Yesterday I cleaned the inside of the sink with a paste cleaner made for stainless steel. I must have left some residue because when I looked at the sink this morning the water in the sink had coalesced with surface tension into these shapes.
Plainly, they are not random. Rather they are the consequence of the forces acting upon them.
To calculate or model or predict the forces that would result in exactly these shapes is as good an example as any of the ‘butterfly flapping its wings in the forest’ principle.
If you haven’t come across that before, it’s the idea that in the real world there are innumerable forces at work that can have a multiplying effect.
So one might say that a hurricane’s origins could be traced back to the air currents caused by a butterfly flapping its wings somewhere in the Amazon basin.
When I was a nerdy teenager with nerdy friends, I remember arguing the other way out, as it were – that someone with Godlike powers of comprehension could read out the whole of the universe by looking at a grain of salt.
Which reminds me of the opening verse of Blake’s poem Auguries of Innocence. I don’t think it’s saying the same thing, but the idea of stopping long enough to appreciate the world is worthwhile for everyone’ sanity.
To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
It really is a case of expanding the universe inside one’s head. Perhaps that is why someone can treat others and the environment so badly – they have a small universe in their heads.