|The physics of the Large Hadron Collider explained at Caltech's Beckman Auditorium, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013 (Wisdom Quarterly/Wells)|
|Prof. Harvey Newman, Watson Lecture (WQ)|
The growing field of particle physics is homing in on kalapas, the subatomic "particles of perception" the Buddha pointed out when he discussed ultimate-materiality.
Buddhist physics speaks of qualities of materiality (rupa) rather than tangible material realities as such. These subatomic building-blocks are more like aspects of blocks rather than amorphous blocks. These "elements," qualities, or features of material are spoken of as indirectly perceptible in profoundly elevated states of consciousness during meditation on the Four Elements (which, it cannot be emphasized enough, are not elementary particles but fundamental qualities of kalapas) and other Abhidharma practices.
|Desktop Buddha (Koba53/flickr.com)|
But how could something that moves so fast ever be tracked by conscious-awareness? This is a great question! The Buddha could not come up with a simile for the speed of ultimate realities and settled for the time it takes a speeding arrow to traverse the shadow of a tree as a poor approximation. (This is a very inferior example that merely suggests something far too fast to even take note of; we would never see it coming).
Conscious awareness cannot take note of the arising-turning-passing of such realities. Fortunately, however, there is something faster than the fastest particle, faster than the fastest transformation, faster than the fastest material process. And that some-"thing" is consciousness (cittas, mind-moments).
This psychological or conscious-process can track the material-process because there are more impulsions (javanas) transpiring within a mind-moment than the phases of a kalapa, which lasts a moment. Having recorded it, one can play the track of a kalapa-process back, slowed down, for review in the mind-door. This when done correctly can lead to liberating insight in that it reveals the Three Marks of all phenomena. They are radically impermanent, hopelessly unsatisfactory, and utterly impersonal.
Performing this "reviewing" allows the successful meditator, having emerged from mind/heart intensifying and purifying absorptions (jhanas), to perceive the impossible -- to directly know-and-see physical reality. One does not take it on faith and is not liberated by faith, but rather by wisdom. The truth itself sets one free, for how could the heart/mind continue to cling to phenomena marked by such characteristics as one has just seen and can see again if one begins to doubt. Seeing replaces believing with complete certainty.
What does physics offer (besides lots of math homework)? Dr. Newman quoted Einstein, the post-lecture Q&A period, that it is far more amazing that things are comprehensible. That is the unlikely thing, and how amazing that math describes anything. Science is trying to make the subjective experience of the perceiver a universal, replicable experience. I don't know about you, but I've never replicated anyone's physics experiment, anyone's data, anyone's logical deductions. I take it on faith, I take it on authority, I take it as "handed down" by jargon-uttering elders in black robes and mortarboards.
|The secret is the micro looks like the macro, but that's as far as it goes. Look here, look there, read Plato. And still until you SEE-AND-KNOW, it's all for naught anyhow.|
Professor of physics Harvey Newman has been searching for signs of dark matter, extra dimensions, and the elusive Higgs particle at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland.
|Close up of one slide in a dense and extensive PowerPoint presentation (WQ)|
- NOTE: The entire slide presentation is available at his website or through personal email (faculty at caltech.edu); however, photos and recording were not allowed during the presentation. Ours were taken before and after. Maybe the next Watson lecture on social science will be better: