Here is a theme I alight upon now and then, both in and out of meditation, and often during my morning walks by the Pacific: If it moves, it must be alive.
Or, of course, from another perspective, what moves that which moves is most certainly alive.
And that would include atoms and quarks—they very much move.
At that, however, comes common sense scrambling to his feet with a handful of cents worth of both-his-feet-on-the-ground opinion: We know, we have known ever since childhood, since first grade, since ever, that stones and water and air are not alive, not in the least. The proof is in the very stillness of anything inanimate—which of course is the word for stones and water and air and which word, of course, with its whole being and its roots means that very thing: not life or soul.
But here’s the thing: I read somewhere that if the nucleus of an atom were the size of a grain of sand, and you placed it in the center of the field of an enclosed football stadium, then the circling electrons would be as far away as the ceiling of that structure—mainly space then, these atoms. And the electrons, whatever else they are or do, they move, I mean they really, really move. There is nothing in-animate about them at all.
Yet, yet, yet, no one has ever seen an electron.
Why is this? one wonders. And the helpful scientist answers: Seeing an electron is not possible for they are incredibly tiny and have extremely low mass; and, besides, they move extremely fast—some estimate that they travel 2,200 kilometers per second, which in enclosed and tiny space like their, is not bad—and due to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, lovingly acronymed as HUP, their exact position at any one time is precisely 100% unknowable. We can only approximate their position to within a certain Uncertainty. And, of course, being unable to acquire an exact position of any one electron makes it impossible to view if for no other reason that you don’t know where it is.
And that aside, their mass is so low that even the smallest interaction with them (involving, say, a photon or two bouncing off of them to then hit our retinas in order to make them visible) will send them flying off so that we now have an even worse understanding of their exact location.
So, bottom line, due to the HUP and their size and speed, there is no way to actually see electrons and that is why scientists use the electron cloud model of the atom these days—because we only know where electrons are likely to be, and never where they actually are. The electron cloud is really just a probability field.
In summary then, an electron is something we’ve never seen moving at fantastic speed we don’t know where.
Perhaps, methinks, an electron is simply a very secretive life form which thinks its whereabouts and appearance is none of our business.
I remember from physics class that the parallel was drawn between the macro-universe: planets, suns, and the micro-universe: protons, electrons.
Doesn’t it all boil down to relative size?
Were we the size of the entire universe, the Sun would more than likely be unobservably small to our gigantic eyes, and the circulating earth—which moves around the sun at not exactly 2,200 km per second, but at the still respectable 30 km per second—less observable still. I don’t think that giant eye would stand a chance of seeing Earth, much less its cities and citizens.
So, what if we were one billionth the size of an electron? What cities and citizens would be see on its surface? Could we live there? Maybe every single electron in the universe is populated. Who’s to say no? No one’s ever seen one.
Perhaps there are people on this electron’s Akron, Ohio that look up at and wonder about canal-like formations on a nearby (though still very distant) reddish neighbor electron.
Life can be, I’m sure, incredibly large, size-of-the-universe large, and by the same token can be, I’m equally sure, incredibly small, say electron small, or a billion times smaller.
An extra-universe giant might mistake the entire universe for a pebble in the road and kick it, same as we might kick a pebble that houses untold trillions of electron worlds, upon one of which, this very moment, sits some guy wondering about the size of his universe and his electrons.
It’s all relative.
So, are stones and water and wind alive? For me, the jury has definitely not come back into the room yet.