Friday, April 03, 2020

Friday Ramble - Atomy

Atomy comes to us from the Middle English attome, the Latin atomus and the Greek atomos: a- (not) plus -tomos (divided), tomos hailing from the Indo-European temnein meaning to cut. Kindred words (of course) are atom, atomism and atomic, epitome 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 atomy is a tiny part of something, a minute particle. Atoms were once held by science to be the smallest possible units of the known physical universe: dense, central, positively charged nuclei circled by electrons whirling around in ecstatic orbit. Complete within themselves, they were thought to be irreducible and indivisible except for constrained processes of removal or transfer or the exchange of component electrons.

Physicists now think the much smaller quark is the fundamental element of creation. Named after a word coined by James Joyce in Finnegan's Wake, quarks come in six eccentric flavors: up, down, charm, strange, bottom and top. Up and down quarks are the most common, coming together to form composite particles like the protons and neutrons in the heart of atoms. Surprise, surprise, everything happens in threes. A proton is composed of two up quarks and one down quark, a neutron one up quark and two down quarks. Other quarks (charm/strange, top/bottom) have no function in the universe as we know it, but they played an important role as it was coming into being. These other quarks become up and down quarks as they decay and take their rightful place within atoms.
Atomies come to mind when I awaken, as I have this morning, to leaden skies and rain on the roof beating staccato time without reference to meter or metronome, to a puckish wind capering in the eaves and ruffling tiny green leaves in the garden like tangy decks of playing cards, to drifting fog wrapping the old trees, rooflines and chimneys in the village.

Every raindrop (or dewdrop) out in the garden is an atomy, a minute complete world teeming with vibrant life, and within each is a whole magical universe looking up and smiling at this ungainly creature bent over in wonder with a camera in her hand. Either that or recoiling in dismay. I don't think I will ever get a handle on using my macro lens to its full potential, but its loving eye is teaching me how to look at the world in new ways, and that is a fine old thing.

3 comments:

Barbara R. said...

Interesting to learn more (again) about quarks. Since they haven't been in my mind for many a year, I'm happy to have their explanation again. I'm reading a novel now about the 1940s in my area of the world, and where I used to work in Oak Ridge, TN...where ordinary people worked to help make the atom bomb during WW II, long before I worked there. "The Atomic City Girls." I like the photos that are interspersed between chapters from the actual times of people doing ordinary things.
Keep doing macros...this one is especially lovely with contrast of sharp thorns and rounded droplets.

Tabor said...

A bit above my paygrade but certainly interesting. Love that photo as well.

Roseanne said...

So interesting. And the photo is gorgeous. Thank you.