Thursday, 20 January 2011

Time Particles

I was watching the BBC's Horizon, the other day which was exploring the nature of reality. Like many Marxists whose science is based on Materialism, I find this stuff both fascinating and fundamental to understanding the world we live in, and how it changes, what makes it work. At another level getting your head around this stuff, which is getting not just increasingly complex to understand, but increasingly weird - for example when one scientist says, "If you think you understand this, you don't, because no one does" - makes understanding Economic concepts look like child's play - though I was talking to my neighbour a few months ago, who is a Professor of Maths, who said to me the same thing in reverse i.e. "Economics, isn't that incredibly difficult to understand?" - and when it comes to many of our concerns seem terribly trivial. For example, the Universe was here 13 billion years before we arrived, and reality would continue even were we to blow ourselves up - or would it?

The programme examined the tenets of Quantum Theory, which uncomfortably calls into question that and many other certainties. Some of these ideas such as that surrounding the Two Slit Experiment, where photons - single particles of light are fired at a target through a barrier with two slits. The experiment shows that rather than each photon going through just one slit, the photon faced with an equal probability of going through each slit, splits in two, and passes through both!!! What is even more weird is that if detectors are put in place to identify, which slit the photon actually does go through then the uncertainty is removed, and that alone seems sufficient to make the photon go through just the one slit. One explanation for this that has been given is that in reality the uncertainty always causes the photon to split in two, but by observing, which slit it goes through, what is happening is that two alternative realities are created, and in the other reality, the photon passed through the other slit!

This uncertainty principle is what stands at the root of Quantum Theory, without which none of today's electronic and computer products would be possible. Yet, rather like the Differential Calculus, which is also based on an uncertainty principle, scientists now know that Quantum Theory works, but do not know why, because it breaks all the laws of Aristotelian Syllogistic Logic, which insists that things have to be one thing or another. Another aspect of this is that without observation it is impossible to know whether a particle is positively or negatively charged. That has led to one of the weirdest applications of this - what is known as Quantum Entanglement, which basically posits the idea that two particles can exist as a result of this splitting process, and they could be literally light years apart. Even more weird scientists have proved this by building a primitive teleportation device similar to that on Star Trek, but which in reality just teleports information.

All fascinating, but only tangential to the point of this post. What watching the programme made me think about, particularly in relation to the search for the Higgs Boson, a particle that is required by current theories to explain where mass comes from, was about the other qualities of matter, and what other particles might be necessary to explain their nature. We know from Einstein's Theory of Relativity, that when matter approaches the speed of light two things happen. Firstly, the mass of the object at the speed of light becomes infinite. Secondly, at the speed of light, time for the object stands still relative to everything else.

The question that raised in my mind was that if the mass of the object is a quality that it has, and which changes relative to everything else as a result of its speed, then if we notice the same basic relation in respect of time, should we then conclude that time itself is a quality embedded in the object, rather than time being something external to it, that it passes through. Surely, that is the only way that the object can have its own time relative to the time experienced by everything else. In other words, Time really is a Fourth Dimension applicable to the object, embedded in it no different than the other three dimensions of length, breadth and depth. But, in that case, in just the same way that those dimensions ultimately are determined by the atomic structure of the object, which in turn is determined by the particles which make up those atoms, that would require that there be a Time particle - perhaps a Chronon - which is a fundamental part of matter too.

So, I turned to the Internet today, and found a discussion here that looks at that question - though they call them tachyons.

No comments: