Quantum Physics Simplified
In this article, I am going to attempt to explain in layman's terms, some of the basic concepts involved in quantum physics.
Quantum physics is a massive and complex subject, and often so much so that it can be hard to really understand what it means or to comprehend the implications behind the scientific knowledge and explanations given regarding how the Universe really works.
The very nature of quantum physics involves less conventional scientific concepts such as timelessness, multiple dimensions and multiple universes. Quantum physicists have diverged away from the purely mechanistic view of reality, and therefore stand somewhat on the fringe of conventional scientific models of the Universe.
Many of the ideas of quantum physics also seem to bear out the ancient mystical teachings of yogis and gurus down the long centuries. Therefore, quantum physics can appear to have a decidedly unconventional leaning, and a more mystical and spiritual inclination.
Particles and Waves
In quantum physics, large particle accelerators, often several miles in circumference, are used to conduct experiments in studying the structure and nature of atoms. These experiments accelerate atomic structures at great velocities approaching the speed of light, and create collisions which smash them apart in order to discover what atoms are composed of and how they behave. There is a Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland and one in California as well as thousands of others throughout the world.
A hadron is basically a subatomic particle, formed of composite elements known as quarks, which are held together by powerful electromagnetic forces, and the term can be used to reference a particle or we may simple call these subatomic structures particles.
What quantum physicists have discovered in these experiments is that the components of atoms behave in contradictory ways, sometimes seeming to be actual hard, physical particles and at other times behaving more like waves of energy. Scientists already know that atoms involve vast areas of space at the subatomic level, and that the components of atoms themselves are infinitely small within that vast open space.
For example, to get some idea of the 'empty space' involved in an atom, a nucleus at the centre of an atom might be compared to a grain of sand at the centre of an enormous cathedral. The electrons and protons of the atom buzzing around it would be pea-sized units, as far away from the nucleus as the outer walls of the cathedral are to the altar, and all operating in this massive emptiness which we call the atom. It's only the vast speed of the buzzing electrons and protons which creates the material density of anything that we see manifested in the material world. The rest is empty space.
In essence, everything that we can see and touch with our physical bodies is a condensation of this energy, as found in the atom. When we cannot see or touch it, the energy is free but is always available in the atmosphere around us. Nature abhors a vacuum! This energy can form into material substance which we can see and touch or it can disappear from our awareness. Therefore, it can interchange between being 'solid' as in the particle, or as 'energy' in the form of the wave.
Light itself also behaves in this either or mode, sometimes appearing as particles of light, sometimes as electromagnetic waves of light. Particles of light are referred to as photons, and in quantum physics, these photons are considered to move about in energy packets of quanta, which is how quantum physics acquired its name.
Therefore, what we consider to be solid matter, in all forms of atomic structure, is not definitely so, and is only relative to other physical components that interact with it, such as our own physical bodies and senses. Atoms can display both particles and waves of energy from one moment to the next.
Einstein’s famous equation E = mc2 holds that mass is energy and that energy can be converted into mass and mass back into energy. Simply put, the whole Universe is energy that forms itself into mass, or matter.
At the subatomic level, quantum physicists have found that particles are both able to be destroyed and yet also display indestructible or eternal properties. They only reappear in different forms, sometimes as particles, sometimes as waves, and often interchanging between one and the other.
Although we all see solid matter as very solid to our vision and our touch, it is well known in quantum physics that at the sub-atomic level these atomic structures are whizzing around at colossal velocities, as observed above, and are in a constant state of dynamic movement. It is only the incredible speed of electrons, protons and neutrons that gives the impression of solidity to anything. As the mystics claimed, everything in the material world is just an illusion.
Quantum physics knows of over 200 types of hadrons that are found amongst atomic particles, quarks being just some of these components. These hadrons or particles are observed in bubble chambers for the briefest periods of time, less than a millionth of a second. Atomic structures are seen then as a continuous and dynamic interplay of energy moving from one state of being into another. Nothing is static.
Another aspect of particles is that there seems to be no fundamental basic 'building block' in Nature, that is, an ultimate sub-atomic particle, and that each particle generates other particles from itself, which in their own turn generate the particle which generated it! This really is a question of which came first, the chicken or the egg?
There is a constant and dynamic exchange of energy going on in a never ending cycle. A recycling of energy, of hadrons, particles, electromagnetic waves. It seems then, that the essence of the material world is but a continuum of this energy flow, where E = mc2 continually, ad infinitum.
Another remarkable aspect found in quantum physics is that the Universe seems to be composed of myriads of holograms. Every particle is only a reflection of any other type of particle, and each one reflects any other one, just the same. Like so many myriad droplets of dew on grass, the sun is reflected microscopically in each and every drop of dew.
What then, is Reality?
Many spiritual teachings, such as those found in Buddhism and Hinduism, put forth the concept that ultimate reality consists of nothingness, of mental silence, of complete stillness, a place of pure emptiness where there are no concepts of time, space, place, or form. The world itself is seen as maya or illusion.
Yet, in this very emptiness is found Life itself. It is in this emptiness, this space, or void, where the underlying reality of existence actually exists. Think of our cathedral analogy; the space is important, it is where the life force is found, that electromagnetic force which binds it all together and sets the atoms in motion.
Just like the atomic structures of all things, there is a vast emptiness of space which is actually the centre of life itself. It has no real form per se, and can sometimes be interpreted as a solid mass (particle) or as pure energy (wave) being neither really one or the other, but both.
Quantum physicists have attempted to measure exactly where any particular particle might be found in their experiments, but there is no actual well-defined momentum that can definitely trace where a particle might be at any one time, and the momentum of the particle itself has no definite orbit either. Plus, it can easily become a wave at any moment! The nature of reality then, seems to be made up of something which quantum physicists call a quantum field. This quantum field is the void, the emptiness upon which rests all manifested reality.
So, quantum physics tells us that what is witnessed in particle accelerators is actually a great deal of potential probabilities but no definite destination, or outcome. Measuring the effects of particle collisions in bubble chambers, the hadrons make a myriad of tracks which are photographed and then worked out on computers to discover more about them and their behaviour.
However, most of this remains a mystery, even to the quantum physicists themselves. These scientists have even found that the very nature of the scientists observing such phenomena as particles actually influences the outcome of their experiments.
One conclusion is that the nature of the Universe at the quantum level is that everything we observe is a process of probabilities, but not definitely predictable, and that everything we see, either living creatures or so-called inanimate objects, is in fact a vibrant, living force, and cannot be totally separated from any other living thing or object, as there is just one complex unified Whole.
This of course, naturally ties in with the thoughts of mystics, yogis and spiritual teachers all down the ages; that All is One, everything is connected, everything is alive, nothing dies, but only changes form and structure into one state to the next.
So there is one Unifying Principle at work behind the manifested Universe, according to the findings of quantum physics. That same unifying Principle, according to the ancient mystics, which encompasses all time and space, might be referred to as God.
Particle physicist Fritjof Capra wrote a brilliant book in 1975 called The Tao of Physics which marries up Eastern Mysticism with Quantum Physics. I urge anyone who is seriously interested in this subject to read this book. He explains most lucidly how physicists have discovered that their inner state of expectancy during their experiments with hadrons in particle chambers would actually influence the outcome of the experiments. This was repeated many times over. These experiments have demonstrated time and time again that matter is basically intelligent energy and responds to us. In essence, the world is formed by our expectations of it.
The Tao of Physics is I believe, one of the most important books of modern times; its implications in the study of and development of human consciousness and the nature of Reality is of paramount significance. It is at once a marvellous study in quantum physics and the deeper revelations of mysticism.
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© 2019 S P Austen