The atom is the smallest portion of a substance that is not perceivable by human senses. The notion of atoms was conceived by ancient Greeks and was developed over thousands of years of scientific inquiry. The concept of qi as the most basic substance of which the world (everything) is comprised, was understood by the ancient Chinese. Both atom and qi are believed to exist by human beings and both are considered to be unseen objects (until we could see atoms recently). However, they lead to different interpretations of natural phenomena: the concept of the atom was developed in relation to materiality, whereas qi is relavant to spirituality.
The historical progression towards a belief in atoms promoted the deduction of atoms throughout centuries. Nowadays, the atom is universally believed by people to exist as the result of scientific evidence. In contrast, qi is not believed to be a scientific phenomena and is considered a religious or superstitious belief. As a result, in order to demonstrate the existence of qi and make it conceivable by modern physicists, the use of the scientific method becomes the qi researchers best tool.
In addition, while qi and the atom were both conceived by ancient philosophers, the notion of the atom was better developed by scientists than the idea of qi. Therefore, by looking back at the historical progression towards a belief in atoms and the deduction of their structure, we know how scientists built up the atomic theory. Consequently, the concept of historical progression will help us understand why the notion of qi is hard to define by physicists, and how it could be developed into a scientific theory. HISTORICAL PROGRESSION TOWARDS A BELIEF IN ATOMS
The concept of the atom originated in Greek philosophy around six hundred B. C. with the question: What is the world made of ? (Sachs, 9). Thales first suggested that water [is] the basic building block of the world, and air, sand, and stone could be different forms of one fundamental substance (web page). Yet, Anoimenes believed mist or air was the cornerstone of matter (Clagett, 49). These ancient thinkers made simple and direct assertions about matter. Later, the idea of the atom was conceived and developed by Leucippus and Democritus in the fifth century B. C. nd concluded that there must be parts which are partless such as sand, stone, water, or even a void which have the continuous and coherent appearance of a pure object though are not true structures (Young, 18).
Therefore, the first conceived structure of the atom was thought to be continuous. Any one element that basically consists of discontinuous and identical substances would be called atoms (Young, 21). Further, Democritus defined the atom as different in shape, order, and position, placed thinly apart and packed together, moving in constant motion (Young, 19).
The nature of atoms were intuitively thought out and deducted from ancient philosophy, thus no reason or evidence was applied. After Democritus, Lucretius (fifty eight B. C. ) realized that atoms were bodies partly [as] first-beginnings of things, partly those which are formed of a union of first-beginnings (Young, 19). In fact, the existence and characteristics of atoms were initially depicted and believed in by ancient Greeks as an abstraction. Yet, the basic idea of the atom was redeveloped and investigated in later generations.
To prove the abstract concept of atoms, rationality was considered, the key to scientific validity by Renaissance scientists. To rationalize Democritus idea of the continuum of matter, Descartes noted that everything around us has an extension so there is no void because void [by definition is nothing, and] cannot have extension (Boorse, 6). Later on, the theory of universal gravitation reveals Newtons atomic natural philosophy that observable matter is fundamentally an assemblage of bits, exchanging mutual forces at a distance, thereby causing each other to move in the way they do [like sets of stationary orbits] which reveals atomic motion. Saches, 31). Using this theory, Newton taught us to visualize the unseen objects by comparing them to the solar system as a means to understand their function through observation.
Thus, Descartes and Newton both perceived the idea of the atom in a logical way, and further, a process of mathematical and logical deduction was used to achieve a testable conclusion (Young, 43). In nineteenth century physics, the period of Determinism, mathematics was used to express the concepts of physics and it became the only tool to make new discoveries in the natural world (Sachs, 50).
Newtons concept of the atom was determined by mathematics and was positively conceptualized. The quantum theory of measurement based on Newtons notion of the atom was claimed to be a final truth about the fundamental nature of elementary matter (Young, 64). Therefore, the notion of the atom became theorized in physics with no more questioning. However, in the twentieth century a new perspective developed out of quantum theory which transformed the view of the atom as a billiard ball. The fundamental laws were no longer deterministic, but became probability functions (Sachs, 65).
Due to the inapplicability of old perspectives of the atom to determine laws governing the atom, probability was used as a tool of discovery (Sachs, 80). Although the properties of atoms could not be proved visually, strong explanations for the atomic theory are supported by modern technology. Rutherford demonstrated the structure of the atom through experiments in which a beam of alpha particles is scattered from a gold foil target and stated that the mass of an atom is concentrated in a very tiny fraction of its volume (Sachs, 80-81).
Further, his statement against twentieth century physicists belief of the size of nuclei being much greater than the electrons led to a contradictory scientific theory. However, Bohr argued that the atomic system is similar to our solar system- the central nucleus has most of the mass of an atom and plays the role of the sun while the electrons orbit about the nucleus at a distance similar to the planets in the solar system (Sachs, 91). Therefore, these two contradictory arguments show how scientists maintain different opinions in finding the truth.
Besides atoms, there are other examples of unseen objects in nature such as radio-waves, microwaves, and X-rays. These are all considered as not observable by human senses, but are widely used by human beings. People use radio-waves to transfer information; use microwaves to cook foods; and utilize X-rays in medicine or to detect weapons. Such unseen objects that modern physicists developed are influential in our society, and ease our living environment.
Furthermore, in contrast to the Greek deduction of the atom, modern physicists interpretation of atomic motion became dematerialized leading to a quantum theory of the atom which is hard to imagine in comparison to other concrete things which can be seen. QI IN COMPARISON TO ATOMS The notion of qi as another example of an invisible and untouchable object is not widely accepted by modern physicists. The external qi is produced by qigong practitioners. Qigong was originated in antiquity and viewed as a technology for human perfection has been applied to acupuncture, Feng-shui, massage, martial art, and philosophy.
Traditional qigong theories stress that materiality and spirituality are one and the same, and thus inseparable (Lu, ix-x). This idea of a fusion of two contradictory notions is in contrast to the material quality of the universe as viewed by modern physicists. Since the notion of spirituality is abstract and un-measurable, it is often categorized in the rank of superstition and religion. Therefore, during the Cultural Revolution in 1966, qigong was labeled as old idea, old culture, old custom and old habits, that qigong practitioners were oppressed that no one dare to practice qigong in public (Lu, 2).
The reacceptance of qigong by mainstream society was due to the fact that it helped people recover from the physical and mental health problem (Lu, 2). This has propelled a group of young scientists to find the truth of its mystery. The book, Scientific Qigong Exploration published in 1997 demonstrates a series of scientific experiments with the emission of external qi. These experiments proved that the external qi emitted by a qigong practitioner carries different information than the qi of a non-qigong practitioner (Lu, 5).
In one of the experiments, the external qi of the qigong practitioner was changing the spectrum of infrared radiation from the palm of his hand. Further, a different qigong practitioner in the same experimental setting produced a different spectrum which confirmed that the result of the experiments depends on the practitioners energy, and the information contained in their external qi was different. This experiment demonstrates that the matter that we think is constant and cannot be changed by modern scientific technology is in fact altered under the emitted external qi.
However, with the application of the scientific method physicists require testable theories, and hence, the qi experiments described in this book do not comply with two reasons. First, because the qi emission depends on the qigong master, the level of external qi is related to their physiological, physical, and psychological state, and the results of the experiments are not identical (Lu, 121). Second, the external qi experiments often produce results that may seem difficult to explain using modern scientific knowledge and technology (Lu, 121).
In addition, they often produce unusual phenomena that are beyond common sense. For example, a sixteen-year old girl who is a qigong practitioner did not consume anything but water for six years, and she is physically, and mentally healthy as other people (Lu, 285-7). This inconceivable example is not easy to explain by modern scientific theories, therefore further scientific inquiry is required to understand. EVIDENCE PHYSICISTS REQUIRE TO BELIEVE IN QI To test the scientific validity of qi, modern physicists would require the experiment be conducted as follows: )
Find a number of biased people (people who have no particular interest in qi or modern science) and divide them into two groups. Teach one group to learn qigong and train them to emit qi from their own energy. 2) Bring them (both groups) to a thermodynamically closed room with all sorts of detectors, because according to the laws of thermodynamics, energy will never disappear, and the disorder (or entropy) of an isolated system always increases (Lecture, 99/10/18).
Therefore, if the emitted qi carries some sorts of energy, and changed the structure of a substance we can find out what kind of energy the emitted qi is by the reaction of those detectors. 3) We further train those qigong practitioners according to levels, separate them, and make them re-do task 2 to see how they differ from one another, while measuring the quantity and/or quality of the qis weight, size, temperature, ionizing radiation, electric and magnetic fields, etc.
In this way, we will know the structure of qi better, and build an empirical theory. 4) Since external qi is related to their physiological, and psychological state, we should also do some investigation on qi in an inanimate object or internal qi. Using the properties of the external qi we found, and compared to the internal qi, we will know the potential energy of emitted qi inherent in a body. 5) Publish the results and communicate them to other physicists to get feedback and suggestions on the theoretical and experimental aspect of qi.
By doing so, more modern physicists will become involved in the scientific research of qi and promote the notion of qi. 6) Increase diversity in experimentation to know the properties of qi in greater detail. This will encourage the deduction of qi, and the development of qi into a theory. CONCLUSION In terms of the development of atomic theory, we learned that the deduction of the atom occured through the examinations of former assertions, and new interpretations of the discovered truth. Therefore, to prove the validity of qi, we are required to use modern scientific methods.
The concept of the atom through its historical progression from philosophical thinking to a scientific understanding indicates the relationship between human belief and scientific evidence. That the atom was initially believed and conceived by ancient philosophers and later developed as scientific truth, it is clear that human belief is required for scientific development. Thus, in order to define qi as a scientific law, a foundation of belief must first exist. By comparing the notions of qi and the atom, we learn about the universe in its materialistic form, while taking into consideration its spiritual quality and energy.