423 Last modified May 24, 2015
How Come the Quantum
John A. Wheeler, in his article, "Beyond The End Of Time," wrote, "Some principle uniquely right and uniquely simple must, when one knows it, be also so obvious that it is clear that the universe is built, and must be built, in such and such a way and that it could not possibly be otherwise." This optimism that a sudden insight would illuminate all the secrets of the universe was shared by hundreds of scientists for many years.
Contrast this with John A. Wheeler's last sentence in his more recent article, Time Today, "We have no compass and we have a more difficult voyage to accomplish because we lack any plan to find, 'How Come Time?' --except to try to discover 'How Come the Quantum?' Bon voyage!"
Engineers engaged in difficult trouble-shooting tasks sometimes force bursts of insight with a tactic known as, "Cause-and-effect reversal." What would happen if this tactic were applied in a brain-storming session to force the bursts of insight into the nature of time so long awaited by scientists?
First, the subject would be hauled into the session and laid bare of its cloak of previous assumptions. Like a patient on an operating table, parts essential to the problem would be exposed and bathed in bright new light. A storm of scrutiny would seek out all present notions of cause and effect.
These notions begin with the World-Book-Encyclopedia, treatment of Quantum Mechanics that concludes, "Einstein firmly established [in his 1905 paper about the photoelectric effect] that light consists of energy particles that have wave properties."
Contrast this with Einstein's own words. "What appears certain to me, however, is that in the foundations of any consistent field theory, there shall not be, in addition to the concept of field, any concept of particles." Could it be that we have become so entangled in the particle concept that we unconsciously distort observations of the past?
Isaac Newton first theorized that light may be composed of particles in his 1604 work, Optics. James Clerk Maxwell showed that light was propagated through space by electric and magnetic change in 1864. In 1900, Max Planck used a small constant value that he called, "quanta," (plural quantum) to explain black-body radiation. Five years later, Albert Einstein published a paper in which he used Planck's constant to describe the energy distribution of electrons emitted from metals when they were exposed to light. Einstein called these particles of light, "photons."
This constant of Max Planck's was in units of erg- seconds or energy-time. Thus, quantum mechanics was born. Planck and Einstein brought it into being, but there was a major problem that Einstein saw from the beginning. There was, in the concept of particles with wave properties, no clear concept of cause and effect. What was the cause of the wave properties of these particles? Einstein frequently put the question, but never found the answer.
There were clearly both wave properties and particle properties in light. Scientists knew that the waves undulated with time giving a sinusoidal wave form that occupied space. They knew that the wave was transverse, like a water wave and not longitudinal like a sound wave. How could that wave shape derive from a single particle? It simply could not without distorting the concept of "particle".
This problem was compounded by the fact that the problem solvers were seldom the same people as the observers. It was as if one team of trouble shooters asked for symptoms, another team supplied the answers, and the answering team supplied incorrect results about one third of the time. Will Rogers once said, "It ain't so much that people don't know, it's that people know so much that just ain't so."
Our brain-storming session must consider this flaw of human experience. That's why the finely sewn and beautifully woven cloak of past assumptions was thrown aside. Being a product of human thought, it must contain many errors and misconceptions. After the session, participants will reinstall the cloak and mark suspicious patches for further study.
Going in to the trouble-shooting task to find the true nature of the quantum and time, our participants observe that the quantum is built only of time, space, and electromagnetic change. They might begin by asking observers, "What if light were really a quantified wave instead of a wave-like particle?" Now we have a wave that looks like a particle instead of a particle that looks like a wave.
Being quantified by Planck's constant, the wave must exist in a moving local area at a constant electromagnetic amplitude. Our brain storming scientists pounce on this new insight like a panther in a hen house. New ideas fly like chickens knocked from their roost but our big cat selects just one. Planck's "constant" is the unlucky bird. Our trouble shooters now begin to tear it apart.
Planck's constant is 6.6260755 x 10-27 erg-seconds. An erg is energy and a second is time, so Planck's constant is potential energy available over a period of time. It describes the potential work content (action) of every photon. Since the only two variables that produce the constant are electromagnetic change (energy) and time, the electromagnetic amplitude reached by the change must be a constant also. The maximum possible electric and magnetic amplitude of empty space is a constant. We know this because the equation for Planks constant does not contain amplitude.
A photon model consists of a field of electric charge occupying a circular plane and a field of magnetic lines of force occupying a similar plane opposed from the electric plane by 90 degrees. Places where the two planes cross naturally define points and points are naturally observed as particles.
There is the cause and effect that Einstein could not find in the concept just reversed. A quantified wave can reasonably define particle-like points, but a single particle can not reasonably define a wave shape.
Time is the central thing about this photon model. Time brings it existence; it consists solely of electromagnetic change with time. Since each one of the fields must change with time to produce the other, in accord with Maxwell's equations and Planck's constant, they must necessarily cease to exist if time were stopped. Otherwise new laws of nature must be invented to keep the photon in existence without electric and magnetic change.
Thus, there is insight derived from reversal of cause and effect, but it is not a new and different law. It was there all the time. It was at the seat of Maxwell's equations that have existed well over a hundred years, but it was not obvious until cause and effect were reversed.
After this insight we can see that it is obvious even in the reverse case, however. The arithmetic proves it so. The simple wave function w=(r|t) contains the variable t which is time. If t becomes zero, the whole function must become zero, and a photon that is made only of time and change in space must cease to exist.
Given this insight, it is immediately obvious that there can be no transition between going forward in time and going backward in time. All photons would be lost in the process, and since photons are the seat of the electromagnetic force, and this force holds electrons to atoms, all mass must come unglued at the transition.
Then, is time asymmetric after all? Is it only possible that time moves forward and never backward? John Wheeler and Richard Feynman went to 112 Mercer Street to explore with Einstein this concept of time symmetry. (1939-1940) Einstein told them that W. Ritz had taken the phenomenon of radiative damping to argue that, at bottom, the electrodynamics force between particle and particle must itself be time- asymmetric. Einstein, in contrast, had maintained that electrodynamics is fundamentally time-symmetric. John Wheeler and Richard Feynman concluded after the visit that time was symmetric as regards past and future. Feynman postulated that a positron may simply be an electron moving backward in time.
This led an anonymous physicist at Princeton University to speculate that the entire universe consisted only of one electron. It moved forward in time as an electron, then backward in time as a positron, continuously. What we see in the present is simply the many transitions of that one electron.
|Places where electric and magnetic change is greatest appear as points, or particles. There are three such places, the leading edge, the edges separating the two halves, and the trailing edge.|
Wheeler and Feynman faced immediate problems with their concept, however. Observations indicated that past and future time were not symmetric. For example, a rock may fall from space and be torn to bits in the atmosphere. Dust and small pieces come to rest scattered over a wide area. Try as you may, you cannot devise reasonable laws of nature that would cause that process to work in reverse. How could certain pieces of rock and dust suddenly begin to move, come together, then zoom out into space? What law of nature could be devised that would select those certain pieces and not others?
Wheeler and Feynman solved this problem to their satisfaction with statistics. Although their results worked on the small scale of atoms and sub-atomic particles, an analogy of their argument on a large scale seems unreasonable. It would explain the above problem this way: Statistically, each of the particles of dust and debris on earth posses a probability potential to get up and fly out into space. Occasionally, these potentials all line up and those certain particles come together in the air and fly away.
Einstein was never satisfied with this statistical explanation of time and space. He said, "I believe that the [quantum] theory is apt to beguile us into error in our search for a uniform basis for physics, because in my belief it is an incomplete representation of real things. The incompleteness of the representation is the outcome of the statistical nature (incompleteness) of the laws."
Statistical analysis can give insight into real things. It would be difficult to describe the general movement of sand on a beach without thinking in terms of statistics, for example. But, Einstein saw that the statistical method of analysis could not completely represent reality because it lacked a clear concept of cause and effect. This was an old mule that Einstein had to ride, however, because his own theory of relativity also lacked any clear concept of cause and effect.
The absence of clear concepts of cause and effect in Quantum Theory and in the Theory of Relativity may be due in part to the influence of David Hume. Hume, in his Essay on Human Understanding, undercuts "cause and effect" ascribing it to a "value" placed on observed events by the mind.
According to Hume, however frequent the cases we have known in which there was an antecedent (cause) so that a rule can be derived from them, we could never suppose it as always and necessarily so happening, since we "know" only empirically (after the fact) and necessity demands before the fact knowledge.
This notion held until Immanuel Kant showed that the idea of cause and effect is indeed valid. Kant explained that if we accept the concept of free will as a God-given trait of mankind, then each one of us can cause an event by our own free will. Thus there is cause for those events, and if true cause exists for those events, true cause must exist for each event, even though we may never be completely certain of that true cause, as Hume had pointed out.
We could devise a plan, consistent with observations, to uncover the true nature of time. This plan must have a firm foundation, a solid example of time, from which to base all its meaning. Such a firm foundation can be forced into existence by simply describing it as a special case then basing all observations on that special case. Time, as a special case only, would be the classic-solid time that moves resolutely from past to future with no stopping or slowing or speeding up in between.
Without saying it, Einstein used this idea. His theory of relativity explained changes in the passage of time by using "classic" time (or "common-sense time") as a reference. How could time speed up, or slow down, if there were no reference from which it sped or slowed?
This special case of time would need a special inertial frame of reference because any relative movement would distort time, as Einstein showed in his theory of relativity. The background radiation discovered by two engineers at Bell Labs in 1964 can be this special frame of reference.
With this special case of time fixed in the classical sense, observed changes in the time experience of moving objects become rational. Using this concept, time does not change to accommodate moving objects, moving objects only experience time differently because of motion. The way is then open to ascribe reasonable cause and effect to the phenomenon of relativity. H. Ziegler discussed this with Einstein and Planck 1909 as evidenced in Einstein's article linked by the gold button.
Stated simply, Mr. Ziegler was saying that if the most basic components of mass all moved at the speed of light, relativity would be the natural result. He saw the cause, constant speed of the components of mass, and the effect, relativity. Relativity then becomes a perfectly reasonable and necessary consequence of the construct of mass. No one has ever proved Ziegler's concept wrong.
This plan must then put the concept of cause and effect at its most forward point as a test for completeness. Karl Popper said that any theory must be falsifiable in order to be scientific. For the purpose of this plan, we add that any notion of the way the universe works must provide clear understanding of cause and effect before it can advance beyond hypothesis.
With this insight, it is time to close this investigation and examine the cloak of assumptions before sending the quantum-time patient on its way. Torn mightily is the assumption that Planck's constant could somehow cause the quantum nature of the universe. Planck's constant is obviously a result, else stated, an effect. Its cause must lie elsewhere.
The major insight that fattened the panther above was that photons must exist at a constant amplitude. A little thought will show that Planck's constant must derive from this constant amplitude of photons. There can be no cause and effect for the reverse of that. The constant amplitude of photons is the cause, the quantum nature of the universe is the effect.
So now we have discovered, "How Come the Quantum?" And we have a plan to find "How Come Time?" But it is not a gentle plan. For if the plan is followed, and its promises prove true, Quantum Physics will be a patient in need of major surgical treatment.
But when the plan is done, and all the lesions healed, the patient will recover. Then there will surely be a day, soon coming, when scientists understand all the workings of the universe.