Theories of the Universe: Ordered Reality

Ordered Reality

Even though this was a breakthrough in quantum theory, there was very little response to his ideas. He was at a standstill himself, not knowing where to go with his theories of wholeness and nonlocality. So he began to look at it from another perspective. Maybe it has to do more with the order of things. In classical theory, order is usually considered to be of two kinds: ordered arrangements like people, computers and crystals, and disordered things like debris left from an explosion or a box of dropped toothpicks.


The example of Bohm making a connection between what appears as two different events, the ink in the glycerin and the hidden order of the universe, is called metaphoric thinking. It is a high level of abstract thinking that can relate the seemingly different aspects of events to each other through a metaphor. This process happens more often than not in problem solving, new inventions, and the discovery of new theories.

After considerable thought, Bohm realized that we are surrounded by different degrees of order, some things being much more ordered than others. This led him to the idea that perhaps order is hierarchical and that there may not be any limit to the hierarchies of order in the universe. Maybe the things we see as disordered are simply of a higher order and only appear random and chaotic. It was at this point in his thinking that he was ripe for another leap of insight. This leap occurred while watching a BBC television program. On the show was a specially designed jar that contained a large rotating cylinder. There was a narrow space between the cylinder and the jar that was filled with glycerin (a thick, clear liquid) and floating motionless in the glycerin was a drop of ink. When the handle on the jar was turned, which rotated the cylinder, the drop of ink spread out through the glycerin and seemed to disappear. But when the handle was turned in the opposite direction, the ink slowly came back together forming the original drop. This image gave Bohm the idea that order can be hidden from view (nonmanifested) as when the ink drop was spread out, or manifested, as when it reformed into the drop.


The study of ordered and disordered systems led to the birth of chaos theory. This theory studies the unpredictable behavior occurring in systems that respond to deterministic laws. An essential feature of a chaotic system is that its behavior is nonlinear, meaning that a small change in initial conditions may have a very large influence on the outcome. One of the most studied systems in chaos theory is the weather. It displays all the qualities of nonlinearity, which is why meteorologists have such a hard time predicting the weather beyond just a few days.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Theories of the Universe © 2001 by Gary F. Moring. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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