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The Macro, the Micro
by Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover

One of the biggest challenges for physicists to understand is why the universe seems to operate according to two completely separate sets of rules. One set of rules applies to macroscopic objects, which includes nearly everything from stars and planets to plants, insects and pebbles.  Another set of rules applies to quantum objects, subatomic particles that are too small to be seen even with the most powerful microscopes. We can only observe their effects indirectly.  Quantum-sized particles behave in odd ways, appearing and disappearing at will and seemingly taking up no space at all. 

If all macroscopic objects are made up of quantum particles, which they must be, since all matter is made up of atoms, why don’t the same rules that apply to quantum matter also apply to them?  Scientists are seeking the “grand unified theory” that will combine all natural forces into one fundamental force, which drives the behavior of all the very diverse types of matter.

Like the theoretical physicists, there is another group of thinkers who struggle to understand a similar dilemma:  How is it possible that the same G-d who created a vast universe with multitudes of planets and galaxies; who created the very concept of time; who gives life to and sustains myriads of creatures, actually cares about what I do?  Does it really matter to G-d if I eat a Kosher sandwich, or if I light Shabbat candles on Friday night?

Many people cannot reconcile the greatness of G-d with the minutiae of religious existence.  Compared to G-d, we are nothing; merely “quantum particles.”  How can it matter to G-d what we do?  Isn’t He concerned with much more important issues?

Then the physicists come along and argue that the divide between great and small is artificial; it cannot exist!  There must be one unifying force or principle that explains it all.  A star and an atom both operate according to the same rules of nature.  In the same way, G-d is as concerned with the acts of a single individual as He is with the rotation of the Sun and Earth!  One day we will be exposed to the Grand Unifying Theory that explains how G-d sees, hears and cares about it all.

We do not need to wait for the physicists to discover it, either.  When Moshiach comes, the unification of G-d will be palpable and obvious to all.  Until that time, we can prepare by studying the unity of G-d according to the teachings of Chassidut.  Not only will we be enlightened and inspired, we will also prepare ourselves for the great revelation of G-d that we will all soon experience.

Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover is chairman of the Center of Magnetohydrodynamic Studies and Training at Ben-Gurion University.



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