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No. 32: Mar-Apr 1984

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Thou canst not stir a flower, without troubling of a star

This poetic title from Francis Thompson tries to express the unity of nature from the smallest to the largest realms. One characteristic of the realms even smaller than that of the flower is the quantization typical of the subatomic world -- that is, microscopic nature. At the human locus in the dimensional scheme of things, quantization is difficult to detect outside the physics laboratory.

Daniel M. Greenberger, perhaps with the above title in mind, asked whether quantization might not also exist in astronomy and cosmology -- that is, macroscopic nature. He has applied the principles of quantum mechanics to nature in-the-large where gravitational forces are dominant. (Gravitational forces are negligible in the subatomic world.) His math cannot be reproduced here. Suffice it to say that Greenberger has applied his findings to the absorption lines of quasars and the elliptical rings surrounding normal galaxies. Now, quasars and galaxies are far from atomic nuclei, being vast assemblages of diverse matter. Somewhat surprisingly, his equations are successful in predicting some features of these two macroscopic entities.

(Greenberger, Daniel M.; "Quantization in the Large," Foundations of Physics, 13:903, 1983.)

Comment. At the very least it is mindstretching to find that complex systems with millions of stars may exhibit quantum effects. With some relief, we note that like microscopic quantization effects, the consequences of macroscopic quantization will be hard to discern in our comfortable "smooth" world.

From Science Frontiers #32, MAR-APR 1984. 1984-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987