Friday, April 08, 2022

Friday Ramble, Atomy/Atom

This week's words come 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 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".

An atomy is a tiny part of something, a minute particle, and atoms were once thought by scientists to be the smallest possible units of the 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 nonsense word in James Joyce's novel Finnegan's Wake, quarks come in six eccentric flavors: up/down, charm/strange, bottom/top. Up and down quarks have the lowest mass and bond together to form composite particles called hadrons, the most stable being the protons and neutrons in the heart of atoms. Other quark pairs (charm/strange, top/bottom) become up and down quarks as they decay, eventually also winding up as protons and neutrons within atoms.

Atomies come to mind on spring mornings when I awaken to gray skies and rain on the roof beating staccato time without reference to meter or metronome. Puckish winds caper in the eaves and ruffle tiny green leaves in the garden like tangy decks of playing cards. Drifting fog wraps the old trees, rooflines and chimneys in the village and wet stuff spatters the window in my wee study. There is nothing like an atmospheric spring murk.

Each and every raindrop is an atomy, a tiny complete world teeming with vibrant life, a whole magical universe peering up at this ungainly Old Thing (OT) with a camera in her hand. I am looking at the universe, and the universe is looking back at me. 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:

Blondi Blathers said...

I'm enjoying your beautiful photos. -Kate