We’ve all been taught that the smallest particle of matter is an atom. From there the atom is divided into the neutron and proton, which are located in the nucleus, and electrons that spin continuously around in an orbit. As young and oblivious students, we let this information permeate our porous brains, and we dutifully write it down into our notebooks without much question. Yes, we are amazed by the seemingly trivial size of the building blocks of our existences, but our immature minds cannot actually wrap around an atom’s actual meaning.
As we grow older, and enter higher science classes, we are told that actually, electrons don’t move in an orbit, but instead they exist in a probability cloud. There is no way to know for sure where an electron will be and in which direction it is moving. It could be anywhere in the universe in relation to the nucleus it is associated with: it’s all based on how probability works. As much as humans claim to have harnessed the powers and laws of the universe, we really don’t know everything.
What are electrons made out of? Technically, they are fundamental particles, and are not “made Up” of anything. But if you go beyond that, what is the underlying material the makes up all matter? Eventually, we reach a point that cannot be shoved into physics equations and can no longer be calculated into mathematical certainty. Physics, which is the study of matter and its behavior through space in time, exists in predictability and black-and-white laws that can explain everything. But time and matter even real or is it just an illusion that is different for each individual person based on the reality that he or she is living in? Is this something physics can explain?
For example, take the wave-particle duality theorem. Since the start of the nineteenth century, many experiments have been done that have determined, to an absolute certainty, that light behaves like a wave. This belief was not questioned again until an unexplainable scientific catastrophe occurred almost 100 years later. Light was found to have the ability to transfer momentum (quantity based on the speed and mass of an object) to electrons, seemingly breaking both the laws of conservation of momentum and energy and even behaving as a particle too. That light unexplainably behaves as both a wave and a particle and seems to carry mass but also not carry mass is based wholly on the context in which it exists in and the reality that it is viewed from. Another example is relativity, which is Einstein’s idea that time can change based on the condition of the observer. Two events can happen seemingly simultaneously for one person, such as light traveling into eyeballs, but at different intervals for a person standing closer to one light source in relation to the other light source. Lastly, De Broglie’s idea, and subsequent experimentation, even put into question the existence of matter by stating that it can behave like a wave under certain conditions.
So what does all this mean for the concept of reality as well as the universal meaning of our existences in the universe? If something can be different for each individual person, does that mean we are all living in own illusions of how the world behaves around us? If, in essence, even our material bodies are just pulsating waves of energy, what does it say about the certainty of humanity? If the substances of our existences are not even real, what does it say about our determined adherence to materialistic pursuits as a way to define our worth? This is where philosophy comes in: to attempt to put into perspective these phenomena not empirically, but conceptually. What I love about philosophy is that it does not try to fit beliefs into a confirmation bias in order to make our perception of the world more understandable and comfortable. It is a realization of our complacency and a celebration of life in ambiguity. It’s a realization of the reality that there really is no reality, which is a juxtaposition that I find to be beautiful.
So what is the physics of reality? The answer is that the really is no physics currently available to explain it. Yes, physics can determine the amount of time it will take for a ball to land on the ground after it is thrown up in the air at such and such speed, but it fails at the questions that really matter. I find comfort in the idea that some aspects of our lives cannot be explained. It presents a place for the unknown and for a plethora of possibilities; because our life is not science.
If you would like to read one of my former posts in which I further delve into the meaning of reality from the philosophical standpoint, click here: Subjective Reality
(Both images have been taken from Google)