Scientists have identified a number of elemental particles that are not known to be made up of smaller particles. But how do you wrap your head around the idea that something is made of nothing but...itself? Is it absurd, illogical, or just hard to understand?

Now suppose we someday determine that these elemental particles are indeed made of something else. It just pushes the question down a level. The moment we discover the new and smaller substance, we wonder what that is made of, and so on forever, or until...what?

Consider the possible answers.

Maybe everything is made of something else in some sort of infinite series that literally has no start, or it forms a loop of some sort. I can put words to that thought, but does it make sense?

Maybe the elemental particles are indeed made of themselves. But how can a component and the whole be the same? What keeps it all stuck together?  It seems irrational.

Maybe there is one undiscovered substance that is the building block of the elemental particles and everything else. This idea has the advantage of simplicity, but it begs the same question: What is that one substance made of?

Or maybe reality is all just one big hologram or illusion that is impossible for the participants to fathom. But who created the hologram? Those guys must be part of a reality that is made of something. The question is inescapable, even if we literally don't exist.

You can even throw God into the mix and it doesn't help because I wonder what he's made of.

There's plenty of scientific evidence that reality is created on the fly by the act of observation, at least in the small world of physics. So perhaps the elemental particles literally did not exist until the first scientists detected them. And so it follows that we can cause the elemental particles to have substructures, or not, by how hard we try to detect that sort of thing. And that process of looking for, and therefore creating, substructures of substructures can be infinite. The problem you might have with this idea is that it implies people are like God, creating reality as we go.

And there's your infinite loop. God is made of people, at least in part, and people are literally creating, through their experiments and observation, the universe. God is creating the universe, while the universe is simultaneously creating God.

Here I remind you not to get your science or religion education from cartoonists. Read the comments to see what parts I got wrong.
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Nov 26, 2010
Fractal self-similar particles!

But that means we can use Olbers' paradox to explain why matter is mostly made of space. If big clusters are always made of smaller clusters, most of the volume is quite far away from any really tiny cluster. The Cantor's Dust of solid matter!

Leonard Mlodinow got hired by Caltech because of this graduate work:

If space is 4D, or eleven-dimensional, why not embed it in 12 dimensions? WHY NOT HAVE INFINITE NUMBER OF DIMENSIONS? Mlodinow worked out the consequences for quantum mechanics.

In Godel-Escher-Bach, Hofstadter reveals that "god" is a recursive acronym for "God Above Djinn," and if you ask a very hard question of your Genie of the Lamp, yours must contact a more powerful supervisor djinn. If the question is really hard, or enough meta, then that supervisor asks the next, and the next, and so on, with decreasing time slices. The question goes up the chain to genies of infinite power. The answer comes back down the chain, but in *finite* time, since each more powerful genie takes less time to process the question! :)
Nov 23, 2010
Err... It is not sentience that causes wave forms to collapse, it is energy. "Observe" in quantum mechanics doesn't mean "have a human try to look at it", it means "use some form of energy to detect where things are"... The universe was, in that sense, "observed" long before humans, or even animals, or even life at all was around.
Nov 21, 2010
As always, Thoreau got it right: "Shams and delusions are esteemed for soundest truths, while
reality is fabulous. [Old meaning = "like a fable.--ed.] If men would steadily observe realities only,
and not allow themselves to be deluded, life, to compare it with
such things as we know, would be like a fairy tale and the Arabian
Nights' Entertainments. If we respected only what is inevitable and
has a right to be, music and poetry would resound along the streets.
When we are unhurried and wise, we perceive that only great and
worthy things have any permanent and absolute existence, that petty
fears and petty pleasures are but the shadow of the reality. This
is always exhilarating and sublime. By closing the eyes and
slumbering, and consenting to be deceived by shows, men establish
and confirm their daily life of routine and habit everywhere, which
still is built on purely illusory foundations. Children, who play
life, discern its true law and relations more clearly than men, who
fail to live it worthily, but who think that they are wiser by
experience, that is, by failure. I have read in a Hindoo book, that
"there was a king's son, who, being expelled in infancy from his
native city, was brought up by a forester, and, growing up to
maturity in that state, imagined himself to belong to the barbarous
race with which he lived. One of his father's ministers having
discovered him, revealed to him what he was, and the misconception
of his character was removed, and he knew himself to be a prince.
So soul," continues the Hindoo philosopher, "from the !$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*! which it is placed, mistakes its own character, until the truth
is revealed to it by some holy teacher, and then it knows itself to
be Brahme." I perceive that we inhabitants of New England live this
mean life that we do because our vision does not penetrate the
surface of things. We think that that is which appears to be. If a
man should walk through this town and see only the reality, where,
think you, would the "Mill-dam" go to? If he should give us an
account of the realities he beheld there, we should not recognize
the place in his description. Look at a meeting-house, or a
court-house, or a jail, or a shop, or a dwelling-house, and say what
that thing really is before a true gaze, and they would all go to
pieces in your account of them. Men esteem truth remote, in the
outskirts of the system, behind the farthest star, before Adam and
after the last man. In eternity there is indeed something true and
sublime. But all these times and places and occasions are now and
here. God himself culminates in the present moment, and will never
be more divine in the lapse of all the ages. And we are enabled to
apprehend at all what is sublime and noble only by the perpetual
instilling and drenching of the reality that surrounds us. The
universe constantly and obediently answers to our conceptions;
whether we travel fast or slow, the track is laid for us. Let us
spend our lives in conceiving then. The poet or the artist never
yet had so fair and noble a design but some of his posterity at
least could accomplish it . . .

"If you stand right fronting and face to face to a fact, you will see the sun glimmer on both its surfaces,
as if it were a scimitar, and feel its sweet edge dividing you
through the heart and marrow, and so you will happily conclude your
mortal career. Be it life or death, we crave only reality. If we
are really dying, let us hear the rattle in our throats and feel
cold in the extremities; if we are alive, let us go about our

"Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but
while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is.
Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink
deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars . . . . "

Thoreau, Walden, Chapter Two, excerpt.
Nov 21, 2010
I think therefore I am. If I don't think I ....oops ....
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 20, 2010
The answer is still 42, Mr. Adams.
Nov 20, 2010
Great Scott! make things exist upon observation is popular misunderstanding. process normalization is triggered by energy add to system, not observation by sentient. is plenty of energy in form of photons in universe to keep all but smallest superpositions normalized. that why it so hard to maintain qubits. keep writing!!!
Nov 19, 2010
I think that "Dave :^)" is on the right track here. He says that nothing can exist, logically.

To be fully explained, the universe must reduce to nothing (No time or space, and thus no matter or energy). If ANYTHING at all was truly inexplicable, then the universe would ultimately be inexplicable, and thus illogical.

If the universe is logical, it must reduce to nothing.

Nothing can be signified as a point. (A point has no dimension in space or time)

If nothing exists except for a point, then the only true knowledge of anything would be knowledge of itself.

Consequently, this self-knowledge could not be quantified, except that it is singular in nature. To put it in practical terms, consciousness/self-awareness is a points knowledge of itself. It then comes as no surprise that it cannot be measured in any way, nor proven to be in any life form.

Thus, self-awareness is the entirety of existence, which is a point, lacking all dimension.

This leaves us with the rather daunting question: Why do we assume that the universe exists? One thing that we can know for certain is that if it actually existed, it would be completely illogical.

The answer, I think, is that self-awareness has the ability to assume things. I don't yet know how this works, but as I know that I am truly without time, I never began, nor will I ever end.

I know that I am truly indivisible, even if I assume that I am apart from myself (How else do I explain all of you Moist Robots)?

I know that I have knowledge of myself, and as I am a point, and the point is everything, I have knowledge of truly everything (Even if I assume that I forgot it all).

And I know that as I am truly everything, nothing can stand in my way (unless I assume that it can).

I guess that all that I'm trying to say here is that I am aware, and I assume that you are too.


Nov 19, 2010
@Telanis : What an odd thing to get so passionately angry about.

There's a line somewhere between "language is set in stone" and "language is fluid, it means whatever." It becomes confusing and a hindrance to communication if everyone has a different understanding of what words and phrases mean. "Grammar nazis" may not have the right tact, but in general trying to get people to agree upon and stick to a defined set of rules certainly makes it easier for us all in the long run.
Nov 19, 2010
Seems like a pretty biased way of thinking. As I undertand it, particles can be empirically described as packages of energy. Energy can be described as distorted properties of space time. Thinking of particles and sub-particles and elementary particles could lead you into a fractal recursion problem.
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Nov 19, 2010
It's been said that if you put a cat in a closed box with a device that may or may not deploy poisonous gas, and do not positively observe the state of that cat after the point at which the device would or wouldn't have deployed the lethal gas, you are one sick puppy.
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Nov 18, 2010
@rexthestrange You are the ignoramus. The common usage of "beg the question" is exactly how Scott used it. Your definition of it is uncommon and outdated; ACCEPT IT. All you grammar nazis need to realize that language is fluid, even more so than in the past. Words are arbitrary, and only "possess" the meaning we ascribe to them. And people ascribe Scott's meaning to "beg the question" far more often than they do your meaning. Now kindly shut up.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 18, 2010
I read an article in the GLOBE AND MAIL once which said that a simple plastic (like celluloid) had been detected in a comet. I have therefore concluded that much of the Universe is composed of discarded polystyrene packaging and coffee cups. If you've got a better theory, I'd like to hear it.
Nov 18, 2010
As a side note, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question - please get it right - in all other respects you seem like an intelligent man. Don't let a small misuse of a phrase make you look like an ignoramus.
Nov 18, 2010
Maybe people think that one kit-kat bar is exactly identical to another kit-kat bar. Maybe people think that kit-kat bars are broken into increments of exactly one halfs or one quarters of a kit-kat bar. Maybe the same goes for elementary particles too. Scientists think that all elementary particles are whole units, but perhaps they are just within tolerances of whole units of each other. Maybe there is a continuous bandwidth of varying !$%*!$%*!$ that make up elementary particles though....
Nov 18, 2010
There are some questions it is no use our asking.
Nov 18, 2010
Another revelation is that the plus sign on Scott's blog is invisible
Nov 18, 2010
Bang 2 elements together hard enough and you just might get (pi 2)elements and -(pi)elements as a result.
Nov 18, 2010
This is similar to the question that the ancient greeks had about irrational numbers. They thought that all numbers that exist could only be expressed by some perfectly divisible fraction of whole numbers. A question like "what is the radial distance that you have traveled if you step one foot to the right and then one foot forward?" was a complete nonsequitor for them because the answer was the square root of two which never exactly multiplied out given any combination of fractional integers.

What Scott Adams here presents is the question of "what is the smallest integer fraction of a particle made of?" Can't it be an irrational quantity? Can't there be many irrational particles that exist?
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Nov 18, 2010
Evidently I cannot post a link.
Others can.
I will try one more time.

Read the book that can be downloaded from this !$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 18, 2010

Read this !$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$ to have an open mind.
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