Phenomena

Feynman: The Universe in a Glass of Wine

Some wisdom for you this Friday from the incomparable Richard Feynman:

A poet I think it is who once said the whole universe is in a glass of wine. I don’t think we’ll ever know in what sense he meant that for the poets don’t write to be understood. But it is true that if you look at a glass of wine closely enough, you’ll see the entire universe.

There are the things of physics: the twisting liquid, the reflections in the glass, and our imagination adds the atoms. It evaporates, depending on the wind and weather. The glass is a distillation of the earth’s rocks and in its composition, as we’ve seen, the secret of the universe’s age and the evolution of the stars. What strange array of chemicals are in a wine? How did they come to be? There are the ferments, the enzymes, the substrates and the products, and there in wine was found great generalization: all life is fermentation. Nor can you discover the chemistry of wine without discovering, as did Pasteur, the cause of much disease. How vivid is the claret, pressing its existence into the consciousness that watches it?

And if our small minds for some convenience divides this glass of wine, this universe, into parts: to physics, biology, geology, astronomy, psychology and all, remember that nature doesn’t know it. So we should put it all back together and not forget at last what it’s for. Let it give us one final pleasure more: drink it up and forget about it all.

(submitted by @jerrodh)

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