Physics Needs to Look at Nothingness

25 Oct

From .Copyright © 2012 Michael H. McGee. All rights reserved. Please feel free to share or re-post all or part non-commercially, hopefully with attribution.

Ever since I was young my imagination was captured by dinosaurs and insects and snakes, and also by the growing sciences which seemed to explain man’s place in the universe. At first I wanted to be a scientist myself, yet I was not good enough at math. So I became a lawyer. All my life, though, I’ve continued my interest in and reading on the place of man in the universe, along with my daughter Michelle Kathryn McGee, a scientist and my collaborator.

The scientific community has always proceeded on the ancient assumption that us and our planet and our universe are made up only of tangible things. These things have energy and force, and leave measurable traces of their passage through space and time. Truly, since the beginning of civilization we have never questioned one possibly very mistaken idea: that us and our world move and breathe and form mountains only because of the exertion of energy and force within tangible objects. Scientific research sees only the tangible objects, and calls them atoms, or electrons, or quarks and leptons. Thus science focuses only on the object, or “thing,” and fails to take account of the entangled nothing part of the makeup of each of us and the universe.

Even Albert Einstein found it impossible to look beyond our natural world to the parts of existence which include nothingness and neither mass nor energy. He wrote: “Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.” Prof. Einstein was very focused on what was visible and measurable, and eliminated from his thinking that which was not.

What if there is an element to the formation of us and our universe which is nothingness, which is without form and void? Both eastern and western philosophers throughout the ages have referred to nothingness, and indicated that nothingness is the ground of all being. Thus we and all we can see and measure in nature also includes that which we cannot see and measure. There is something and nothing, each a facet of the other. These properties of something and nothing are equally necessary for the creation of our consciousness and the life and world we see around us. Up to now scientists have stuck rigorously to the myth of energy and form, since the world of nothingness is very hard to measure and catalog. There are hardly any concepts available to quantify what has no quantity, and to measure what has no size, and to weigh what has no weight.

Since I’m not myself a scientist, I tend to do my research on the current state of science in the pages of the Scientific American magazine rather than in the technical journals. In each issue at least one prominent scientist will explain his work in a way that can be understood. In the November issue, on page 38, is the article The Inner Life of Quarks, by Don Lincoln. In this article Dr. Lincoln gives some hints of the presence of nothingness, even though he’s clearly not aware of it, and would probably deny it if pressed.

Quarks, leptons and photons are considered to be the smallest and most elementary particles in the physics of the very small. Fundamental particles are those tiny building blocks which join together to form the structure of atoms and molecules and everything we are. The hypothetical Higgs field proposes that the vacuum of space contains an omnipresent field that can slow down some but not all elementary particles. Don’t ask me to explain further.

“The Standard Model [of physics],” Dr. Lincoln says, “postulates that the Higgs field is the source of mass for fundamental particles. Massive particles feel a sort of drag as they move through this ubiquitous field, whereas massless particles such as the photon glide through unmolested.”

Massless particles can easily represent a description of nothingness. Dr. Lincoln goes on to state that all the data is consistent with quarks and leptons possibly having “zero size.” Of course he doesn’t really consider that zero mass and zero size could be the equivalent of nothingness. Such a leap of logic would take the discussion outside the Standard Model of physics, and he’s not willing to go there.

He is, however, willing to postulate that quarks and leptons may be made up of a group of other components, which are at present theoretical and are given the name “preons.” If a certain group of quarks and leptons have no mass and zero size, then their building blocks will be most certainly within the realm of nothingness.

He’s honest enough to state that we may simply have inadequate equipment to observe these preons. Yes, it seems quite correct to say that we don’t yet have the technology to measure nothingness. Two hundred years ago we didn’t have the technology to observe germs. A hundred years ago we didn’t have the technology to observe atoms. And so it goes.

Michelle McGee in her research is more than willing to enter the arena of nothingness. She insists that the universe and all that’s in it, including ourselves, consists of both something and nothing at the same time. And she insists that the nothing plays just as much a part in our existence as the something.

From her train of logic it follows that the basic particles which make up the nothingness part of the universe, the ones which feel no drag as they move through the Higgs field, are without energy, have no force, and can move at any speed at all. It is only when they acquire energy that they become the perceivable “something” building blocks of matter which we routinely see, touch and calculate about. Yet the nothingness does not depart. Currently perceivable matter includes both something and nothing at the same time. With an openness to the presence of the nothingness, we can perceive “nothing.” Only then will our perceptions provide a more complete view of the nature of reality and the universe.

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