Where Physics Comes From


I am reading this book “Distilling Knowledge” by Bruce Moran. It was recommended to me by Emma who is in a creative group I participate in. It is an analysis of alchemy as a science in its own right.

The interpretation of alchemy is always changing but some snapshots include
– Alchemy as being the marriage of internal state and external experimentation. The success of alchemy depends as much on the state of the the individual as on the external state. IE alchemy depends as much on the subjective state of the alchemist as on the objective result of the process.
– Alchemy as marriage of matter and spiritual. Objects in the world exist in different spheres if you will, we can call them contexts or world views, like a material body and an ethereal body. Alchemy is about the combination of these different spheres.
– Chemistry/Alchemy also seemed to have been the first “lab” science – I dont know if this is true or if I read this correctly, but it seems very provocative. 

Then there is the more mundane stuff that I was familiar with, the relationship between alchemy and chemistry (the academic discipline), alchemy and metallurgy, and alchemy and art (making paints / glazes etc). 

I underlined a line on page 89 “the best way to know the body and to understand its functioning was by means of chemistry”… and then I put a note at the front of the book. 

What are ways that we understand the body? Well there is biology, the study of the organs etc, and there is perhaps physics, how the body moves, how electron gradients permeate cell walls, and chemistry  different chemical reactions (enzymes etc) in the body. I suppose I had always known about this, but I had not really thought about it.  There is an enormous discussion of the doctor making cures (chemistry) and diagnosing illness (perhaps biology). The chemical lens was the last lens, after spirit, physics, and biology. It makes me consider what other lenses are there are is it useful to discard a lens after a while. Like once you are done priming the canvas and affixing it to the frame you dont need the vices to old the canvas and frame in place any more.  Scaffolding (and psycho-tools) are helpful at a stage and then become a hindrance. 

But let’s continue. So we have the laws of the universe, the biological (evolution), physical, chemical, and of course with me being me I consider, what would it be to consider the computational body. What would it be to look at the body as a set of computations?  I am not sure what that means exactly. It is something more precise than dynamic system. Something that unfolds in time according to a particular methodology. And it is likely that different parts of the body operate by their own computational law. What does computation mean but to process an instruction set. And this is what happens when a ribosome makes an enzime according to a strand of rna. But it also happens when chemical interactions take place. Where does chemistry start and computation begin? I don’t know.

As a coda to this I thought I would include the following….  Today I am also reading an Artist Book recommended to me by a (past) lover –  it is inspiring and beautiful … and coincidentally the name of the artist is Chimes – greek for chymes (alchemist).


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