Maybe Outside Reality Is Where We’ll Be Saved
Sometimes a deeper dive is necessary to figure out our current bad predicament
When things get real big or real small they get weird. Let’s take a dive to the quantum level. I always believed that everything had to be made out of something, but this is only partly true.
As early at 400 B.C. Greek physicists had figured out the atom, but they thought it was a small ball. In 1897 electrons were discovered and 15 years later scientists learned about protons and neutrons. But what are atom parts made of? Researchers figured this out in the 1960s with the discovery of quarks.
But as the quintessential nerd, I have to ask the question, “What are quarks made of?” For some strange reason I keep hoping that diving to either the quantum or universal level may give me new insight on humanity’s current poor predicament. So, let’s keep going. More recently, scientists have discovered both up-quarks and down-quarks, and these are the little buggers that make up atom parts. To figure out what a quark is we must leave the world we know and enter the mysterious world of quantum mechanics.
The Big M
Theoretical physicists have been trying to come up with a Theory of Everything, but the mathematicians can’t get all the math to work. For instance, String Theory was a good stab at trying to solve the mysteries of the universe and although useful, it doesn’t explain everything. According to this theory the smallest particles are actually tiny vibrating strings, which come in and out of reality. For string theory to work mathematically the universe must have 10 dimensions. Most of these dimensions are believed to be small and “rolled up.” Superstring theory includes an 11th dimension, and is nicknamed “M-Theory” because it’s the “mother of all theories.”
A variant of String Theory is another theory called Quantum Field Theory. I like this theory because it appears to explain more but I’m still trying to get my arms around it. According to the Quantum Field hypothesis, matter is made of fields and particles are waves in the field. As I had long believed, there is no such thing as “nothing,” and this theory supports my idea. Rather, “nothing” can contain light, electrons, up-quarks, down-quarks, and vibrations. All together there are 17 fields, including a space-time field.
When you call Aunt Ellie on your cell phone you are bending a field in space and creating ripples. The signals you make eventually get to Aunt Ellie’s ear, and she’s delighted that you liked her apple pie. Putting it another way, particles are excitations in the field. Apparently, we all share the same fields, but that doesn’t mean we can communicate telepathically.
While both String and Quantum Field theories may provide a piece of the puzzle, they still don’t fully explain dark matter, dark energy, and the cause of the Big Bang. Or why do the fields have the properties that they do, and what made the fields. Is it possible to know everything? To learn more sometimes we have to know what questions to ask, and sometimes the evidence escapes us. For instance, the universe is not only expanding but the expansion is accelerating. Future astronomers won’t be able to learn much about the universe because the sky will be dark — we’ll be too far away from everything. And if the universe is expanding where are we going? One belief is that there are multiple universes and they are all like giant bubbles, and maybe our universe bubble will expand until it pops, causing another Big Bang.
In addition to the mysteries of dark energy, dark matter, and quantum mechanics, the other great mystery in the universe is consciousness. Physics explains chemistry, which then explains biology, but how in the hell do you explain consciousness? Some scientists say that consciousness is simply mechanical and lives in our brain. Others say there some type of emergence intelligence going on, which ants have brilliantly mastered. This is where intelligence functions collectively, where each of us holds on to one part of the overall consciousness, and is known as Emergentism. A third idea is that EVERYTHING has a consciousness, and perhaps this can be tied into String or Quantum Field theories. This line of thought fits in with those quantum particle experiments when a particle behaves differently when a consciousness is present. So, perhaps everything, even the universe itself and trees and plants, have a consciousness, or an awareness. I believe that all animals definitely have a consciousness — even simple lifeforms are “aware” and can make decisions based on their surroundings, rather than going with a pre-recorded script. What makes my dog sit in a certain spot or behave a certain way? She is conscious and making decisions, just like humans.
I know the current political climate in the U.S. is horrible, but we’ve gone through far worse. At one point we even ripped our nation in two and had a four-year bloody civil war, so at least now we’re not killing each other yet. What hurts me most is that the continual partisan bickering simply distracts us from the things that matter, like climate change. As for religion, studies show that the more educated a person is the less religious a person is. Yet, in one study 7 percent of PhD scientists were still religious. This shows me that some people are simply incapable of changing their beliefs even when presented with hard facts. Thus, I need to show more understanding and compassion for people who are unable to change their belief structures. But my hope is that enough people will change before our oceans become too acidic and fouled to support life, and our atmosphere becomes too hot and unstable to support us.
Why Is Our Universe Fine-Tuned For Life, Brian Greene, TED Talk
Where Are Those Extra Dimensions in the String Theory?, Rob Knoops, TedXAUBG