The progression of modern physics over the last century has been, at the same time, astonishing, revolutionary, and dismaying. The surge it was given by Einstein, then Bohr, Schrodinger and Heisenberg, and a cast of others, brought forth a whole new way of looking at everything from the tiniest phenomena, particles, hadrons, fermions, antimatter, and so on, was dizzying in its progress and its implications. In the opposite direction, outward to the stars and beyond, the expansion of knowledge became a race to see how fast and how far we could reach. The details in between were not so easy to define. So, today, we still don’t really know the root source of electromagnetism, we don’t know much more about gravity except for its effects, and there is no unified theory of forces beyond speculation,
At the smallest scale, that of what we call particle theory, we’ve tried to tie together experimental results that seem to indicate two ways of seeing the fundamentals, that of hard, impenetrable particles, and that of transparent, totally penetrable waves. and the result has been the still incomplete set of results we call quantum mechanics (or quantum field theory, or just quantum theory), which in its most accepted version, the Copenhagen Interpretation, still has important holes in the form of logical contradictions and paradoxes. An important hole, coming out of its almost complete dependence on mathematics, seems to be that it has lost any link to observable reality. My interpretation of all of this is that quantum theory has taken us from reality to nothing, to emptiness.
In the large scale of astronomy and cosmology, our almost total acceptance of the theory of the big bang, an indescribably powerful explosion out of which everything in the observable universe was supposedly generated, leads, of course, to questions of “What was it made of? What exploded? What was there before the explosion?” questions deserving the best possible answer. Well, that answer seems to be “Nothing”
So, when we go small, reality goes to nothing; and when we go big, everything starts from nothing. So, “Nothing,” which does not exist, appears to be the biggest paradox of all, and puts us back in a “faith-based” universe. doesn’t it? Maybe just another addition to the catalog of creation myths.
These are the questions we’d like to explore in this category we’re calling (with apologies to Jean-Paul Sartre) “Being and Nothingness, the desubstantiation of modern physics.” The posts in this category may follow a wandering path, but they will all relate in some way to these questions. The first, in two parts, will begin to look at the issues surrounding wave-particle duality, a key quantum mechanics assumption. Part 1 follows.