Understanding Quantum Mechanics

“If you think you understand quantum mechanics, then you don’t understand quantum mechanics”
Richard Feynman (allegedly)

And on that encouraging note . . .

The Clapham Interpretation

Not that quantum mechanics doesn’t deserve its fearsome reputation. From the beginning, Schrödinger was in two minds about it, and Heisenberg equally uncertain. And they understood it (allegedly). Nonetheless, there is a way of thinking about quantum mechanics that works for me, and might perhaps for you, too.

But first, a little background . . .

At the turn of the last century, Max Planck, a physicist friend of Einstein’s, and the unenthusiastic1father of quantum mechanics, was thinking about warm, black bodies2. A “black body” is anything that absorbs all frequencies of radiation, hence the “black”, yet radiates heat, whence the “warm”. By the time we join him, he is contemplating the sun3, the ultimate “black” body, and wondering why it doesn’t go out. His problem was that light waves carry away energy in the form of heat, and theoretically (blame Maxwell4) there was no limit to the total number of possible light waves; limitless radiation = infinite energy transfer = Phuttt! No more heat. However, the sun was still shining, so there had to be something wrong with the theory. Eventually he decided that, depending on the frequency, there must be some limit, that light waves could only carry so much5energy, and the equation he came up with was E=hν (the Greek letter Nu), where E is the energy, ν the frequency, and h is a constant he rather unimaginatively named Planck’s Constant.

Of course nobody believed him, until Einstein took a little time off from completely re-writing the rules of the universe to point out that the photoelectric effect6clearly showed his ‘energy quanta’ knocking electrons off the surface of metal precisely following Planck’s formula. Suddenly, he was right, but then it all started to go pear-shaped. To begin with, what was a ‘quantum’? What do we call this thing that floats like a wave and stings like a particle? How do we classify it? The key to this conundrum turned out to be the ‘double slit’ experiment. This had actually been performed a hundred years earlier by Thomas Young7to “prove” that light came in waves. He set up a card with two parallel slits in it, shone a light through them, and, lo and behold, the resulting image was an interference pattern. Everybody knew about peaks and troughs from messing about in boats, so this was proof positive that light comes in waves, and thus a great place to start again now that it wasn’t8. Sure enough, when in 1909 one G. I. Taylor tried it with a very low energy light source, he got dots (particles) in an interference (wave) pattern, and that’s what everybody has been getting ever since, i.e. wave/particle duality.

This is the central9mystery in quantum mechanics, and demystifying it is the justification for this article.

Time now for:

The Clapham Interpretation

“What now appear as the paradoxes of quantum theory will seem as just common sense to our children’s children”
Stephen Hawking, The Second Millennium Evening at The White House, March 6, 1998

 

Introduction (and this is where the story really starts)

Like peanut butter, light comes in two varieties; chunky and smooth, the big difference between light and peanut butter being that light seems to be able to be both chunky and smooth at the same time. Obviously, that’s not possible, but to understand why people think it is, you need to know something about time.

Picture the scene: you are on your way to or from Clapham by public transport. You turn to one of your fellow travellers10and ask which, in their opinion, presents the greater opportunities: the past or the future. They will probably suggest the future, partly on the grounds that it contains a wider range of options, the past being over and done with, and partly just because it is unknown and largely unknowable. Soon you should find you are both able to agree that the future consists entirely of events that have yet to occur, if ever, while all those that have already happened form the past. That leaves us only the present to consider.

The present is more interesting, and somewhat less intuitive. Most people, for instance, would consider the present, otherwise known as “Now”, as lasting a reasonable amount of time, enough at least to get stuff done. However, in reality11, it can’t possibly be long enough for things to happen during it, because then the past would start at that point, by definition. It has to be shorter than that.

In fact, and this is the key, no change at all can take place in the present if it’s to avoid instantly becoming the past. At the same time, it can’t simply be zero, as that would mean it doesn’t exist, which it patently does. It has to be greater than zero, just enough to form a buffer between future and past, but in the course of which nothing can happen.

In short, the present is binary.

So Time is short. But how short is it? Thanks again to Max Planck who reluctantly defined it for us, we know how short it is, and it’s very, very short: 5.39116(13)×10­-44 seconds. He called it Planck Time, and defined it as “the time required for light to travel, in a vacuum, a distance of 1 Planck Length”, 1.616229(38)12×10−35 metres, or the length of what we now call a photon, i.e. a quantum of light. This is not a coincidence13. This is why the speed of light is the speed it is14. It can only go in tiny steps, albeit at a rapid rate.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: If the present’s that short, and nothing can happen during it, then how could anything ever happen? Good point. Think of each present as being like a single video frame, and each quantum a single pixel; nothing changes within a video frame, but it is not exactly the same as the ones before and after it, which gives the sensation of movement and change. That’s why, for example, quanta/pixels appear to leap into being; the transition takes no time at all. More to the point, the fact that they do leap is a comforting proof of concept, Niels Bohr’s distaste for it notwithstanding. Furthermore, each element (quantum) has its own timeline (unless they are ‘entangled’, in which case they share15). For each quantum state in any given timeline there are an infinite number of possible subsequent states of varying probability, from “no change” to “different in some way”.

The rule is: “If nothing happens, nothing happens”. So long as an element’s possible future states remain unchanged – in what is called a ‘wave’ state because that is how it behaves – then successive presents will remain in that state until something happens, i.e. some event16causes an instantaneous change to a ‘past’, or what is called ‘particle’, state which then simply becomes part of the fabric of the universe in that form (See definition of ‘past’ above). That surely is precisely what we should expect to see – and actually do see – when we look at the sub-molecular quantum world: two possible states, one probabilistic while the probabilities still exist, and the other fixed once an event has occurred. It should be borne in mind, however, that any event instantly generates its own probable subsequent states which are superposed on the past ‘particle’17state.

I call this the ‘sequential present’18.

As we will see, the Clapham Interpretation resolves a number of apparent paradoxes in quantum mechanics, among them the Observer Effect, Schrödinger’s Cat, the EPR Paradox, the Multiverse, the Double-Slit Experiment, the Block Universe and the Arrow of Time, to name but a few. It also reconciles Classical Physics with the Theory of Relativity and provides a basis for a quantum theory of gravity, with implications for String Theory, Brane Theory and the Holographic Universe.

It has a nice GUT feel to it.

«§»

You should know that Einstein and I part ways at this point. He is famously quoted as saying that physicists believe the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, albeit a convincing one. However, he wrote that to the recently bereaved widow of his dear friend, Michele Besso, and it should not be taken out of context. I myself have said at funerals, “I’m sure he is looking down at us now”19, but this is not my professional opinion, and as far as I know, neither was it Einstein’s. He also said that Besso had “left this strange world a little ahead of me20,” and that it meant nothing, which would imply a belief in the afterlife that, again to my knowledge, he did not have. Nonetheless, he does seem to have believed in some form of “block” universe in which the time dimension of spacetime stretches back to the Big Bang and forward to whatever crunch-like end awaits us, and there, obviously, we are at odds.

A good part of the reason for this belief is a basic problem with classical physics: i.e. that the mathematics doesn’t show a direction for time. With the exception of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, there is nothing in the maths to show why it shouldn’t work in either time direction, and therefore, according to mathematicians, it should work as well backwards as forwards, the one tiny drawback being that it actually doesn’t. Broken crockery never spontaneously reassembles itself, for example, so the second law holds.

Mathematics is a language, and as such is perfectly capable of describing reality in detail. However, like any other language, it is also perfectly capable of writing fiction. Like any good fiction, it only has to fit within our perception of reality to be believable. Remember what Einstein said: “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”

On the other hand, in a Clapham universe, physics only ever has to work in the present, because there is literally nowhen else. So that’s a relief. Also, classical – macro – physics is concerned largely with the study of matter in its past, ‘collapsed’, form at speeds that demand negligible quantum or relativistic adjustment.

One thing about the sequential present would have pleased Einstein, though. Since quantisation is a property of the sequencing, it must affect the three physical dimensions equally, so the sequencing rate not only constrains the “speed” of light, but also means it cannot vary in any direction. We know this to be so because we have measured it, and the speed of light in vacuum is the same in all directions, regardless of how, where and at what speed you yourself are travelling21. As you know, this is impossible under the laws of the three-dimensional universe that Newton described, but entirely consistent if its laws have an independent source. This is another comforting proof of concept, uniting, as it does, the quantum universe with relativity22as descriptions of the same reality23.

«§»

If this is all true, what would that imply?

It may not be immediately obvious, but this interpretation implies that the ‘time’ component of spacetime is a universal (i.e. non-local) quantum ‘protostrate’, or ‘layer’ if you prefer, depending on how you want to visualise it. That in turn means that, along with the block universe, we have to bid a fond farewell to the Many Worlds of Hugh Everett in favour of what we might call the “Sliver” universe24, which is all a shame from the point of view of science fiction, but we get a lot in exchange. For a start, we get back the irreversible arrow of time, in fact Time itself, together with all of classical physics and, for all I know, entropy; anyway, the old familiar universe the way we are used to seeing it, where Tempus definitely fugit.

To start at the very beginning, this would mean that at the point of the Big Bang the entire universe briefly consisted of a single photon25, followed immediately (5.39116*10-44 seconds later, and every 5.39116*10-44 seconds after that until the present day)26by exponentially expanding “presents”27. It is probable that the initial phase of expansion was ‘dimensionless’, not only in the sense that the three physical dimensions were not yet formed, but that the ‘metric’28itself was also coming into being. Others have calculated that: “During inflation, the metric changed exponentially, causing any volume of space that was smaller than an atom to grow to around 100 million light years across in a time scale similar to the time when inflation occurred (10−32 seconds)”. At the moment, everyone more or less agrees that this first level of expansion is over by 10-32 seconds into existence. That, however, was based on a single Big Bang, although expansion continues to be the default state of the universe. Of course, as my daughter’s Satnav would say, this will all need “recalculating”.

We are in the habit of calling this component Time, largely because one of its side effects is to provide us, as Einstein so neatly put it, with “the order of events by which we measure it”, i.e. the sequential present or, as Toynbee is supposed to have said about history: “One damned thing after another”29. It is this sequencing that gives us the irreversible Arrow of Time, the sensation that Time passes in only one direction. However, the Maoris have it right: it flows from the {superposed} future into the {collapsed} past, not the other way about; future first, past last.

The next big question is: “Why does light have a speed at all?”

“Well, it has to get around,” I hear you say, and that’s a good point, but not strictly true. First of all, just as in the Bible’s “Fiat lux”, we are using the word ‘light’ synecdochically30. We call it the Speed of Light, and that is certainly one of the things it’s the speed of, along with all electromagnetic radiation, but in reality it is simply the rate at which quantum fields can refresh and propagate themselves. It could be anything. I tend myself to think of it as the Speed of Time, but in fact it is just the Speed of Existence. Also, unlike the luminiferous æther, the sequential present is simultaneously medium and waveform. That is why it doesn’t accelerate. In our three-dimensional universe, it is always a uniform speed.

However, that speed does vary. c, the universal constant, is handy for nipping about in the vacuum of space, but ‘light’ can go at practically any speed, and even stop. It all depends on its surroundings. The slightest barrier to its progress will cause it to slow. The cosmic microwave background (CMB) was almost perfectly uniform, with only one part in a hundred thousand variation, yet that was enough. Even the slightest slowing causes the physical realm to contract/coalesce correspondingly, thus slightly increasing the density of the three-dimensional universe at that point, which in turn slows and contracts the next ‘refresh’, and so on. The values of the “strings” are a function of the “speed”. At its simplest, I could imagine it to look something like this: c*(x,y,z), where all physical dimensions, in fact our whole universe, lie within the parentheses. Any reduction in c would therefore entail a reduction in the dimensional values of the universe at that point.

We know all this is actually happening partly because Einstein predicted it (which certainly made us go out and look for it), partly because, if we didn’t allow for it, my daughter’s Satnav would take me to the wrong house, but mostly because, when time slows, the clocks do, too. Now, clocks are strictly from the material world31; you can adjust them to tell whatever time you want, but for Time itself to adjust them shows the trans-dimensional mechanism exists. This is not like length contraction32, where it is just a perception; this is the ‘Time’ component of spacetime actually altering the ‘Space’ part. It goes without saying that some such process that increases the density of regions of space is an essential prerequisite for the formation of stars and other matter; our word for that process is Gravity, so ‘Gravity’ and ‘Time’ are inextricable aspects of the flow of existence.

Now the big question is: If ‘light’, what about billiard balls?

For this we need look no further than the double slit experiment which, in the Clapham Interpretation, is no longer Feynman’s “mystery”, but its experimental verification. If you recall, we left it back in 1909 with G.I. Taylor watching an interference pattern form from individual “corpuscles33” of light, and that is how it has been ever since, although the technology required to achieve it has become much more sophisticated, what with lasers, half-silvered mirrors and all. In the Clapham Interpretation, the interference pattern results from the photons each randomly ending up on one among many34possible future35paths. Over the years, people have tried various techniques to see which path the photon actually took, but the use of any kind of detector has always resulted in the photon finding itself going through one slit or the other, never both, as a wave would have done, so no pattern is formed.

If you have followed this so far, of course, you will remember the “If nothing happens, nothing happens” rule, and you will realise that detecting a particle is an event that inevitably takes place in the present, thus collapsing any future possibilities into a ‘past particle’. So far, so good. However, that immediately raises the question: if it’s a past particle, how does it continue on its way in the present? This has long been one of the great mysteries of physics (until now, of course), and it’s called “inertia”.

“As […] it is now generally accepted that there may not be one which we can know, the term “inertia” has come to mean simply the phenomenon itself, rather than any inherent mechanism.36

Clapham, however, does have an inherent mechanism – the expansion of the universe – or light would have no speed. A photon has no mass, and thus no momentum nor any inertia, and it never accelerates, so no relativistic mass. In short, it has nothing but unattributable speed. Unless, of course, we can attribute it.

As Richard Feynman was fond of pointing out, you can’t use analogies to describe the quantum protostrate because there is nothing in our ordinary experience that is remotely similar, but I can give you an idea of how difficult it is to describe. When you are doing this – trying to visualise the protostrate, I mean – you have to remember that, although its quantumness suffuses the entire universe, and its effects can be seen at every level, from the microscopic to the galactic, it does not form part of our physical, three-dimensional universe. It is on another plane of Being entirely. If you were to make a two-dimensional drawing of our universe, the protostrate would be the paper. There is no part of the drawing that does not depend on the paper for its existence, and I am including those parts of the drawing where there is no image, but it and the paper belong to different actualities.

Just to be clear on this point, you may in your travels have seen something like this:

This represents a solid three-dimensional sphere passing through a two-dimensional plane, and makes the point that any such event, viewed from the perspective of an inhabitant of that plane, would be perceived as a circle that grows and then shrinks over time.

This is not at all what we are talking about here. It is an illustration of an extra dimension in the same order of dimensions, just as we can make three-dimensional models of four-dimensional shapes, and even draw them in two-dimensions, as here:

This is possible only because the dimensions involved are all of the same order. No such images are possible of the quantum realm.

Nonetheless, inadequate though our imaginations may be, we know a lot about how the protostrate works. We know, for instance, that left to its own devices (in a vacuum) it will ‘push’37, causing our universe to expand, but if it encounters any resistance, it ‘pulls’38, causing our universe to contract/coalesce39. It does this at every scale, from the forces that are causing our ‘local group’ of galaxies to consolidate, ultimately driving the Milky Way to collide with Andromeda40, at the same time as expanding voids in the universe and forcing distant galaxies away, never to be seen again, while at the other extreme forming and differentiating all the elements that go to make up the stars and planets that populate that universe (We happen to be in a period of overall expansion at the moment, but because these effects are opposed, the net result in the past may well have been to cancel each other out, or even to have given rise to some level of contraction).

Because the effects are translated into the physical realm, we experience the expansion of the universe and the forces of gravity as being in opposition, but in the quantum protostrate they are just a matter of degree. We see planets, stars and nebulae in a vacuum, but they are merely different expressions of a single entity. We call it Dark Energy and Dark41Matter to distinguish its effects, but everything is just the result of a continuum of values in the protostrate. We know this is happening because the Earth is not flat. It is not only the speed of light/time/existence that is the same in all directions: gravity is, too, so the abovementioned “ball of strings” applies here as well, with the result that everything turns out to be balls, one of them being this planet.

While we’re on the serious subject of gravity, what’s wrong with this picture?

It’s very popular. It shows gravity as an effect of the curvature of spacetime, and it makes perfect sense to us. We’ve all seen motorcyclists on the Wall of Death, or cyclists on the velodrome; or if not, how about stuff going down a plughole? Anyway, it looks familiar, helped by the fact that the force of gravity obviously points down, as it should.

But what if I turn it upside down? If it’s an accurate depiction of spacetime, it should work regardless of orientation. Does it still work?

I didn’t think so. Now we still see gravity as pointing down, but the Earth looks decidedly unsafe.

The problem is all those straight lines. Every physics student is taught that light travels in straight lines, except, of course, when it doesn’t. To get around that, light has to nip diagonally across the fabric of spacetime to line up with us on the far side, to explain the illusion that the star we are looking at is far to the right of its real position.

In a quantum world, however, there is no distinction to be made between how light behaves and the structure of spacetime. They are the same. Light simply follows the structure, as here,

which, given symmetry, demonstrates that spacetime is more concentrated in the presence of density, just as you would expect, and that the process which forms matter and the one that creates gravity are inseparable and the same (see inertia above).

At this point you could be forgiven for wondering if there might be something in the way of proof of any of this, and there is, although, unfortunately, it is purely mathematical. Stick with me, though. You will recall my mentioning Feynman’s “sum over histories” approach. This is now known as the Path Integral Formulation, and began in the ‘30s with an idea of Paul Dirac’s that electrons had a ‘magnetic moment’ that should have a strength of exactly 1. Skipping ahead to the late ‘40s, this led to Feynman, Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga developing a quantum theory of electricity and magnetism that could actually be calculated. In his 1927 paper on “The quantum theory of the emission and absorption of radiation”, Dirac came up with the name Quantum Electro-Dynamics, or QED, and that is what it is called to this day.

The calculations turned out to be astonishingly accurate, making it perhaps the most accurate theory in physics in terms of matching theory with experiment. In Feynman’s time, the theoretical value of Dirac’s number was 1.0015965246, while the experimental result was 1.00115965221 (±4 in the last decimal place), the equivalent of measuring the distance from New York to LA to within the width of a human hair. Now that distance has been extended from the Earth to the Moon to within the width of a human hair42.

“Wait a minute!” I hear you cry. “What has an electron’s magnetic moment to do with anything when it’s at home? What’s that proof of?” Nothing, really, but it has what Feynman called a “Probability Amplitude” (rhymes with “Likelihood”, but only if you’re Scots)43, so it can be predicted and then checked to see what actually happened. The important point is that, even retrospectively, probabilities are the exclusive province of the future. That in turn means that the structure of the Clapham Interpretation, i.e. future full of possibilities (wave structure) – quantum present – past consisting of (collapsed) particle, is what Feynman and his descendants have been measuring, and that is proof of the concept.

QED.

 

Miscellanea

The recognition of the quantum realm was a defining moment in science. From this point on, scientists abandoned their traditional role of devising formulae that accurately reflect reality, choosing instead to devise realities that accurately reflect the formulae. This brought us problems right from the start: Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle44, for example, and the EPR paradox; Schrödinger’s cat and the superposition of states, through ultimately to the multiverse. Niels Bohr didn’t even like quantum leaps45, as I’ve said; but Feynman was right: they are all implicit in wave/particle duality.

Schrödinger’s Cat

Because physics can only work in the present, by definition, but we know it to have always worked in the past, and we can calculate how it will work in the future, we have always assumed its laws to be permanent. Heisenberg made the understandable error of assuming that the quantum state formed part of those laws, and would apply at all times, although specifically in the present. However, all that remains of the past is baryonic matter – matter in its collapsed state – and the future, again by definition, does not exist except in potential, whence the quantum realm derives its properties and laws.

So, in the end all we can say about Schrödinger’s cat is that it was alive when it went into the box, and no one knew at what point it would die in the future. Pretty much the way I feel when I go to bed. Until it happens, it’s in the future, which is uncertain; when it happens, it goes into the past. The present is just where that transaction takes place. No observer is required.

Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle

Obviously this is largely covered above, but there is one important and general point to make. Scientists – Popper scientists, that is – should only be interested in two things: facts and knowledge. That is why it is called Science, from the Latin Scientia, the noun form of Scire; To Know. No Popper scientist can be interested in Truth. If they were, it would be called Verity, or possibly Alethea, which would be sweet, but wrong.

How do we know Science today has nothing to do with Truth? Because we have constantly heard everybody, from Cardinal Bellarmine to Carl Sagan, assert: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Now, obviously, there is no rational connection between the objective truth of something, and any evidence for it. As Feynman himself was fond of pointing out, there is far more in the universe that is true than can be proven scientifically. The only path evidence provides is to knowledge.

More to the point, the amazing fruitfulness of Popper science depends entirely on every scientist’s willingness to abandon knowledge as soon as it fails to fit the facts, something it would be philosophically and psychologically impossible to do if it concerned Truth. As a result, the ancient Greek ideal of Knowledge as the agreed overlap between Truth and Belief, i.e. Justified True Belief, is irrelevant to Popper scientists. To them, knowledge is simply Justified (Justifiable?) Belief, and the moment it can no longer be justified, it can be abandoned and replaced.

Nonetheless, the hankering for Eternal Truths – and their author’s place in the Pantheon of Science – lingers on. Heisenberg, and through him all the rest of us, fell victim to it. That is why I call it the Great Scientific Fallacy (GSF).

The EPR Paradox

Imagine that somewhere in the plotline of Godfather II, Don Vito Corleone is betrayed by twin brothers. He determines that they must die, and he alone is to kill them. They head for the (widely separated) hills, where they live in fear (and anonymity). Eventually, Don Vito dies, and simultaneously their curse is lifted. No information travels anywhere, there is no “spooky action at a distance”. Nonetheless, the probability of either of them dying at the hands of Don Vito drops to nil.

Entanglement at the quantum level is an aspect of the universal protostrate. Entangled quanta thus share a timeline. If nothing happens, nothing happens; the future probabilities of the two possicles remain unchanged, and therefore identical. Should something happen, e.g. one of them is measured in the dimensional universe, they both simultaneously “collapse” into past particles, regardless of wherever in that universe they may be.

That’s about it, really. Same goes for Quantum Teleportation.

The Multiverse

This is often referred to as Hugh Everett’s Many-Worlds Interpretation, although he never called it that. The story goes that he was pondering the double slit experiment (see above) when it occurred to him that another way of viewing the photon’s appearing to pass through both slits at the same time would be if the universe itself split into two identical universes, with the photon passing through the left slit in one, and through the right slit in the other.

This has now gone from unthinkable nonsense to accepted mainstream thinking, championed by most, if not all, leading quantum theoreticians. Sadly, if he had only given it just a moment more’s thought, he would have realised that if the universe were to split into two different realities, then we would not see the interference pattern. We would only see one inheritor reality or the other. For the interference pattern to be visible requires that both realities be present, and thus the universe cannot have split.

Shame about that.

Quantum Computing

The universe is binary, with a helluva flop rate. Furthermore, as I understand it, any well constructed formula only has one possible future state, so the probabilities should work. The drawback is what is called the Holevo Bound. To save you looking it up:

“In essence, the Holevo bound proves that given n qubits, although they can “carry” a larger amount of (classical) information (thanks to quantum superposition), the amount of classical information that can be retrieved, i.e. accessed, can be only up to n classical (non-quantum encoded) bits. This is surprising, for two reasons: (1) quantum computing is so often more powerful than classical computing, that results that show it to be only as good or inferior to conventional techniques are unusual, and (2) because it takes 2n − 1 complex numbers to encode the qubits that represent a mere n bits.” Wikipedia

In short, precisely what you would expect from qubit pasticles.

Hawking Chronology Protection Hypothesis

This is it.

Synchronicity

The sequential present provides Relativity with Einstein’s array of synchronised clocks. Nonetheless, so long as E=mc2 remains just a coincidence (see elsewhere on this blog), the story is not over.

Source

The source of the protostrate is the same as that of the Big Bang, wherever you imagined that to be, just in instalments. Those who, like Elon Musk, believe we are living in a computer simulation will be pleased to learn that, like a computer, this universe needs to remain plugged in.

The c Paradox

In order for c to be the speed of light, light must travel at that speed; however, at that speed, light does not travel; it is already there, where it has always been46. Even as a schoolboy I knew, if nothing can travel at the speed of light, that light must then either not travel, or be nothing. It simply didn’t occur to me that both would be true. Nonetheless, a combination of time dilation, which they were so worried about when defining the second4748, and length contraction, which is to speed as perspective is to distance49, if taken to its logical conclusion, means that, at the speed of light, all meaningful concepts of measurable existence cease to be. At that speed, and only electromagnetic radiation can actually “travel” at that speed, the entire universe is a dimensionless, timeless point in a non-existent void; essentially the initial conditions of the Big Bang, which is where this story started.

You can see why I say that the Clapham Interpretation has a nice GUT feel to it.

 

Conclusion

As I started with a quote from Feynman, I thought it might be as well to end on one:

“The chance is high that the truth lies in the fashionable direction. But, on the off-chance that it is in another direction — a direction obvious from an unfashionable view of field theory — who will find it? Only someone who has sacrificed himself by teaching himself quantum electrodynamics from a peculiar and unfashionable point of view; one that he may have to invent for himself.”

Richard Feynman,
“The Development of the Space-Time View of Quantum Electrodynamics”, Nobel Lecture (11 December 1965)

 

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