Carter Beats the Devil – Quote

August 16th, 2006 by Adam

I’m currently reading “Carter Beats the Devil” by Glen David Gold which I enjoy and recommend (this is my second time reading it). Here is a quote I like. For me, it captures the romance of creativity:

“We know how ninety-nine percent of the universe works,” he told Carter shortly after they met, “and that’s the clockworks, that’s what we build with. But the other one percent makes the clockworks wind down. That’s inertia. No one knows how that works, but it does. It’s that one percent mystery that’s that way of our maker. Put everything together, energy and inertia, the explicable and the inexplicable, and that’s how you and I make our living.”

“Carter Beats the Devil” (Glen Gold)

2 Responses to “Carter Beats the Devil – Quote”

  1. Spencer Bliven Says:

    Good sentiment, although I think the proportions are way off. If this was true, wouldn’t the only interesting work in physics be in understanding inertia (and doesn’t he really mean entropy)? Obviously there’s way more than one percent of the universe that is not yet explained.
    But more importantly than physics, the human mind may never be explained. That is the essence of creativity.

  2. Claes-Fredrik Mannby Says:

    I heard a quote once (and I wasn’t able to find it easily on the Web, but I did find a similar quote in a Project Gutenberg text, Creative Chemistry, (you’ll need to search for “advantageous accidents” manually)), that “accidents happen only to those who deserve them,” in the context of the observation that many discoveries are made “by accident,” e.g. the Post-It Note, so I propose at least a recipe for creativity: plan to be looking and ready when accidents happen. ;-)

    On a more serious note, I think the mind is actually quite well understood, and while I’ve worked hard to understand it, I do find it a bit depressing, both because being too self-conscious can really bog down the mind, and because there is pleasure in mystery, learning and expectation, to the point where, as an adult, I’ve thought very seriously about creating a text adventure game that would present the player with a world with different metaphysical laws than the ones we’re used to, with the aim of recreating the childhood fascination with gradually learning about our world.

    That said, my view of the “percentages” issue is that it’s not really the sort of question that we can or should think of in linear terms (e.g. how could Democritus have truly meaningfully estimated how much of physics his atomic model explained and did not explain?). I think it’s fair to say that we understand very well a large proportion of the physical phenomena we’re currently able to observe, but we’re still learning that the world can get “curiouser and curiouser”.

    I think the main indication that there are vast unknowns is the fact that, as far as I know, there are no models that satisfactorily explain a world that subsumes both physics and consciousness, let alone free will. Modern physics is making observations and creating theories that may at least define a space in which we could start to formulate such models, but it’s not as if we’re just refining details—we haven’t even properly formulated the questions yet. And, it could even be that there is no way to explain existence and consciousness in terms of each other, beyond observing and generalizing from what we are each aware of “extraspectively” and introspectively each moment.