Internet In this talk John Lloyd points out that the closer we look at anything, the more it disappears, because matteris made of energy andyou can’t see energy. SUDHAMAHI REGUNATHAN

John Lloyd’s inventory of the invisible has a fascinating animated version, both on TED talks. Lloyd “helps make some of the cleverest television in UK”. That is a modest introduction to the speaker who has authored some “funny” books.

“The question is what is invisible?...Everything that matters except every thing and except matter,” says Lloyd. “We can see the stars and the planets but we can’t see what holds them apart or what draws them together...with matter as with people we see only the skin of things...we can’t see what makes people tick...and the closer we look at anything, the more it disappears. In fact if you look really closely at stuff...there isn’t anything there. Electrons disappear in a kind of fuzz and there is only energy. And you can’t see energy.”

That profound statement, almost like an exposition of the philosophical concept of nothingness, takes you further, “... one of the interesting things about invisibility is that things that we can’t see we also can’t understand. Gravity is one such...Consciousness, another. Isn’t that incredible that we can’t read each other’s minds?...we have no idea how consciousness works...another thing: we can’t see the human genome...when they started delving into the genome, they thought it would probably contain around 100,000 genes. We now think there are likely to be only just over 20,000 genes in the human genome...”

The animation lightens the gravity of Lloyd’s thoughts, but also makes them more powerful. “The stars by day. I always think is fascinating. The universe disappears. The more light there is, the less you can see. Time. Nobody can see time...there is a bog movement in physics to decide time doesn’t really can’t see the future, obviously. And you can’t see the past, except in your cannot remember what happened to you earlier than the age of two or three, “says Lloyd adding, “and that is great for psychoanalysts because otherwise they’d be out of a job...because that’s where all the stuff happens that makes you who you are.”

Lloyd makes you think.” cannot see the grid on which we hang...every cell is replaced, taste buds, every 10 days or so, liver and internal organs take a bit longer, a spine takes several years, but at the end of seven years, not one cell in your body remains from what was seven years ago...the question is who, then, are we? What are we? What is this that we hang on, that is actually us?”

Atoms you cannot see, gas you cannot see, you cannot see light, you can only see what it hits. “I find that extraordinary, not to be able to see darkness, not to be able to see light. Electricity...we can’t see that. Galaxies, 100 billion of them estimated in the universe. How many can we see? Radio waves,” says Lloyd with another loaded statement coming next. “The biggest thing that’s invisible to us is what we don’t know. It is incredible how little we know. Thomas Edison once said, “We don’t know one percent of one millionth about anything.”

As Lloyd makes his thought provoking point he jokes about not being able to see the point. “What’s another thing you cannot see? The point. You can’t see a point. It is by definition dimensionless, like an electron, oddly enough. But the point is there are only two questions worth asking. ‘Why are we here?’ and ‘What should we do about it while we are?’” And to help you I’ve got two things to leave you with from two great philosophers, perhaps two of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century, one a mathematician and an engineer and the other a poet. The first is Ludwig Wittgenstein who said, ‘“I don’t know why we are here. But I’m pretty sure it’s not in order to enjoy ourselves.’ And secondly and lastly W.H. Auden who said, ‘We are here on earth to help others. What others are here for I’ve no idea’.”

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