bottom of what makes matter — you mostly find empty space. Your hand, your chair, the floor…it’s all made up of mostly of nothing. So what makes it all take shape?”

My mind sparked. I wondered if this might be a useful way of thinking/questioning disciplinarity (what defines the field/discipline of rhetoric and composition) – something I often find myself questioning as a newcomer. Thought embers:

Our world(s) as appearance – thought, not substance – so what is our truth/reality made of?

What is the most essential nature of a rock? A thing? Or something harder to pin down…a  thought? What makes a rock a rock? When you hear the word rock, what do you imagine? And why this thing with these characteristics? Where does thing material and thing semiotic end?

Cutting up the stuff of reality into such itty bitty pieces it can go no further – atoms (the work of atomists). Is this how we think of our field’s materiality? And if not, if we look at larger assemblages of these small atom components, what is lost?

Gravity – what is the mechanism that mediates? Does a field need something that acts as gravity? Gravity created by the equation itself holds our matter together – but nature/reality has to be made of hard stuff, elements. Or at least an apparent solidity. What are the effects on what we can/can’t do?

(A connection, follow the link) Quantum Field Theory of Physics: a field is a stream of information through spacetime – where particles might be. We can’t see the thing itself, only the effect it has on other things – we can’t observe it, so how are we illustrating/understanding it to exist?

Micro/macro: big data and the minutia – what effects do they have on one another? What can we learn from them? What can be observed (and how)?

And what of time/situation? How do ideas shift, decompose, remain, fade?

In the field are little/big events, hiccups/hydrogen bombs of energy – stuff comes into existence. And then what? We need networks, energy transitions/traces (balanced equations?), shadows of ideas (Roland Barthes – that which has been). Structure without rigidity.

Reality is a flux of information.

The cosmos is ultimately a concept: the necessity and the difficulty in definition. I find myself thinking again of Lakoff and Johnson’s Metaphors We Live By and how we often conflate things/materials/matter with language/semiotics by metaphor or symbol referent.

Contemplating disciplinarity in terms of field, but in the sense of quantum theory: what are we terming field? What is this based on? Is this observable? Can there be individual (or small collectives) fields? Are these subfields?

What is the most essential nature of a field?

What remains to study: the materiality of thought, of concept, of construction and the drawing of circles and borders.

David Tong: Lectures on Quantum Field Theory, University of Cambridge


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