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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