Wednesday, December 23, 2015

There's Nothing There - Part 7

OK, Group the Second. Buckle up.

First, Big Bang. You need to get over it. There's an earlier post I wrote that you should go read. Go ahead. I'll wait.



(Foot tapping)
OK, great. Now.

The good news is that you seem to be here on purpose.

The bad news it that it's not quite the way that you think it is.

Again, let's review.

It's a relational universe. We've proposed then a relational God.

So you are bound up in relationships. That's why you're here.

This universe not only is defined by relationships, it is also not defined by determinism.

Isaac Newton and his contemporaries, and a lot of modern folks, thought, and still think, that it's a "cause-and-effect" universe where everything has a cause. Where nothing happens without a cause. Everything is predetermined by 1) what has come before, 2) the laws of physics, and/or 3) God, depending upon your proclivities.

So that would be a universe without 1) Quantum Theory, 2) Chaos Theory, 3) Free Will and, as it happens, 4) God.

That probably needs explaining. That might take a minute.

It is a universe that is entirely, wondrously, bafflingly, mysteriously and dramatically different than you think it is.

Here's a few paragraphs from Scientific American magazine describing the world of particles. Those are the things that you are made of, you and everything else. Get ready for some serious weirdness. If you don't get any of this, welcome to everybody else, including all (ALL!) the scientists who came up with it and fiddle with it nowadays:

When most people, including experts, think of subatomic reality, they imagine particles that behave like little billiard balls rebounding off one another. But this notion of particles is a holdover of a worldview that dates to the ancient Greek atomists—a view that reached its pinnacle in the theories of Isaac Newton. Several overlapping lines of thought make it clear that the core units of quantum field theory do not behave like billiard balls at all.

First, the classical concept of a particle implies something that exists in a certain location. But the “particles” of quantum field theory do not have well-defined locations: a particle inside your body is not strictly inside your body. An observer attempting to measure its position has a small but nonzero probability of detecting it in the most remote places of the universe. This contradiction was evident in the earliest formulations of quantum mechanics but became worse when theorists merged quantum mechanics with relativity theory. Relativistic quantum particles are extremely slippery; 

... they do not reside in any specific region of the universe at all.

Second, let us suppose you had a particle in your kitchen. Your friend, looking at your house from a passing car, might see the particle spread out over the entire universe. What is localized for you is delocalized for your friend. Not only does the location of the particle depend on your point of view, so does the fact that the particle has a location. In this case, it does not make sense to assume localized particles as the basic entities.

Third, even if you give up trying to pinpoint particles and simply count them, you are in trouble. Suppose you want to know the number of particles in your house. You go around the house and find three particles in the dining room, five under the bed, eight in a kitchen cabinet, and so on. Now add them up. 

To your dismay, the sum will not be the total number of particles. 

An extreme case of particles' being unpinpointable is the vacuum. Look closely at any finite region of an overall vacuum—by definition, a zero-particle state—and you may observe something very different from a vacuum. In other words, your house can be totally empty even though you find particles all over the place.

Another striking feature of the vacuum in quantum field theory is known as the Unruh effect. An astronaut at rest may think he or she is in a vacuum, whereas an astronaut in an accelerating spaceship will feel immersed in a thermal bath of innumerable particles.

If a vacuum filled with particles sounds absurd, that is because the classical notion of a particle is misleading us; what the theory is describing must really be something else. If the number of particles is observer-dependent, then it seems incoherent to assume that particles are basic. We can accept many features to be observer-dependent—but not the very fact of how many basic building blocks there are.

Finally, the theory dictates that particles can lose their individuality. In the puzzling phenomenon of quantum entanglement, particles can become assimilated into a larger system and give up the properties that distinguish them from one another. The presumptive particles share not only innate features such as mass and charge but also spatial and temporal properties such as the range of positions over which they might be found. When particles are entangled, an observer has no way of telling one from the other. At that point, do you really have two objects anymore?

... it seems you no longer have two particles anymore. The entangled system behaves as an indivisible whole, and the notion of a part, let alone a particle, loses its meaning.

So what the heck does all of that mean?

It means that the world you look at, live in, and experience is only a tiny, insignificant fraction of the way the universe actually is.

It means that when you try to fit your understanding of God into your understanding of his universe, you come up infinitely short, and make of God something that he is not.

Let's go with regular ol' Relativity for a minute. Here's the Reality of Relativity. 

The faster you go, the slower time passes.

And the faster you go, the skinnier space gets.

At the speed of light, then, all of time happens at the same time.

And all of space is in the same place.

So to a bit of light, the universe is a single point. It takes no time to travel from one part of the universe to the other because at the speed of light, there is no time and there is no space.

To a bit of light. A photon. But to you, since the best you can do is to be light-headed or light on your feet, the universe is huge and time passes along as it always has.

And both are true. The photon's experience of the universe is true, and so is yours. At the same time.

So here's what that means. It means that space and time, which are really just one thing together, and sort of unimaginatively we call it "space-time", are super flexible. Space-time can bend and warp, and what is really wild is this: space-time can just ... go away.

Space-time does this in two ways. One is by going really really fast, at the speed of light.

The other is when gravity gets into the act.

We should probably mention that space-time is what the universe itself is made of. That means that the universe can just ... go away.

Hold that thought.

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