When I was in year 7 (age 14), I met a Mr James Brown one of the most important figures in my early life. Mr Brown was the schools extension studies teacher. One of the best teachers at the school, this is just because he saw me as a fellow human, not just a student. This is a hugely important thing so all you teachers take note. At this stage, I only visited him during lunch and after school. Probably due to my new found love with computers, I studied electronics with him. Well I studied electronics by myself well he watched me and kept me out of trouble. This is the way education should be done.
A year later and now this shit starts to get interesting. One day while hanging out with Nick Smiley, and Angus Rempster (two kids at school with me, both of who are very book smart) and I was talking about Latin and how much I hated it. They suggested that I was to join their philosophy class, taken by Mr Brown, during CLASS time. I didn’t even know what philosophy was, but being a student who hated the schooling system, I saw a way to get out of class, so I took it up. This really started my quest for the meaning of life. Yet, at this stage and for many, many years after this I thought there was no meaning to life. Life was just life.
I didn’t pay too much attention to what was going on. After all, the only reason I was there was to miss out on a Latin, English or whatever the scheduled class was. I really wish I paid a bit more attention for the sake of this book mainly, but I didn’t. I could look it all up on Wikipedia (or the internet) but who can be bothered with that. I know I don’t want this to become a reference textbook. So anyway, I’ll just go through what I can remember about this class, because it all leads into the physics after all.
I remember Mr Brown saying that the ancient Egyptians used to think light came from your eyes. Or maybe it was the ancient Greeks, but either way it was pretty smart considering when you close your eyes you can’t see anything. Yet, terribly, terribly incorrect. So that’s about it from them, well my memory of them at least. I’m fairly sure they did some other things tho. So in the ancient Greek… or Roman times and probably back to the Egyptians (god I get them all confused), they thought the world was made of the four elements: water, wind, fire and earth. I should probably explain what an element is. If you start with a pie, and cut it into two pieces, then divide one of the slices into two again, and repeat this process until you can’t cut it anymore. What you’re left with, is an elementary particle, or an atom. Everything and everyone is made of HEAPS of elements.
With these four elements, fire was opposite to water and earth was opposite to wind, they thought they could make anything using these four elements. This seems completely wrong, and well it is, but what were they meant to know? They probably thought the earth was flat at this stage. Not that we should hold that against them, how were they meant to know?
Ah crap, I just realised I was talking physics not philosophy, but either way, this was their thoughts and thoughts are more philosophy than physics; physics is things that could be/have been tested. Philosophy is stuff that makes sense when you think about it. Well that’s my definition, and I’m sticking with it.
So anyways, back to philosophy. There was some guy named Plato in ancient Greece, he was probably the first ever philosopher. Well, the first ever philosopher that could write his ideas down; even if they were written down as Socratic dialog. Socratic dialog is like a script for a playin which all his philosopher mates got together at a party, and were getting ‘off their faces’ and talking about whatever. Whilst this is a good form of communication, no-one knows the truth about where these ideas came from. Unless it was a factually accurate script, in which case ill shut up.
Plato’s big idea, which I recon is a beaut (a fantastic idea), was called ‘the cave theory’… I think, you might wanna check that out in your favourite search engine, which I would highly recommend you do for everything in this book. I don’t know anything and I wouldn’t want anything to be quoted as fact. I’ll shut up about that now. Nah really it’s gotta stop, but I mean it. Anyways, in his cave theory.. hmm how am I gonna explain this.
Imagine you’re an all-knowledgeable beast, there isn’t anything you don’t know. Yet you can’t remember any of it (like me with my computer passwords).Anyways you’ll only ever see a shadow on the wall, you’ll never see the true object itself. So for instance you’ll see a shadow of the ‘higher power’ love, and that will remind you what love is. Or you’ll see the shadow of the ‘higher power’ me, and that will remind you of what I am. If that makes sense, you don’t learn anything new, you just remember something you’d had forgotten since your birth. Imagine Plato coming home from school “What did you learn today Plato?”, “Nothing, I just remembered a whole heap of shit”. The best thing about this, is it works in your mind. So yup, I’m pretty sure its philosophy.
Speaking about memory I just want you to know, my memory of who discovered what, is not the best. Matter of fact, my memory’s not the greatest. Full-stop. Many people have said over the years “he’s got the memory of a fish” or “he’s only good a breaking things”. Both of which is probably pretty true. I remember breaking a LOT of stuff during my life. Come to think about it, I didn’t pay for at least half of it. So to all the people I’ve broken stuff of, I’m sorry. Yet, I’m going to do what the Australian government did to the aboriginals (our natives). Say sorry, but not give them any compensation. Once again, I’ve gone completely off topic. I have a feeling that’ll happen a lot in this book, but this is my story so you can just deal with it.
So back to back in ancient Greece, they didn’t have much to do except for sit around taking about all the stuff that puzzled them. So a whole heap of philosophers lived then: none I can remember the names of, we’ll off the top of my head anyway. However, I can remember this guy called Zeno. He was weird, we’ll I thought he was weird. Just like Descartes(who I’ll get to in a bit). I used to think he was an idiot, but now I see what I see, he might have caught a glimpse of something a lot deeper. Just like you might think of me as an idiot because at this stage of this book, that’s what I’m thinking. I’m hoping with time our minds will change; but I’m not holding my breath.
Back to Zeno, he had this philosophy that you, me and everyone in-between; we are all one. Incredibly difficult to imagine, this is probably because I’m not you and you not me, and that’s all good it’s our instinct to think like that after all. To explain his theory he came up with a paradox which I will now call Zeno’s paradox, just like heaps of people before me. So his paradox is simple.
Say you are standing on the other side of the room from me, but you wanted to come over to me and give me a hug. You would obviously have to cross the room, but this is where it gets interesting. You would obviously have to get to the half-way point and any idiot could tell you that. So you get to the half-way point. Then we start this process again. So there must be a half-way point between you and me now. And this process can go on forever, and there for, you could theoretically never actually get to me, so we could never hug! This makes me sad. So he is saying space is an illusion and we are all one, and this seems counter-intuitive and incorrect. For that reason I, like the rest of the scientific community, chose to leave this idea here, in the ‘ideas’ bin. Even if that’s what a few artists still wish to think. Yet it is still interesting to think about, if you take the physics of Planck out of the equation.
Just in case you have no idea who Planck is, which I’m guessing most of you out there will have no idea who he is. So think of your TV screen, when you get really close to it like you did when you were a kid, you will notice that the screen is made up of tiny red, green and blue dots (RGB dots). Well each one of these RGB dots is a pixel. Planck imagined everything could be made up of these ‘dots’. So he applied it to the world and came up with something known as the ‘Planck length’. This means, that anything smaller than a Planck length does not make sense to the universe. Also known as the thing that fucked up Zeno’s paradox.
I also got this wicked (really good) disease; Osgood–Schlatter’s disease (or Aussie-Slackers disease as my mother called it). Oh the joy it bought me. It was in my knee, and it was where the bone at the top of my shin hadn’t grown fast enough and the muscle was then pulling my skin or some shit. Anyway, who cares why I had it, I thank god, had it. This meant I didn’t have to do sport classes for a whole semester. Instead I used to go to the library and do homework. Ahh, it was wonderful. Anyway come the end of the semester I received a report card for my scheduled classes, of which sport was one. Apparently I did really well and tried hard, and participated in every activity. Idiots. I only attended class once, and that was to hand the teacher a note telling him I won’t be attending it anymore. Anyway, I thought I’d add that in because I’m probably boring you. Yet, your still here with me, so thanks.
I think I’ll finish up my philosophy class after this little bit of Rene Descartes. Who was a crazy person, but sometimes the most useful ideas come from crazy people. Like Nicola Tesla who we’ll get to in about 10 years [as in when I’m about 25, yes, in this book.. later on]. Matter of fact, I don’t even remember learning about him in philosophy class. The first time I think I’d heard of him was in year 9 from my French teacher, probably due to the fact he was French, like breadsticks and frogs legs. Then the second time I heard about him that I can remember was when my good friend Stella pointed it out to me once I figured out that it was all just time. But anyway I’m going to put it in now because it ties in with philosophy.
Actually now I think of it this is reason why schooling sucked. They taught us about all this stuff, but they never told us about where it all came from. They taught you that a2+b2 = c2 was used to find the hypotenuse of a right angle triangle, but they never taught you about why that was. They taught you that pi=3.1415… but never told you how that was figured out. They taught English instead of communication. Of which English, because I live in an English speaking country, is a very big part. It’s all to do with communication, not English! Arghhhhh! I’ll come back to this later on but just know that it makes me heaps angry.
"The real problem in speech is not precise language. The problem is clear language. The desire is to have the idea clearly communicated to the other person."
So back in the day, they used to teach (a x a)+(b x b)=(c x c) to find out the hypotenuse of a triangle. But then this 16th century philosopher call Rene Descartes came along and came up with that little number up the top e.g. 32(the number 2 in that). That little ‘power-of’ thing, well that was invented by Descartes. Along with the basic laws of reflection and refraction, as well as the Cartesian plane, that’s what you plot graphs on to. Basically he setup a backbone for all the sciences. And once again, that annoys me about school: the fact I wasn’t taught this.
So anyway, Descartes got a bit crazy, but not that crazy. So what Descartes did was kinda weird, because he was searching for the ‘soul’. Which I and almost every scientist thought that was fuckin ridiculous as the soul didn’t exist. In his move Descartes erased everything that humans had thought at this stage. It was like a giant etch-a-sketch in which all history had been removed. So now the table of knowledge was bare. He tried to put back everything that he could prove. This turned out to be a lot harder than you think. He figured out that because all your sensors, your hearing, taste, touch, sight can possibly lie to you, (think hallucinations, phantom limb, etc) you can’t actually prove anything and apparently everything you know is made up of varying levels of belief. This led him to the crazy thought: “I think therefor I am”. I originally thought this is so ridiculous: and it remained this way for many years to come.
During this year of my life my cousin Jonathan who lived in Sydney but was from Kiwi land (New Zealand) originally died of cancer, he was only 24 or something ridiculous. He worked in the computer business for Microsoft. I don’t know what he did there but I thought he had the coolest job in the world back then. I envied him. However it was not to be, and he got taken away from us. That’s when I realised that life is precious, and to live in the now, and not to worry too much about the future. After all, you might never get there. I should also point out, that your life is not precious at all.