Archive for March 21st, 2015

The nature of reality

supersymmetry

I’ve been thinking about modern physics.

Reality consists of quantum fields.   That’s it – just fields.  These fields can vibrate.   Those vibrations are perceived by us as particles: numerous vibrating fields create what we perceive as solid reality.   Apparently those particles don’t really exist, they just are there when we observe them – it’s how our minds perceive the vibrations.   If reality is not being observed in some way, it doesn’t exist.   The fields may still be vibrating, but the “stuff” we understand to be reality is the result of our perceptual framework.

A paradox: if there are only fields, which sometimes can vibrate, and if our material bodies are a manifestation of these vibrating fields, why do we have consciousness?   Why do we perceive these fields as “matter,” and are able to act within them as if there were a solid real world out there?   And what about the symmetries that make all this possible?

The only reason "stuff" has mass and particles can form what we perceive as matter is the existence of a Higgs field permeated all space-time.  The existence of this field was verified by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN on July 4, 2012

The only reason “stuff” has mass and particles can form what we perceive as matter is the existence of a Higgs field permeated all space-time. The existence of this field was verified by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN on July 4, 2012

Five possibilities come to mind:

1.  This is all one really elaborate virtual reality game, and when we die we’ll find ourselves in the real world, suddenly realizing we’ve just been playing.  Sort of a cool idea, but when you think of the pain endured by those experiencing rape, genocide and intense poverty, it seems a rather harsh game.  But maybe our “real” selves want to experience that, at least sometimes.

2.  A wild accident of nature.  No meaning, somehow within this system of fields it’s possible for entities to emerge that can perceive it as a reality.  This seems unrealistic to me, but it’s possible.

3.  Some kind of God created this, and we’re the product of its imagination, living based on that God’s whims, laws and dictates.  That seems even less realistic than 2, but again, it’s possible.

4.  An entity (God, for lack of a better term) exists and wants to experience interaction and challenges.  So it creates this realm and then is able to experience a variety of things stemming from its imagination.  This is different from 1 in that we’d all be aspects of this God, experiencing this field-based vibrational reality from different perspectives.  This view has some appeal, and harkens back to Platonist and especially neo-Platonist philosophies (e.g., Plotinus).  Or, as Bishop Berkeley suggested, we’re just part of God’s dream.

5.  There is something about consciousness that gives us the ability to perceive a world in this series of vibrating fields.  That would mean that this world is not an accident, but was meant for us to be able to perceive reality.  This option differs from the rest in that it doesn’t posit this as a product of a God (even if we are aspects of that God), a game or an accident.

symmetry

Why does this matter?   It’s easy to get caught up in the every day routines – the problems, the ambitions and concerns that drive us.  Taking care of our kids, earning money, dealing with others, etc.  But somehow that feels a bit empty – is that all there is?  And why is it?  Is there something more?   And if we just live going through the motions, as dramatic and sometimes distressing as they are, are we just sleep walking?  Are we going through life hypnotized, thinking this is REALITY, when really it’s a kind of illusion?

And if there is something more, is there something to gain by trying to understand it, probing with our minds, meditations and philosophy?  Can studying world religions provide a hint?   And if we can get a sense of a kind of deeper meaning, one that transcends this particular brief dance in space-time, will that actually pay dividends?  Will it make this life more meaningful, can we have more control over the reality we experience?

That’s it for today.   Just questions.

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