Off On A Tangent

©1997 Zhan Huan Zhou

Throughout the entire existence of our race, we have struggled to find the meaning of our being. From this primal need to find purpose in our lives, we have developed concepts of spirituality in the form of various religions and beliefs. As humanity evolved and developed logical thought, the sciences and mathematics were invented to aid ambitious minds explain the physical world about us. Many of the theories put forth by famed scientists of the past such as Galileo and Charles Darwin were scrutinized and rejected by the church. Even with immense scientific basis, the church did not accept anything that would intervene with the common belief that God created humans and the Earth as the centre of the universe. Darwin 's teachings were banned from schools. Galileo was sentenced to house arrest. Both prevail in modern science.

Like the immortal names of Galileo and Darwin, I too challenge the basic principles of understanding and propose a revolutionary theory that will dramatically alter the way we perceive the world. From years of observations, subject to intense mathematical criticism, I have uncovered the secret of life. I am not talking about how life originated or the purpose of life, but the essence of life itself . Prepare yourself for this is the line that will change the way you comprehend the world.

Life is a sine wave.

That's it! Or rather, that is a large simplification of my theory. Let me explain from the beginning. First there are two postulates that must be understood. The first is that every phenomenon can be described by a function of time. The second being that every function can be written as a sum of other functions.

For some, this may be difficult to grasp. Consider physics class. Virtually every equation concerning Newtonian mechanics is a function of time. They are all based on distance, velocity, acceleration - all functions of time. From these equations, we get to the crux of the first postulate. The general solution to simple harmonic motion is f(t) = cos(wt + B) which can be easily derived from the aforementioned equations. At this point, there are probably two points disturbing you. The first is that the equation I gave contains the cosine function, not the sine function. The second being, 'What the hell does physics have to do with life?' There is a rather simple explanation to the first question. If you remember your high school math correctly, the cosine function is merely a shifted sine wave. This can also be explained with my second postulate that I will attend to shortly after answering the second question. If you accept that all physical phenomena can be explained with mathematical functions, is it not conceivable that mental phenomena can be explained along similar arguments? Let us consider how the brain and body functions. Thoughts are nothing more than electronic impulses. Movement and reactions are also electronics impulses. You are merely a collection of atoms and molecules very carefully arranged. There are countless equations describing electron and photon behaviour. According to current theoretical physics, if the position, velocity, acceleration and all other pertinent information of every particle in the universe is known exactly, we can predict the future of the universe. Now, if this can be done for the entire universe, it can certainly be done for a single person's life. Of course this is impossible in practice for many factors, one of which we can thank Werner Heisenberg of Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle fame. This problem can be easily rectified through appropriate use of approximations. After all, what is calculus but an exact approximation? Now that you accept that equations can be applied to life, we can discuss the next postulate.

The second postulate is rather easy to defend. If you are familiar with Fourier analysis, this paragraph is trivial and you may skip to the next. If, however, you are not, I will briefly explain using an excerpt from my physics text book: "[Fourier's] theorem tells us that every curve, no matter what is nature may be, or in what way it was originally obtained, can be exactly reproduced by superposing a sufficient number of simple harmonic curves - in brief, every curve can be built up by piling up waves."1 This theorem has been accepted since the early 1800's and has many uses in the modern world. This also explains the cosine anomaly previously mentioned.

To summarize, every physical and mental phenomenon can be explained with mathematical equations. This implies that they can be written as a sum of sine waves. My original statement "Life is a sine wave" should more correctly be stated as "Life is an interval of a sinusoidal wave that can be described by the sum of many sine waves." As you can see, it does not have the same dramatic effect. The reason for this convoluted statement is because life is not infinite, you only live for a given amount of time. Everyone's life is different and is not an exact sine wave, but of course, is approximated by a sinusoidal function.

For those of you who still do not agree with me, forget all the math and physics. Just take a look around you. Everything is sinusoidal. The light which illuminates this paper operates on AC current, a sinusoidal function. Sound from your speakers is also a wave. I can roll off example after example, but the best example would be to look at your own life. We all have our up times and we all have down times. We go through all these stages in our life. Why?


Note: This supersedes the previous theory that the answer to "Life, the universe and everything" is 42. (i.e. 7 x 8=42) previously put forth by the magnificent Douglas Adams.

1 Halliday, D. et al. Fundamental of Physics. Fourth Edition, Extended Version. Toronto: Wiley Publishing, 1993.


There is also the matter of de Broglie wavelengths which I forgot to mention. Hey, it was late when I wrote this. All matter can has an associated wavelenth governed by the equation W=h/p, where W is the wavelength, p is momentum and h is Planck's constant.

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©1996-2001 Zhan Huan Zhou. Last updated May-01-2001.

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