Row, row, row your boson…

Gowland Harbour

The universe is nothing more than the dreams of the matter that lives in it.

 I will endeavor to explain why I believe this is so. I ask that you stick with me as I wade through some serious scientific concepts. The words may sometimes be big and unfamiliar but I will try to keep explanations of the concepts as simple as possible.

 Albert Einstein attempted to describe the nature of the universe mathematically. While he failed in his effort to arrive at the “Theory of Everything”, he is credited with what may be the most well known formula in the modern vernacular.

 Let’s have a peek at the formula E=mc² from a layman’s standpoint, shall we?

 It has three components – E – energy, m – mass and c – the speed of light. So just what are these things really?

 Wikipedia describes energy as “a scalar physical quantity that describes the amount of work that can be performed by a force” Work is nothing more than force multiplied by displacement of an object, or the quantity of energy transferred from one system to another. “Different forms of energy include kinetic, potential, thermal, gravitational, sound, light, elastic, and electromagnetic energy.” These forms of energy can all transform from one to another but when the amount of “work” each describes is factored, the amount of energy is the same. Often, two of these energy types can be linked together as a single entity. Electromagnetic radiation is energy propagated as electric and magnetic fields which vary over time.

According to the Georgia State University Department of Physics and Astronomy “the mass of an object is a fundamental property of the object; a numerical measure of its inertia (the tendency of a body to resist acceleration; the tendency of a body at rest to remain at rest or of a body in straight line motion to stay in motion in a straight line unless acted on by an outside force); a fundamental measure of the amount of matter in the object”. Matter is anything which occupies space and has mass. While the layman may believe that mass is an unchanging property of an object, at speeds approaching the speed of light one must consider the increase in the relativistic mass. Relativistic mass is simply the change that happens to mass as it approaches the speed of light. According to current theory, mass increases as speed increases until at the speed of light, mass is infinite.

The speed of light is the speed at which electromagnetic waves propagate (move) in a vacuum and is observed to be exactly 299,792,458 meters per second. It is theoretically presumed to be the fastest speed at which matter can travel. This theory is not applicable, however, to the quantum universe. Photons, which are the particles we observe as light, have been seen in experiments to actually travel faster than “the speed of light”. Confused yet? We will get to this in time.

So, we have looked at all three components in Einstein’s famous equation and time is an integral part of each. It is not mentioned directly in the equation. Time is also just a concept. While we can measure it in microscopic fractions with tools like atomic clocks, if we were able to put a clock on every discreet bit of matter, it would actually be different for each and every one if they were moving in relation to another. While relativistic differences are too small to be noticed by things moving at low speeds in relation to each other – such as two people moving toward or away from each other here on earth, those relativistic differences do exist and we can, in fact, measure them.

So, to briefly review, energy is a force doing work. Mass is a numerical measure of inertia – matter resisting changes in motion. The speed of light is how fast certain forms of energy travel in a pure vacuum. So far what we have are a bunch of concepts – force, work, speed, relativity, motion, time. Our universe is defined by concepts rather than by objects.

“But wait!” you say. “What about matter?” “It is not a concept! It actually occupies space. I can touch it and feel it. It affects me and I have an effect on it”.

I don’t think it is a fluke that matter is something defined by the concepts of mass and inertia. If we actually look at what we know about matter, it may just be conceptual too. Remember mass is the tendency of an “object” to resist changes in motion. The object – matter – has more mass the faster it goes so matter is not an unchanging thing. We just happen to live in a time and place in the universe where energy levels are fairly stable and so matter is fairly stable as well. Looking out at the universe we are able to see places (and times) where energy levels are not stable and so mass and matter are not either. We could likely not exist in our current form in much of the earlier universe – which we can see with powerful telescopes. We are also lucky we do not live near an unstable star where matter changes from one form to another and energy levels can and do fluctuate radically.

It is also not an accident that to really see what matter actually looks and behaves like we need to build gigantic and expensive particle accelerators and other experimental apparatus. These machines may also tell us that there are forms of matter which we cannot currently perceive (and which theoretically exists) but which actually make up a good part of the universe. This is really a clue as to how blind we really are from a human perspective. We are capable of sensing only a narrow view of the true universe and require technology to even begin to perceive the true fullness and beauty of “creation”. We are further limited by theoretical dogma and our perception of the universe is often based on outdated or flawed ideas.

On the surface and when looked at with human eyes, matter can be everything from opaque to invisible and exists in a number of states with which we are familiar. I refer to solids, liquids and gases. These forms of matter have everything to do with density and that has a lot to do with energy levels. Matter at a lower energy level will tend to be more solid and as energy levels rise it becomes liquid and then gaseous. There is also a fourth form of matter which in truth makes up most of the universe with which we are currently familiar. Plasma is matter which is gaseous and has been ripped apart into ions (atoms which have lost or gained electrons) and electrons. Our sun and all the other stars in the universe and a lot of the matter blown out by them is made of plasma. We are not done. Here things get strange to us. In reality, there are at least six forms of matter. The next two only exist at energy levels which are rare in our corner of reality. They are Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs) and fermionic condensates. To understand these we need to be familiar with basic matter smaller than protons, neutrons and electrons.

In grade school science we learn that atoms are particles which have a nucleus of protons and neutrons with electrons in orbit around this core. We have all seen pictures taken by our most powerful x-ray microscopes and atoms look like nothing more than a grainy black and white photo of bubble pack. Molecules are just bunches of atoms stuck together. High school and university science tells us that protons, neutrons and electrons are also made up of three basic building blocks – quarks, leptons and bosons. The way these particles interact with each other determines what the form of matter will be. Break it down a bit further and we find quarks and leptons are made up of particles called fermions. There are a fairly large number of sub-atomic particles which have been discovered but for the purposes of our discussion, they are not important. They are simply particles which are combinations of fermions or bosons. If we are describing particles which do not have internal structure, that is they are not made up of any other particles, we are, by definition, discussing elementary particles. Current theory and physical observation show us that all matter in the universe is made up of fermions or bosons. We are not currently aware of anything smaller than these two elementary particles.

It has been possible, by cooling bosons and fermions to temperatures a few hundred billionths of a degree above absolute zero (the temperature at which ALL atomic movement stops, -273.15 C and theoretically not reachable by any means natural or experimental) to create Bose-Einstein condensates and fermionic condensates.

At this temperature (a microbe fart of a degree C above absolute zero) bosons can combine into an unstable superparticle called a Bose-Einstein condensate. This particle is a very strange speck of matter in a number of ways. Put two of these particles together and they merge. They behave as a single particle – not like a bunch of atoms stuck together, but as a single particle. They are not solid or a gas or a vapor but a new state of matter altogether. BECs can only be made from normal atoms where the number of protons, neutrons and electrons added together is an even number – sodium or rubidium for example. Try to make them from normal atoms with an odd number of protons, neutrons and electrons and nothing happens.

A fermionic condensate is produced in a similar manner, using potassium-40 atoms. Potassium-40 just so happens to have an odd number of protons, neutrons and electrons. Fermions do not appreciate being forced to clump together so a much different experimental technique and apparatus is required than that used in producing BECs. Fermionic condensates are even stranger and at this point in time less well understood. To even begin to appreciate what these particles are, scientists turn to quantum physics.

Very discreet statistical differences in conditions in the experimental apparatus result in very different particle behavior. Described mathematically, this behavior becomes a probability. This probability is further described as a quantum state. The quantum state of a particle gives some indication as to whether it will act like a particle or a wave.

A truly strange thing about these two forms of matter is that when two or more BECs or fermionic condensate particles interact they do not just join like atoms do. Atoms hook on to each other by linking electron clouds. Their nuclei tend to remain unchanged. These new forms of matter actually merge to become a single particle. One of the behaviors scientists have found is that where the parts of BECs or fermionic condensate particles overlap when merging, sometimes the “atoms” (the individual bosons or fermions) in this new particle DO behave like waves on a pond and cancel each other out. These “atoms” do not blow up, they just disappear. They are not destroyed. They simply show up instantaneously elsewhere at a point where two “waves” add up together to make a bigger “wave”. It is here that “matter” truly becomes a matter of probability. Particles appear and disappear without energy being lost or gained and those particles might seem to move quite large atomic distances instantaneously. We have no way of labeling individual particles which are so small, so we cannot be certain that it is a specific particle which moves from one place to another, but regardless, the speed of light becomes meaningless.

Let’s get back to the point now shall we. We have come to understand that the existence of the basic building blocks of matter is just mathematical probability.

 When we view the universe through the lens of quantum physics everything becomes a probability. Matter and time become mutable things. It is not just weird thoughts racing through the confused minds of nutty professors either. Actual experiments have shown matter appearing and disappearing. Photons have been noted to travel faster than light. The deeper we peer into the atomic universe, the less likely it seems we will actually “see” atomic sized particles. We observe the effect particles have on the space and other matter around them but actually see more space in between those particles rather than the particles themselves. It seems more and more likely that matter is really just probable rather than certain. So where does that leave us?

 Let’s draw another simple comparison shall we? Human thought is physically seen to be nothing more than nerve impulses firing in the brain – nothing more than chemical reactions causing electrons to move from one place to another. From that simple biological basis arise memory and emotion, creativity and planning, dreams and godhead. How can all these infinitely complex things come from a simple chemical reaction in a biological matrix?

 Human perception is nothing more than the interaction of atomic particles. As far as we know, when those interactions cease, perception ceases. We label it death.

 It is only human hubris which presumes that other organized forms of matter are without perception. We have become aware that life forms similar to us are capable of perceptually experiencing those things humans are able to do – all but thoughts of god – and that may be simply because we do not understand the language of that life form. If that is so, it becomes possible to believe that simpler life forms might have simpler forms of memory and creativity and even of godhead.

 As we expand our knowledge of the universe we must also expand our understanding of consciousness.

 Particles seem behave in certain and specific ways both when alone and when in bunches but when we peer deeper into the atomic world particles become more of a probability and less of a certainty. They have causative behavior if they are acting as elementary particles combining to make a proton or as neurons firing in a human brain or as one galaxy colliding with another.

 In point of fact, while we are theoretically aware of the existence of certain particles, we have yet to be able to confirm that existence through “direct” observation. Big on the list for particles for which scientists would like confirmation are gravitons, Higgs bosons and a whole raft of charged particles such as neutralinos, charginos, squarks and others (all “superpartners” of known and as of yet theoretical particles). Small and fleeting as they are, they may actually end up being the bulk of the “physical” universe until we come up with a new physical model. Our understanding of our place in the universe must necessarily change if we find that it is much different than what we currently believe.

 The point is that the more we know the less we know. Particle interaction can result in consciousness and yet we have yet to actually “see” a particle. What we do know is that as far as we know matter is energy. Without energy there is no consciousness. There, I said it. We can describe particles and the effect they have on the universe around them but all we are really measuring is energy.

 The contention of this essay is that the universe exists only in the consciousness of the energy within it and that universe is as simple or as complex as the amount of energy involved. I am of the opinion that every individual exchange of energy creates its own universe and while we as humans may think we agree on the nature and existence of a single universe, in fact we all perceive something unique to ourselves. EVERY view of the universe is unique no matter how complex the descriptive framework may be on which we agree. It may be that the more we learn about the universe, the closer we will come to understanding this argument. Until then I suppose we will bumble around making presumptions (as I just have) based on incomplete hypotheses. It is the human way. It is also totally entertaining.

Oh, and one more thing. Before you take this argument to heart and try walking through a wall, remember, you will need to convince the consciousness of the energy which makes up the atoms of the wall, that your perception is in fact the true one and that each of those atoms needs to let you pass because you believe they must. Otherwise you will just bump your nose.

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One Response to “Row, row, row your boson…”

  1. ceo Says:

    As I have oft times said, the universe is nothing more than what I “think” it is and furthmore, only “when in time” I am thinking about it. that wall I keep running into while not thinking still throws my theory off some but I’m sure with a little less pndering and a little more pure energy, I’ll walk through that wall as if it wasn’t there.

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