The classical paradigm is the result of four centuries of discoveries in Science. They have changed, slowly but powerfully, the worldview that was prevalent at the birth of Science. Then, objects and subjects could be related magically: intentions were all what was needed from sorcerers to make miracles… Now intention isn’t sufficient: direct or indirect interactions are necessary! Spiritual matters don’t interfere with material ones!
The world in which we live is formed out of matter, itself built with particles interacting according to local laws: no information could go faster than the speed of light to interact with something. This classical worldview is MATERIALISTIC REALISM. “Materialistic” because it says that everything comes into existence out of matter only. I.e consciousness is secreted by the material brain, as bile is secreted by the material liver. “Realism” because the universe is perceived as made of objects that have their own nature, independently of ours.
But more and more “anomalies” accumulated with this worldview since 1900 and the birth of Quantum Mechanics, then 1905 and the Theory of Relativity. Some of these are briefly presented here and confronted with another worldview: SIMULISM
1: SO THE WORLD IS DISCONTINUOUS!
We feel ourselves as a whole, naturally… When we move we don’t do that by pieces stuck to each other but in an harmonious and continuous movement. Or is it?!
Actually if we look carefully at our body, we have to question our apparent continuity since we’re made of cells, separated from each other by a membrane. But they’re so little and so well bound together that we’re sure we’re continuous.
And what about the cells themselves?
Actually they’re also discontinuous since they’re formed of many organelles clearly distinctive from one another, like the nucleus, mitochondria, ribosomes and so on. And each organelle is composed itself of discontinuous molecules, which are assemblies of discontinuous atoms… and so forth until…?
Well! Until Planck’s length which is the lower length our science of the micro-world can work with, even if it’s by very far impossible, not only to approach it, but even to be able to imagine what it is, really. It is indeed on the order of 10 with an exponent of minus 35 meters, which is a 0, followed by 35 0, each new 0 adding a division of 10 of the length! Not amazing that everything seems to be continuous with such a unit of measurement. It’s like digital pictures, or TV signals… We know they’re all formed of pixels – dot like units of the image’s definition – but we perceive the picture as formed of continuous forms and colors: which they aren’t.
But is this very important to remember when we look at the nature of the universe?
It is! And here is why!
Space is discontinuous and there isn’t such a thing as a slope in the micro-world: every modification in height goes by stairs. Sometimes with very small stairs, so small we perceive them as a slope, but it isn’t! Why is this so?!
Even more. If we were small like atoms and if we were to move across this strange micro-world landscape, we’d see that there’s no time flow when jumping from one stair to the other: We’d disappear at once from one place, to reappear suddenly elsewhere…! How could that be?! Nobody knows, really… but it is, beyond any doubt! And this feature of matter make us wonder what really matter is, since it can disappear and reappear like ghosts! Why is this so?!
There are no slopes in the MicroWorld: only stairs! Energy changes take place suddenly, from one fixed value to another, at once, with no time shift. A particle does the same when changing its energy level (its position in space in relation to other particles). Sudden changes from one fixed value to another one.
2: SO MATTER IS ANONYMOUS!
If matter isn’t really anonymous since it’s composed of atoms, molecules that are combined in a way that can be specific, the core of it – subatomic particles – has by no mean any individuality. One can’t recognize which is which in this micro-world. If you observe a particle that can exist in only one of two states – up or down for example – you can make the difference between two particles if they are in a different state from one another. Let’s name Alice the one that is in an “up” state, and Bob the other. One seems to be able to associate a name – hence an individuality – to a particle, since you can make the difference if you observe its state. But imagine that the state is now inverted: Alice’s state becomes “down” and Bob’s changes to “up”. Could you say now that the particle that was named Alice changed its state? The answer is surprisingly “no”! The only thing you could do is to associate a state with a name, but you’ll never be able to tell for sure that it’s such and such particle that changed: one can’t see any individuality between similar particles.
Suppose that you decide to measure how many different combinations of two particles in any state you can see. You could find Alice and Bob in the same “up” state, or Alice and Bob in the same “down” state, or Alice in an “up” state associated with Bob in a “down” state, or, finally, Alice in a “down” state associated with Bob in an “up” state; that makes four different combinations… Observe that by answering that you expect four combinations, you implicitly decide that you can individualize the two particles as Alice or Bob. But if you can’t make a difference between these particles, you’ll have only three different combinations since you can’t say which is Alice and which is Bob… You’ll have two possibilities where the two are in the same state: up or down. But you won’t be able to make a difference if they are in a different state because you can’t give a specific name to one or the other! And that’s what quantum physicists find again and again! Particles of the micro-world are fungible like the money is. One won’t recover the same coins he left to his bank, but the same amount made of anonymous coins. But if one can engrave a recognizable pattern on a coin to give it some individuality, it’s impossible to do so in the microworld. What could that mean?!
You’d expect such results if particles aren’t really made of matter with defined properties but are just some blend of informations that can be completely mixed with other blends of informations for a while, then recover new blends of informations when they are individualized as lone particles, anymore in association with another one. In other terms, Alice is Alice when she’s alone, while Bob is Bob when he’s alone. But when they behave in couple, they form a new entity that is AliceBob. And if they separate from each other there’s no way at all to define which was Alice before the separation and which was Bob. What could that mean?!
Particles or waves can’t be differentiated from one another: they are FUNGIBLE like numbers! They have no identity.
3: SO UNOBSERVED REALITY IS UNREAL!
Is the moon in the sky if there’s nobody to look at it? Sure! But not for the reasons we think of!
Micro-world’s particles don’t have defined properties if they’re not observed! It’s as if they belong to an odd world where many different properties are possible at once with not any one precisely defined, until an interaction is performed between a particle and its environment. They are fuzzy, so to say, if they’re not looked at, and acquire defined properties only after an interaction. The measurement of a particle is such an interaction and it seems to really create the properties of the particle, not on stringent cause and effect logic, but out of probabilities that become defined realities only when the interaction happens. It’s not the revelation of unknown properties the particle had before the interaction: it’s the creation anew of characteristics that are in accordance with the nature of the particle, its history of precedent interactions and the features of its environment.
Moreover, before the interaction the particles are in a superposition of the different states in which they can be, until the interaction forces them to take one of the probable states the quantum mechanic’s laws allows.
These results seemed so strange that Schrödinger didn’t believe they were true: he thought that there should be another interpretation of the results that would be easiest to accept. And to make his argument clear he created his renowned cat in a box!
He imagined a device that would trigger the distribution of a deadly poison in the cat’s box only if a given atom of a radioactive element was in a defined state: not yet decayed, or already decayed. Even if a physicist is able to foretell with good accuracy how many atoms in a given mass of a radioactive element will decay in one second, he’s absolutely unable to foretell when a given atom shall decay: all he can do is to calculate with which probability it’ll decay with time. It could happen the next second or… in millions of years! Moreover quantum mechanics states that if the atom isn’t looked at, then it’s in a superposition state: i.e it’s at once decayed AND not decayed! Only when somebody opens the box to see in which state is the atom, it’ll take one only of the two possible states! If this is really the case, ironized Schrödinger, so our cat in the box should also be in a superposition state: alive AND dead at once! Clearly impossible! Or is it?!
Well, the experimental results all point to the correctness of the quantum mechanics’ interpretation: i.e that the atom is in a superposition state until it is observed! And an evidence of the reality of this superposition is found in the current research on quantum computers which take advantage of it. Instead of calculating only with bits that can take one of two states: 0 or 1, as in our computers today, they work in the quantum world where qubits (as they are named) could take an infinity of superimposed states between 0 and 1, and therefore could boost the computer power to unimaginable heights!
How could it be that unobserved particles in the microcosm haven’t defined properties until they’re interacting?! Why is this so?
So is the moon in the sky if there’s nobody to look at it? Yes it is… because it’s so big that its constituents interact continuously and instantly with their environment and acquire their properties by the way, not because it has a reality by its own, independent of the environment! Why is this so?!
The universe could be composed of discrete units: addresses in a huge computer’s memory where the properties of what we see as particles or even quanta of space and time would be memorized.
4: SO MATTER IS BOTH WAVES AND PARTICLES!
Wave or particle? This question divided physicists for three centuries. How odd this question is since waves and particles are so different from one another! It should have been simple to decide!
Waves are coordinated, interactive oscillations of an underlying substrate, while particles are independent objects. The very nature of waves is movement while the nature of the oscillating substance is not really important, except for the speed with which they spread. On the contrary, particles can stay quiet. Actually their very nature is to resist to movement with inertia. Waves convey information about a perturbation that happened somewhere; their direction, their amplitude and frequency can be analyzed to get an image of an event that could be far away and ended a long time ago. Waves cover a lot of space at once while particles are confined in a tiny location. Waves can easily interact and interfere with other waves on a large scale, both in space and time, producing new patterns of waves which can be very complicated, while particles usually preserve their nature after an interaction with other particles.
Why physicists didn’t agree albeit the difference between wave’s and particle’s nature? The answer is because light and matter express both natures… but not really at once! It seems that in the microworld, matter behaves as waves do, as long as it doesn’t interact with something else than itself. When it does, the wave nature of matter collapses and seems to give birth to a particle, somewhere in a discrete place, although its wave’s nature made it potentially everywhere at once! How does matter chooses the discrete place where it’ll collapse? By chance!
Physicists were stunned when they realized that matter’s waves weren’t real waves, but only probabilities which can be calculated with the mathematics typical for waves. Nobody can know for sure where a particle is before looking at it! And nobody knows really what is its nature; only that it reminds us of a hologram, since it can express its nature non-locally: potentially in all space-time at once. Physicists can only calculate (but with an extraordinary precision) where it could be if it was looked at. And when it is looked at, it looses its holographic properties and reveals itself like a defined particle restricted in space-time. How could that be? What could that mean?
What we perceive as matter can behave as waves OR particles: never both at a time!
5: SO QUANTUM INFORMATION IS CENSORED!
Physicists have been very smart trying to get around Heisenberg’s “Uncertainty Principle”. Einstein never renounced even after severe failures. Unfortunately, experiments today continue to make him wrong: it remains impossible to measure precisely at once what are the speed and the position of a quantum object!
Still stranger! An isolated particle that encounters on its path a screen with two slits will go through both at once, thanks to its wave nature; the experimenter will find on his screen the interference fringes that are the signpost of waves.
But if the experimenter tries to determine exactly through which slit the particle will cross, then it doesn’t anymore take its wave nature but behaves like a particle. And it’ll go through one or the other slit but never through both as it did with its wave nature! Interference fringes are replaced by localized points on the screen, exactly as expected for point like particles. How could it be so? How does the particle react to such an experimental device?!
The experiments are largely smart enough to forbid an easy explanation such as the destruction of the interference fringes because of a perturbation coming from the measurement instrument. Several teams showed that complete atoms – and not only isolated particles – behave as waves. And even these atoms loose their wave nature when observed at the slits, even if the experimenter marks only one electron from the atom’s outer layer!
Suppose that atoms could be big enough to be seen with naked eyes. The scientist would be near one slit to paint a mark on the atom that rushes through the slit to recognize where it’ll impact the screen. He would give a little brushstroke on one of the electrons in the outer shell of the atom. The movement’s energy of the atom is concentrated in its nucleus that would have the diameter of a golfball and would weight something like ten billion tons at this scale. It’s impossible to accept that a little stoke on a tiny electron, moving at a distance of one kilometer from the nucleus and weighting half a milligram could change the course of the entire atom and disturb the interference fringes!
We must accept the fact that it’s really the measurement itself that creates the event, not the disturbance! The interpretation today is that the very fact that one could know through which slit the particle moved, forbids its wavelike nature and replaces it by its localized point like nature.
The microworld relies on secrecy: a quantum object expresses its wavelike nature and its corresponding specificities like the possibility to be at many places at once, or to be entangled to another object roaming at the edge of the galaxy… only if these properties are maintained secret. If they could be transmitted to another object – conscious or not – then the quantum object instantly resume its particle’s nature! How could that be? What could that mean?
“There must exist, beyond mere appearances … a ‘veiled reality’ that science does not describe but only glimpses uncertainly. In turn, contrary to those who claim that matter is the only reality, the possibility that other means, including spirituality, may also provide a window on ultimate reality cannot be ruled out, even by cogent scientific arguments.” From “Traité de Physique et de Philosophie”; 2002.
Bernard d’Espagnat is a physicist specialized in Particle Physics. He did his research in France at the CNRS and at the CERN between France and Switzerland . He has been a professor at La Sorbonne in Paris and in several american universities.
6: SO NOTHING CAN EXCEED THE SPEED OF LIGHT… EVEN LIGHT!
Imagine you’re near a railway track and a train is running on it; on the roof of a carriage somebody is sitting and throws a pebble in your direction. Of course, if you could measure the pebble’s speed, you’ll conclude it to be the sum of the speed the man on the roof of the carriage gave to it when he threw it, summed with the train’s speed… Imagine – for instance – that the train moves at 100 km/h and the man on the roof threw the pebble with a speed of 10 km/h in your direction; then you should measure the pebble speed at 110 km/h when the train is coming in your direction and 90 km/h away from you if the train is going away from you.
Now, imagine the same experience, but, instead of the pebble, the man on the roof will light a torch and we’ll measure the speed of light when it reaches you, the observer along the track. From what we’ve just seen, we should measure different velocities if the train is coming towards you while you we’re standing near the track, or if the train is moving away from you.
But it isn’t so! The observer measures exactly the same speed of light, when the train comes towards him or when it moves away from him! How could it be so?!
But actually Einstein found also that it’s space-time that changes; and as the speed rises, the length gets smaller in the movement’s direction. At the speed of light, each traveller would seem to be thinner than a piece of paper to an observer at rest! Moreover, the traveller would need an infinite amount of energy to accelerate to light’s speed because the mass rises with the speed… Why is it so?!
Nothing can go faster than light. In a Cellular Automata, no change in a cell can appear faster than the computation made according to the rules and its neighbors’ states! A change in a cell’s state is done according to its direct neighbors’ states. This puts a up limit to the number of changes that can take place: only one per generation and per cell.
7: SO TIME AND SPACE ARE NOT ABSOLUTE BUT RELATIVE!
The main discovery Einstein did, is that simultaneity is relative, and by being relative, looses most of its meaning. And this loss could have profound outcomes on our nature.
Consider for example the moment a new life begins: Arthur takes his first breath, or the last minute of another life: Carol expires her last breath. These are the boundaries which seem to define clearly a lifespan. Nothing before birth, and no more life after. Let’s imagine that these two events are simultaneous for an observer: Bob. But if simultaneity is relative, these so-called well defined life spans become somewhat fuzzy. Another observer – Alice – will not see the birth of Arthur happen “at the same time” as Bob will see it. Alice could very well observe that Carol died before or after Arthur was born, depending on the relative speed with which she’s coming close or she’s moving away from Arthur and Carol.
The very fact that an event “A” can appear to happen before, or after, another event “B” to different observers is profoundly odd! And when one thinks about it, one is logically driven to the conclusion that, somewhere, these two events exist already, independent of one another, since they are clearly not linked by an absolute time flow. Again: the same event can happen before or after another one, depending on the observer! And that’s because time is not absolute but relative to each observer and its state.
Now, if events are not linked to one another in an absolute time, if they don’t happen always in the same order to different observers, if the past of an observer can be the future of another observer, one can imagine that all the events that happen in the universe exist already, independently of what we perceive each of us, as the flow of time. In other words, the flow of time doesn’t link the different events that happen in our universe in the same order to everybody. That suggests that they exist already in a four dimensions universe of which we perceive only three as space and the fourth as time only, although it’s more than that: it’s actually a space-time dimension.
Every observer is stuck on what he perceives as a fleeting “now” which moves with the speed of light across an unimaginable four dimensions universe: describable only through mathematics and forever stranger to our perceptions. The only way for us to understand this picture of the universe, would be to make it fit to our perception which is only a three dimensional one for space plus a sense of change that we take as time flow.
Let us delete by thought one dimension of our space, the height. The other two dimensions left become easily represented as a surface. This surface is a simplification of our 3D universe, so that you have to imagine yourself extending only on a surface and reduced in your height to the thickness of the sheet of paper, not more. Imagine a book, laying on a horizontal surface. Each page of this book will represent a “moment” , a “now” and the state of the universe (and you in it) at that moment. And each page has a length and a width: it extends in a two-dimensional space, the third dimension (height) is inexistent and replaced by the pile of pages, one for each “moment” of time. Each page has a 2D surface which represents our 3D space, liberating one dimension of space so that we can imagine it to be tied to the flow of time.
We know that if we are to perceive a movie as flowing swiftly, every frame of the film has to stay still on the screen for 1/24 second before being replaced by the following motionless frame for 1/24 second and so on. What we see then is a good image of what we perceive with our sense of vision in the universe.
Einstein seemed to view the universe as a 4D block that in our simplified model would be a 3D block like a huge book with each page representing space at a moment, like a frame of a movie represents space at a moment. Our consciousness would travel through the pages at the speed of light, perceiving time as the change between each frame. But what Einstein discovered also is that we can travel at an angle from the horizontal line and that’s the reason why time is relative and can flow at different rates for different observers.
This takes place when two observers travel at very high speeds on different directions. Every traveller has his own space-time through which he crosses the pages at right angles. But the higher the relative speed between the two travelers, the more their pages will be at an angle with one another; like if the two books that represent their specific space-time would cross each other at an angle! Therefore an event “A” that would happen after another event “B” on the pages of one traveller could happen before the same event “B”, for the other traveller! And if the two travelers were separating from each other with the speed of light, then each one would see the other as immobile in time: each of them would live a normal life but would see the other as if time stopped and didn’t flow for him anymore! Why is it so?!
Space and Time can be introverted one in the other!
8: SO THE UNIVERSE IS BIOFRIENDLY!
Not long ago we were convinced that the universe was eternal: that it had no beginning and no end… but we were wrong!
Astronomers discovered that our universe was born in a Big Bang 13,8 billions years ago. At that moment it gave birth to space and time and both are expanding since then. Cosmologists and physicists working on elementary particles have been able to retrace its history to an infinitesimal time after its birth and to reconstitute the history of energy and matter. They can play with the physical constants in the equations that govern its evolution: changing them to see what happens to the structure of the simulated universe. Nobody was prepared for the results: it’s nearly impossible to change these constants, even very slightly, without jeopardizing our presence in these virtual universes! Are only coincidences at the root of the stringent values the universe needs to evolve life and intelligence? Why is it so?
Surprisingly the total energy of the universe is zero: negative and positive energy balance exactly and the result is our existence. Had the expansion been slightly more energetic, no star could have formed, no planets, not even the chemical elements that we’re made from could have been created in the stellar furnaces. The universe would have remained simple, and lifeless. Had the expansion been slightly less energetic, stars would have formed but would have lived much less time than necessary to create the complex chain of nuclear reactions from which such heavy chemical elements like carbon, oxygen, iron… would have been formed. The universe would have been simpler than it is now, and lifeless. Cosmologists have discovered that the Big Bang has been amazingly fine tuned so that the universe could become complex and harbor life and intelligence. Why is it so?
What are these strange numbers: the 30 or so constant values that we can’t calculate with our equations because we don’t understand their origin? We can only measure these constants out of observation and experience; it’s therefore pertinent to see what would happen if they were different from what we find. What would look like an universe in which the gravitational constant would be slightly different from what we measure? How much carbon would be made in stars if the ratio between the gravitational and the electromagnetic forces would have been slightly different?…
The answers are invariably the same… The simulated universes won’t harbor life and intelligence! If the relative strengths of gravity and the weak force is slightly displaced in favor of the latter, then the universe would be only made out of hydrogen. If it was displaced in the other direction, then the universe would only be made out of helium. It’s the value found experimentally that gives exactly the ration of helium to hydrogen that is necessary to trigger the complex evolution of stars that can, in turn, lead to planets, life and intelligence! Why is it so?
These discoveries were so widespread that they were extended as the “Anthropic Principle” which states that the conditions in the early universe were the ones that could lead to the evolution of life and intelligence. And this principle has even been put to practice with predictions about the details of nuclear reactions at the origin of carbon that is important for life. In the fifties, the understanding of nuclear reactions involved in stars weren’t able to explain the formation of carbon. A cosmologist predicted specific behaviors for the nuclei of carbon, beryllium and oxygen, based on the Anthropic Principle and the predictions were confirmed by experiment! Why is it so?
We seem to be left with a choice between three possibilities:
Either all the constants are interdependent in a way we didn’t yet find but that couldn’t be different for a reason to be discovered;
Or our universe is part of an infinite number of different ones where the constants take all possible values. It’s only by chance that we happen to live in the only one that expresses the collection of constant values compatible with life and intelligence;
Or these values have been fine-tuned since the origin for the universe to evolve life and intelligence.
Which answer seems the simplest?
The Earth is BioFriendly from the beginning.