By Ira Mark Egdall
Our current understanding of the laws of nature allow us to peek behind the veil of human perception — and catch a glimpse of reality.
The revelation is unexpected, difficult to accept, yet ultimately wondrous.*
The strange tenets of modern physics shatter our most deeply held beliefs. Yet mountains of empirical evidence support their mind-bending predictions. They must be telling us something about reality.
Special relativity tells us the speed of light is absolute — it is the same value no matter what the (uniform) motion of the observer. From this, it predicts time and space are flexible — time slows and space shrinks with relative motion. Thus, as Einstein put it, “past, present and future are only an illusion”.
And per E=mc2, mass and energy are equivalent.
General relativity is even wilder. It tells us mass/energy warps space and time, that this so-called spacetime curvature is gravity. (The warping of space and time due to the Earth’s mass/energy is holding me down in my chair as I write this.)
Einstein’s masterpiece also predicts phenomena so bizarre even he initially rejected them — black holes which trap light and stop time, wormholes which form gravitational time machines, and a universe where space itself is continually expanding.
The predictions of quantum mechanics are the wildest of all. There is an inherent uncertainty in nature which no amount of measurement accuracy can overcome. As it travels from place to place, a single particle spreads out like wave — yet is detected only locally like a particle.
The act of observing changes experimental results.
In “empty” space, virtual particle pairs constantly appear and annihilate each other. The universe is “non-local” — the act of measurement instantly correlates the random properties of two particles, no matter how great the distance between them.
These modern theories of physics have led to what I believe is the greatest achievement in human thought — the first scientific theory on the creation and evolution of our universe. It tells us some 13.7 billion years ago our universe was created in the ultimate cosmic event — the Big Bang.
How strange. How mysterious. How I struggle to understand and explain not just the mathematics of these “laws” of physics, but the reality they reveal. It is an odd journey — with fleeting glimpses, sudden insights, and revelations beyond my wildest dreams.
Ultimately wondrous indeed!
For more information, see my website: marksmodernphysics.com
You can also follow me on Twitter@IMEgdall
* (These words came to me one night as I was drifting off to sleep. I think they are original. If you have seen them before, please let me know.)