Monday, March 28, 2005

Complexity

I have a colleague, a physicist, who tells his students, "If it's not simple, it's not physics." He does not mean that physics is easy. He means that physics is the study of things simple enough to be described mathematically. The rotation of a galaxy is simple. The production of energy by a star is simple. The fall of an apple from a tree is simple.

An apple is not simple.

Three-and-a-half months ago I planted seeds -- green peppers, tomatoes, zucchinis, beans, corn -- and now we are eating the last of the fruits before tossing the plants onto the compost and heading north.

Physics is simple; biology is not simple. A single living cell is vastly more complex than a galaxy. That a seed planted in a pot can organize the stuff of soil, water and air to make a zucchini seems a miracle to a physicist.