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On Physics & Quantum Theory

Fritjof Capra

A careful analysis of the process of observation in atomic physics has shown that the subatomic particles have no meaning as isolated entities, but can only be understood as interconnections between the preparation of an experiment and the subsequent measurement. Quantum theory thus reveals a basic oneness of the universe. The mathematical framework of quantum theory has passed countless successful tests and is now universally accepted as a consistent and accurate description of all atomic phenomena. The verbal interpretation, on the other hand, i.e. the metaphysics of quantum theory, is on far less solid ground. In fact, in more than forty years physicists have not been able to provide a clear metaphysical model. (Capra, 1975)

The Metaphysics of Space and Motion and the Wave Structure of Matter now provides this clear metaphysical model. A significant problem has been the conception of the particle and thus the resulting paradox of the particle / wave duality. These problems have caused great confusion within modern physics over the past seventy years, as Heisenberg, Davies and Capra explain;

Both matter and radiation possess a remarkable duality of character, as they sometimes exhibit the properties of waves, at other times those of particles. Now it is obvious that a thing cannot be a form of wave motion and composed of particles at the same time - the two concepts are too different. (Heisenberg, 1930)

The idea that something can be both a wave and a particle defies imagination, but the existence of this wave-particle duality is not in doubt. .. It is impossible to visualize a wave-particle, so dont try. ... The notion of a particle being everywhere at once is impossible to imagine. (Davies, 1985)

The question which puzzled physicists so much in the early stages of atomic theory was how electromagnetic radiation could simultaneously consist of particles (i.e. of entities confined to a very small volume) and of waves, which are spread out over a large area of space. Neither language nor imagination could deal with this kind of reality very well. (Capra, The Tao of Physics, p56)

The solution to this apparent paradox is to simply explain how the discrete particle properties of matter and light (quanta) are in fact caused by Spherical Standing Waves (Scalar Quantum Waves not Electromagnetic Vector Waves) which cause the Particle effect at their Wave-Center. For a more detailed explanation please see Quantum Theory: Particle Wave Duality

Beyond Language

The problems of language here are really serious. We wish to speak in some way about the structure of the atoms But we cannot speak about atoms in ordinary language. (Heisenberg, The Tao of Physics, p53)

That every word or concept, clear as it may seem to be, has only a limited range of applicability. (Heisenberg, The Tao of Physics, p35)

The most difficult problem concerning the use of the language arises in quantum theory. Here we have at first no simple guide for correlating the mathematical symbols with concepts of ordinary language: and the only thing we know from the start is the fact that our common concepts cannot be applied to the structure of the atoms. (Heisenberg, The Tao of Physics, p54)

The opening line of the Tao Te Ching: The Tao that can be expressed is not the eternal Tao.' (Lao Tzu, The Tao of Physics, p37)

Well known Zen phrase: The instant you speak about a thing you miss the mark. (Capra, The Tao of Physics, p42)

The New Physics

The violent reaction on the recent development of modern physics can only be understood when one realises that here the foundations of physics have started moving; and that this motion has caused the feeling that the ground would be cut from science. (Heisenberg, The Tao of Physics, p61)

It seems probable to me that God in the beginning formed matter in solid, massy, hard, impenetrable, movable particles, of such sizes and figures, and with such other properties, and in such proportion to space, as most conduced to the end for which he formed them; and that these primitive particles being solids, are incomparably harder than any porous bodies compounded of them; even so very hard, as never to wear or break in pieces; no ordinary power being able to divide what God himself made one in the first creation. (Newton, The Tao of Physics, p64)

Every time the physicists asked nature a question in an atomic experiment, nature answered with a paradox, and the more they tried to clarify the situation, the sharper the paradoxes became. It took them a long time to accept the fact that these paradoxes belong to the intrinsic structure of atomic physics, and to realise that they arise whenever one attempts to describe atomic events in the traditional terms of physics. (Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics, p76)

Rutherfords experiments had shown that atoms, instead of being hard and indestructible, consisted of vast regions of space in which extremely small particles moved, and now quantum theory made it clear that even these particles were nothing like the solid objects of classical physics. The subatomic units of matter are very abstract entities which have a dual aspect. Depending on how we look at them, they appear sometimes as particles, sometimes as waves; and this dual nature is also exhibited by light which can take the form of electromagnetic waves or of particles.

This property of matter and of light is very strange. It seems impossible to accept that something can be, at the same time, a particle- i.e. an entity confined to a very small volume- and a wave, which is spread out over a large region of space. (Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics, p77)

The apparent contradiction between the particle and the wave picture was solved in a completely unexpected way which called in question the very foundation of the mechanistic world view - the concept of the reality of matter.

At the sub-atomic level, matter does not exist with certainty at definite places, but rather shows tendencies to exist and atomic events do not occur with certainty at definite times and in definite ways, but rather show tendencies to occur. In the formalism of quantum theory, these tendencies are expressed as probabilities and are associated with mathematical quantities which take the form of waves. This is why particles can be waves at the same time. They are not real three-dimensional waves like sound or water waves.

They are probability waves, abstract mathematical quantities with all the characteristic properties of waves which are related to the probabilities of finding the particles at particular points in space and at particular times. (Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics, p78)

A careful analysis of the process of observation in atomic physics has shown that the subatomic particles have no meaning as isolated entities, but can only be understood as interconnections between the preparation of an experiment and the subsequent measurement. Quantum theory thus reveals a basic oneness of the universe. It shows that we cannot decompose the world into independently existing smallest units. As we penetrate into matter, nature does not show us any isolated basic building blocks, but rather appears as a complicated web of relations between the various parts of the whole. (Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics, p78)

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