Attraction and Repulsion

Gravity is Love.

 — Brian Swimme

The principle of attraction and its opposite repulsion is pervasive throughout the conceptualization of modern physics. Even ancient Empedocles, of the four elements fame, thought that in all nature the force of attraction and combination was Love or Philia, and that the force of repulsion and separation was Strife or Neikos. These forces have now been depersonalized and mathematized, but still inhabit natural laws which must be obeyed. (See the Four Fundamental Forces of Physics.)

At all levels of matter and energy, from the lowest atomic interactions to the highest cosmic forces, the duality of attraction and repulsion are everywhere. In atoms, there is the strong force and the weak force that respectively pull nuclei together or push them apart. In and between atoms and molecules, covalent bonds, magnetic polarities, electric charges, hydrogen bonds, salt bridges, and hydrophobic effects gather and scatter and even make life possible. In the large-scale macro world, electromagnetism and gravity extend their influence. And in the cosmic arena, the mysterious effects of dark matter and dark energy perform without our current understanding.

In the biological world, attraction and repulsion are seen in the action of plants and animals. The plant is attracted to light and moisture, and repulsed by darkness and dryness. The animal is attracted to food and safety, and repulsed by lack and danger. Plants and animals are also attracted to their kin, and repulsed by their non-kin, because there is strength in commonality. However, too much sameness becomes toxic. It is the dynamic between attraction and repulsion that creates much of the living world and its richness.

In the human world, culture and language enable the forces of attraction and repulsion. Known culture and language is attractive; unknown culture and language is repulsive. But the human mind also craves newness. Interactions between the same and the different have been a great source of the creative drive which fuels the human spirit.


The sums of attractions are combinations. The sums of repulsions are separations.





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2 Responses to “Attraction and Repulsion”

  1. The Curry-Howard Correspondence « Equivalent eXchange Says:

    […] between the Curry-Howard Correspondence and the fourfolds of the Square of Opposition, Attraction and Repulsion, and of course Linear […]

  2. My Dear Aunt Sally | Equivalent eXchange Says:

    […] Why remark about this simplistic and even obsolete rule? Note the similarity between these four binary arithmetic operators and the four binary linear logic operators. In each there are two operators for combining: addition and multiplication in arithmetic, and the conjunctive operators with and tensor in linear logic. In each there are two operators for separating: subtraction and division in arithmetic, versus the disjunctive operators plus and par in linear logic. In each there are two rules for attraction and two rules for repulsion. […]

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