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An Integral Approach to management and human development based on the spiritual vision of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother with an emphasis on its application to various domains of knowledge and life.

The Nature of Matter in New Physics – II – M.S. Srinivasan

feverfew_flower_whiteThe Wave Theory of Matter:

Among the many two-in-one concepts of modern physics, like for example space-time, or matter-energy, the most esoteric, even a little bizarre, is the particle-wave concept.   This concept of new physics is rather abtruse, abstract and technical.   But some basic understanding of  this  concept  is important  for our discussion, because its philosophical  implications  brings the  world-view  of  physics  very  close  to  the  Indian  spiritual  vision.  According to modern physics, an elementary building block of matter like an electron or a photon is at once a particle and a wave.  But what sort of a “wave”?   According to quantum physics, in the subatomic world, matter do not have a specific location in space and time, but exists in a state of dynamic and   fluid   potentialities   or probabilities which   can   be   expressed mathematically as a wave-movement.  So the “wave” dimension of a particle is not a physical wave or movement in physical space and time like a sound wave or an electro-magnetic wave; it is a “probability wave” or a mathematical wave, like for example a crime wave in a statistical chart.  As Fritjof Capra explains

“At the subatomic level, matter does not exist with certainly at definite places, but rather shows ‘tendencies to exist’ and atomic events do not occur with certainty at definite times and definite ways but shows ‘tendencies  to occur’.  In the formation of quantum mechanics these tendencies are  expressed as  probabilities  and are associated with quantities that take  the  form  of waves;  they  are similar to the mathematical forms used to describe,  say,  a  vibrating  guitar, or sound wave.  This is how particles can be waves at the same time.  They are not real three dimensional waves or sound waves.   They are ‘probability waves’ – abstract mathematical quantities with all the characteristic properties of waves that are related to the possibilities of finding the particles at a particular place. And Werner Heisenburg, one of the pioneers of quantum physics, describes the nature of this “probability waves” as:

“It meant a tendency for something.  It was a quantitative version of the old concept of ‘potential’ in Aristotelian philosophy.   It  introduced something  standing  between  the idea of an event and  the  actual  event,  a strange  kind of physical reality just in the middle between  possibility  and actuality”.

What then is the nature of the particle – aspect of the wave-particle entity?   A particle is the materialisation of a non-physical potentiality into an actuality in the physical space-time.  This means, a  particle,  for example an electron, before appearing or being observed in the physical space-time as a particle, exists only as a fluid mathematical potentiality, probably in  other dimensions, a non-material space-time beyond the dimensional  space-time.  So according to quantum physics, a particle does not exist in physical space and time or does not have any physical reality until it is perceived or detected by a scientist or a scientific instrument.  As Gary Zukov explains:

     “According   to quantum mechanics…there was no photon until   one actualised.   Until then, there was only a wave function.   In other words, until then, all that existed were tendencies for a photon to actualise…. From the point of view of quantum mechanics, there is no photon until a detetor fires.  There is only a developing potentiality”.

     But how this developing potentiality is actualised into a particle?  Here options differ among physicists.  There are many schools of thought offering different explanations.   But a new perception which  is  gaining  increasing acceptance  among eminent physicists is that consciousness of the  observer  is   the  primary  factory which actualises the potentiality of  the  wave-function   into the actuality of a particle.  According to this school of interpretation, a subatomic entity appears as a wave or a particle depending on what the choice of the observer.  An electron, before it is perceived or appear as  an electron   exists  as  a  probability wave-function,  as  a  mass   of potentialities  or  probabilities.  When a scientist decides  to  observe  the  electron  and  sets  up the equipment to observe it, nature  responds  to  the  choice by “collapsing” all other probabilities to zero and actualising one  of them  as  an  electron  into  the field  of  observation.   And  according  to Heisenberg’s  principle  in quantum physics, even the parameters  we  want  to observe  or  measure is conditioned by the conscious choice of  the  observer.

For  example  we cannot determine precisely the position and momentum  of  an electron;  if  we want to observe the position, the momentum of  the  particle becomes  uncertain and vice versa; more we know about one parameter, the  more uncertain  becomes  the  other.  This is not due to any inadequancy in the scientific capability or instrumentation of the observer but it is the inherent nature of the physical reality in its relation to the observer.   Thus the consciousness of the observer is inseparably intertwined with the object it observes.   So as Frtjof Capra concludes

 “…. Human consciousness plays a  crucial role  in  the process of observation, and in atomic physics  determines  to  a large  extent  the  properties of the observed  phenomena.   This is another important insight of quantum theory that is likely to have far-reaching consequences.  In atomic physics the observed phenomena can be understood only as correlation between various process of observation and measurement and the end of this chain of process always lies in the human observer.  The  crucial feature  of  quantum  theory is that the observer is  not  only  necessary  to observe  the  properties of an atomic phenomenon, but is  necessary  to  bring about  these  properties.  My conscious decision about how to observe say an electron will determine the electron’s properties to some extent.  If I ask a particle question, it will give me a particle answer.  The electron does not have objective properties independent of my mind.  In atomic physics the sharp catersian division between mind and matter, between the observer and observer can no longer be maintained.  We can never speak about matter without, at the same time speaking about ‘ourselves’”.

     This means consciousness of the observer is inseparable interwined with the reality it observers.  There is no objective reality independent and separate from the observing consciousness.   This observing consciousness determines by its conscious choice the nature of the world it chooses to observe or live in and accordingly Nature responds to the choice of consciousness.   Here modern physics is hovering over the border-land between matter and mind where the laws of matter and mind mingle together.  We can see in these perceptions of modern physics shades of karma theory, glimpses of the psychosomatic principle and some of the well-knows psychological laws of self-development.   Thus  the  discoveries  of  New  physics  indicates  that   the distinction  between  Matter  and Mind is not as rigid as it  appears  to  the superficial  vision of the senses; they are probably, two forms or  expression of a deeper reality beyond them.  But the most significant result of these new perceptions in physics is that “consciousness” is emerging as an important entity in Natural Sciences.  As Fritjof Capra observes:

     “Some physicist argues that consciousness may be an essential aspect of the universal and that we may be blocked from further understanding of natural phenomenon if we insist on excluding it”.

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This entry was posted on July 7, 2016 by in Religion, Spirituality & Philosophy.