Virtual Particles and the Science of ‘Nothingness’ (Quantum Field Theory)

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Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle was formulated in 1927 – but scientific thinking has not stood still since then. Heisenberg stated that it is impossible to simultaneously accurately fix (or measure) the position and momentum of a sub-atomic particle. This means that it is impossible to simultaneously fix (measure) or define time and energy. In the vacuum state, conventional logic dictates that there should be no sub-atomic particles existing in this quantum state (i.e. exactly zero energy at all times). On occasion, enough energy seems to be present to apparently ‘create’ a virtual sub-atomic particle as if ‘out of nothing’. These entities are known as ‘virtual particles’ and can theoretically possess any mass and move at any speed – even faster than light. This observation implies that virtual particles could travel backwards in time. Virtual particles exist in the interval between the measurements of real (or ‘observable’) particles, and this is why they can only be said to exist when not being observed. If they could be observed, then they would not be virtual particles. However, although some scientists think that virtual particles only exist in theory, since 1947 (Lamb and Rutherford), and in various experiments after this date, the ‘effect’ of vacuum particles upon the material universe has been observed. Furthermore, there is a theory which states that virtual particles may well be directly related to dark energy and the expansion of the universe. The point is that in an apparent vacuum that should possess ‘zero energy’ – small amounts of energy have been observed, and the presence of virtual particles is a mathematical inference from this observation. In other words, there is something there – even though it seems that there is nothing there. Virtual particles appear not to be bound by the laws of physics that govern the macro-universe, but even so, it is believed that their behaviour represents a ‘higher’ scientific understanding not yet realised by the human-mind. This is why sub-atomic particles may appear to both ‘exist’ and ‘non-exist’ at the same moment. This is not a metaphysical statement or position, but is rather a mathematical probability derived from exact calculation. This is simply a matter of observational position in relation to the sub-atomic universe. It seems as if Heisenberg is not saying that virtual particles ‘do not exist’, but rather that their existence lies in the gaps between ‘observable’ sub-atomic particle activity. This could imply that the ‘virtual’ nature of these particles actually represents a ‘gap’ in current human perception, and that when human scientific understanding advances beyond its current state, what was once thought to be ‘virtual’ particles will be understood in a new light. Of course, such a development in human faculties might well render Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle obsolete.

The Limitations of Matter (Quantum Field Theory)

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The human senses developed over very long periods of time, and were designed to ‘detect’ the physical environment. This was the unfolding of the evolutionary process through natural selection. Human-beings can only ‘sense’ that about the physical environment, which is required for the species to survive. In other words, the evolutionary process does not grant or furnish any extra or superfluous sensing abilities outside of the minimum data-reception required, for the species to successfully procreate and survive (from one generation to the next). As a consequence, as diverse as the human senses seem to be, in reality the data they receive represents only a very narrow scale of what is actually ‘out there’ in the universe. Human logic has historically developed to perceive reality in two broad categories – namely the ‘materialist’ and the ‘idealist’. The materialist method of gathering knowledge (about the human condition), pays attention to the observation of the external world (which can include the human body, when it is ‘objectified’ as is the case of modern medicine), and has developed many theoretical assumptions premised upon these observations. The materialist model assumes that the external world is ‘real’ and that its study serves as the doorway to true knowledge. The idealist method, on the other hand, states that the inner world of thought is far more important than the external world, and that consciousness, in one way or another, is responsible for the generation of the external world of matter. Idealism is closely associated with theistic religion, and maybe perceived as a ‘modern’ and ‘secular’ manifestation of religious thinking, often presented in scientific garb (as is seen in the various theories of psychology). It has historically transpired that humanity has scientifically progressed through the observation and measurement of material objects and material processes. As religious theology has lost ground in the secular West, material science has come to dominate (with the caveat that ‘psychology’ in its non material mode, might well represent a ‘new’ type of religious thinking). Through the development of technology, humanity has been able to ‘see more’ above and beyond the scope of its limited evolutionary senses. This has meant that the world of matter has been examined over greater distances, and to a greater depth, to the extent that beginning of the universe can now be seen, as can the constituent particles and sub-atomic particles of atoms. Through this process, it has become clear that ‘matter’ is not a solid wall of impenetrable ‘stuff’ that stands silent and still in front of the human senses. It has been discovered that atoms are not the ‘tiniest’ things that exist, and that quarks (which exist within the nucleus of an atom), probably possess constituent elements. In short, modern material science has revealed that the world of matter is not ‘solid’ and ‘opaque’, but is rather ‘translucent’ in nature, whilst existing in a state of constant ‘flux’. This suggests that light, ordinary (byronic) matter, dark matter and dark energy all emerge from at least 12 different quantum fields (and probably more). Understanding this reveals that matter is not what humanity’s limited evolutionary senses first thought it to be, but equally important, this reasoning has been discovered through the empirical study of what was once thought to be ‘solid’ matter. Although idealism has attacked materialism as being a theory premised upon an illusion, idealism (and religion) has not been able to develop a science to demonstrate and ‘prove’ this assertion to be correct. In a very real sense, materially based science has seen beyond its own limited methodology, and proven its original models of the physical universe to be redundant. Simply put, (and a point of argument correctly made by the idealists and religionists), matter is not what humanity thinks it is. However, where the idealists have ‘rejected’ matter out of hand, the materialists have embraced the physical stuff of the universe, and made its study the basis of modern science. It is now known that the idea of ‘matter’ being a solid and impenetrable wall, is a flawed concept, but that the idea that matter must be studied to progress human understanding, has turned-out to have been correct. As matters stand, the basis of existence consists of highly fluid quantum fields. As the universe pre-exists and post-exists each individual existence, a direct connection between human awareness and the external universe has yet to be proven, even though certain academics are engaged in this study. This does not mean that the human mind has no place in science, after-all, it has only been through logical thinking that material science has been developed and progressed. The following lecture from Professor David Tong (at the Royal Institute) places all this information into its correct scientific narrative.

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