As I give finishing touches to my upcoming book “What Does Jupiter really do?” it strikes me that this blog has featured almost all of its themes in the last ten years. Of course, in the book form those themes have been expanded considerably, particularly my ever growing incomprehension of the universe.
I understand less about the universe now than I ever did. Making sense to its inhabitants is not even remotely part of the universe’s mandate. Nevertheless, I do grapple with that theme quite a bit in this book. The overarching mood of the book is one of amused incomprehension about everything in the universe—from the quantum world to the galactic world and everything in between.
One is frequently tempted to say “It is what it is” looking at the staggering scale of things but one is not satisfied. One of the themes that continues to captivate me after 45 years of reading about it is the idea that at the quantum level we bring a particular state into being by measuring/observing it. In the quantum world everything exists as a soup of probabilities. Things are this, that and the other all at once until we choose this or that or the other by observing it.
Throughout the book I bear in mind the deep philosophical pointlessness of the universe. At the same time though I am painfully aware of the pointedness of the human existence. Unfortunately, at the human level and scale the universe is not pointless. Let me illustrate how. If a check of an amount more than what is in my bank account comes from clearance, it will bounce. That bounce will cause very real unpleasantness, which is not at all pointless because one feels the point of it while explaining it to the creditor, not to mention either the overdraft or insufficient fund fees that bank rather perversely levies on me. Think about the absurdity of paying money for not having money.
I also attempt to juxtapose the oppressive mundaneness of my individual existence with the truly awesome universe. In this context I refer to the great 15th century Indian poet-philosopher Narsinh Mehta’s brilliant poetic construct about how the universe seems to be creating its own spectacle for its own edification. The trick is to become a part of the spectacle and not seek any purpose or meaning outside it.
The more I think about this book, the more it strikes me that it could well turn out to be a rather quirky and unconventional memoir without consciously trying to write it as one. As of now I am looking at a September release.