Before I properly begin I just want to pay deference to science. It has given us a lot and all it asks for in return is just some ignorant curiosity. It has allowed us to map the corners of the universe, reduce matter down to its fundamental constitutes and everything in between in order to help us understand the origin of existence.
I have just finished reading Seven Brief Lessons On Physics written by Carlo Rovelli and I must say it is a definite recommendation. The book is short but jam packed with interesting, concise and mind-boggling material.
Using this, combined with some of my own recreational research I am going to try and convey the development of physics over the years and the paramount lessons it tries to teach us.
I mentioned that physics has allowed us to reduce matter down to its pure basics, the correct term for these building blocks is elementary particles (there is an entire field now dedicated to these puppies). Thanks to J. J. Thompson we know that atoms exist and make up everything around us. Within every atom there is a nucleus that is surrounded by electrons, electrons are the first of our four elementary particles. Within the nucleus of an atom there are protons and neutrons which in turn are made up of smaller particles called quarks (their legit name and the second elementary particle). These quarks are held together by particles called gluons, which despite its originality are the third elementary particle. Lastly is photons, photon is just an electron in its highest quantifiable energetic state. So we have electrons, quarks, gluons and photons, remember these.
I am now going to take you back to the beginning, it is 1687 and the primitive hay day of the wonderful Sir Isaac Newton. Newton kicked off physics with his formula for laws of motion – relationships between a body and the forces acting upon it, and universal gravitation – how particle attraction is determined by mass and distance. These are almost disrespectfully brief explanations of his masterwork, however there is a lot to get through. Before we scoot on I just want you to take a minute to appreciate how ahead of his time Newton was, in this era christianity was our current day Murdoch equivalent and parliament was a new concept we as a nation were toying with.
Skip forward 230 years, during which time the mechanical TV has been invented (precursor for current digital TV), the industrial revolution has started and British physicists Michael faraday and James Maxwell discover the electromagnetic field. The year is 1915 and a graduate from the University of Zurich devised a theory termed ‘theory of general relativity’, none other than Albert Einstein. To try and comprehend the beauty and elegance of this theory I will use a football analogy. If Lionel Messi scored every single goal in every single game for FC Barcelona, for 12 seasons, it would be on a level playing field (pardon the pun) with this theory.
Anyhow, the key points are as follows; Newtons laws of gravity & the gravitational field do not diffuse through space, but rather is space itself. Space and matter are not two distinct components of our world. Space and time, more accurately termed spacetime, are both curved and constantly expanding. This gives explanation to why plants orbit and evidence for the Big Bang theory (not the TV show).
Moving swiftly. First Newton, then Einstein, we move into a new era of physics; the quantum mechanical realm led by Dane Neil Bohr. So the definition of a quanta is quite simply a ‘packet’ or ‘lump’ of energy, so quantum mechanics is the mechanics of energy. For ease in explanation we turn back to our excited electron friend, the photon.
A quantum leap refers to the jump a photon makes from one atomical orbit to another. However, only when excited electrons (photons) make this quantum leap do they definitely exist – they are precisely calculable. When undisturbed they are in no precise place, they are in no place at all.
So what happens in between interactions??
We turn to the world of abstract mathematics for an explanation. These abstract formulae calculate the probability that an electron will pop up here or there, however only exist in the reality of abstract maths and henceforth isn’t much use to us. So essentially current physics, the subject known to be regulated by universal and irrevocable laws, is largely a case of calculating probability.
The last development on the train track of theories stops at the most confusing station. Now there exists two magnificent theories; Einsteins theory of relativity which gave us the birth of cosmology, astrophysics and black holes. On the other hand we have quantum mechanics which gifted us with atomic, nuclear and elementary particle physics. These two theories, however, cannot work in conjunction.
What happens when Godzilla and King Kong fight? They produce a supra being!
So a new theory emerges in hope of acting as a medium between the two……Loop quantum gravity. So here space is not continuous (Einstein) nor infinitely divisible (Quantum) but made up of ‘grains’ or ‘atoms’ of space. Each atom is linked together – like chainmail – to give space its curved texture. So space is not continuous, the ramifications of this is that our internal concept of flowing time vanishes. You read that correct, time becomes obsolete.
So there is no space in which contains our world!
There is no time in which events occur!
What only exists are elemental processes whereby quanta of space and matter constantly interact with each other. Our current perception of time and general reality is just the mangled way our consciousness deals with this. It is nothing but an illusion.
Fortunately, for the skeptics, there is no experimental verification of this, however Steven Hawkins gets close with his explanation of black holes. Maybe for a later post as I’m cautious of boring the hell out of everyone that comes to this formidable blog reading this post.
A little personal note to conclude, you can take this information with a pinch of salt. It essentially doesn’t matter what you end up doing in this world, it will continue to spin on its skewed axis, elementary particles will continue to exist only in instances. What does matter is that you are happy and content in what your doing. Have a lovely day.
This post was guest written by a friend of mine Isaac. (The one who had to stop when we went for a run). As you can tell he is passionate about science, and I’m all for people talking about their passions – life would be a hell of a lot more boring if we impeded other people from expressing their deepest interests. Enjoy.