Bob Shell: Science

Illustration about science by Thomcat 23.Astronaut
Artwork by Thomcat 23. Copyright 2021

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2021




To say that the world exists “out there” independent of us, that view can no longer be maintained. — John Archibald Wheeler, Quantum Physicist

Some scientists were inclined to think that psychological phenomena could ultimately be explained on the basis of physics and chemistry of the brain. From the quantum-theoretical point of view there is no reason for such an assumption. — Werner Heisenberg, Quantum Physicist

The unconscious mind may include all man’s past; but it also includes all man’s future. — Colin Wilson, Author, Polymath, 1969

For any speculation that at first glance does not look crazy, there is no hope. –Freeman Dyson, Physicist, Futurist

Theories have four stages of acceptance:

I. This is worthless nonsense.

II. This is interesting, but perverse.

III. This is true, but quite unimportant

IV. I always said so.

— J. B. S. Haldane, Theoretician

Because of my original training in science and the time I spent working for and with scientists, I still think of myself as a scientist, even though I didn’t make my living that way. If I were just coming to college today I’d probably major in physics, and end up somewhere in academia. We’ve learned a lot about how the world really works in the last hundred years, much of it more recently as old Newtonian ideas have been replaced with ideas from the realm of quantum dynamics. The old idea of solid matter being something you could knock up against has been replaced with the idea of matter as just another form of energy. You could think of matter as “crystalized energy,” and not be wrong. It was Einstein who first put this idea into theoretical form and started us on the path to converting matter directly into pure energy, first in the uncontrolled form of nuclear bombs, and then in the more controlled form of nuclear reactors. In both, matter is directly converted to energy, lots of energy.

The alchemists of old were laughed at for their ideas of transmuting one element into another, but they did hit on some important truths about matter. They classified matter into earth, water, air, and fire. They did not mean for these to be taken literally, they had discovered the four basic forms of matter: solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. Today we recognize these same four states and pat ourselves on the back for knowing more than our ancestors. Really? So what have we learned that they didn’t know? Until pretty recently, not much.

Today we’re peering a bit deeper into nature’s vault of secrets, blowing atoms apart with our super colliders, which is like studying how cars work by having them collide head on at high speed and picking up the pieces. Maybe we’ll get it right, maybe not. Now we’ve discovered that everything is made of particles, protons, electrons, neutrons, and such. What are those particles made of? The physicist says “quarks,” as though that answers your question. Yes, but what are quarks made of? Some answer “super strings,” some answer “branes,” and some just scratch their heads and adjust their glasses. It seems that the deeper we go, the more surreal things get.

I’m very intrigued by what Einstein called “spooky action at a distance,” otherwise known as quantum entanglement. Put two particles in close proximity and they become “entangled,” and once they become entangled, you can separate them by any distance, put them billions of light years apart, and any change you make in one instantly changes the other Einstein never accepted this, but it has been demonstrated in the lab. 

Currently cosmologists believe in the Big Bang, that the Universe was created from a singularity that exploded. But in that singularity there was no time or space, meaning that every particle in the Universe was born entangled with every other particle. That means that Einstein’s “spooky action at a distance” is the norm, not something unusual. In the language of physics such connections are “nonlocal.”. I have come to believe that consciousness itself, that difficult to define phenomenon, is itself nonlocal; not confined to the brain. This nonlocality of consciousness would account for so-called “psychic” phenomena. A good book on this is The Sense Of Being Stared At. Well worth reading to broaden your perspective on how things really work.

I’ve been asked often if I believe in the supernatural. The answer is a resounding NO! There is NO supernatural! Everything that happens in the universe is natural, but there are still many completely natural phenomena that we simply don’t yet understand. As Arthur C. Clarke once said, any sufficiently advanced technology would appear to us to be magic. Every new generation of scientists looks back at their predecessors and says, “can you imagine that they believed THAT?”

Sometimes it is dangerous to speak the truth when those in power believe otherwise. Geordano Bruno wrote, ” there are innumerable suns and an infinite number of planets which circle around their suns as our seven planets circle around our Sun … innumerable suns exist. Innumerable Earths revolve around these. Living beings inhabit these worlds.”. For refusing to recant those words, Bruno was tortured by the Inquisition for months. Finally, on February 17, 1600, Bruno was led into the Campo de’ Fiori in Rome where he defiantly said, “You may be more afraid to bring this sentence against me than I am to accept it.”. He was then tied to the stake and burned alive, while priests sang the litanies. This is all recorded dryly in Vatican records. Today a statue of Bruno stands on the spot where he was immolated. A lot of good that does him!

But there’s more. In 1930 Pope Pius XI made Cardinal Roberto Bellarmino into a saint. Who was he? He was the man who condemned Bruno to death, the Chief Inquisitor in Bruno’s trial.

The universe is the way it is and cannot be constrained by social or cultural prejudice. — Chandra Wickramasinghe, Cosmologist, Astrobiologist.


About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author, former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine and veteran contributor to this blog. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models.  He is serving the 13th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read additional articles by Bob Shell, click here:

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Here’s the Link:


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