real?

“Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real.” – Niels Bohr, quantum physicist

“What we perceive as our physical material world, is really not physical or material at all, in fact, it is far from it. This has been proven time and time again by multiple Nobel Prize (among many other scientists around the world) winning physicists, one of them being Niels Bohr, a Danish Physicist who made significant contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum theory.” (citation required).

The problem here is that the serious study of quantum physics has been obscured online and in the popular media by new age hacks, motivational speakers, psychic healers, life coaches and pseudo mystics. They have taken the work of profound minds and shoehorned it into all manner of popularist pseudo-philosophies. They take a quantum leap from Einstein to the kind of inane headlines I came across this morning: “Using Quantum Physics in my Life to Manifest what I Want” and “Everything is Energy: New Ways to Heal Your Body, Mind, and Spirit”.

Yeah, right.

As to whether everything is “just energy” –  this too demands a more intelligent response than seems to float about the cyber-ether. Einstein is reported to have said “Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics”. Except that Einstein never said or wrote such a thing at all, and the real author of these words was Darryl Anka, a “New Ager” who claims to be channeling a “multi-dimensional extra-terrestrial being” named Bashar (c.f. https://www.quora.com). Einstein purportedly said, “reality is a persistent illusion” which is a misquote of his actual words, “The separation of past, present and future is only a persistent illusion” referring to the fact that time is a human psychological experience and not an innate property of the universe. (c.f. https://www.quora.com)

Defining the real remains illusive, but I wish to assure new agers that should a brick fall on their head there will be real pain from a real wound, and that even if Newtonian physics is no longer de rigueur, leaping from a tall building will have a similar result as an apple falling from a tree.

An interesting read:

http://www.wired.com/2013/07/hidden-particle-world

But this is not to dismiss the strangeness of the quantum world. Noam Chomsky (American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, logician, social critic, and political activist) wrote:

“What is the concept of body that finally emerged? The answer is that there is no clear and definite conception of body. Rather, the material world is whatever we discover it to be, with whatever properties it must be assumed to have for the purposes of explanatory theory. Any intelligible theory that offers genuine explanations and that can be assimilated to the core notions of physics becomes part of the theory of the material world, part of our account of body. If we have such a theory in some domain, we seek to assimilate it to the core notions of physics, perhaps modifying these notions as we carry out this enterprise.”. In one sense, what is real depends on the perspective of the observer.

Some fun factoids from Physics.org :

1) You could fit the entire human race in the volume of a sugar cube. This is because matter is incredibly, mind-bogglingly empty. An atom is like a miniature Solar System, with a tight nucleus playing the role of a Sun orbited by electrons like planets. But the nucleus is incredibly tiny compared with the orbits of the electrons. Tom Stoppard, the playwright, had the best image. He said, if the nucleus is like the altar of St Paul’s cathedral, an electron is like a moth in the cathedral, one moment by the altar, the next by the dome. Imagine squeezing all the space out of an atom. Well, if you did that to all the atoms in all the people in the world, you could indeed fit the entire human race in the volume of a sugar cube.

2) 98% of the universe is invisible. Only four per cent of the mass of the Universe is in the atoms that make up you and me, the stars and planets. And we’ve only ever seen half of that with our telescopes. 23 per cent of the mass of the Universe is invisible, “dark”, matter. We know of its existence only because its gravity tugs on the visible stars and galaxies. No one knows what it is. And 73 per cent of the mass of the Universe is dark energy. Discovered only in 1998, this invisible stuff fills all of space and it has repulsive gravity. To say we are at sea in understanding dark energy is a bit of an understatement.

Our best theory of physics is quantum theory. It has given us lasers and computers and nuclear reactors, an understanding of why the sun shines. But when quantum theory is used to predict the energy of the vacuum – of the dark energy – it gets a number which is one followed by 120 zeroes times bigger than what we observe. This is the biggest discrepancy between a prediction and an observation in the history of science.

3) Most of an atom is empty space. If an atom were about as big as a baseball stadium, the nucleus would be the size of a pea in the very center and the electrons would be somewhere on the outside edge.

http://www.explainthatstuff.com/atoms.html

Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck (23 April 1858 – 4 October 1947) is the originator of modern quantum theories and one of the most important German physicists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, winning the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918. He wrote, “As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clearheaded science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about the atoms this much: There is no matter as such! All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particles of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. . . . We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter.”


Useful reads:

http://www.physics.org/featuredetail.asp?id=41

http://www.robertlanzabiocentrism.com/do-you-only-live-once/

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