At our summer place on Sechelt Inlet our firewood—and some of our building material—floats right up to our waterfront steps. A north wind with a super-high tide sometimes produces a passing parade of miscellaneous wooden relics of every size. Rejected logs, timbers from abandoned wharves and trees that have been washed down flooding creeks are coveted treasures. We select what we can use from that drifting display and haul it in.
When trees come down they sometimes split lengthwise. Since split logs can’t be used for lumber, timber operators discard them. But they make great firewood. We rev up our chain saw and cut them into stove lengths for further splitting. Some chunks split fairly easily with an ax, but others hold together so toughly that nothing less than iron wedges driven in by an eight-pound sledgehammer will break them apart.
Trees seem to be more interested in growing upwards than sideways. The connections between the wood fibers seem to be stronger lengthwise up the trunk from root to twig than they are from bark to bark crosswise. A straight-grained length of wood will bend quite far before it snaps. A cross-grained piece won’t bend at all. It just breaks apart.
The older a tree becomes, the taller it grows, and the more long logs can be cut from it. Like a lengthening tree, as the universe develops with time, it may be understood to be running on through the years “lengthwise” on a “space-time trajectory.” To explain how a certain historical situation came about, we usually try to trace back through time the “lengthwise” causal chains that account for the presence of each element in that situation. But this time-dependent, “lengthwise” causal explanation has little to say about the cross-connections between either the causal chains or the events that they are alleged to have produced. Scientists are strong on lengthwise causality but weak on the cross-coupling natural forces that operate through space, holding things together while the situation or system evolves with time.
Year after year, age after age, in every direction the sun radiates its light. But during every moment of its long radiation history, the sun was also holding its planets, comets and meteoroids together in one great solar system. We seem to know much more about radiating light than we do about gravitational attraction.
Light speeds out from its source to an absorptive surface. Each photon of it has a history. But what holds a photon together while it is vibrating transversely in every direction across its line of travel?
Magnets attract iron and iron attracts magnets. Why? “Well… uh… it’s because of… uh… well, it’s just the nature of magnetism.”
The cross-connective forces which hold atomic nuclei together—the strong force and the weak force—have now been identified. Radical new hypotheses involving the exchange of various virtual particles have been put forward to account for nuclear coherence. Nevertheless the mysterious cohesive forces that hold the world together spacewise while time moves on remain as inscrutable as ever. No one really understands the reciprocal pulls by which things and systems cohere and maintain their identity through time.
In physics there is a conflict between two important principles. We paid special attention to one of them in the previous chapter, where we noted that it takes time for any signal to travel through space. Thus it takes time for a cause to produce an effect. Quantic events which coexist in the same Now-state therefore cannot communicate with each other by sending any sort of signals. The only information which can reach them has to have originated in previous Now-states. This restriction upon interquantic communication starkly isolates each quantic event from all of its contemporaries.
This principle of the contemporary isolation of quantic events appears to conflict with a conception of mutual forces acting across distances to hold separated things together into systems. If the coherent force is “mutually” generated, each of the separated objects is attracting the other. The moon and the earth seem to have a mutual attraction for each other, and this gravitational attraction never ceases. Notice that mutuality implies simultaneous coexistence. In order for two things to influence each other mutually, both of them must exist in the very same moment. It’s hard to shake hands with someone more than two yards away, and it’s impossible to get a responsive handshake from someone who has been dead for years, or from someone not yet born. Reciprocal interaction, therefore, can take place only between things that share the same Now-state. But interaction between quantic events in the same Now-state is expressly forbidden by the principle of quantic isolation set forth above. Can this conflict between two well-accepted physical principles be reconciled? Or does it indicate that one or both of these principles is somehow ill-founded?
Quantic events within the same Now-state do actually influence one another in ways mat physicists don’t usually take into account.
Quantic events affect each other indirectly simply because each of them holds a particular position in its Now-state, like our aforementioned brick in a wall. Since each quantic event occurs in space, it possesses its own spatial dimensions, i.e., it has a size. The total number of quantic events in a single Now-state therefore determines the total volume of the universe at that moment. The universe may actually be expanding more from internal pressures generated by the incessant creation of new quantic events than from the continuing momentum initiated by a “Big Bang.”
If no two quantic events can occupy the same place in a Now-state, the very presence of a quantic event in a certain location automatically excludes all other quantic events from that place. The width of the letters in the typeface I am using is reflected in the lengths of the words printed out by my typewriter. It is therefore reflected in the lengths of the printed sentences, the paragraphs, chapters and the whole typescript. In just such a way the spatial dimensions of each quantic event affect the positioning of every other quantic event in its Now-state. The allover layout of the universe at a given moment—the pattern of the whole—is jointly determined by the particular locations of its individual quantic events. Thus, at least in this way, each of them can indirectly affect all the others.
Some kind of mutual influence between quantic events is manifested clearly in the moment-by-moment coordination of all the active components that together make up a working system. The effective functioning of this coordinating communication is absolutely essential for the existence of any system. If it does not operate at the basic quantum level, how can the spatial coherence of atoms, molecules, material objects, cells, organisms and higher-level systems be explained?
As has already been said, every quantic event has its own inclinations, its own tendencies and its own affinities. Nevertheless large number of quantic events seem to operate in cahoots with each other. The members of these alliances move together in conceit through very complicated, rule-ordered routines, cooperating to form such things as magnetic domains and systemic structures such as atoms. Without atoms there would be no substances. Without substances there would be no physical components to be coordinated into the various macroscopic systems.
At every system level this phenomenon of mutual coordination among simultaneously existing components is of crucial importance. Have you ever wondered how a school of fish manages to keep together as it turns and twists through the water? Biologists tell us that fish have pressure and sound sensors, as well as eyes, that help them in maneuvering. A swarm of bees may be held together in flight by the sight and scent of a migrating queen. Ants are said to cooperate in performing the various functions of their colony by means of chemical messages called pheromones. When a slime-mold amoeba feels itself threatened by deteriorating living conditions, it may issue a chemical call which summons all other nearby slime-mold amoebae to come together. Rallying around, they “spontaneously” work themselves up into a tall stalk formation. This eventually produces spores that travel by air to happier hunting grounds.
Accounts of the remarkable means whereby biological systems are coordinated never deal with the further question: how are these highly organized sensors and correlated substances themselves coordinated into such wonderfully cooperating unicity?
For an atom to hold together, the coordinating communication between its components must be mutual. At each moment, moreover, it must operate immediately and effectively. Whatever the distance between the interactants, whatever is responsible for their coordination must be constantly Johnny-on-the-spot.
By comparative scales, an atomic nucleus and one of its electrons are separated about as far from each other as a bumblebee and a mosquito flying at opposite ends of a football field. At any given moment, each particle in an atom is doing what no other particle is doing. If before a given particle ventured to make a move it always had to wait for signals to come in from all the others, coordinated systemic motion would be most painfully slow. Up-to-the-moment relevant guidance must be instantly available at all times to each system component from every other component of its system. Each component must constantly receive and coordinate sufficient information to prevent it from pursuing a disastrous collision course. Without such instantaneous guidance, time and energy would obviously be wasted by activities at cross-purposes. The resulting “friction” would slow the universe to a standstill.
Despite the alleged complete absence of mutual influence by signaled communication, the trajectories of subatomic particles nevertheless do manage somehow to achieve that marvellous moment-by-moment mutual coordination which issues in what we call an atom.
How do all those super-high-speed acts ever get themselves together for even a single moment, forming themselves into a long-lasting dynamic system of a recognizable atomic kind? The career of each particle seems to be fitted to the careers the others will pursue in the future. But none of these can be known in advance, since all of them are presently moving at comparatively great distances apart, and each has to depend on all the others. The components of every system face similar problems. Each component is situated at some distance from all the others, and each is doing something distinctive at its own speed. Nevertheless while the whole system endures, all of these components must at every moment achieve the smooth coordination of all their separate activities. This simultaneous coordination of motions at each and every present moment is absolutely essential if a system is to have any lifetime. If a system is to continue as constituted, all the activities that are simultaneously proceeding must fit together at once. If the components had to wait for directive signals to arrive from every last outpost of their system before they made a move, all of the world’s systems would be almost paralyzed. High-speed mini-microsystems such as atoms would be impossible. If a correlating consensus on any overall joint plan of action on the quantic level could be reached only after a large number of local consultations between each quantic event and its next neighbors… bye-bye, world!
Simultaneous coordination is absolutely essential for the cohesion, unicity and wholeness of a system. Coordination could never be effective if it were not ever and always a phenomenon of the present moment.
Now let’s go back and have a look at the way traditional mechanical physics would explain a certain billiard shot by means of “causal chains.”
Before the eyes of admiring guests, the man of the house executes a very difficult shot. Ball C ends up in a comer pocket because the directed impact of the moving cue made ball A hit ball B, so that B in turn bumped ball C off the side of the table, redirecting it into that corner pocket. That chain of causal events is easy to trace.
But several other causal chains were also involved in that successful shot. How did it happen that the table’s top, sides and pocket were there at that location and in that position at that particular time in history? Because certain builders had assembled certain materials in their shop and had built that table for sale to a dealer. The dealer sold it to an enthusiastic new member of a house-to-house billiard club. He installed the table in his recreation room and invited the gang to. a table-warming party. We won’t go into the details of how the person who made the shot happened to own that house, or be alive at that place and time. But we can be sure that somewhere in a historical account, prominent mention would be made of how his genes were assembled and transmitted via a long succession of sets of ancestors whose names are usually recorded in a “family tree.” Long hours of practice at billiard playing were required to develop the skill which was evident in that particular shot. And let’s not forget the cue. Its story runs from a seed that grew in a forest, through violent lumbering and woodworking procedures, then through a dealer’s shop to this particular recreation room cue rack and the hand that picked it out.
Ball C ended up in mat particular comer pocket at that particular time, say mechanistic explainers, because all of those particular causal chains from the past converged by chance at that particular place and time to cause the ball-in-the-pocket result. This is the traditional “lengthwise” type of explanation to which we have become accustomed. As usual it altogether neglects all the “crosswise” aspects of the situation.
If the cue had fallen apart just before it met ball A, or if a muscle in the player’s arm had suddenly and violently twitched, or if ball B had unaccountably sagged and flattened like putty, our neat little story of this fortunate merging of causal chains would have gone quite differently. The causal chain explanation utterly neglects the crucial fact that for that shot to come off as it did, every single entity in all of the causal chains had to retain its coherent, formational integrity for a considerable time. At every moment during that period, a muscle system, a cue system, three ball systems, a table system and a social system had to coordinate into temporary relative constancy all of the motions of all of their respective coexisting and relatively distant components.
In causal explanations such as these, the structure of each item in every chain is assumed to remain largely unchanged during its involvement, even though at the mini-microlevel every bit of every one of them is in rapid motion. If it were not for the ever-present, simultaneous coordination of the motions of multitudes of tiny components, none of the substantial links in any causal chain would function consistently or predictably.
To explain the moment-to-moment coordination of any system or situation by the coming together of causal chains is to go at the very problem backwards. Systemic coordination explains the existence of causal chains, but the reverse is not true. Linear causal chains must be seen as incorporating cross-connections all along.
When one component of a system deviates from a standard pattern, it immediately evokes a compensating deviation on the part of all the other components. How do the other components “know” what the deviant has done? How does the deviant know what the other components have done to restore the situation?
As we have said, physicists have not done too well at explaining gravitation or magnetism or the other cross-connecting natural forces. If opposite electrical charges are located on well-separated electrodes, how does the spark mat jumps between them “know” in which of thousands of possible directions it must take off in order to reach a receptive destination?
For physicists, action-at-a-distance across the grain of time seems too “spooky” for comfort. Nevertheless it happens all the time. But how? And why?
One theory which offers a solution to the problem involves “fields” which stretch all the way from one object to another. Separated objects may be affecting each other by mediated contact via some field, whether electromagnetic, gravitational, or whatever. But this kind of influence must be conceived as similar to that of signaled communication, with its inevitable time lag. An electromagnetic field, while possessing a kind of unity, clearly consists of identifiable portions or regions. It always takes time for a perturbation in one part of a field to travel to another place in that field. This kind of action-at-a-distance with time is not at all the same kind of phenomenon as the simultaneous connections across time which we have been discussing.
We simply don’t know whether or not the gravitational interaction between heavenly bodies involves some kind of transmissions via their “fields.” And if the gravitational forces between the sun and the planet Pluto were somehow blocked off, we don’t know whether both bodies would “feel” the effects of the interruption immediately, or whether some time would have to elapse before either of them “felt” the effects.
Contemporary particle physicists are today quite confident that at last they have solved the problem of how “forces” can act at a distance. They came up with a brand-new explanation when they were trying to get around those awkward, discontinuous energy transitions which we mentioned in chapter 29.
Sometimes particles appear to have been suddenly created out of nothing, and just as suddenly annihilated. Abrupt changes in momentum occur for no obvious reason. No one can tell why at any particular moment particles would be suddenly emitted from unstable atoms, or why certain particles are unexpectedly absorbed or why they decay into patterns that are unpredictable.
Such discontinuities in the behavior of particles disrupt the smooth run of the calculations by which physicists account for energy transitions. If their predictions veer too far from their measurements of what actually happens, physicists become more than a little upset. To be acceptable, mathematical calculations must correlate with actual measurements. If the fundamental physical laws of the conservation of energy and momentum are true, and if Planck’s constant is unimpeachable, the physicists’ equations should never get out of whack with measurements that have been accurately made. That’s why those dratted discontinuities in particle behavior have been so annoying.
In the brainstorming, someone came up with a particularly interesting suggestion. It would be most helpful if a hitherto unknown kind of super-zippy particle were to flare briefly into existence and perform a super-quick bit part in these problematic energy transitions. Such particles could provide the undersized, intermediate bitty-bits of energy sometimes required to make up for the discrepancies between energy levels as calculated and actual levels as measured. Unless time and mass can be instantly transmuted into distance and reconstituted elsewhere as energy, the value of such a particle would unfortunately have to be less than h, Planck’s constant. No fractions of this quantic constant are supposed to exist. Even if they did exist, they could not be known to exist, for the most sophisticated measuring device imaginable would not be able to detect the existence of any action smaller than a full quantum.
Nevertheless, to save their theory, particle physicists try to get around the sacrosanctity of Planck’s constant. They say: “Just suppose” that some particle which is not quite a regular particle were to dart into being, do a job, then disappear again faster than any measuring device could follow it. “If” during its flick of existence it committed an infraction of the grand old conservation laws, no one would know how it had happened. Like magicians’ tricks, the secret lies in moving the hand more quickly than the eye can follow.
Now in some respects all particles are wavelike. Their boundaries are therefore very difficult to determine with accuracy. Who can say at exactly what point a wave begins or ends? The longer the time available for measuring wavelengths, frequencies and energies, the more accurate such measurings can become. Correspondingly, the shorter the time, the greater the possible error. The magnitude of the energy-time relationship cannot, however, be reduced to less than the value of one quantum, since at least one full quantum of action is required to provide information for measuring purposes. “If only” some “particle” with an energy-time value less than h could materialize and perform a law-breaking act in the merest smidgeon of clock-time, it could squeeze inside the limits of the allowed quantic margin of error. Such a particle would be the very thing to supply the missing link between otherwise untidy states of affairs—those problematic energy transitions.
It was a small step from “If… ” and “Just suppose… ” to “Since such hypothetical particles would be so extremely useful, let’s say that they do exist.” And let’s call them “virtual” particles.
It was all too easy to forget that at first these virtual particles had been only hypothetical entities. Soon they were considered to be “real” and were being used to account for all the cohesive and repulsive forces that act across time. “Just suppose” particles are now commonly employed to account for very real and powerful electromagnetic and nuclear forces. In fact, without these virtual particles and virtual energy transitions—none of which in principle are observable-quantum mechanics could not even pretend to account for the way situations evolve with time on the mini-microlevel of the world. It seems to me, however, that to accept such tricky, law-breaking particles as actual and effective, requires a serious bending of scientific principles. After all, science is supposed to rely only on phenomena that are observable. These virtual particles must be forever unobservable.
Taking these new “particles” as “for real” means that we can no longer conceptualize the regular, accredited particles—the electrons, protons, neutrons and their peers—as wee shiny balls. These are now to be imagined as seething with energy, much like what we can see of the sun’s surface layer. It bulges with blazing domes. Fountains of fire leap out spectacularly, only to fall back again and subside. If you can’t visualize a regular particle like that, try imagining a net bag made of elastic filaments and filled with lively frogs!
Particle physicists claim that we shouldn’t try to visualize particles at all. But the impression I get is that we should see each regular particle as surrounded by a swarm of bouncy virtual particles, no one of which by itself is capable of mustering a full quantum of energy. These might be imagined as a sullen household of young and active would-be particles, still deprived of full particle status, frustrated and resentful because they haven’t as yet acquired the energy necessary to take off from home and become full-fledged particles on their own.
Under certain circumstances, physicists say, some of these virtual particles could succeed in getting away from home. At the very split microsecond that some other regular particle with its entourage of virtual particles happens to be passing by, some alert and greedy virtual particle might reach out and grab enough virtual energy off the passing assemblage to enable it to make its long-awaited exit. Or perhaps a prodigal particle might swipe enough of its parent’s kinetic energy to make its getaway, becoming a full particle in its own right.
When a fulfilled virtual particle suddenly and violently takes off, the recoil from its departure could kick its parent toward another regular particle or away from it. The parent particle and that other would then appear to have been attracted to each other or to have mutually repelled each other. Current particle theory is therefore written as if it has successfully accounted for all the natural forces which attract or repel. These of course are the forces which act cohesively across time. Whatever the name of the actual natural force, it’s all a matter of a mutual exchange of virtual particles, so the physicists say. Electromagnetic forces are created by an exchange of virtual photons. The strong nuclear force results from an exchange of virtual pions. Quarks are held together by gluons. Gravity is created by an exchange of gravitons.
I haven’t any idea how much actual force the takeoff of a purely hypothetical particle might generate. Can an actual world be directly and effectively influenced by a mere mathematical invention? Confusion between the actual world and the world of ideas allows some scientists to be on the lookout for “gravitons”—the virtual particles that are alleged to mediate the gravitational force. But if a graviton is only a virtual particle, and no virtual particles can be observed, what hope is there of ever catching a graviton actually doing its graviting? While these patient scientific souls keep a close watch for the un-observable, the universe’s large-scale gravitational interactions proceed with their normal and perfectly obvious full force.
Shrinking the scale of the scene where action-at-a-distance seems to be operating does absolutely nothing toward getting rid of the problem itself. If particles are rushing to and fro between other particles, they still require an elapse of time during which to make their journey. All this imaginary shuttling back and forth contributes absolutely nothing toward solving the mysteries of simultaneous mutual coherence and systemic coordination.
In such a hypothetical exchange, a virtual particle has to leave home, as it were, and head for another particle. How does the virtual particle know that anything else is out there and that what is out there is willing to receive it when it comes? The particle that will receive the migrant neither sent ahead a notice in advance that it would soon be in that vicinity, nor did it invite any immigrants to come and take up vacant positions in its far country.
The reasoning by which particle physicists justify their acceptance of virtual particles is highly suspect. Everything hinges on the degree of accuracy with which both the position and the momentum or both the energy and the time of a moving particle can be measured at once. Is there a large-enough margin of error between observations to allow some sneaky virtual particle to nip in, do its quick trick, and escape before a measuring device could catch it? Particle physicists think that the measuring error is indeed capacious enough to accommodate such a caper.
Did you ever hear of a court that accepted a confessed error in observation as evidence that an unlawful act had been committed by someone who has been accused? Suppose police were to testify in court that, while they didn’t actually catch the accused in the act of committing the said crime, as experienced criminal investigators they are convinced that the accused was capable of doing such a thing. They therefore state that the accused actually did commit the crime. Who in that court would think that the police had proved their case?
I’m not at all convinced that the way in which action-at-a-distance is currently explained in quantum dynamics and particle physics is much of an improvement upon the way such matters were traditionally handled by classical physics.
Cooperation without communication
Before I leave this subject of action-at-a-distance I should describe briefly another relevant and controversial issue in modem physics. In 1935 Albert Einstein unintentionally touched off a lively debate which continues to this day. At issue is whether or not objects which are situated in different regions of space are entirely independent of each other. What is at stake in the discussion is one of the most crucial assumptions of traditional physics. In the methodology of analytic science it has always been assumed that the world can be divided into separate parts, and that any one of the parts can be isolated from any significant influences emanating from the rest of the world. What happens in an experiment that has been properly “boxed in” and placed far enough away from possible sources of interference, ought not to show any correlation with what happens elsewhere. This assumption that local causal isolation is possible has now become somewhat dubious.
A certain interpretation of quantum theory which originated in Copenhagen, Denmark, never met with Einstein’s approval. According to this interpretation, the objective world out there, apart from all observations of it, is not only unknown to us but is entirely unreal until someone measures it during an experiment. Einstein was determined to retain his belief in the independent reality of the world “out there,” whether or not someone happened to be observing it.
In 1935 in collaboration with Boris Podolsky and^Natbjn Rosen, Einstein published a famous paper intended to support his realistic beliefs. In it he proposed a “thought experiment” which would bypass a cardinal principle of quantum mechanics—that both the momentum and the position of a moving particle cannot be accurately measured at the same time. The act of measuring one aspect will always disturb the other aspect quite enough to make it different from what it was before the measuring began.
Einstein et al said that anything is an element of physical reality if its value can be predicted with certainty. They asked their readers to suppose that we are dealing with two moving particles, which I shall call A and B. Since the momentum of each particle can be ascertained separately, the sum of their momenta can be obtained by adding the two measurements together. If the two particles then interact at a certain point in such a way that they fly off in opposite directions, this sum of momenta will be conserved, however far apart the two particles may subsequently travel. The value of the momentum of each particle will, however, remain unknown until some measuring has been done.
If at some later time the postinteraction momentum of A is measured, that measuring should not in any way affect the momentum of B. By then B should be far, far away. By subtracting the post-interaction momentum of A from the previously known sum of the momenta of A and B, the postinteraction momentum of B can be accurately predicted.
Once it is known how far A has traveled from where the interaction took place and how long A’s flight has been in progress, using B’s calculated momentum, the distance B has traveled since interaction-time can be calculated. Thus both the momentum and the position of B can be accurately predicted by measuring the momentum and position of A, and this without any measuring of B. B must therefore be “real” in itself, even though it has not actually been observed or measured by itself. The paper thus quashed the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, which maintained that both A and B could be regarded as simultaneous elements of reality only if they were simultaneously observed and measured.
But the authors of the paper had unintentionally gotten into other deep water. Because the Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen (EPR) article had shown that B’s measurements can be accurately predicted by measuring A, it appeared that it was the activity around A that made B real at a distance. The EPR team, however, said that “no reasonable definition of reality could be expected to permit this.” They simply did not believe in that kind of action-at-a-distance.
The EPR article thus raised the whole question as to whether tinkering with one of a pair of particles which had once interacted would or would not have any effect on the other if it were a considerable distance away. A lively debate began forthwith in the scientific journals.
Physicists began to dream up possible experiments which could settle the question one way or the other. Some thought of using a magnetic device to line up the spins of electrons so that their spins could be reoriented at the will of an experimenter. It gradually became clear that the simplest way to test for the EPR effect would be to use filters for controlling the polarization of photons—the direction in which these particles of light vibrate. A polarizing filter is made by embedding long crystals parallel to each other in glass. Photons can vibrate transversely in any direction across the direction in which they are traveling. If a photon encounters a polarizing filter, only those vibrations which are parallel to the parallel crystals in the polarizer will be able to pass through it. If a photon gets through a polarizer whose crystals lie horizontally, the photon must then be vibrating only horizontally. If it next encounters a polarizer whose crystals stand vertically, it cannot pass through. But if the second polarizer is rotated to another position somewhere between the vertical and the horizontal orientations, the photon may get through or it may not.
In Geneva John Bell was thinking up experiments in which correlated pairs of spinning or vibrating particles would be aimed at two distant registration devices. If access to one of them were varied according to a definite plan, what effect would the variations have on particles seeking access to the other? He was particularly interested in determining how many pairs of oppositely polarized particles originating between two polarizers could be expected to get through both polarizers in a sequence of “shots” with randomly oriented polarization. Bell produced the famous “formula of inequality” which should hold if changing the angle of the nigh polarizer has no effect on the statistical correlation which is to be normally expected between shots registered at both polarizers.
In 1972 John Clauser and Stuart Freedman experimented with identically polarized pairs of photons with unknown orientations, shooting them simultaneously at two polarizers whose angles could be varied with respect to each other. The correlation of cases when both photons passed through both polarizers was found to be strikingly greater than what Bell’s formula would have predicted. Considering the differences between the angles of the two polarizers, many more photons passed through the far polarizer than could have been expected. In Paris in 1982 similar results were obtained by Alain Aspect.
Traditional physics would have assumed that, once the photons were at some distance from each other they could not possibly be connected in any way. Nevertheless the statistics of the experiments indicated that they were indeed somehow connected. If one photon of a pair passed through the nigh polarizer, the other photon was more likely to pass through the far polarizer.
Did this experiment demonstrate the reality of an across-time action-at-a-distance? The experiment has been repeated half a dozen times by different people, always with the same kind of results. Apparently, information about what happens at the nigh polarizer is transmitted, if not instantaneously, then faster than light, to the far photon and polarizer. But if signals cannot move faster than the photons themselves, how can that happen?
Einstein simply could not believe that a cause and its effect could be both distant in space and simultaneous in time. Everybody knows that a cause must happen before its effect and that an effect always follows its cause in time. We can only know about events which happened in the past. The world is the way it is now because of things that happened some time ago.
But if the EPR effect is to be taken seriously, we must accept that the world is as it is at this moment not only because it is causally related to past events that no longer exist, but because each item is right now somehow cross-related to everything else that exists right now anywhere in the universe. After all, don’t physicists believe that everything that is was once part of a “Big Bang”? Then all particles everywhere may be, like particles A and B above, somehow correlated.
This conclusion, incredible as it may be, would confirm the thesis of this chapter: the basic unit of the world is not a particle nor an individual quantic event, but a whole Now-state—the irreducible unit of cosmic creation time.
Source of unicity
All things in a Now-state are cross-connected because each of them is intimately and immediately related to the same Creator whose single creative pulse gave it existence. From moment to moment the universe operates as a whole because at each moment it springs from one and the same source—from a single act of a single Creator. In your TV screen only one pixel (spot of phosphor on the tube) at a time lights up. God. as it were, lights up the whole 3-D “face of the universe” at once. He is always and immediately aware of every detail of the whole picture. The Creator himself is the secret of the world’s across-time coherence, unicity and wholeness. The Creator God puts the “uni-” in “universe” (a Latin word for “what turns as one”).
The implications of EPR-connectedness are staggering. If all across the universe quantic events are actually coupled, the whole show is actually one enormous indivisible system. If that is true, then perhaps the unpredictable things that happen in experimental particle physics simply reflect initiatives being taken elsewhere in the universe. All those awkward discontinuities that drove particle physicists to invent “virtual particles” could perhaps be explained by what other unknown quantic events are doing elsewhere in the world. The relating between particles could be even more important than the particles themselves. But if the causes of events under scientific observation are not necessarily locatable and accessible, it’s “game over” for the analytic “cause and effect” approach which has been so long espoused by traditional science.
Let us now reconsider those quantum jumps allegedly made by electrons when an atom gains or loses a quantum of energy. Physicists claim that in such cases an electron leaps from one orbital to another. But how can they be so certain that when an electron suddenly appears in a new orbital, it is that very same identical electron which just disappeared from an adjacent orbital?
No one has ever been able to follow the trajectory of a jumping electron throughout its whole course from one orbital to another. Nor have physicists the slightest hope of constructing some super-sophisticated apparatus with which to catch an electron in the act of skipping across to another orbital. To be detected as it switches orbitals, an electron’s atom must have radiated a full quantum of energy. Were an electron but partway between orbitals, its atom would not yet have released a full quantum. The most refined measuring device, therefore, could not detect an electron en route between orbitals.
It will be forever impossible therefore to establish whether or not that electron which suddenly appears in a hitherto unoccupied orbital is indeed that very same, identical electron which just a split microsecond ago disappeared from a neighboring and now vacant orbital. There certainly is no obvious way of distinguishing any one particular electron from all other individual electrons. They don’t wear name tags or bear other unique identification marks.
In the absence of evidence to the contrary, the facts at least seem consistent with my belief that atomic electrons don’t actually leap from one orbital to another at all. That atomic electron which just disappeared from its orbital has simply been routinely dispensed with by the Creator, much as a digit which has been temporarily displayed on your TV screen or computer monitor vanishes after its ephemeral existence. God omitted the electron in that empty orbital when, at his next creative act, he installed the next format of that region of the universe. The electron which suddenly appears in an adjacent orbital is really a freshly minted electron—one newly created in that neighborhood.
Consider the case of an electron in free flight which, having unpredictably emitted a photon, henceforward continues its journey with, diminished momentum.
This common event can be reinterpreted in terms of successive pulses of creative activity on the part of the Creator. The impression that the earlier electron was faster than the later arises from differences in the platings of electrons in successive Now-states. The “fast” electron spacings were abandoned and for the next run of Now-states “slow” electron spacings were adopted. When the new spacings appeared, a photon was also introduced into the format.
The other awkward discontinuities encountered at the mini-microlevel of the world (some of which were described in chapter 29) can be reinterpreted similarly in conformity with my conception of cosmic creation time. I find such reinterpretations more satisfying than barrel-bottom explanations that turn out to be mostly loose ends.
In recent particle physics to make the equations come out right it is now acceptable to say that virtual particles may emit virtual particles which emit other virtual particles.
Attempts to construct a “Grand Unified Theory” of the universe are currently bogged down in a morass of invented “fields” (Higgs fields, gauge fields) and a multiplicity of contrived “dimensions.” This new style of science reminds me of the old Ptolemaic astronomical system which became obsolete after Galileo. That system was originally devised to explain the movements of the planets across the night sky. A given planet’s apparent back-and-forth movement made sense if it were imagined to be mounted on a rotating crystal sphere. If the planet’s observed position did not coincide with the place it should have appeared, it was considered legitimate to invent an additional rotating sphere mounted on the original sphere. If that still didn’t quite fix things up, yet another judiciously placed smaller sphere might do the trick. One way or another this “fine-tuning” could adjust the calculations to take account of all observed planetary irregularities. By the time due allowance had been made for all the irregularities of all the planets, there had come to be so many spheres in the system that the whole scheme became far too cumbersome to be useful, let alone credible.
Has current quantum dynamics and particle theory likewise become so complex and unwieldy that it top is due to suffer the same fate as that clumsy Ptolemaic astronomy?
Some quantum physicists have tried to save the situation by suggesting that there may be a level of reality still deeper than the one we know—a level which operates according to a set of rules quite different from those with which we are familiar. This as-yet-undiscovered realm may contain “hidden variables” and perhaps it is these that are responsible for the apparently capricious, random, unpredictable behavior of events at the mini-microlevel.
From my point of view, however, the way is now open to reas-sociate the agency of God the Creator with the ongoing development of the universe. Instead of resorting to unobserved variables for an explanation of unobserved causes and of observed discontinuities in energy transitions, it is just as easy to account for them by means of an “unobserved Varier.”