Maya series. Part 2: Physical maya (Macro > Micro)
This is the second part of a 4-part series. You can find the other parts here:
Part 2: Deep-dive into physical maya
Physical reality is the base upon which the perceptual reality is built. This reality deals with physical laws that govern different boundaries and is quite heavy on physics and chemistry. Within the context of human professions, scientist have been (and continue to be) pre-occupied with this reality. As such it is the reality that we understand the best (compared to the other two).
For the longest time there was no reason to believe that things were not as they seem. In other words, no need to even suspect the role of maya in the physical realm.
Scientists such as Galileo (early-17th century) were some of the earliest to start questioning whether we could truly believe our senses when it came to physical reality. While the earth seemed to be at the centre of the universe, there were other observations that were inconsistent with such a world view — hinting that our earlier theory about the physical world was incorrect.
In fact, the pursuit of truth (science being one branch) can be said to be an exercise in formulating a theory with the least number of inconsistencies. Science is always evolving because physical reality is always throwing inconsistencies at us.
By the time Newton was done with his work (early 18th century), a complete understanding of physical reality seemed within reach. Sure, our senses couldn’t be trusted, but there was still a belief in a consistent, intuitive reality that could be understood. For example, things such as calculus or gravity may be difficult topics for uninitiated, but they are (at least) intuitive and sensible seeming to practitioners.
There was no room for maya because the world seemed to fit our expectations.
Things start changing
In 1803, Thomas Young performed the first double-slit experiment that would go on to shatter this myth. Through this experiment we got a sneak peek into the world of sub-atomic physics — a place that seemed contradictory, unintuitive and almost non-sensical compared to anything we were used to in our daily lives.
A brief explanation of what a modernized version of the double-slit constitutes of is here. For the uninitiated, it is an absurd sounding experiment that defies all our expectations and yet is true.
In short, if we pass a ray of light through a cardboard with two slits on to a wall (behind the cardboard), something happens. Initially, we observe a particular pattern (on the wall) that hints at the fact that the light ray went through both the slits independently.
However, if we then try to actually observe the light going through either one of the slits, the pattern completely changes. The new pattern makes it seem as if the light went through only one slit. Not both.
If that sounds confusing, it is because it is. How does the light “know” that we’re trying to measure it? How does it change its behaviour without any conscious being present there? How does everything happen in real time without any time lags? These are all great questions. Ones we’re still not fully comfortable answering after 200 years.
Further down the rabbit hole
If anything, recent experiments are making for even more fantastical observations.
For example, the double-slit experiment has also been done at a galactic scale (literally). In this experiment, a quasar replaces the light source, a black hole replaces the double slit (by forcing the light of the quasar to go around either side — similar to two slits) and the earth becomes the wall (where we can observe the interference).
Natural readings (of light interference patterns) suggest that the quasar light passes through either side of the black hole. However, if we try to measure the path of the light by focusing on one or the other side of the blackhole, then pattern observed starts to disappear.
In theory this is exactly what happened with Young’s experiment as well in 1803 as well. What’s extra strange here (as if that were needed) are the galactic distances involved.
Remember that the light/interference pattern we’re seeing today was from light that passed along the blackhole millions of years ago (it takes light time to get to the Earth). It is very eerie that our decision to observe something today is having an impact on an event that occurred millions of years in the past. What does that mean for the direction of time (among other things)? Your guess is as good as mine.
In the 200 years since the double-slit experiment, scientist continue to find puzzling and almost-unbelievable facts about this sub-atomic world.
It doesn’t seem like we are close to getting done. In fact, the past century’s greatest scientific desire (at least in physics) has been to marry the theories of the micro world (sub-atomic) with theories of the macro world (the one we usually perceive). Either works well in isolation, but we still don’t know how they operate together to create a unified picture of the whole. The work carries on.
Maya to the rescue — getting shit done
As of now, we must get comfortable with the fact that what is “sensible” or “intuitive” in the realm of physical reality we deal with is only a half-truth — a maya of the macro world that punches above its weight (form human POV) in shaping up the physical reality.
The real picture is much more complicated — and perhaps we, as humans, may not even have the ability to understand much more than what we already have. And that is fine.
The reason that the macro-world seems to be more prevalent in our POV is because it seems to exist in order to “get shit done”!
If the macro world behaved similarly to the sub-atomic world, there’d be very little chance that I’d be able to type this thought & you would have a way to read it. The macro and the micro would be too chaotic for a certain type of experience to naturally emerge. In other words, the quality of interactions (depth) between different boundaries would be hugely impacted.
That is maya at play. In opposition to narrative 1, it is not just metaphorical. The macro world is a real phenomenon that you can touch — but it is not the whole truth. It is also not a demonic force, but keeps the forces of chaos/instability from taking over. A force that is doing as much “good” as anything else out there.
Let’s acknowledge maya & give it the respect it deserves!
Let’s keep going and see whether maya also exists at a level above — i.e., at the later where biological entities start perceiving the physical reality (of which they themselves are a part of).