Quantum Field Theory
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Quantum Field Theory

If you look very closely at the universe, inside of the protons and neutrons that are within the atom, you’ll notice that the universe is like an ocean and everything around us are like waves on its surface.

This is because the quarks, gluons, and other particles described by the Standard Model are slightly simplified. They’re more accurately described as ripples in underlying ‘fields’ that stretch across the universe.

Referring to them as particles is a convenience that helps us more easily imagine and talk about them.

They still have properties like spin, position, and momentum, and the same strange property of uncertainty when they’re not interacting with anything.

But what is really going on when the particles bump into each other is one field interacting with another field.

Each point in space can be considered to be like a spring that can bounce up and down, and a field is like an infinite array of springs that spreads in all directions.

A ripple that moves across these springs is one of the particles that the Standard Model describes.

Each type of particle has its own field. To list them all in full, there are

  • 3 lepton fields
  • 3 neutrino fields
  • 1 Higgs scalar field
  • 3 weak gauge boson fields: the W, Z+ and Z−1 gluon field
  • 6 quark fields1 electromagnetic field
  • 1 gravitational field which is space and time itself, but we cannot place it within this model. See gravity and the Planck length.

The properties of and interactions between all of these fields are different, and correspond to all the same effects as seen in the particles of the Standard Model. There are a number of philosophical implications that can be drawn from this information about reality.

Amazing implication 1

Everything in the universe is a vibration. From helium gas in space, to light energy given off from the sun, to the oil in the ground. A human being is a highly detailed and delicate symphony of vibrations between multiple fields.

Amazing implication 2

The entire universe is connected via its underlying fabric. The electrons in your body are ripples in the same underlying field as the electrons in your wedding ring, the tree outside, the moon, and everything else in the universe.

These fields stretch out in every direction and we are submerged within them, as if we were free divers suspended deep underneath the ocean. It might be worth stating here that this is not imaginary fancy, it is objective, experimentally proven reality.

An analogy to help understand this concept was posted in the Reddit thread How could the universe be a few light-years across one second after the big bang, if the speed of light is the highest possible speed?: Quantum Field Theory tells us that only one “thing” actually exists, the quantum mechanical field(s). This field has a “shape” that is the energy density across it. That shape is the reality that we perceive, where different energy densities produce different fundamental units of matter. Think of it like this: Say you took a gigantic white sheet the size of a city and draped it over that city… the sheet would form the shape of the buildings and trees and traffic lights and cars… now say you starched the sheet so that it became rigid and pulled it away and placed it in a field in the middle of nowhere… you can still clearly see the buildings and cars and light posts and stuff… because the sheet took the form of these things, even though the sheet is a single “thing”. Thingness itself is an illusion, just like it is on that giant sheet, all of the buildings outlined in that sheet are fundamentally connected by the “fabric”… in reality everything is fundamentally connected as well, and the “fabric” is the quantum mechanical field that gives rise to all of reality. Thingness is a concept that we make up to distinguish regions of this field that are significant to us solely because of our method of sensory perception.

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Say hey to Owlbert Einstein

Curator of the Big Ideas Network

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