Friday, April 27, 2018

Friday Ramble - Atomy

Atomy comes to us from the Middle English attome, the Latin atomus and the Greek atomos: a- (not) plus -tomos (cutting), thence from the Indo-European temnein meaning to cut.    Kindred words (of course) are atom, atomism and atomic, and (not so obviously), tome which now refers to a book or a volume of reading material but once meant simply something cut or carved from a larger entity.  Synonyms include corpuscle, mote, particle, speck, molecule and grain, as in "a grain of sand" or "a grain of sugar".

An atom is a tiny part of something, a minute particle, once held by science to be the smallest possible unit of the known universe: a dense, central, positively charged nucleus circled by electrons whirling around in ecstatic orbit. Complete within itself, it was deemed irreducible and indivisible except for constrained processes of removal or transfer or the exchange of component electrons.

Physicists now think the much smaller quark may be the fundamental element of creation.  Named after a nonsense word coined by James Joyce in his novel Finnegan's Wake, quarks come in six eccentric flavors: up, down, charm, strange, bottom and top. Up and down quarks bond together to form composite particles called hadrons, the most stable being the protons and neutrons resting in the heart of atoms. Other quark pairs (charm/strange, top/bottom) have no function in our universe as we know it, but they had an important role to play as it was coming into being. Wonder of wonders, everything is in constant motion, these other quark pairs becoming up and down quarks as they decay and taking their rightful place within atoms.

Atomies come to mind when I awaken to gray skies, to rain on the roof beating staccato time without reference to meter or metronome, to a puckish wind capering in the eaves and ruffling new green leaves in the garden like tangy decks of playing cards, to drifting fog wrapping the old trees, rooflines and chimneys in the village.

Rain on hosta leaves, dew on grasses in the hedgerow - each and every drop is an atomy,  a minute world teeming with vibrant life, a whole magical universe looking up and smiling at this ungainly creature bent over in wonder with a camera in her hand.  I don't think I will ever get a handle on using my macro lens to its full potential, but it is teaching me how to look at the world in new ways, and that is a fine old thing.

1 comment:

Tabor said...

A universe inside a universe inside a universe