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blog Dr. Wysong's Blog - 11/30/2010

WHAT IS UNDERNEATH ATOMS

We get so cocky with our microscopes, telescopes, test tubes, and atomic colliders. By using our technology to take things apart, we come to think we know. But what do we ever come to know, really? Is it not just about things that are already here? We create nothing, we just explore, steal, borrow, and rearrange what has been given to us.

Nevertheless, our puny sciences, pathetic knowledge, and limited ability to disassemble things lead many to naively believe that we are nothing but matter. But the touchy feely stuff we call matter is actually an illusion...making belief in it as an explanation for our existence an illusion as well.

Matter at its smallest known level is beyond the scope of our senses or instruments. So, to figure out what lies at matter's roots, let's do what German philosophers and scientists call a gedanken, a thought experiment. The problem for our gedanken to solve is: What is the physical world really made of; what are its very smallest building blocks? With that answer in hand we can deduce its origin. Once we know its origin then we can decide whether to be cocky or humble.

Way back when the Greeks were thinking about these things they did a gedanken and came up with the word atom, meaning single item or portion. They had never seen an atom and did not know about the atoms we now learn about in school. They just logically arrived at the obvious: big things are made of small things. They used "atom" to explain the smallest things could get. They stopped there because to go on would be an endless process ending in nothing. Since they reasoned that something cannot come from nothing, they stayed with the atom as the smallest unit of matter. In effect, they created a word and allowed it to define and limit reality. We humans are very good at doing that.

But let's not get wimpy with our gedanken and stop with tiny atomic pieces. Let's not ignore the fact that at some infinitely small level, matter must disappear. The Greek atom had to be composed of parts, those parts composed of parts and on and on. If you say there will always be a really, really small piece, I say, yes, but your small piece is made of smaller pieces. Taken infinitely, matter must boil down to nothing—in the physical particle sense. If you think matter cannot reduce to nothing materially, consider what happens in an atomic explosion or in a nuclear reactor. Matter is converted to non-material energy according to Einstein's E=MC2.

Now then, what happens if you are a modern physicist and do a gedanken plus take into account all the science available and use the tools at your disposal? If you remove a stone from a mountain and start grinding away you get smaller stones. Grind further and get dust. Grind up the dust and there are rock atoms. If you grind these up there are electrons and nuclei comprised of neutrons and protons. No problem so far, right? This is something all of us learn in junior high school.

But modern physics allows us to go beyond the billiard ball models of nuclei, electrons, protons, and neutrons that look like tiny solar systems. Probing within these elementary particles one finds subatomic particles known as quanta. These diaphanous entities have names such as quarks, leptons, bosons, baryons, mesons, fermions, gravitons, and superstrings...and the list keeps growing as discovery (much of which has not been experimentally confirmed) continues.

A superstring—so far, believed to be the smallest quantum—is 100 billion, billion times smaller than a proton. It is not really a particle of matter nor a string, but more like a vibration. Physicists arrived at this idea by exploring the results of supercollider machines that explode atoms into pieces, and with mathematical calculations that give most people a headache just to look at them. Superstrings cannot be directly seen, only deduced from mathematics. As superstrings vibrate they create the harmony that manifests as the subatomic particles, nuclei, electrons, atoms, and molecular matter that makes up you and the goulash you are having for dinner tonight. Superstrings suggest that the various forms of matter are—way down underneath—like different tunes.

Superstrings are not material things in the way we commonly think of matter. They are more like nothing. So, in the dissection of matter, science ends up with nothing just like we did with our little layman's gedanken. Our method, using only reason, was a whole lot cheaper though. (The Hadron Collider, with a seventeen mile circumference built 500+ feet underground in Switzerland, had a price tag of over ten billion Swiss francs. Physicists hope it will help them find the "god particle," hypothesized to be the Higgs boson. The relationship between bosons, superstrings, energy membranes [called branes], parallel dimensions, etc., is the current esoteric world of theoretical quantum physics. It is near impossible for a layperson to understand, but the takeaway is that matter, in the terms we think of it in our physical world, is a lie.)

The nothing that underlies matter must be something because the matter it makes is something. Something cannot come from nothing. The "nothing" that lies at the root of our entire universe must be quite the something to account for the extraordinary complexity, natural laws, and intelligence manifest in our world...and in us.

The parts of matter cannot explain the intelligence manifest in the world and in us since it is not intelligent, it is a mere slave to natural law. What can explain our reality must be sufficient to do so. Mind-creativity-intelligence is the only valid explanation for the "nothing" that underlies the something that is our physical world and us. Similarly, the intelligence in a computer cannot be reduced to the atoms or subatomic particles comprising its substance. Computer intelligence (actually better called obedience) is ultimately traced to the intelligence of the engineers, fabricators, and programmers who put it together.

The "fundamental particle" scientists hope to find will never be found any more than one can hope to find a fundamental particle in things like intelligence, beauty, ideas, desire, creativity, will, and love. Such things of mind do not yield to dissection or ways of the material world bound by the beginnings and ends of our four dimensions. They just are.

This understanding gives no cause for hubris or the evolutionary presumption that our world can be explained by matter and natural law. (Not to mention that science has never even ventured to guess where natural laws came from.) It should, however, make us humble, thankful, and excited to learn and explore more and not be intellectually bound by materialistic bias.

For more proof that the universe and we are other than matter, see Solving The Big Questions As If Thinking Matters


Word Word: diaphanousVideo - \dy-AF-uh-nuhs\ (click for pronunciation) adjective: of such fine texture as to allow light to pass through; translucent or transparent. vague; insubstantial



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