Classical Scattering and The Convergence of Science and Religion?
August 31, 2010 3 Comments
In the mid 1960s the theory of classical wave motion took a leap ahead with an incredibly simple idea. A formalism allowing a single family of equations to describe seemingly diverse phenomena like wave motion in plasmas and other conducting fluids, the propagation of light (electromagnetic waves) and sound in complex media, seismic waves, electric waves on transmission lines, even the movement of fish larvae in ocean currents.
Embedded in this formalism was a simple way to think about scattering. For example, when sound waves in air approach a solid object, they bounce off in various ways, depending on the shape of the obstacle. Or, if the medium in which sound propagates has complex composition which causes sound waves to change speed and direction from position to position, sound is “scattered.” But as the sound waves progress further from their source, far past the obstacle or media complexities, they settle down into a regular motion. This “perturbed” motion is not the same as what would have happened had there been no obstacle or complex media, but there is a predictable relationship between the two eventual forms. The description of this relationship is a fundamental issue in scattering theory.
The 1960s formalism allowed a unified treatment of scattering, a way to collectively about how perturbed waves of various types converge to their unperturbed “ideal” counterparts. Essentially, the perturbed motion takes place in a different “space” from the hypothetical ideal. The key is the very simple way one can relate these two spaces by energy concepts. It just depends on the point of view one takes. By looking at both situations in the right way, they become one. Eventually. After a long time.
For some reason as I was sitting here I began to wonder if my understanding of the science of this world and its study of physical and biological processes will converge with my religious understanding of the world and its purpose. After a long time, eventually, will these two processes converge, if they are properly viewed? I wonder.
Now, I see advocates of each point of view, to the exclusion of the other. A very good friend of mine, with whom I worked on various problems in biology, physics and mathematics, was a firm atheist. While he was among the finest, kindest people I have known, for him there was nothing beyond death. Immortality existed, so far as it was possible, in the memory of those left behind. When he died very unexpectedly some years ago, I wondered what his experience was like. Did his life-view somehow converge toward mine in those last seconds when he was alone in his hotel room? Will I meet him again? I believe I will. I don’t know what that meeting will be like, but I look forward to it. I have the feeling that when we both have the right perspective, we will see things the same way. Scattering. Convergence.
 Naturally, I’m thinking of Mormon theological positions here. Whatever that may be. I do believe in Joseph Smith’s visions of the broader context of reality.