Response to the thought experiment at the atomistic-level

Regarding the thought experiment at the atomistic-level, I received the following response a while back:

“Just a quick point on your atomic analogy of life and the space within it you mentioned in your biweekly. You’re right to point out that 99.9% of an atom is empty space and therefore perhaps 99.9% of our life is empty.

But what makes an atom so substantial are the bonds between neutrons and protons in the nucleus, and the bonds between the nucleus and the electrons that ring it. That’s why splitting an atom decimates cities, but throwing an atom is harmless.

Expanding on your point – maybe the nuclear bonds in your analogy are a metaphor for how strong and substantial relationships and bonds that we form in life are, against the material possessions that we think make our life so important but form – in this analogy – 0.01% of reality.”

My response as noted below:

Your take on the atom analogy is excellent. Thank you for reminding me of the importance of electrostatic interactions. I hadn’t considered it when I was ‘thought-experimenting.’

I’d like to point out that it is the empty space in atoms that gives rise to stable electrostatic interactions: if an electron is too close to the nucleus, electrostatic forces go to infinitum, thus, destabilizing the atom; if the electron is too far from the nucleus, then electrostatic forces becomes marginal, approaching 0. There is an optimum empty space that must exist in an atom for that atom to be stable. This is explained by Coulomb’s law (see visual on the left).

Accordingly, I give primacy to the empty space and not the electrostatic interactions for the simple reason that without the former, the latter ceases to exist in a stable manner. To expand your metaphor appropriately: I would say that empty space has equal, if not more, impact on human relationships then the actual bonds.

Kahlil Gibran captures the necessity of space in a relationship best:

“You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.

You shall be together when white wings of death scatter your days.

Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.

But let there be spaces in your togetherness,

And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another but make not a bond of love:

Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.

Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.

Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.

Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,

Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.

For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.

And stand together, yet not too near together:

For the pillars of the temple stand apart,

And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”

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About Ranjodh Singh
I'm currently an Ally in the Public Allies New York Apprenticeship (www.publicallies.org). Through the apprenticeship, I'm partnered with NYCRx (www.nyxrc.org), a nonprofit organization that improves the health of New Yorkers using public health interventions. I'm excited to continue serving, but doing so closer to health and medicine. I'm also enjoying NYC, which I find to be an enriching environment.

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