Numinations — October, 2000

Quantum Reality

© 2000, by Gary D. Campbell

   Dateline: July 11, 2491, Ticaboo, Utah.  “ First z-field voyage a success!  The first z-field probe, a small saucer-shaped vehicle, was today successfully injected into, and retrieved from, an extremely small volume of normal space.  Its occupants, a well-known physicist and a science writer for this website were the first human beings to actually see particles of light with their own eyes.  <click here for more>”

* * * *

   After the voyage my uncle and I took into the z-field, the “saucer” was booked solid by other teams, and my chances for a second voyage become nil for several months.  I spent some of this time reflecting on what I had seen, and doing a little historical research.  History tells us that the 20th century was a transition between the classical and holistic scientific methods.  The classical method used the reductionist approach.

   In a conversation I had with my uncle, he pointed out to me that “the reductionist days of science were not over at the end of the 20th century, as many at the time had thought.  Too much had been made of the philosophical implications of the observer interacting with the observed.  We now recognize that the same methods have always applied to how science should be done:  When very large numbers of events form new patterns, be they emergent or statistical in nature, a transition between scientific disciplines can exist across which the reductionist paradigm does not apply.  This does not invalidate that approach, it merely demonstrates that it’s not always possible to get from one discipline to the next by using reductionism alone.  They also made another mistake at the time.  They confused the map with the territory.  It’s simply not the case that our models of quantum mechanics, relativity, and cosmology have more reality or validity than the territory itself.  Is a map of Kashmir more real than the country, simply because you haven’t the means to go there?”

   I thought about this, and replied, “From some points of view, yes it is.  If I can’t go there, a map is the limit of my reality.  If no one can go there, and the details on the map are not the results of direct observation, but only the results of deduction and inference, then maybe the map is the only relevant thing possible.”

   My uncle answered, “The map may have more relevance to us, but not more reality in an objective sense.  Reality doesn’t depend upon us for its existence.  Reality includes that which is observed, the observer, and everything else—everything else being, by far, the vast majority of reality.  Ultimately, reality is objective, not subjective.”

   At that point, I tried to segue a bit, “So, now that they’re exploring the territory with their own eyes, tell me:  What are the scientists thinking now?”

   “Well, so far, we’ve concentrated studies on photons—electromagnetic energy in all its ‘unbound’ forms.  As you know, the laser was invented in the latter part of the 20th century.  In the centuries that followed, it was perfected in many different ways.  Today, even the white light we use for indoor lighting starts out as a precisely controlled mixture of laser light.  Lasers are what enable the modern toaster to cook a piece of toast in under a second with the only wasted heat being that emitted by the toast after it pops up.  Lasers, in one form or another, are everywhere.  They are the primary source of photons in the modern world.  And, with the z-field, we can study photons close up, and at their own rates of activity and interaction.”

   “I appreciate the background, but what’s the hot breaking news?”

   “Let me start with some of the first things observed.  You remember what we saw on our trip.  Photons appear to undulate through space—some in the form of short, fat eels, others as longer, thicker snakes, and some as very long worms that taper into gossamer threads at each end.  Our presumption that photons come in virtually every length was confirmed by early observations.  Our guess that their shape, in empty space, was only a function of their length—wavelength, to be precise—was borne out as well.  We observed that their surfaces were indistinct.

   “Since then, we’ve had a chance to see photons collide with one another, and we’ve attempted various kinds of collisions between them and the z-field saucer.  It turns out that, even though photons move freely through empty space, they certainly don’t move freely through each other.

   “Many of the intuitions of the 19th and 20th centuries have held up.  The universe appears to consist of a background of empty, unstressed space, and a foreground of stresses that exist, somewhat statically in it, or propagate through it at the speed of light.  A stress in space is energy, and its origin is a photon, which is the definitive stress in space.  The presence of a photon causes the electromagnetic stresses, and the gravitational stress, to emanate away from it, and fall off as the inverse square of the distance away. What we see, from the vantage point of the z-field probe, as the boundary of a photon is merely where space is stressed to a very high degree.

   “Here’s one of the most interesting first conclusions that we were able to reach.  As you know, energy is a function of the wavelength of a photon.  When viewed within the z-field, long photons appear to be nebulous and gossamer, while short photons are more definitive.  What it really comes down to is the total amount of stress induced by the photon into a volume of space.  What we ‘see’ as the photon are the ‘edges’ of a stressed region of space.

   “Here we need a bit more background.  I need to define what I mean by stress.  Numerous ways exist to think about empty space and the things that travel within it.  We have decided to revert to the view of an absolute, Euclidean space, and base every phenomenon on a transformation from there.  For example, no matter how fast, nor in which direction we move through empty space, light is always observed to travel at a constant speed in every direction.  Does this tell us that there is no such thing as absolute motion, or does it tell us that absolute motion causes the observer to be transformed in some way?  Both views are equivalent.  No observation from any vantage point can distinguish them.  We are now adopting the latter point of view, and we are attempting to define just how the transformation comes about.  What I mean by ‘stress’ is part of that story.

   “Another part of the story can be seen when you think about how photons move through space.  Do they move in straight lines, or do they curve?  You can say that the path taken by light defines a straight line, or you can say that a straight line is defined by Euclidean space, and that light curves within it due to what we are calling a ‘stress.’  Again, one view is a mathematical transformation of the other.  We are adopting the latter viewpoint, and are working from there.  Our current position is that every point in space has a degree of stress, and that stress can be exactly described by a set of parameters.

   “The path a photon takes through a point in space is determined by the direction and wavelength of the photon itself, coupled with the stress of space at that point.  It is becoming apparent to us that every object in space, such as particles of matter, are made up of photons, and that photons are the sole source of stresses in space in the first place.  When the stresses in space are accounted for, photons always travel at exactly the speed of light.  Given the description of a photon, its location in space, and the stress at that point in space, the path followed by the photon—which some might call the ‘curvature’ of space at that point—is determined.

   “Jumping ahead a little, we believe that we can explain all interactions, all transfers of energy, in just these terms.  Take a simple example:  In some of the photon interactions we have observed, we see that a photon can be tweaked a little.  It can be stretched and bent, but only up to a point, and the more it’s deformed, the more energy is involved.  The math isn’t complete yet, but we believe that this characteristic is responsible for what was called the ‘strong force’ in the parlance of 21st century physics.  The weak force also arises from the basic properties of a photon.  We are pretty sure that the makeup of a photon can explain all four forces—the strong, the electromagnetic, the weak force, and gravity.  For almost five hundred years we’ve thought that all these forces might somehow be the same.  Now, we view them as derivative from the basic properties of a photon.”

   Here, I broke in and said, “I think this gives me more than enough to write my next article.  Let me think about what you’ve said, and try to get it into my own words.  Maybe the next time we meet, you can get me on another z-field probe and show me what makes scientists reach some of these new conclusions.  Take care, uncle!”

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