IS THERE A LIMIT TO WHAT THE HUMAN MIND CAN COMPREHEND?
By Nikhil Handa
Now, my guess is that most of you looked at this title, thought ‘woah’, and clicked on it. And that reaction would certainly be suitable. This is indeed a very ‘woah’ question. We’re talking about the limitations of our brains, and whether we even understand what the heck is going in this messed up universe right now.
There’s no denying that our reality is becoming more and more weird (expect this word to come up a lot during this article) as we speak. Let’s take quantum physics as an example. Now, I’m sure most of you have heard of the term ‘quantum physics’, but I’m also sure that very few of you know what it actually is. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I can reveal exclusively that… Well, nobody knows what it actually is. But we know it’s weird (told you).
Well if nobody knows, surely Google will know. That’s what Google does. Okay, now the official definition for ‘quantum physics’ is:
‘The branch of physics concerned with quantum theory’.
So that doesn’t help then. How about we follow the seeds and look up ‘quantum theory’ on Google then. Here we go:
‘A theory of matter and energy based on the concept of quanta, especially quantum mechanics’. Quantum mechanics? What that’s then? Well, it’s:
‘The branch of mechanics that deals with the mathematical description of the motion and interaction of subatomic particles, incorporating the concepts of quantization of energy, wave–particle duality, the uncertainty principle, and the correspondence principle’.
That’s simple enough, right? Oh, is it not? Well I guess that just tells us that there’s no simple way to describe quantum physics. But hold on, it gets better. According to Wikipedia:
Quantum mechanics (QM; also known as quantum physics, quantum theory –
Wait, does that mean that quantum physics, mechanics and theory are all the same thing? Then why do they have different definitions from each other? And the answer is that quantum physics is just so messed up, we can’t have a single definition that will make sense for everyone.
This brings in the question of what you clicked on this article for. Will we ever understand, or comprehend, what quantum physics really is?
Well this may surprise you, but we have been trying to figure out the exact workings of quantum physics for almost a century. Niels Bohr, probably the third most famous scientist ever behind Einstein and Newton, originally discovered quantum theory in 1922. With quantum theory being around during the time of some of the greatest physicists ever and us still not really understanding it, does that tell us we may never understand it? Is quantum physics the complete limit to what we as humans can comprehend?
Here’s something that makes this argument seem even more possible; Quantum theory was only dreamed up to explain two physics phenomena, the ‘photoelectric effect’ and the ‘uncertainty principle’ (you don’t need to know what these are, you just need to know that they are, you guessed it, weird). So in order to answer something we couldn’t explain, physicists decided to explain it with something else we couldn’t explain. Does this suggest another theory we don’t understand will be made to explain quantum theory? Will we constantly explain theories with theories, in an endless loop of confusion? Is this simply humans persistently punching around the box, with the contents of the box being incomprehensible to humans? If so, I believe the contents of the box to be pineapple on pizza. That seems pretty incomprehensible to me.
However, some of you may have heard something that you think completely debunks this argument. That ‘something’ is that we as humans are yet to reach our full potential. For those who have seen the movie ‘Lucy’ may remember a certain theory that we only use 10% of our brains. The whole movie is about how Lucy, played by Scarlet Johansson, takes some drug that slowly allows her to use 100% of her brain. She gains all sorts of abilities as she makes the progression, becoming able to change her appearance and drive with such skill that makes Lewis Hamilton look like a toddler who can’t even reach the pedals, until she eventually becomes, well, a God, who can reverse time, leave her body, and bring a whole new meaning to the term ‘overpowered’. So surely, if we somehow find a way to reach that potential, we can understand literally anything as if it was 2+2? Well... No. The sad truth is, us using only 10% of our brains is just a complete myth. This has been proved by many scientists. This is awkward.
But that’s not the end for you Make Humans Great Again believers. There is still an argument that suggests we as humans have not reached our limits of comprehension just yet, something that is taking place as we speak, and that is the development of technology. It’s not difficult to believe that we will soon invent something that will do the comprehension for us, something which can find those patterns in large databases to create science theories that our minds cannot figure out.
Unsurprisingly, given that this is a philosophical article, my conclusion is simply that: we don’t know yet. Sorry, but did you really expect me to have a definitive answer to this question? If so, I’m flattered, but I suppose even my mind has a limit.