Christian Long

John Lloyd: Inventories the Invisible

In TED Talks on April 11, 2010 at 4:54 pm

Reflection by CONNOR M.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

John Lloyd:  Inventories the Invisible

This was one of the most interesting and eye-opening talks that I’ve heard. John Lloyd inventories the invisible, a surprisingly vast array of details in the world that we’ve never even seen, but are yet so very important to the mechanics of the universe.

“What is invisible? Everything that matters, except everything, and except matter.

If you really do think about all of the factors of life, the necessary ones, then you will find that almost 100% of them are invisible to the naked eye, or even completely invisible.

We do see matter, but as Lloyd says, “not what’s the matter”. Atoms are invisible, and the closer we try to look at them the more they disappear. I found it especially interesting when Lloyd mentions that stars disappear the more light there is, how the more light there is the harder it is to see. You could argue that stars’ light are simply cancelled out by the similar light from the sun, but this also questions if light is really light and dark is really dark. Are either concepts even what they seem? It is impossible to see a light or dark unless it hits matter. How can light or dark even exist if they aren’t matter themselves? It is one thing to be invisible, but to also be non-tangeble?

Our brains also are a critical asset to us, what is needed more than any other factor. Our thoughts are certainly not tangible in real life, for no one can see them (except for maybe the Sufis). Even if they aren’t visible, they are not projected in real life, either. Thoughts are one of the most puzzling pieces of the universe, and yet we experience them every second of every day.

Many of the invisible concepts are virtually manmade, for example electricity, radio waves, and time. Time is an interesting thought, for it is true that you cannot see it, and we can barely fathom it. What is time? The more you dig into the concept the less fathomable it is. It is likely that time only moves as fast as our brains can comprehend it. As Lloyd says, electricity actually moves at the speed of molasses, so how is it that an electric light switch turns on a light so fast? If our brains did not comprehend events as quickly as they do, would time move slower? It is no wonder that time is too inconvenient for the figures, for it is very likely that time is different for every person, if it exists at all.

Everything that is important is invisible.

If you notice, much of the great discoveries in history include invisible concepts. It is also reasonable to predict that every discovery to come will be of new invisible theories. If this is true, how can we even come to the conclusion that they exist? No one has seen them, for they’re invisible. Is it possible that none of the invisible discoveries of history are even real? It is easy to come to that conclusion. Atoms, gravity, points, gasses… we even classify some of the concepts we create as LAWS of nature.

Even this blog post. You may see it, it may be a projection on a screen, but a major component that allows you to see it is light, which is non-tangable and invisible. The ideas that come from this post are also invisible, and even the post itself was invisible to you before reading (and perhaps after a time, it will be invisible once more).

Invisibility is certainly a winding path to take. We may make many more discoveries of more invisible concepts in the future, yet we still won’t be able to see them. The things that will be/are most important to us we will never REALLY know to exist. Perhaps we will never know one percent of one millionth of anything.

Hopefully these ideas have become visible to you, even if the layers and layers of invisibility behind it are known, as well.

  1. A very profound subject you wrestle with here- I admire that!

    Its hard for us to imagine where all these things that you mention (light, thoughts, etc.) exist. If we could point to a location in our three dimensions of length, height and depth, where would we point to locate these invisible things? We can’t hold light in our hands, but we have become masters at manipulating it and producing it. I, like you, find this topic fascinating.

    Time is particularly interesting to me. Is there a way to prove that two human being experience time in the same way? But if they didn’t, if one experienced time slower than the other, what difference would it make? To one person, time is constant, (unless approaching the speed of light) so everything that exists around them functions according to their time, so to speak. Recently I heard on NPR that a study was done to see if time passes slower for seniors than for adults or children. I recall that when a 30 year old and an 80 year old were asked to say when they thought a minute had passed, the senior clocked around 1:30 seconds and the adult 0:50 seconds. Its interesting to contemplate; our perception of time. Like radiowaves and visible lightwaves, we cant physically contain time. But can time even be compared to light?

    Light is energy. We currently know how to control it and make it, whereas time is nonexistent as a whole. As of now, we can’t control it at all. It may be my silly 21st century mindset which the people of the 25th century guffaw at, but I think that time control is a concept for science fiction novels to play with and not scientists. There is no source of time, unlike light. We can’t emit time like a force of energy. Or can we? >:)

    A good TV program, conveniently available on youtube, that I saw a while ago, “Do You Know What Time It Is?” narrated by Brian Cox, I found very interesting- You might enjoy it too.

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