Patterns Governed by Probabilities
Remember the poster of the Periodic Table of the Elements in school? Those are all the different kinds of atoms that make up everything in the universe. There is a very small and finite number of them. To make something, you just put these atoms together in different patterns. Glass is made of silica, which is silicon dioxide, or one silicon atom and two oxygen atoms. Put those together and you get glass. Water is H2O, or two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. People are made of a bunch of different atoms but mostly we’re made up of oxygen (65%), carbon (18%), and hydrogen (10%). We are made of atoms; we eat them, they make us grow bigger. We breathe them in, we exhale them. We die and our atoms go on to make up other things. I think of the universe as a giant sandbox and atoms are just the sand. You make a little figure in the sand and that’s me. You smash the figure, I die, and then you make another figure and that’s someone or some thing else. We are all just patterns. Trees and monkeys and rocks are all made up of the same stuff, just put together differently in different patterns.
Next to the poster of the Periodic Table on the wall was a poster of an atom. It was wrong. That’s not what atoms actually look like. It is difficult to visualize things from this micro world of subatomic particles using comparisons of the macro world in which we live. We’ll say that atoms are electrons flying around a nucleus like planets around stars but these particles are not physical balls we could grab and hold onto. It can be handy to think of them this way but it’s not scientifically accurate. We try to describe an atom and the scale of the particles that compose it by blowing up the atom to the size of a modern sports stadium. The nucleus can be represented by a marble on the 50-yard-line and the electrons are whipping around the outer seats but again, this isn’t how things actually are. What’s really happening is that there is a higher probability that something will interact with the nucleus within a certain radius – in this case, the radius of a marble. We think of the electrons orbiting the nucleus in discrete ‘shells’ but what’s more accurate is that these electrons have a higher probability of interaction within these certain ranges a certain distance away from the nucleus. All of the quantum world works this way. Everything’s based on probabilities.
So I guess what the universe comes down to is patterns governed by