(Roughly) Daily

“Nothing can better cure the anthropocentrism that is the author of all our ills than to cast ourselves into the physics of the infinitely large (or the infinitely small)”*…

And very eye-opening it can be. Jason Kottke reports on an article in the most recent issue of the American Journal of Physics with the understated title of “All objects and some questions.”

You just have to admire a chart that casually purports to show every single thing in the Universe in one simple 2D plot. [As the article’s author explain:]

In Fig. 2 [above], we plot all the composite objects in the Universe: protons, atoms, life forms, asteroids, moons, planets, stars, galaxies, galaxy clusters, giant voids, and the Universe itself. Humans are represented by a mass of 70 kg and a radius of 50 cm (we assume sphericity), while whales are represented by a mass of 10^5 kg and a radius of 7 m.

The “sub-Planckian unknown” and “forbidden by gravity” sections of the chart makes the “quantum uncertainty” section seem downright normal — the paper collectively calls these “unphysical regions.” Lovely turns of phrase all.

But what does it all mean? My physics is too rusty to say, but I thought one of the authors’ conjectures was particularly intriguing: “Our plot of all objects also seems to suggest that the Universe is a black hole.”…

Is the universe a black hole? (and other provocative propositions): @kottke on a recent scientific paper: “The Plot of All Objects in the Universe.”

* Julio Cortázar, Around the Day in Eighty Worlds


As we size up scale, we might recall that it was on this date in 451 that a different kind of attempt to reconcile the finite and the infinite began: the first session of the Council of Chalcedon (in modern-day Turkey) was opened. The fourth ecumenical council of the Christian church, it was attended by over 520 bishops or their representatives (making it the largest and best documented of the first seven ecumenical councils). It was convened by the Roman emperor Marcian to re-assert the teachings of the ecumenical Council of Ephesus against the heresies of Eutyches and Nestorius— whose teachings attempted to dismantle and separate Christ’s divine nature from his humanity (Nestorianism) and further, to limit Christ as solely divine in nature (Monophysitism).

The Council succeeded in that task. As Jaroslav Pelikan characterized their findings:

We all teach harmoniously [that he is] the same perfect in godhead, the same perfect in manhood, truly God and truly man, the same of a reasonable soul and body; homoousios with the Father in godhead, and the same homoousios with us in manhood … acknowledged in two natures without confusion, without change, without division, without separation.

… which marked a turning point in the Christological debates. But it also generated heated disagreements between the council and the Oriental Orthodox Church, which saw things differently– a contention that informed the separation of the Oriental Orthodox Churches from the rest of Christianity… and led to the Council being remembered as “Chalcedon, the Ominous.”

Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon, 1876 painting by Vasily Surikov (source)
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