by Paul J. Dejillas, Ph.D.
There are more discoveries that offer new insights about time-space and, consequently, also about reality. On the whole, these discoveries phenomena result in the crumbling of the Newtonian world of certainty and determinism.
I shall belabor myself of explaining the historical development of quantum science because of the discoveries about the nature and dynamics of our Cosmos and reality that surfaced as quantum discoveries progressed.
Turned upside down, the world in the quantum view becomes a world of illusion, probabilities, opposites, continuing process of creation and annihilation, uncertainty, complementarity, interconnectivity, and of beings in a continuing process of becoming. We have come to learn of a new world that: (1) no longer distinguishes the subjective from the objective realm; (2) demonstrates the interrelatedness and interconnectivity of everything and everyone in the entire cosmic system; (3) gives importance and significance to the role of the conscious observer in creating present and future realities; (4) abandons the age of certainty and determinism; (5) is continually in a cyclical process of creation and annihilation; (6) lays down, as a result, only infinite possibilities and opportunities the realization of which is dependent on the exercise of the human mind and free will; (7) views the quantum world as also metaphysical in view of the intervention of the observer’s mind and free will and the transformative effect it bears on reality; and, finally, (8) opens a new dimension of life and existence that goes beyond the Newtonian’s solely physical realm.
The Greek Philosophers’ View
It came about because of humanity’s quest for the ultimate reality or the primal source from which everything around us emanates. The physicists are especially most concerned of this ultimate foundation of everything. Having known that the atom is at the bottom of the quest, they go further by trying to dissect it and explore if something more basic still comes before atom. It has become possible to do this today because of the invention of so-called atomic-smashing devices. But even before its invention, laboratory experiments have already been done at the turn of the 20th century.
Thomson is the first to make the pioneering atom incision and his work on cathode rays finally leads to the discovery in 1897 of the electron and their subatomic nature, a discovery which practically demolishes the idea of Democritus that atoms are indivisible units. Prior to the idea of a primal atom, however, several other theories have been advanced about what this “ultimate building block” of nature or the “beginning of all things” and the “begetter of them all” really is. The proponents of many of these ideas are traceable to the early Greek philosophers. Their exploration into the ultimate beginning of things leads them to uncover not only the nature of the primeval element from which all the things we see around us today emerge, but also the structure as well as the inherent forces, laws, or principles which govern its operations. The early Greek philosophers are, in fact, very much obsessed with studying the primitive element of all things.
Thales (ca. 640-546 B.C.) maintains that the primary stuff of all things is water. He alludes to the fact that the seeds of all things, the principles of life, contain some moisture and wetness that originates only from water. It is this moist that unites all diverse things and keeps all things alive. Anaximander, much younger than Thales, has a different view, asserting that the primary element or material cause of all things indeterminate is “neither water nor any other of the so-called elements, but a nature different from them and infinite, from which arise all the heavens and worlds within them” (quoted in Copleston 1960:41). He speaks of the plurality of co-existent worlds coming into being through eternal motion, continually sifting and sorting the heavier and the lighter elements of Nature that eventually led to the formation and separation of earth, water, atmosphere or air, and fire. Yet, there is unity in diversity.
Anaximenes (570-500 B.C.), younger than Anaximander, considers air as the principle of life from which things come from. As with Thales, he conceives the Earth as flat disc, this time floating on the air. Anaximenes maintains that “just as our soul, being air, holds us together, so do breath and air encompass the whole world.” Heraclitus (ca. 535-475 B.C.) is famous for his sayings: “All things are in motion, nothing steadfastly is;” “All things are in a state of flux;” “You cannot step twice into the same river, for fresh waters are ever flowing in upon you.” Yet, all things that come and go are, according to him, a manifestation of “the unity of the One.”
For Heraclitus, who flourished around 504-501, the ultimate reality that explains all the things we see around us is fire. According to him, fire is kept alive by feeding, by consuming, and transforming into itself heterogeneous matter. “’Fire … is want and surfeit’—it is, in other words, all things that are, but it is these things in a constant state of tension, of strike, of consuming, of kindling and of going out… [the world] is an ever-living Fire, with measures of it kindling and measures going out” (in Copleston 1960:57-58).
But for Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) aether (from a Greek word for “blazing”), a special substance out of which the luminous heavenly bodies are composed, is considered as the ultimate building block of reality. As he puts it (Plato, 1957b:83):
In the first place, take the thing we now call water. This, when it is compacted, we see (as we imagine) becoming earth and stones, and this same thing, when it is dissolved and dispersed, becoming wind and air; air becoming fire by being inflamed; and, by a reverse process, fire, when condensed and extinguished, returning once more to the form of air, and air coming together again and condensing as mist and cloud; and from these, as they are yet more closely compacted, flowing water; and from water once more earth and stones: and thus, as it appears, they transmit in a cycle the process of passing into one another.
A century or so later, Empedocles (495-435 B.C.), apparently in an attempt to join together the speculative thoughts of his predecessors, advances the idea that there are four fundamental roots of matter or elements—earth, air, fire, and water—and it is from all this that all the other matters we see around us proceed. Objects appear through the combination and mingling of these four elements. Empedocles believes in the forces that brings all the four basic elements—earth, water, air, and fire—together in a cyclical process of attraction (love, harmony, unity) and repulsion (hate, discord, separation).
Anaxagoras (b. 500 B.C.), on the other hand, argues that in the beginning “All things were together, infinite both in number and in smallness; for the small too was infinite. And, when all things were together, none of them could be distinguished for their smallness. . . . All things are in the whole” (in Copleston 1960:85). Objects come to appear when one or some kinds of the ultimate particle predominate more than the other. Anaxagoras believes that the principle or force that is responsible for the formation of things is the Mind or Nous. He considers the Nous as the creator of all things and “the thinnest of all things.” Being the primary and fundamental reality, it is present in all living things. Here, I quote Anaxagoras at length because of its relevance to today’s scientific discoveries (as quoted in Copleston 1960:86, 87):
“Nous has the power over all things that have life, both greater and smaller. And Nous had power over the whole revolution, so that it began to revolve at the start. . . . And Nous set in order all things that were to be, and all things that were and are now and that will be, and this revolution in which now revolve the stars and the sun and the moon and the air and the aether which are separated off. And the revolution itself caused the separating off, and the dense is separated off from the rare, the warm from the cold, the bright from the dark, and the dry from the moist. And there are many portions in many things. But no thing is altogether separated off from anything else except Nous. And all Nous is alike, both the greater and the smaller; but nothing else is like anything else, but each single thing is and was most manifestly those things of which there are most in it.”
The early Greek philosophers explain the ultimate origin of all things in terms of material element. But they do not arrive at their conclusions through scientific, experimental approach, but simply by means of speculative reasons and metaphysical intuition. Nonetheless, unlike their many other contemporaries during that time, they are not driven by myths legends, or fables. Today, of course, we know that all their conjectures about the ultimate nature of reality are wrong. More importantly, they fail to satisfactorily explain how the objects we see above us—planets, sun, moons, stars, galaxies—and around us—microorganisms, plants, insects, and animals—come into being. They fail to explain such natural phenomena as earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, the cyclical season of our weather, and the like. But the early Greek philosophers, other than exploring into the ultimate beginning of things, make another contribution by teaching us that within this ultimate material element are forces, laws, or principles that govern the operations and behavior of Cosmos and all living things, including Man.
The resulting knowledge is that the fundamental reality consists of both physical or visible and non-physical, in the sense of being invisible (also, forces, principles, or laws) that are not only responsible for the appearance of things, but, more importantly, guide the relationships and behavior of the appearing objects. Thus, one can say that it is during the times of the Greek philosophers that the metaphysical dimension of atoms begins to be talked about and planted. The concept of ultimate building block of nature as having both a physical and metaphysical dimension pervades the thinking of the later Greek philosophers. Aristotle himself speculates that his aether is a divine and indestructible substance; its place is in the heavens, where it makes up the stars and the other heavenly bodies.
Their most important contribution, of course, is that they introduce to science the idea of atom (literally “not able to be cut”) as the primeval stuff from which all things proceed. This idea is advanced by Leucippus of Miletus (490 B.C.) and his disciple Democritus of Abdera (460-362 B.C.), who argue that atom is the smallest indivisible unit from which all things originate. According to them, there is an infinite number of atoms; atoms differ in size and shape and move in the void. In the beginning, they say, there are only atoms and the void. In the void, collisions between atoms are inevitable; atoms of irregular shapes get entangled with one another, eventually forming groups of atoms. In this way, the world expands simultaneously giving birth to all the things we see around us. It is in this manner also that the four elements—fire, air, earth, and water—are formed.
In fact, according to Leucippus and Democritus, these continuing chance collisions among infinite number of atoms moving in the void give rise to planets, stars, moons, suns, galaxies, and the entire Cosmos, including all living things from the smallest one-celled organism to multi-cellular, highly complex organisms like plants, insects, animals, and plants. There is no external cause of the atoms’ eternal motion; it seems that Leucippus and Democritus do not require an explanation for the atoms’ source of motion. Like their Greek predecessors, Leucippus and Democritus confine their exploration into the ultimate reality in a purely physical and mechanistic way. Primarily using the method of logical reasoning, Democritus expresses the dominant view of the Greeks during that time that in the beginning there is only atom and the void interacting with each other.
The Roman poet Lucretius, in his “The Nature of the Universe,” calls the atom “the seeds of things” or the “raw material” from which comes all the things in the Cosmos. In his words (see Milton K. Munitz, 1957:42):
I will set out a discourse to you (Memmius) on the ultimate realities of heaven and the gods. I will reveal those atoms from which nature creates all things and increases and feeds them and into which, when they perish, nature again resolves them. To these in my discourse I commonly give such names as the ‘raw material,’ or ‘generative bodies’ or ‘seeds’ of things. Or I may call them ‘primary particles,’ because they come first and everything else is composed of them.
The concept of ultimate building block of nature as having both physical and metaphysical dimensions continues to dominate during the stormy period of the medieval philosophers. Francis Mercury van Helmont (1618-99) develops the theory of the monads as the primary imperishable unit of reality. He subscribes to the conception that the continuing attraction and union between monads is responsible for the creation of complex structures. In turn, each of the newly-formed complex structure is governed by a central monad, the soul or spirit, which directs the whole complex organism, including humans. All monads are imperishable; they continually join other sets of monads in order to attain perfection, until they enter into union with God, the Creator and End of all the monads. Van Helmont shares common interest with his predecessors in magic, occultism, and alchemy.
But it is Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) who develops a relatively extensive theory of monads. Leibniz maintains that objects are composed of simple substances that contain no parts; these simple substances, he called ‘monads,’ which, according to him, are “the true atoms of nature and, in a word, the elements of things” (Copleston 1963b:301-305). According to Leibniz, the ultimate reality is the monad, which can come into being only by creation. Being without parts, the monad is indivisible and possesses no shape. In addition, there is in every monad its inner constitution and law, also attributed as the inherent principle, force, energy, or virtue. Each monad, therefore, is the source of its activities; each possesses the inert tendency to act and self-develop. To Leibniz, therefore, each monad is both prime matter or object and active force or principle. This primitive force manifests itself in the form of activity or action, by combining with other monads to form their simple substances into complex ones. In this manner, the Cosmos comes to existence.
The Cosmos is composed of a multitude of monads joined together in what Leibniz calls “substantial bond.” But while monads possess no shape and form, each monad is, nonetheless, distinguishable from the other, because, to Leibniz, each monad differs in the degree of, what he calls, “perception” and “appetition,” which each possesses. Each monad has its own way and degree of perceiving the external environment. Some monads have confused and indistinct perceptions and without memory and consciousness, example of which, according to Leibniz, are the monads of plants. But some monads possess a higher degree of perception, especially when it is accompanied by memory and feeling, as are the monads of animals. Still, a much higher degree of monads are those whose perception is accompanied by consciousness, wherein perception becomes distinct, clear, and the perceiver is aware of such a perception. “The action of the internal principle which causes the change or the passage from one perception to another may be called appetition” (in Copleston 1963b:314).
But both Democritus’ conception of atom and Leibniz’s monads differ with that of the quantum physicists’ view, in the sense that the former views believe in the indivisibility of atoms and monads, while that of the latter is just the opposite, contending that atoms (or monads) are made of still smaller particles. But just like the earlier Greek and Medieval philosophers’ views, quantum physicists also believe that the ultimate building block possesses inherent principles or “cohesive forces” that govern its operation.
But Atom Is After All Divisible
In the late 19th century, Thomson and Rutherford’s pioneering work leads several other scientists to the discovery more subatomic particles. In the midst of this finding, the atom comes to be known to consist of a tiny but heavy, positively-charged center nucleus surrounded by a cloud of lightweight negatively-charged particles called electrons. Soon after, in 1914, the protons are recognized as a particle. However, neutrons, a companion of protons, are discovered only much later in 1932. In the early 1930s, only three atomic particles are known—electrons, protons, and neutrons; this number increases to 18 in 1955. By the end of the 20th century, because of the continuous smashing of atoms, there are already over 200 subatomic particles known (Fritjof Capra, 2000:75).
As physicists continue to divide atoms and subatomic particles, more baffling and puzzling phenomena begin to be noticed. In 1895, Wilhelm Roentgen (1845-1923) discovers radioactive substances emitted by the atom, which he called x-rays, so termed after the mathematical symbol (x) for an unknown quantity. In 1912, Max von Laue (1879-1960) shows in his experiments that x-rays are “electromagnetic waves,” which he then uses to study the arrangements of atoms in crystals. Radioactivity is further investigated by Marie Currie (1867-1934) and Pierre Curie (1859-1806) and for their efforts they were awarded Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903. Then, two other radioactive decays are discovered in 1908 by Lord Ernest Rutherford, who receives the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for this work. These radioactive substances are the so-called alpha and beta radiations, which turned out to be “tiny high-speed projectiles.” Rutherford uses these alpha particles in 1911 to study the composite nature, operations, and structure of the atom. When Rutherford subjects atoms to an intense bombardment with these alpha particles, the atoms reveal themselves to be enormous regions of space housing a core mass around which exceedingly small particles move, leading him to say that the objects we touch feel hard and firm when in reality they are simply an illusion, only a product of the interplay of the forces among atoms and molecules:
Matter is predominantly empty space (nothing, void, empty). When we pound a table, it feels solid, but it is the interplay of electrical forces (and quantum rules) among atoms and molecules that create the illusion of solidity. The atom is mostly void.
Later Heisenberg and his colleagues (1961:13) re-echo this observation saying that even the elementary particles is no longer real: “In the light of the quantum theory . . . elementary particles are no longer real in the same sense as objects of daily life, trees of stones . . .” In 1900, Max Planck (1857-1947), in his paper of blackbody radiation, observes that the energy radiated in heat travels not continuously but in “energy packets.” He then hypothesizes that it could also be true in the case of other forms of electromagnetic radiation. Unlike solid particles, quanta are mass-less and weightless. What is strange in this discovery is that matter in the very small world can now be seen not only as a solid particle, in the Newtonian sense, but also as packets of energy.
In 1905 Albert Einstein (1879-1955) makes an equally startling, but parallel, discovery to the effect that matter is nothing but stored energy and that the nature and form that a solid particle may finally appear depends on the amount of energy that is congealed in it. Energy, as it begins to be conceived, is continually engaged in a process of change and transformation that finally appears itself as matter or solid particle having its mass, weight, and volume. Einstein even mathematically demonstrates that the amount of energy contained in a particle can be estimated in his famous formula E = mc2, where E stands for energy, m for mass, and c2 is the conversion factor, and c represents the speed of light. In this formula, a discovery is made that, in addition to the idea that matter and energy are equivalent, Einstein believes that theoretically light travels as a stream of very tiny particles, which he calls quanta. With this discovery, everything, including the human person, can now be viewed as one, interconnected system.
In the Einsteinian view, a solid particle or matter, since it is a form of frozen energy, is permeable, i.e., it is able to penetrate another matter or matter is able to interpenetrate with each other. Later, laboratory experiments conducted by physicists confirmed this view when they discover that subatomic particle neutrinos are so elusive that they could penetrate light-years of solid lead. It is also found out that an alpha particle can “tunnel out through the nuclear force barrier” (Paul Davies and John Gribbin, 1992:176, 204). This is also called “quantum tunneling, i.e., where matter can leave from one mark to another without moving through the overriding space Unlike solid objects, energy projects itself separately as a dynamic entity engaged in continuing change and transformation. Because of this, the nature and behavior of matter is likewise ever-changing depending on the amount of energy expended in the process. Like that of Max Planck, the dual nature of matter also emerges in Einstein’s theory, now known to us as the “special theory of relativity.”
The Birth of Quantum Physics
With these new developments in physics (Einstein’s special relativity theory and Max Planck’s radiation theory), a new science, now known as quantum physics (in contrast the to the classical view of Newton and derived from the quanta concept), begins to develop in the 20th century. Matter is no longer seen as static and solid objects, as is the case of the Newtonian view, but as a continuing dynamic interaction of both particles and energy that can potentially give rise to new realities. In their theories, particles at the quantum level can behave like waves and, conversely, waves can behave as solid particles. This phenomenon becomes to be known today as the wave-particle duality theory, in which matter is viewed as possessing certain properties of both particles and waves.
More discoveries in the quantum world reveal that matter and energy are not limited to one single point but spread out over and filling a large portion of a given space. This spread of particle and energy is best known in physics as the quantum field theory. Introduced in 1928 by Paul Dirac, this theory advances the view that it is the field, not matter that composes reality because matter is simply a visible and concrete manifestation of the continuous motion and transformation of energy. The quantum field theory is considered significant by scientists since, according to them, it is able to combine Einstein’s view of relativity and quantum mechanics as one integral theory. As the 20th century opened, new giants of physics appear pursuing the works of Rutherford. Besides Max Plank and Albert Einstein, they include French physicist Louis de Broglie (1892-1987), Denmark physicist Niels Bohr (1885-1962), Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger (1887-1961) and Austrian physicist Wolfgang Pauli (1900-1958), German physicist Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976), and English physicist Paul Dirac (1902-1984).
In 1928, physicist Paul Dirac advances the possibility for the electron to exist in two different energy states—positive in one state, the negative in the other state—but identical in both size and mass. He indicates that the existence of a particular positively charged particle, the only known of which is proton during that time, accounts for the existence of a “new particle” that is like an electron but whose charge and some of its other major properties are exactly opposite to those of the electron. Two years later, or in 1932, American physicist Carl Anderson (1905-1991) discovers this “new particle” and calls it positron, which is a contracted form for positive electron. Since then, physicists began to discover that every particle (matter) has an equivalent anti-particle, or anti-matter, which has the same mass, but opposite charge (Iain Nicolson, 2007).
After the Second World War, antiprotons and other antimatter particles are discovered, and today antiparticles of all varieties are routinely made out of energy in particle physics laboratories around the world (Davies and Gribbin, 1992:153). To differentiate the two opposite particles, Steven Weinberg (1933-2010) defines “matter” to refer to material that is made from the basic building blocks of protons, neutrons, and electrons, while “antimatter” to material constructed from antiprotons, antineutrons, and positrons (the antiparticles of electrons). Leonard Susskind (b. 1940) further elaborates that: “Each type of electrically charged particle, such as the electron and photon, has a twin, namely, its antiparticle. The antiparticle is identical to its twin, with one exception; it has the opposite electric charge (2005).”
In 1934, Fermi broached the idea of a neutrino, Italian for “little neutron” (a neutron today is known to decay within 20 minutes and transforms into a proton, an electron and another kind of particle, called a neutrino) that has no electric charge, no mass, neutral, no tendency to interact with matter, and capable of knocking out protons out of nuclei. It is probably because of this that it became to be known as a “nothing particle,” or “ghost particle,” but its purpose, says Fermi, was simply to balance the law of conservation of energy—energy, momentum, angular moment, and lepton number. While the neutrino has not yet been detected, physicists already welcomed the idea that neutrino and antineutrino—whether detected or not, must exist. They were proven right, of course, since in 1956, a team of American physicists led by Frederick Reines and Clyde Cowan, using a fission reactor, detected antineutrinos in their laboratory. By 1936, the electron, positron, neutrino, and antineutrino were known as the first generation of leptons. On the same year, however, Anderson discovered two other particles belonging to the second generation of lepton family: muon (later classified as meson) and antimuon. Muon is the same particle that Japanese physicist Hideki Yukawa also discovered. And it was not to be the end.
In 1947, British physicist Cecil Frank Powell discovered another particle the pi meson. Yukawa and Powell received a Nobel Price in 1949 for this discovery. In 1975, the American physicist Martin Perl discovered an electron-like particle he called tau lepton, or tauon, now belonging to the third generation. Today, physicists speak of three “flavors” of leptons: the electron and the electron neutrino; the muon and the muon neutrino; and the tauon and the tauon neutrino. There are also three flavors of antileptons: the antielectron (positron) and the electron antineutrino; theimuon and the muon antineutrino; and the tauon and the tauon antineutrino. All together, there are 12 leptons and antileptons. They are considered as fundamental particles since they are indivisible (so far, at least). The tauon and the muon break down into positrons. The electron, the positron, the three neutrinos, and the three antineutrinos don’t seem to break down at all.
But the discovery of new sub-atomic particles did not end there. Before the early 1960s, the subatomic particles were thought to consist of only protons, neutrons and electrons. In 1961, however, Murray Gell-Mann and Kazuhiko Nishijima came up with the idea that the protons and neutrons are still composed of still smaller particles when they were developing a classification of hadrons. In 1963, Gell-Mann called these particles “quarks.” But it was only in 1968 that the protons and neutrons were experimentally confirmed to compose of point-like particles called quarks. As known today, quarks are building blocks of a large class of objects called hadrons (Greek word for “heavy”). They have no dimension, no shape, structure-less, solid, and indivisible. And there are six quarks known, also known as flavors, but physicists view them in terms of pairs: up/down; charm/strange; and top/bottom.
Quarks are observed to occur only in combinations of two quarks (mesons), three quarks (baryons), and the recently discovered particles with five quarks (the pentaquark). Because of this, they are known to be sociable in contrast to leptons which are known to be solitary particles. The most familiar baryons are the proton, which is composed of two up quarks and one down quark, and the neutron is composed of one up quark and two down quarks. The proton, neutron, antiproton, and antineutron all belong to the baryon family. These four baryons were known in 1936 already. The antiparticles of quarks are known as antiquarks, which are equal in magnitude and opposite in sign to those of the quarks.
The search for the ultimate building block of creation, or the beginning of all things, continues and there are strong indications that this search will continue in the next decades to come. Apparently, new particles keep on appearing as our atom-smashing instruments get all the more sophisticated in doing their job. But what is the meaning of all this? Capra hints that this search may just as well be futile and unproductive since, according to him, atomic physics has only shown that (2000:68-69):
. . . we cannot decompose the world into independently existing smallest units. As we penetrate into matter, nature does not show us any isolated ‘basic building blocks’, but rather appears as a complicated web of relations between the various parts of the whole.
The Roman poet Lucretius, in his poem De Rerum Natura, foresees this endless search, at least theoretically on his part. Applying his view on atoms, we can also ask: where does one stop smashing the atoms? So far, modern science has shown that something is still left at the end of every discovered subatomic particle. The early Greek philosophers explain the ultimate origin of all things in terms of material element. But they do not arrive at their conclusions through a scientific, experimental approach, but simply by means of speculative reasons and metaphysical intuition. Nonetheless, unlike their contemporary thinkers, they are not driven by myths legends, or fables. Today, of course, we know that all their conjectures about the ultimate nature of reality are wrong. More importantly, they fail to satisfactorily explain how the objects we see above us—planets, sun, moons, stars, galaxies—and around us—microorganisms, plants, insects, and animals—come into being. They fail to explain such natural phenomena as earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, the cyclical season of our weather, and the like.
But the early Greek philosophers, other than exploring into the ultimate beginning of things, make another contribution by teaching us that within this ultimate material element are forces, laws, or principles that govern the operations and behavior of the Cosmos and all living things, including human beings. The resulting knowledge that the fundamental reality consists of both physical and non-physical, in the sense of being invisible (also forces, principles, or laws) that are not only responsible for the appearance of things, but, more importantly, guide the relationships and behavior of the appearing objects, continue to dominate during the time of the ancient Greek philosophers.
Today, physicists study the properties of sub-atomic particles in high-speed accelerators, called particle accelerators or atom smashers where selected particles circle the tube in opposite directions and are made to collide with each other. Because of these devices and procedure, the earlier beginnings of creation now become replicable. In effect, the Big-Bang theory can now be tested in the laboratory of the physicists by tinkering with subatomic particles. These machines are huge, circular tube extending for some miles in circumference inside which subatomic particles are accelerated at velocities close to the speed of light. One such accelerator is the one at Fermilab located near Batavia, Illinois, the circumference of which extend four miles. Fermilab is known as the highest particle collider in the world.
Another such machine is the one housed at CERN (for Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire or European Organization for Nuclear Research) in Geneva, Switzerland. Today, physicists study the properties of sub-atomic particles in these high-speed accelerators, where selected particles circle the tube in opposite directions and are made to collide with each other. Other atom-smashing laboratories can now be found in Russia, Germany, and Japan. But the first particle accelerator is said to be devised in 1929 by the British physicist John Douglas Cockroft and his co-worker, the Irish physicist Ernest Thomas Sinton Walton. The following year, another one is devised by the American physicist Ernest Orlando Lawrence (Asimov).
Because of these devices, more bizarre phenomena begin to be discovered at the subatomic realm. If a particle meets an anti-particle, they cancel out each other and vanish without a trace, a process called mutual annihilation. In the course of the annihilation, higher energy photons, called gamma rays, are released with energy exactly equivalent to the mass before the annihilation. In 1949, Richard Feynman (1918-1988), in his diagram of particle-antiparticle annihilation, shows that when an electron meets an anti-electron (positron), two photons are created out of nowhere at the point of contact; these two photons depart in opposite directions at the speed of light. Photons are said to be mass-less and does not have electric charge. The proton, the electron, the photon, and the neutrino are considered stable particles, in the sense that they live forever, but can be annihilated when they are involved in a collision. The neutron can fall into pieces spontaneously in a process of disintegration called “beta decay.” The process transforms the neutron into a proton, accompanied by the creation of an electron and a new mass-less particle called neutrino.
All the other particles (at least those discovered until the mid 1970s, except for the proton, electron, photon, and neutrino) are considered unstable, since they undergo a process of decay almost immediately after they are created. These unstable particles disappear after a few “particle second” and although they are invisible, they leave their tracks in the bubble chamber. In the collision process, only those stable particles remain. Clearly, at the moment of collision, an annihilation-creation process immediately commences, where the colliding particles themselves annihilate each other and vanished into nothingness and the highly focused energy emitted from these two colliding particles literally create new particles whose existence and properties can be detected through the tracks they leave behind at the collision point.
For example, using huge particle accelerators, in a collision between a proton and an antiproton, it can be seen that while the initial colliding particles are completely annihilated, the collision process also gives way to the creation of new particles, called pions. Incredible as it may seem, the collision tracks can be photographed (the photographs are reproduced in Capra, 1975:187, 217-225). In another particle collision between a pion and a proton, photographs shows 16 particles created. It is also found out that newly created particles undergo further collisions or decay, thus, the continuing process of annihilation and creation. This event is likened to the Big Bang, a cataclysmic explosion that marks the creation of the Cosmos. Another feature of the quantum theory is the basic symmetry between particles and antiparticles.
Physicists explain this symmetry in the concept that for every particle, there exists an antiparticle having the same mass but with an opposite charge. In the earlier beginning, elementary particles outnumbered antiparticles, by a ratio of a billion and one particles for every billion particles of the same kind. When the annihilation of particles and antiparticles took place, the surplus particles—protons, neutrons, and electrons—remained (Paul Davies, 1983:29-30). What is, then, simulated or recreated in these circular chambers in the laboratory of physics is the creation of the particles that compose the nascent Cosmos immediately after the Big Bang, particles which begin to suddenly appear and blossom out of nowhere. But scientists say that these controlled experiments of the process of creation-annihilation are also actually happening inside massive stars and in the cosmic atmosphere, where continuous collisions of particles are occurring.
Another discovery that emerges in the early 20th century is the structure of the electrons that circle around the nucleus. Applying the quantum ideas to the study of the atomic structure, Neils Bohr idea in 1913 abandons the conception that electrons circle around the nucleus, like the planets circling around the Sun. Electrons, according to Bohr, circle the nucleus in certain specific orbits, also known as concentric shells around the atom’s nucleus arranged in an order of increasing energy level, or quantum state. The level closest to the nucleus is the smallest shell, also referred to as the ground state, and considered to be most stable. Once excited, an electron can move, leap, or jump from this ground energy level to the next higher energy level or state. An electron on the ground level is said to be excited if it absorbs energy from an external source, i.e., it absorbs a photon with energy equal to the difference between the energies of the two levels.
When this happens this occasions the excited electron to jump to a higher energy level, but in the process leaving a space in the lower shell. An analogy of a ladder is given, where a person can stand only on a given rung or step of a ladder, but not in between the steps. On the other hand, if that same electron, now stationed at a higher energy level or state, emits photon, then, it automatically drops or jumps to a lower-energy orbital. Bohr advances that the positions of the electrons around the atom's nucleus are described through probabilities—that is, an electron can theoretically be found at any arbitrary position around the nucleus. This pattern is referred to as its atomic orbital, the shape of which depends on its energy level, or quantum state. All this also reinforces the dual nature theory of electrons as wave and particle.
The Development of Quantum Theory
Schrödinger and Heisenberg develop to the full the quantum theory begun by Albert Einstein’s idea about electromagnetism in 1904. In 1927, Heisenberg introduces what he calls the uncertainty principle when he observes that it is impossible, even in principle, to measure with great accuracy the exact position and momentum of a particle since the observer and the instrument used immediately changes the particle’s velocity and momentum (Isaac Asimov, p. 120). Why is this so? Let me go back in history a bit farther. The idea of electromagnetic waves is introduced by Michael Faraday (1791-1867), as a result of his experiments in chemistry and his work in electricity and magnetism that resulted to the discovery of electromagnetic induction.
Then, British physicist James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879), who became professor of physics and astronomy at Cambridge University at the age of 25, pursues Maxwell’s works that results in the merger of electricity and magnetism and, in the process, discovers the nature of light as well (Konrad B. Krauskopf and Arthur Beiser, 1991:200-201). In 1864, Maxwell introduces the concept of electromagnetic waves, which are viewed as disturbances generated by an accelerated electric charge. Their existence is finally discovered in 1887 by German physicist Heinrich Hertz (1857-1894) exhibiting a behavior exactly described by Maxwell.
Already in 1924, Louis de Broglie maintains that the waves associated with moving particles travels with great velocity in a group or packet of waves. In a wave, then, it is difficult to know exactly where a particle is at a given time, much less where it will be a few seconds from now, and how fast it will be moving. The future cannot be known for certain because we cannot even exactly know the present or the “now.” Heisenberg’s idea is even applied to the large-scale Cosmos in the sense that, regardless, of the size, all objects are also believed to be governed by this principle, now known as the uncertainty principle. This uncertainty multiplies since, according to Heisenberg, any device one might use to determine the position of a particle would have an effect of changing the particle’s velocity and also momentum. According to this principle, the position and motion of particles can only be expressed in terms of probabilities. How? According to Heisenberg, the height of the wave would tell us of the probability that the electron would be there at a particular location at any given moment, but that the electron doesn’t have to be there also.
German scientist Erwin Schrödinger presents his analogy of a cat to bring home the uncertainty occurring in the quantum world. He invites us to imagine a sealed box containing a live cat and a canister of poison. The box is arranged in such a manner that if a radioactive decay occurs, the vial containing the poison would be broken and the cat dies. Then, the possibility is such that after some time the cat inside the box would only be either alive or dead. The atomic decay either happened or not. But there is no way of knowing since the box is closed. Quantum mechanics theorists argue that under this condition the cat exists in some indeterminate state, neither dead nor alive, unless an observer opens the box to know whether the cat is alive or dead. In the meantime, nothing is real unless it is observed. Thus, in quantum theory, one only predicts “the probabilities of alternative outcomes” (Alan Guth, 1997:117).
The discovery of quantum particles to exhibit apparently opposite features, like particles and their antiparticles or particles and the dual nature of particles as waves and particles, leads the Danish physicist Neils Bohr to advance in 1927 his so-called “principle of complementarity,” in which he maintains that isolated material particles can only be defined and observed through their interaction with other systems (1958:57). In his notion of complementarity, Bohr also sees the particle and wave dimensions as complementary representations of the same reality and both descriptions, according to him, are needed to complete the whole picture. Heisenberg (1958:107) later comments that as a result: “The world thus appears as a complicated tissue of events, in which connections of different kinds alternate or overlap or combine and thereby determine the texture of the whole.” It now appears that quantum theory reveals a fundamental reality, which physicist David Bohm (1917-1992) calls “unbroken wholeness,” clearly suggesting that we cannot decompose the world into independently existing smallest units. In the words of Bohm and Hiley (1974, 1975:96,102):
“Parts” are seen to be in immediate connection, in which their dynamical relationships depend, in an irreducible way, on the state the whole system (and, indeed, on that of broader systems in which they are contained, extending ultimately and in principle to the entire universe). Thus, one is led to a new notion of unbroken wholeness which denies the classical idea of analyzability of the world into separately and independently existent parts . .
As American physicist, Barbara Brennan, states in her book The Hands of Light: “Quantum physics is beginning to realise that the Universe appears to be a dynamic web of interconnected and inseparable energy patterns. If the universe is indeed composed of such a web, there is logically no such thing as a part. This implies we are not separated parts of a whole but rather we are the Whole." The interconnectedness of all matter in the physical universe also reflects the so-called non-locality phenomenon (attributed as the Bell’s theorem) which advances the view that occurrences on one side of the Cosmos can instantly effect 'matter' on the other side of the Cosmos. In simpler words, an event which happens in one place instantaneously causes an influence or effect of another event in some place elsewhere in the Cosmos. This theory is discovered in 1935 when Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosenberg (EPR) theorize that the simple act of measuring a particular particle at one particular location instantly influence another particle far away, an event which Einstein calls “spooky actions at a distance.”
Almost after 30 years later, Irish experimental physicist John Stewart Bell (1928-1990) conducts an experiment following the EPR theory, the results of which prove the latter to be true. Fritjof Capra interprets this feature in the quantum world in terms of unity, interconnectedness, and mutual interrelation of all things and events that arise in the quantum world. This sort of interpretation, he refers to as the “metaphysics of quantum theory.” In his words (1975:124): “Quantum theory ... reveals an essential interconnectedness of the universe. It shows that we cannot decompose the world into independently existing smallest units.” Particle scientists discover that atoms can now be divided. But, strangely enough, the resulting elements are also atoms of the same nature as the original atom, consisting primarily of the three major elements: protons, neutrons, and electrons, composed of matter (dense part) and energy (the subtle part).
In the process of observing the micro-cosmos, physicists are becoming certain that the observer and his or her observing instrument have direct and immediate effects on the nature and behavior of the observed fundamental particles. Since matter can now be viewed as either solid particles or waves and energy packets, or even as a combination of both, the ultimate description of reality becomes largely dependent on how the conscious observer (the subjective aspect, in this case) views the object being observed (or the objective reality). This act of observing and using the instrument, in view of the physicists, entails the exercise of the human mind, consciousness, and free will. American physicist John Archibald Wheeler (1911-2008) advances that the universes would then be “real” only if they contained observers: the status of the Cosmos would depend fundamentally on whether it could harbor a conscious observer of any kind (quoted by Martin Rees, 1997).
In his “Bohr, Einstein, and the Strange Lesson of the Quantum,” Wheeler states that “the observing equipment …, through the elementary quantum processes that terminate on it, takes part in giving tangible ‘reality’ to events that occur long before there was any life anywhere” (1981:18). George Greenstein (1988:223) is more direct in positing that “the universe brought forth life in order to exist … that the very cosmos does not exist unless observed.” Thus, the conscious “observer,” by his or her free will of utilizing the instrument, is also being transformed as a “participant,” or in the words of John A. Wheeler and his colleagues, a “participator” (1973:62). In the ultimate analysis, while the Cosmos creates humanity, humanity through its observations also brings the Cosmos into reality. In the view of quantum world, the objective reality only exists because of the observer; without the observer reality does cannot exist at all.
Corollarily, the external reality is meaningful only in relation to the observer as well as in the context of the conditions and arrangements obtaining between the observer and the observed. What is sublime and puzzling here is that the observer, in observing the quantum system, interferes with the behavior of the particles inside the system. The “observer” no longer becomes passive since he or she influences in shaping reality. By the active participation and involvement of the conscious observer, the quantum world is elevated to another dimension that goes beyond the physical plane. In what manner do the human consciousness, mind, and free will influence reality and, even more importantly, how these human faculties emerge from the physical reality are a subject that will be dealt elsewhere below. At this stage, it is simply worthwhile noting the importance and significance that humans play in shaping the world. As Paul Davies and John Gribbin (1992) put it:
Unlike the mechanistic paradigm, the Cosmos began to be seen as a world of probabilities and uncertainties that now gives importance and significance to the role the human mind, consciousness, that opens the way to the discussion of such metaphysical concepts as free will, soul, spirit, and even God.
Going back to our main discussion, the subject-object relationship now gains a new perspective. Unlike before when a distinction between subject and object is strictly made, the findings drawn from the quantum world now strongly indicate that this division is no longer necessary and in fact it ought to disappear; for both the subject and the object become one interconnecting and interacting parts of the entire cosmic system. Neils Bohr explains that events occurring outside no longer become objective since their occurrence is very much influenced and colored by the subjective elements of the observer. Or in his words (as transcribed by Heisenberg, 1958:88):
… splitting this reality into an objective and a subjective side won’t get us very far. That is why I consider those developments in physics during the last decades which have shown how problematical such concepts as ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ are, a great liberation of thought. The whole thing started with the theory of relativity. In the past, the statement that two events are simultaneous was considered an objective assertion, one that could be communicated quite simply and that was open to verification by any observer. Today we know that ‘simultaneity’ contains a subjective element, inasmuch as two events that appear simultaneous to an observer at rest are not necessarily simultaneous to an observer in motion.
As our knowledge of the quantum world begins to go deeper, more and more astonishing insights reveal themselves. For example, physicist Sheldon Glashow (b. 1932) interprets the dual nature of matter (as both solid and energy or as passive and dynamic) in terms of “being” and “becoming.” Physicists espousing this view contend that the primal matter that triggered the Big Bang was in the state of being but in the process of becoming. And this process is manifested as a process of change and transformation implies an improvement, growth, and development from simplicity to complexity. Part of this process, says K. G. Denbigh, is the stomping in every individual species their distinct personality, image, identity, and behavior. In his words (1975:111):
A very striking change, seen from left to right, is the increasing importance of ‘individuality’. Large molecules of the same substance have different instantaneous configurations; cells of the same species and variety differ from each other in detail even more considerably; at the level of multicellular organisms, individuality becomes still more pronounced and shows itself in characteristic differences of behaviour.
The process of becoming is explained in the process of nuclear reactions taking place within the nucleus and chemical reactions occurring in the electrons, which is manifested as a continuing process of combinations and splits. On their own, it is in the nature of the nuclei to fuse with each other and never to break up on their own. When, for example, two light nuclei come into contact with each other, they tend to fuse and combine, a nuclear process popularly called fusion. In the case of larger and heavier nuclei, however, the tendency is for them to split into smaller nuclei, a process called fission. It is, in fact this method that was applied by the Hungarian physicist Leo Slizard (1989-1964) to produce the first atom bomb in July 1945.
Proofs of nuclear fusion and fission, however, come out publicly in 1939 because of the works of Hans Bethe (for fusion) and Lise Meitner using the experiments of Otto Hahn. This finding about nuclear reactions eventually leads to the generally accepted theory in physics that very light nuclei like hydrogen nuclei can be transformed into helium through the process of fusion, while much heavier and larger nuclei, like iron, undergo fission. Russian physicist George Gamow says that nuclei that are heavier than silver would break up into two or more parts if a sufficiently strong force is applied from the outside. On the other hand, a spontaneous process of fusion would take place in the case of nuclei whose combined atomic weight is less than that of silver. But both fusion and fission, the physicists tell us, only occur if some external actions are done about the nuclei to produce the process. The vast majority of atomic nuclei are medium sized, which, physicists agree, never undergo any kind of nuclear reaction. These are those nuclei located in the middle portion of the Dmitri Mendeleev’s (1834—1907) Periodic Table of Chemical Elements. All in all the periodic chart of elements contain 92 varieties of atoms.
But where does all the energy come from? This problem has long been solved by Albert Einstein in his special theory of relativity. For Einstein, matter is stored energy; matter is thus equivalent to energy and can be transformed into each other with a conversion factor. Relativity theory shows that material particles can be created out of pure energy and pure energy can be transformed into material particles. This can happen, for example, when subatomic particles are made to collide with each other at very high velocities inside high-speed particle accelerators. The amount of energy contained in a particle is mathematically expressed by Albert Einstein in his famous formula E = mc2. The amount of energy released from the fusion of two nuclei can be devastating.
“A hydrogen fusion bomb,” says Simon Singh, “is far more devastating than a plutonium fission bomb” (2004). George Gamow theorizes that at the time of creation, when the nascent Cosmos is swarmed by a collection of protons and neutrons, fusion must have taken place when hydrogen atoms fused together to produce helium atoms. The collision and merger of hydrogen nuclei could only be brought about by the extremely hot temperatures that followed after the Big Bang. Particle collisions are especially happening inside the hot furnaces of massive stars. And this is specifically the process (collision) how the subsequent elements in the Mendeleev periodic chart of chemical elements are believed to have also been produced.
This process of collision, merger, and split up helps provide the solid basis for elucidating the process of being and becoming in the physical realm. What makes it convincing is the finding that the same process is also happening at the more fundamental level, i.e., at the level of subatomic particles, which are also governed by natural laws similar to the three Newtonian laws of motion regulating the large Cosmos. In the microscopic level, however, quantum physicists discover that gravity, which holds the Sun together and guides planets in their celestial orbits in the solar system, is too weak a force to hold the atomic and subatomic particles. What forces, then, keep the electrically neutral atom and their sub-particles together and in their proper places, without disintegrating and thrown into space? Why do the negatively charged electrons, for example, continue to stay in their proper places when they should have been pulled towards and attracted to the positively charged nucleus?
It is known that the force between positive and negative charge is attractive, while those with the same charge is positive. And, what cohesive forces bring the positively charged protons and the neutrally charged neutrons to stay together, when they should, according to the fundamental laws of electricity and magnetism, keep away from each other? Why don’t they break up and go their own separate ways, which is, in fact, natural? Fortunately, this has not been so, otherwise, the formation of the nucleus from which everything in the Cosmos originates would have been impossible and we would not have been here too. Finally, if every particle has its opposites, then, matter and anti-matter cancel out each other and, according to this view, no matter—giant clouds, star, planets, moons, satellites, including life and Man—would have appeared. But why did we still appear? What explains our birth?
In the process of investigation and experimentation, quantum physicists discover three distinct forces operating in different levels of strength at the micro world of atoms and their subatomic particles. These are: (1) the electromagnetic force, which keeps the negatively charged electron in orbit around the negatively charged protons in an atomic nucleus; (2) the strong nuclear force that holds the nuclei of the atoms together; and (3) the weak nuclear force, which is responsible for radioactive decay and for the interactions of elusive light particles called neutrinos. The action of the weak nuclear force is responsible for the appearance of atoms and through nuclear and chemical reactions also the creation, maintenance, and destruction of the heavy elements presented in the Mendeleev’s Periodic Table of Elements.
All in all the periodic chart of elements contain 92 varieties of atoms. Including the fourth force, gravity, all these forces are responsible for giving birth to the nuclear clouds, suns, planets, moons, galaxies and all the things now existing in the Cosmos, including humanity. The force of gravity is well known to many of us. It is responsible for holding heavy objects together—the galactic clusters, galaxies, stars, clouds, planets, satellites, including us, thus, allowing the Solar System to exist. Its force is attractive, mediated by a mass-less particle called graviton. Without gravity, every celestial bodies up there in the skies would explode, disintegrate and flown farther and farther outward into space. But its force is so weak, 1036 times weaker that the electromagnetic force, and cannot be detected at the atomic and sub-atomic levels. This is where the other three forces come in.
Like gravity, electromagnetism also affects our daily lives in the sense that it includes both electricity and magnetism. At the highest level, it holds together the atoms and the molecules and at the subatomic level, it binds the negative electron to orbit its nucleus and pushes two electrons that are closely held in an atom apart so that they do not collide with each other. Electromagnetic force came about with the efforts of James Clerk Maxwell 1864 to synthesis the laws of electricity and magnetism. His view is that light itself is both pure electricity and magnetism, or in short electromagnetic wave. According to the Standard Model of particle physics, electromagnetic interactions are mediated by photons, which are considered responsible for producing all electric and magnetic fields. While gravity is attractive, electromagnetic force can be attractive or repulsive depending on the charge of a particle and its range of influence is infinite. It is no weakling. It’s 100 times weaker than the strong interaction but 1,000 times stronger than the weak force. But as one goes down to the lower-level particles, the effect of electromagnetism can no longer be detected.
At the level of the nucleus, a new nuclear force, discovered in the 1930s, was found to hold the positively charged protons and the electrically neutral neutron. Gamow advanced the observation that this force that binds the nucleus together cannot be purely electrical in nature since the neutron does not carry in electric charge at all. During this time, says Physicist Fritjof Capra, “physicists soon realized that they were here confronted with a new force of nature which does not manifest itself anywhere outside the nucleus” (2000:73). The force referred to is now known as the strong nuclear force, which consists of mass-less gluons that are exchanged between the quarks of nuclei and are responsible for holding the particles within nuclei together (Robert E. Krebs, 2003:30; John Scalzi, 2003). This force is exerted only over very short distances, having a range roughly the size of an atomic nucleus, about 10-13 (some say, 10-25) centimeters. But its attractive force is more than 130 (some say, 100) times more powerful than electromagnetism.
The strong nuclear force is considered the strongest of all the forces in nature, with an almost unlimited range. It holds protons and neutrons together with energies of about 10 million units, compared with electromagnetism which binds electrons to the atomic nuclei with an estimate force of only 10 units (called electron volts). Strong nuclear interactions, as we said earlier, account for the tremendous energy released of a hydrogen bomb. It goes without saying that without the strong nuclear force, the nucleus would disintegrate and the atom would fall apart. In particular, it prevents the protons from flying apart. It also binds the quarks, of which protons and neutrons are composed, together. The strong nuclear force is mediated by a massless particle, called gluon. Quantum chromodynamics (QCD) is a new theory which tries to explain strong interactions. It explains how quarks bind together to form particles, and how these particles combine together to form atomic nuclei (98-99).
Meanwhile, the weak nuclear force, first discovered by Fermi in 1933 and is during that time called Fermi interaction, is observed to be responsible for the radioactive decays of particles into smaller pieces of matter, e.g. beta decays, of many nuclei. In beta decays, unstable nuclei change from one type to another by emitting an electron or an antineutrino. Radioactive decays are usually created in high-speed particle accelerators. By observing the neutrinos, physicists are able to study the weak force. The weak nuclear force cannot hold the nucleus of the atom together, since its range is only about 1/100 of the size of an atomic nucleus. Its range of interaction is even shorter than that of the strong interaction, and is 10 trillion times less powerful. But it has influence in the interactions of leptons (Klauskopf and Beiser, 1991:252; Capra, 1975:215). Because of this, it is much weaker than the electromagnetic and the strong nuclear force, although it is much stronger than gravity. The weak nuclear force is so weak that they cannot hold anything together at all. But it mediates the conversion of certain particles into other particles, e.g. when protons join each other to form helium nuclei, the process called nuclear fusion. Weak interactions are presumably produced by the exchange of a very heavy particle, called the “W meson.” John Lederer presents in a table below a summary of the elementary particles and the forces guiding their interactions (see also Physicist Sheldon Glasgow, 1991:97, Table 2).
In terms of their interaction, all particles and their anti-particles can be grouped into two broad categories: leptons and hadrons. Hadrons are strongly interacting particles which are further subdivided into mesons and baryons. The electromagnetic interactions (electromagnetism) hold together the atoms and molecules, while the strong interactions (strong nuclear force) bind the atomic nuclei (protons and neutrons) together. The weak interactions do not bind anything together at all, but, having extremely short range, involve the leptons.
On the whole, the discovery of the above phenomena results in the crumbling of the Newtonian world of certainty and determinism. Turned upside down, the world in the quantum view becomes a world of illusion, probabilities, opposites, continuing process of creation and annihilation, uncertainty, complementarity, interconnectivity, and of beings in a continuing process of becoming. We have come to learn of a new world that: (1) no longer distinguishes the subjective from the objective realm; (2) demonstrates the interrelatedness and interconnectivity of everything and everyone in the entire cosmic system; (3) gives importance and significance to the role of the conscious observer in creating present and future realities; (4) abandons the age of certainty and determinism; (5) is continually in a cyclical process of creation and annihilation; (6) lays down, as a result, only infinite possibilities and opportunities the realization of which is dependent on the exercise of the human mind and free will; (7) views the quantum world as also metaphysical in view of the intervention of the observer’s mind and free will and the transformative effect it bears on reality; and, finally, (8) opens a new dimension of life and existence that goes beyond the Newtonian’s solely physical realm.
In summary, atom, which is considered the “basic building block” of the Cosmos and everything that is in it, possesses a lot of amazing features: (1) it is present in everything we see around us; (2) it is passed on from one generation to another generation; (3) it has the innate capacity to grow, develop, create, recreate, and even destroy itself; (4) it imprints on individuals their distinct personality and image.
An atom is invisible to the naked eye, extremely small compared to other visible objects around us. It is only one hundred millionth of a cubic centimeter consisting of a vast region of space. Yet, it is considered huge compared to the nucleus, proton, neutron, and electron. Thomson estimates that the mass of one electron is 1,836 times smaller than the mass of a hydrogen atom. The nucleus is 100,000 times smaller than the whole atom and, of course, about 1,836 times more massive than the electron, which is known to orbit in an atomic nucleus with enormous velocities of about 600 miles per second! Atom – 1/100th million of a centimeter, composed of only three massive particles: protons (+), neutrons (neutral), electrons(-). Nucleus – 100,000 times smaller than an atom; are stable centers; the source of electric force; made up of protons and neutrons; massive and dense. Protons and neutrons—also called nucleons---race about the nucleus with velocities of about 40,000 miles per second! Protons – 2,000 times the mass of electrons. Neutrons – 1838 times more massive than electrons; no electrical charge; disintegrates spontaneously, accompanied by the creation of electrons. Electrons – so small (un-measurable) move around the nucleus circles around the nucleus at a speed of 600 miles/second (velocity). Protons and electrons are stable, i.e. they live forever unless they are involved in a collision process where they can be annihilated.
The proton is found to have a lifetime of less than about 1031 years while an isolated neutron is known to decay within 20 minutes.
A particle second is written by physicists as 10-23 seconds, a decimal number, which, according to F. Capra, includes 23 zeroes to the left of number 1, including the one in front of the decimal point, i.e., 0.00000000000000000000001 seconds (1975:214, given as a footnote).
Asimov explains that “Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle also says that one can’t determine time and energy content simultaneously and exactly” (p. 120).
For a more detailed discussion on this subject, see the works of Alan H. Guth (1997), Fred Adams (2002), Tom Yulsman (2003), Michio Kaku (2005); and Alex Vilenkin (2006).
All elements larger than helium are considered to be heavy elements, also called metals (Fred Adams (2002).