Numinations — August, 1998


© 1998, by Gary D. Campbell

Politics and science—what a tangle they can make! A scientist would no doubt consider the world more perfect if science were never touched by politics. Politicians, on the other hand, view science and scientists as tools, to be financed for a purpose and harvested when ripe. But, what about politics within science? My dictionary gives as its final definition of politics, “the total complex of relations between men in society.” It’s an old dictionary—today they surely would have written “people” in society, but that’s politics.

Within science, at any point in history, there is always the “received” view, or the “standard” model. Changes take place over the course of time, and the models of science evolve. Change goes through three stages: First, a new idea is laughed at or ignored, then it is opposed with force, and finally it is accepted as obvious. All of these stages are political in nature, not scientific. They would be no part of science if science were practiced as it is professed, but science is carried out by scientists, and scientists are people. And, of course, most new ideas never make it past stage one, they die laughing. Only one set of ideas is ever accepted as obvious in the present, but the present unfolds into the future, and other ideas will become obvious as those we hold today fall by the wayside.

One of the most scientifically accepted models of today is the belief that the universe began with the Big Bang. This model is supported by two interlocking theories. The first was Einstein’s theory of relativity. The second is the theory that all matter in the universe is rushing away from a point of origin in space and time. We have discussed aspects of these subjects in previous “Numinations.” Now it’s time for me to guide my “Numinators” a little deeper into the woods. I want us to imagine a different twist on the same facts and theories that gave us relativity and the Big Bang. Let’s see if a slightly altered view of the cosmos can lead to a viable, but less cluttered, model. Facts are facts—it’s only their interpretation that is political.

Let’s reconstruct the Cosmos. Step Zero: There is “darkness over the face of the deep.” We have a perfectly Euclidean universe, infinite in its three dimensions, perfect in its darkness. Parallel lines never meet. Right angles are a perfect ninety degrees. There are no black holes. For any creationists out there, this is the step “before” creation.

Step One: Let there be light. Light is energy. Energy is mass. The presence of mass changes our previously perfect space. The presence of a single photon (a single quantum of mass/energy) imposes an incredibly small curvature on the space that contains it. This means that right angles are no longer a perfect ninety degrees. Now, they are infinitesimally more than that. We have just discovered that our perfect, Euclidean space is subject to being warped, bent, or curved. But, we haven’t added just a single photon to our Cosmos, we’ve added a Whole Lot. Physicists tell us that what we’ve just added to our Cosmos can’t be created or destroyed, it can only change form. We’ll discuss how it changes form in a minute. Does the addition of light to darkness involve creation? Does that involve a creator? A Cosmos this simple has no purpose. It’s also more parsimonious to believe that it has no beginning or end. To believe any alternative raises more questions than it would answer.

This is the “one-step” story of creation. Darkness plus light. It couldn’t be simpler! Let’s take a look at where we are. We’ve got a space subject to being curved by the presence of mass. And we’ve got the equivalent of mass in the form of photons. That’s it. At this point, evolution kicks in.

Let’s take a really close look at our photons. The first thing you notice about a photon is that it moves at the speed of light—never slower or faster, but always exactly at the speed of light. The second thing is that, even though there may be some “higher realm” with such a thing as a line straighter than the path taken by a photon as it travels through our slightly curved space, this realm exists only in our memory. We left it behind when we said “let there be light.” The path taken by a photon is now the definition of a straight line. Thus, right off the bat, we are introduced to the difference between imaginary straightness and practical straightness. In an imaginary world, parallel lines never meet—they go on to infinity. In the real world, photons in perfectly parallel paths can nevertheless collide (after traveling a long, long way). Infinity doesn’t exist.

Imagine standing on a planet-sized billiard ball and that photons were little marbles rolling around on the surface of the planet. If you rolled two marbles away from you, one north, the other east, they would cross paths on the opposite side of the planet, continue around it, and come back to you—one from the south, and one from the west. The great curves followed by the marbles are called geodesics. Given one more dimension, a similar thing happens in our Cosmos. It is a hypersphere with respect to the paths that light can travel through it (not just north, south, east, and west, but up and down as well). Again, the circular paths followed by light are called geodesics.

Photons (it’s hard to study the little devils, they move so fast!) are not particles, they are “wavicles.” Each photon is a quantum of mass/energy (which I will just call a quantum from now on). Associated with a quantum are various properties that all change together if a different quantum is involved. Photons can come in quanta of any amount, from just above zero to just short of infinity. Associated with a particular quantum is a wavelength (or, inversely, a frequency). The higher the frequency, the shorter the wavelength (and the bigger the quantum). Each quantum also has a particular amount of mass, which, when multiplied by the square of the speed of light, gives the amount of energy the photon has.

Finally, the most peculiar aspect of a photon involves a vibration as it moves through space. There are two components of this vibration: An electrostatic component, and a magnetic component. These components give the photon a “polarity.” One way to visualize a photon is that it is a point of mass traveling at the speed of light with two synchronized side-to-side “wobbles” to its otherwise straight-line motion. Transverse to its direction of motion, and at right angles to each other, are an electrostatic wobble and a magnetic wobble. When one of these wobbles is at a maximum, the other one crosses zero. Just as the mass of a photon causes a very slight bend in space, these wobbles are a different kind of bend, perhaps better described as “ripples” of space.

Now, we have space, photons, and different kinds of bends and ripples in space. Just as photons cause the bends and ripples in space, they are influenced BY any bends or ripples in space. When I say “influenced,” I mean thrown off course, split into pieces, and other bizarre outcomes. Under the right conditions, a photon can even be the source of the bends and ripples in space that influence it.

Let’s consider the size of a photon. Measures of length, breadth, and width, or more simply, measures of volume, have no meaning with respect to a photon. What does have meaning is the extent to which it bends the space around it, or the bends caused by other photons in its vicinity. When bends in space come into contact with one another, “influences” occur. The “size” of a photon is really the extent of the bends it imposes upon the space around it, and these bends have no sharp edges and turn no sharp corners (except maybe at the very center of its mass). It turns out that the wobble type of bends are much, much more extensive than the gravity type of bend. But the wobble type of bend also varies dynamically as the photon moves through space, between a minimum of zero (the bend completely disappears) and a maximum determined by the quantum of the photon. This means that a lot of interactions depend on precise timing. The way two photons are synchronized can determine how they influence one another.

All right, I can feel your pain. I have described only two aspects of a model of the Cosmos: Space and photons. You are asking, “what about matter?” The question is, can evolution produce matter directly out of photons? Matter is composed of particles. Particles virtually stand still in comparison to photons, which constantly travel at the speed of light. So, the first step in this evolution is to get a photon to stand still. How might it do that? What if a photon traveled in a very small circle? It has been demonstrated in modern laboratories that a collision between two sufficiently energetic photons can result in the production of two particles: An electron and its anti-particle, a positron. If the original photons are somehow “still in there,” then they must have evolved into a new configuration. What were previously two photons traveling in straight line paths are now two solitons. Is it possible that a particle of matter is a soliton—a photon held in the black hole generated by the gravity of its own mass?

Imagine a photon in orbit—moving around a tiny circle. Picture the circle moving from left to right. The photon itself can’t move any slower or faster than the speed of light with respect to you, the observer. So, two things have to happen as the orbit itself moves faster and faster (remember, photon + orbit = particle). The photon’s orbital axis in the direction of its travel has to shrink. The speed it travels to complete an orbit has to slow down. If the particle were to reach the speed of light, its orbital axis would be zero in the direction of its travel; the photon couldn’t move forward or backward at any speed (relative to the frame of reference of its moving orbit), because its orbit would already be moving at the speed of light. Likewise, even though its orbit would still be the same size in the transverse direction, it would take literally forever to go “around” it, because any transverse speed would require its overall speed to exceed the speed of light. If this sounds a little like the length contraction and time dilation of the Lorentz transformation, good. You remember your past Numinations well, grasshopper. Keep Numinating!

Clearly, this is speculation. A plausible model requires a mapping between the attributes of photons and those of the particle menagerie of modern physics. Today’s “standard model” (which nobody totally understands) is too complex. Some approach must be found to unify the data and simplify their interpretation. And each new fix to the current model only brings us further from that goal. Perhaps all known forces could be linked to the electromagnetic and gravitational properties of the photon—forces that are understood to be curvatures of space, affecting the paths of photons as they travel on their local geodesics. In pursuit of a Theory of Everything, we would hope to derive all of the fundamental constants of physics from the basic properties of photons and space, and from how much total quanta space contains. In the next two Numinations we’ll pursue this model further. We’ll seek alternatives to the Big Bang, and to some of the conclusions of quantum mechanics and relativity.

Well, scientists, politicians, people of all stripes: We are certainly deep enough in the woods for this Numination, so until next time, I’ll leave you to find your own way out.

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