In response to "What is Magnetism?" (Discover science magazine - "Blinded by Science" article - May 2008), here are a few words from one of Mr. Maddox's fellow "Dummies" who no longer has a seat at the dinner table for science (so my words are purely mental exercise intended to give me and my fellow Dummies some satisfaction in this gloomy vale of misery and mystery).
The origin of magnetism may lie with electromagnetic force (this sounds weird - but if you read on, you'll see that I'm not talking nonsense). It might all begin with a string of zeros and ones that produces a computer-generated hologram. That hologram includes 1) all frequencies and waves - optical, sound, electrical, magnetic, etc. etc., 2) the wave-particle duality of matter (and of light), and 3) randomness (which can also be termed mutation).
Such a hologram would ultimately be supremely flexible, bestowing digital qualities on space-time and everything in them - and making it difficult to determine precise position, especially if it was generated in a dimension outside our experience. However, people and objects could retain the appearance of solidity and definite location - and of separation (both in time and space, despite the reality of all time and space co-existing in one "place" or cyberplace). On a computer screen; events happen here, there, before, now and after though all "space-time" on the screen is united by the underlying computer code into a "grand unification" or "theory of everything". The code would mean there is hidden order even where chaos reigns, and randomness ("God playing dice with the universe", as Einstein put it) might be a way of overcoming the total inflexibility of pre-programming and introducing a measure of free will into the universe.
Since a magnet and a piece of metal are both parts of this unification, the former can move the latter without touching it (this feat is "spooky action at a distance", to use another Einstein expression). Why doesn't anybody seem to care how it is possible for magnets to do what they do? I dunno - maybe it's because magnets have precious little to do with emotions, sex or money. When the appropriate strings of ones and zeros establish all the magnetic fields in the universe, the randomness factor might allow the generation of other, "manmade" magnetic fields (eg when Michael Faraday was experimenting with electricity and magnets, or when modern engineers build turbines and generators). In this Internet-like Grand Unification, there might be a hyperlink between electricity and magnetism (as well as magnets and metals): then a less obvious link unifying electromagnetism and the weak force: and so on until we discover the theory of everything.
If this unification of the universe has always existed, how could the effects of its future development from electronic and holographic technology become apparent to Pliny, Augustine, Isaac Newton, Faraday, Einstein and presentday physicist Steven Weinberg? Time travel would have to be a reality ... I can't think of any other mechanism. But if the unification of the universe is real, then all space AND TIME within it would be unified and time travel would obviously be possible. Thousands or millions of years from now, progress in electronics and science might make it possible to journey back 13.7 billion years in this time machine we call the universe and construct a computer-generated hologram corresponding to the lumps in the extremely young universe which evolved into modern galaxies and clusters. If you believe there is intelligent and adventurous life anywhere in this universe, this would be a perfectly natural outcome of millennia of progress - there's absolutely nothing incredible or supernatural about it!
How can every state of everyone and everything exist at once? Imagine the universe is the ultimate hologram. A tiny part of the universe, such as a card in your wallet or purse, can display a number of holographic images (each is revealed when light hits the card in the correct position). The universe's programming is so sophisticated and powerful - Im comparing the universe to a combination of computer and hologram technology - that every state of everything has its own image (which is accompanied by qualities called sound, electric charge, magnetism, gravity, mass, etc. etc.) Each image (and its companion properties) is revealed when our limited perceptions/experiences/instruments interact with an aspect of the universal programmed hologram. Such technology is only a dream today ... but the power of computers is estimated to double about every 2 years. If this rate continues, the machine Im writing with will be well over a billion times more powerful in 60 years. And this is only an everyday desktop - imagine what a network of specialized supercomputers will be able to sample in the year 2070 (and beyond).