ABSTRACT WONDERING By Tom Slattery Humor me.

I worked among scientists in a variety of scientific labs as a lab technician, and I have written science fiction stories. But I am not a scientist, and the following is not about science. If anything, it is more like an essay out of eighteenth century natural philosophy questioning the tools and trademarks of twenty-first century physical science. It is also pointedly the kind of skeptical and hopefully constructive criticism that an average local yokel like me might offer if for no other reason than to have the feel of being a participant rather than an awestruck helpless bystander. I suspect that some of the appeal of Creationism and its Intelligent Design successor is an offer of participation in the great quest to understand some meaning for our lives through a modicum of comprehension of the mysterious universe in which we all live. Institutionalized science has grown beyond the grasp of even scientists in other scientific disciplines. Each branch of science has its own almost esoteric vocabulary and symbol manipulation and resultant almost cult-like membership. This membership sometimes seems to be gained as much from cult-like indoctrination starting in undergraduate studies and proceeding through post-graduate certification formalities as from the highly personal participation in questioning and seeking answers through experimentation that laid the groundwork for modern science. Add to that the destructive forces unleashed by science, from nuclear bombs to various metastasizing environmental disasters and threats, and there is reason to view science more with fear and suspicion than with hope for understanding. So the following is offered as a counterweight, an example of "participation" by a non-scientist, an illustration of a local yokel looking not only at the universe with questions but at inconsistencies in science itself with additional questions. And one need not surrender any of the awe or respect for the hard work that goes into scientific investigation to "participate." I read interesting things, and my mind gets overheated. There was an article on the first instant of the Big Bang and sub-nuclear particles called quarks in the online May 2006 Scientific American by Riordan and Zajc that set me to wandering through ancient and modern science. Here, briefly, are two highlights in the article. (1.) There is the "counterintuitive" behavior of sub-nuclear particles called quarks. They behave somewhat analogous to rubber bands in that the farther away they are stretched from each other they attract more and more. (2.) As with the now bypassed MIT Bag Theory, they behave like they might be nuclear bubbles in an inferred liquid universe. The Scientific American article also might infer a "liquid universe" of qluon-quarks creating a super low viscosity liquid in which everything else in o ur universe is immersed.

Pawel Mazur's new approaches to gravitation also might imply a "liquid" (well, "superfluid") universe. These inferences of a "liquid" universe might bring to some minds the ancient roots of science and cosmology as seen lingering in the biblical phrase at the beginning of Genesis: "…and darkness was on the face of the deep." Some students of the Bible as well as the history of science may be aware that the phrase appears to have had its origin in the cosmology of ancient Sumer, one of the focal points where civilization began 7000 years ago. Their cosmology revolved around a "liquid universe" and waters separated by a created flat Earth. On the surface, a saltwater sea surrounded their flat Earth. Below the surface was the Apsu, the freshwater sea on which their universe floated. Like good scientific observers they had noticed that if one dug down into the earth one got fresh well water. Presumably there was more fresh water be low where that had come from. Over the years the cosmology was modified, but the idea of a universal sea around and under the solid earth did not go away easily. Even Columbus had to deal with ideas and fears of a flat Earth when crossing the Atlantic as late as 1492. By the time that the Bible was finalized into the poetic King James Englishlanguage version and the above phrase in 1611, early modern science was beginning to take hold of the human imagination. Sixty-three years earlier in 1543 Copernicus had demonstrated that the Earth revolved around the sun. By 1609 Kepler had formulated his first two laws of motion. And by 1610 Galileo had mentioned his telescopic observations of nearby outer space. One might imagine that the very poetic and evocative "deep" in the beginning of Genesis was meant to be ambiguous enough to include both the ancient and dearly held meanings of deep oceans and the emerging but not quite yet articulated concept of "deep space." It took humans almost seven thousand years to get that far. How smart, really, are we? And what do we really have now? With gluon-quarks we may again be pondering a "liquid" universe? But even beyond this inappropriate mixing of ancient and modern scientific metaphors for the sake of raising a question might we be in need of a breakthrough down at the fundamental levels? Science, and modern cosmology derived from it, at times seems a flimsy patchwork of sometimes contradictory reasoning and resulting theories. We base modern physics on mysterious Newtonian "forces, as in "May the Force be with you!" But the classical Newtonian force of gravity is now in question due to the

"Pioneer Anomaly." The twin Pioneer spacecraft launched in the 1970s are not where they are supposed to be. There has been a surprising additional pull of gravity as they have gone farther out from the sun. And it is born out in movements of stars in outer galaxies. As one goes huge distances from gravitational centers, the classical gravitational constant seems to become "unconstant" and increase slightly. Not long after Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo came Newton and his theories, early discoveries and experiments with magnetism, electricity, and the nature of light. But there is something flimsy about this structure, too. Take electricity. No "magneton" or magnetic monopole has ever been found to correspond to the electron to complete the proposed electromagnetic symmetry. We go ahead and use the logic systems of electromagnetic symmetry anyway because they work. But is this really all that much different from ancient Sumerians digging freshwater wells and being reinforced that their cosmology is correct? The mass of the electron is defined by electromagnetic fields. The mass is found from how much it bends, or "weighs," in a magnetic or electric field after being shot into it by an electromagnetic impetus. Milikan's experiment may seem to include gravity, but it is the pull of gravity on his oil droplets and his experiment was designed to find the unit electric charge, which was then used to find electron mass. Electric or magnetic fields ultimately determine electron mass. Nuclear conjectures then draw on these electromagnetic assumptions and analogies of mass. The force of gravity is too weak in our Earthly environment to define an electron mass in terms of gravity so it is left to this. It sometimes seems that defining an electron mass in terms of electromagnetic fields is a like saying the sky is blue because it is blue. Perhaps someone clever has by now defined an electron mass in terms of gravitational pull on it by using the tremendous gravitational pull of black holes? I don't know. But the whole structure built on electron mass as defined by electromagnetic fields continues to be a foundation for a very large theoretical structure. Moreover, there is an inconsistency in the descrip tion of electromagnetic "waves" and electromagnetic "particles." In some ways these versions contradict each other. In addition, the behavior of electromagnetic "particles" -- photons -- in mirrors might raise some questions. This would be true of mirrors in which we see out lovely faces as it is for mirrors that mechanically make lasers work. Photons may have some mass. If so, then it seems curious that when approaching the surface of a mirror a photon decelerates from the speed of light to zero, reverses direction, and then accelerates to the speed of light again. And what about those curious "holes" in solid-state physics that make transistors work. Might there be something ever so slightly lacking in electromagnetic assumptions that forces scientists to use what might be a fudge-factor like "holes" to make things work out in the end?

And what about the lack of symmetry concerning electrons in the universe. Why are they almost wholly negatively charge d electrons in our universe? Where did all of the "positrons" go? Or for that matter, how come protons are positive? Where might the "negatons" have gone? Or consider this. The universe appears to have its limits. There are two fixed energy-related limits that are connected by Planck's constant (h). There is absolute zero and the velocity of light in a vacuum. We can't get colder, or in a way slower, than that, and we can't get faster than that. And can that latter be made to say, on a universal scale, that we cannot get hotter than that? There is no limit on velocity itself, as might be shown with the vertex of hypothetical infinitely long and closing scissors blades. The hypothetical closing vertex will eventually exceed the velocity of light. The limit seems to be on the "material" of light, the light quanta or photons and by extension to the material of our universe. What is there about the "material" of light, or energy, that it has this limit? The limits on temperature and velocity touch on the mystery of the three states of matter. Add energy to a solid and it usually becomes a liquid and less structured, and so on through gas and maybe plasma. It is intuitive that energy tears apart structure. But a solid could theoretically just expand in size and not change state to something with different properties. Intriguingly, each element changes state at a specific temperaturepressure. What bothers an average guy like me is that an elegantly simple theory or organizing principle that would aid our intuitive human understandings seems to be lacking, yet to be discovered, something like Newton's F = ma, or Einstein's E = mc2, or Mendeleev's arrangement of chemicals. Lacking this simplicity, science itself seems to have become clustered and compartmentalized. Things work as we know them now. Gravity theory has worked reasonably well to predict the movements of entities in space. Electromagnetism theory has expl ained light, electricity, and magnetic fields. It can all be stretched to predict. Possibly Ptolemaic cosmology, with Earth at the center of the universe, could be made to work and predict celestial movements if given enough computing power. Trapped inside this concept-box, we could think through and calculate the universe as it may appear to be, but perhaps not in the easiest way. The following is even more mindfully not science but is offered as an example of thinking outside the present box. Joseph Priestley's phlogiston was not quite accurate, but it set into motion thinking that led to modern chemistry.

Time, in our universe, intuitively does not seem reversible. Nor does the force of gravity as we experience it. For all the time-travel and anti-gravity devices of science fiction, there seems no observed instance of time-reversal or negative time, and there seems no instance of anti-gravity or negative gravity. Nor, for that matter does there seem to be negative energy or what might be called anti-photons. There is, for instance, no sun or star that is working almost like a negative Peltier-effect thermocouple and emitting particles of dark and cold rather than light and heat. And to revisit Planck's constant for guidance one more time, it could be seen as a factor to synchronize our arbitrary units of time and distance, seconds and meters (or worse), with "natural units" of time and distance. These imaginable "natural units" might hint at fundamental entities of some kind, not unlike present concepts of "elementary" nuclear and sub-nuclear particles. These fundamental entities would seem to have something to do with the limits of time and distance, time as seen in the cessation of time (motion) at absolute zero, time and distance as seen in the maximum limit of the velocity of light. In thinking outside the box let's start with a universe of granular time and gravity. My apologies to Star Trek fans, but let's call its basic elements "chronotons" and "gravitons." Time means nothing unless it has something to act upon. And the "substance" implied by "gravitons" means nothing unless it acts over time. So chronotons and gravitons essentially do nothing by themselves. But should a chronoton and a graviton pair up or interact in some way, then time and substance come into being. What a chronoton-graviton pair looks a little bit like is a photon. The chronoton gives the pair time to act in and the graviton gives time something to act upon. Our perceived universe of time and substance comes into existence. And it is all the more tempting to see this hypothetical pair as a photon because of the limiting time-factor of the velocity of light. It would almost seem as if the graviton half of the marriage prevents the chronoton from behaving with absolute freedom and flying off infinitely fast. Extending this a little more, perhaps "charge " is a threesome. The basic particle for a negative charge, an electron, could be two chronotons plus a graviton. Its opposite, the basic particle of positive charge, the proton, might be two gravitons and a chronoton. A stronger interaction between the two gravitons held together by the chronoton might be stretched to explain the proton's apparent larger mass, but

mass derived from something else than pull of an electric or magnetic field and therefore maybe a different number. This is all a different way of looking at things. It might not, for instance, be only chronotons and gravitons. Maybe we could have a holy trinity, chronotons, gravitons, and neutrinos? In the Chart of Nuclides, neutrons seem to be a glue holding heavier atoms together. But beta decay seems to show that neutrons are actually protons, electrons, and neutrinos. So neutrinos would seem to be the glue. And more and more neutrinos seem to be needed to glue heavier and heavier atoms tog ether. And imagination might extend this to a neutrino binding two or more gravitons together, perhaps with a chronoton, to make a proton. This is all wild speculation. It falls short of a scheme that makes sense and is workable. But I suspect that thinking outside of the box this way might lead someone to Sweden to pick up a Nobel medal some day. And even if not, what might people say about our science and resulting cosmology seven thousand years from now? Tom Slattery is author of both short and book-length posts on Scribd and several nonfiction and fiction books listed on book sites.