We naïvely believe in action at a distance. The Sun shines on us and pulls the Earth into an orbit from 150,000,000 kilometers away; Congress and the President in Washington govern the USA (substitute your nation's titles as appropriate); the radio brings voices from across town or around the world; and I can't do that because of the way my Mother (bless her soul) brought me up years ago.

But there's a Big Secret from physics that applies to life: everything is local. Planets don't need to know about the Sun --- they just respond to the local curvature of spacetime and take the shortest path available. ("Matter tells space how to curve; space tells matter how to move" --- locally.) Laws and edicts don't matter if nobody here bothers to enforce them. ("All politics is local.") Electromagnetic waves ripple through space and induce voltages only when they reach an antenna. My sainted Mother's control over my actions comes through my memory of her and her teachings.

Influences certainly propagate from point to point. Gravity and electromagnetism do their magic via fields (and/or via quantum mechanical particles). People give and take orders, and we share ideas as we interact with one another. Our remembrance of the past carries concepts into the future; written records speak to us from centuries ago. But look more closely, and it's all local --- moment by moment, person to person, one baby step after another.

Thursday, November 18, 1999 at 05:37:46 (EST) = 1999-11-18


(correlates: SolublesInsolubles, Inertialess Drive, TopDownBottomUp, ...)