Saturday, July 12, 2003

The imperfect mirror

if you make something perfectly symmetrical and then give it a small fracture you have an almost-symmetry. The nature of these things is that whereas in symmetry the focus is on the whole, now the focus is on the fracture.

Because we are all different, we are fascinated and consumed by different problems. Sometimes our individual obsessions may even define us. We are a unique accumulation of obsessions. One of my obsessions has always been the imperfect mirror.

The first place I discovered imperfect mirrors was in physics. Our universe is riddled with slightly fractured mirrors and yet physicists generally do not make a big deal of this.

Take for example, reversal in time. Forget all that entropy stuff you have been fed. The truth is that even particle processes are not reversible in time. Well, actually, most processes are with the exception so far .. of one! "Only the weak nuclear force appears to violate this symmetry, and this so far only in the behavior of the neutral kaon."

This is a good example of a fractured mirror. The same is true with actual mirror symmetry. If you held up a huge mirror to the universe, all physics you see happening in the mirror (objects falling under gravity etc) would be physics that happens here too. Well, once again with the exception of just one sort of interaction "Mirror image of a charged weak process has never been observed."

I have always understood, I think, that only imperfect mirrors can exist. Unbroken symmetry is an ideal only, a construction of our minds. For us to know left from right, light from dark, past from future, a transgressor must exist who by crossing the boundaries of the mirror brings the whole thing into definition. We can only tell light from dark because of the shadows.

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