Critical Mass: The Search for the Quantum/Classical Threshold, the Inanimate God and the Beginning of Time

Reference & EducationCollege & University

  • Author Robert Michael Depaolo
  • Published January 18, 2021
  • Word count 2,525

Critical Mass:

A Search for the Quantum/Classical Threshold, the "Inanimate God"

and the Beginning of Time


by Robert DePaolo

This article discusses the particle/wave duality and the point (mass threshold) at which the quantum world merges into the classical world. The question is raised as to what amount of mass is required for Feynman's "sum of all histories" path trajectory to move in the direct patterns described by Newton and Einstein. Implied in this discussion is the question of whether determining the crossover point (In terms of mass) between quantum and classical models might enable scientists to discover when time actually began.

Amidst enticing confusion over the essential nature of matter and make-up of the universe various ideas have come forth. One core question around the apparently conflicting predictions of how matter behaves in the quantum and classical models is why both have proved to be accurate. At face value that has pointed not only to a dualistic (particle vs. wave) description of matter but to a dualistic nature of the universe per se.

Separate Rules...

The physical laws encompassed in the classical model are consistent with what we observe in everyday life. This is especially true with regard to the motion or momentum of objects. In the classical world, if one tosses a dart at a target in a tavern the dart will take only one course - straight ahead toward the target. While the thrower's aim might be off a bit there will be only one path for the dart. That path will of course be within the confines of the tavern and in a direct path toward the target on the wall.

A dart has enough mass so that any other movement outcome would be impossible. Once thrown, the dart has no choice but to obey the physical laws governing the force and direction of the throw.

In the quantum world, which deals with particles with little or no mass, movement is not direct. For example In experiments in which massless photons are fired through slits toward gathering boards the photons will take a direct path only if there is only one slit to pass through. However, when more than one slit (say slit A and slit B) is included the particles (photons and electrons) seem to engage in do-overs, alternating their paths, as if looping in and out of the slits. As a result, their direct path cannot be determined other than through probabilities which can only be done by measuring multiple distributions and destinations of the particles over time and trials to calculate whether they are more likely to end up at slit A or slit B.

For a while there was no true explanation for this problem, which was attributed to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. In fact no single explanation has yet proved completely accurate. However over time, insightful theories have offered explanations of why the microscopic (quantum) world behaves differently from the macroscopic (classical) world.

Louis De Broglie and Richard Feynman are two of the best known exponents of what for convenience' sake could be called "synthesis theory", (my words not theirs).It refers to any theory that explains how the particle world converts to the world of more massive objects.

Feynman's explanation is particularly interesting because in the view of many - most notably Stephen Hawking, it offers the most feasible, physics-friendly explanation of how this conversion happens. His idea is elegant and concise and despite his reputation as a rather abstract thinker it is fairly simple to understand. He sees the problem as centering on the factor of mass. He has held that objects (particles) with extremely low mass have extremely low levels of gravitational attraction. Just as the gravitational attraction of Jupiter is stronger than that of Earth so is the gravitational attraction of a golf ball greater than of an electron.

With that Feynman, offered a model, which is fairly concrete. He suggested the natural state of matter is wave-like. A wave, particularly a cluster of photons, does not travel along a circumscribed path like a dart but rather travels along every possible location to which it can move before landing on a spot. Because of such movement vagaries, particles will bump into each other during their circuitous trips here and there. That interaction creates a smearing or wave effect because waves overlap and intersect with one another. A swirling effect is the end result of all this directional confusion.

Feynman suggested the crossover from the quantum world to the classical world occurs when mass reaches the point where it weighs down the multi-directionality of the waves. The freedom of movement they had becomes more restrained as their mass increases. They then begin to behave like particles.

Louis De Broglie had a somewhat different but analogous take on the subject. He believed the fundamental nature of matter is both wave-like and particle like. More specifically, that objects, large and small consist of both waves and particles and that the particles are carried on the crest of waves, Not surprisingly, his model is commonly referred to as Pilot-wave theory. In this model waves are cancelled out with an increase in mass. With enough gravity the wave function fades out (collapses). As with Feynman the collapse creates a bridge to the classical (particle) world. in which particles dominate.

Though the Feynman and De Broglie models differed both appeared to believe gravity was not only an attractive force governing the movement of planets and all other objects in the cosmos but also a conversion force that creates the transition between the microcosmic and macrocosmic worlds and serves as a bridge between probability and certainty.

If the Feynman notion is correct it does something else that is quite extraordinary. It offers clues about when time began and how old the universe really is. It also suggests gravity in itself might be the clay out of which the universe was sculpted. - the great unifying force that could be equated with the godhead Aristotle called the Unmoved Mover.

The issue of time is interesting in light of ideas developed by Dr. Hawking. While various scientists have used deductive reasoning to conclude the universe had a definite time and point of origin - roughly 15 billion years ago, Hawking has thrown a monkey wrench into the process by arguing that for a while, despite some manifestation of universal forces and materials there was no such thing as time, that there was a kind of gestational period of the universe that was non-chronological.

What did he mean by that? First, in adhering to the idea that the original cosmic entity was in a quantum state, he felt its movements and spatial characteristics would have behaved like the small particles in the double slit experiment. In effect the aboriginal cosmic material could have gone everywhere and back (within its own sum of histories journey). Since this pre-classical process would have occurred outside the strict constraints of space and time (because simultaneity of positioning precludes the passage of time - at least for the particle), no time would have expired in the early stages of our universe. Only with an increase in mass, which would have occurred by a sufficient number of particles coming together, would the wave-like meanderings of the proto-universe have begun to experience time lapse and become "classical".

At the root of ultimate cosmic causation would have been gravity; perhaps the closest thing to a "primal creative force" and uber-control mechanism. Einstein viewed gravity as having the capacity to do wondrous things, for example bend light waves, influence the passage of time and provide shape and total information content in the universe in terms of how various celestial bodies communicate with one another. Yet he might not have seen gravity as a physical manifestation of an entity he called "the old one."

The ideas of Feynman. Hawking, De Broglie and Einstein are obviously brilliant and enlightening and because of that I wanted to bring up a logical extension of their ideas by asking...what exactly is the mass threshold at which the quantum world converts to the classical world? In other words the mass quantity that builds a bridge between uncertainty and lawfulness.

To address that question requires a discussion of mass. Like many ideas in the realm of physics it is harder to define than might seem the case. One typically equates mass with some sort of bulk measurement; for example weight, density, number and proximity of atoms in a particular object. Yet those are vague criteria. Density is probably the closest thing to an accurate criterion but even here, one would have to determine how many and what kind of atoms or molecules were present in an object - some being heavier than others.

One way around that problem, and one that has typically been used to determine mass is not by the materials within an object but by the effect of the objects' movement and force. In other words the mass of any object correlates directly with the resistance it encounters as per its momentum. Holding the force and momentum constant, a more massive object will tend to move slower than a less massive one. As a simple illustration, a photon will be less inhibited in its movement than a medicine ball.

This principle pertains to Einstein's notion regarding the speed of light as a constant- and one that creates difficulty for physicists who believe light speed can be exceeded. The way Einstein made his determination about "c" (light speed) was by postulating that as an object moves faster its mass increases. Thus a tennis ball hit over the net at 50 mph will be less massive than one hit at 100 mph - though the observable difference in mass will be negligible. The reason Einstein felt "c" cannot be surpassed; is because as an object moves faster and approaches light speed, its mass increases proportionately, which in turn increases the resistance to its momentum. The faster a thing moves the more massive it becomes... yet the more massive it become the slower it moves. That is essentially Einstein's notion of what could be called reciprocal regulation. The fact that an object can only go so fast before its enhanced mass slows it down was one reason Einstein believed in a lawful well-regulated universe and why he was skeptical about the "spooky nature of" uncertainty-laden quantum mechanics.

An interesting byproduct of this has to do with time lapse. Just as an object's mass increases in line with its momentum so does time slow down as its speed increases - once again, only on an infinitely small scale in terms of human experience. So mass, speed, and time are all inter-twined. That is why space-time is considered a fourth dimension.

Back to Hawking's notion of the pre-temporal universe. If the mass of an object can be measured by the resistance its movement creates, then it might be possible to determine through measurement what mass threshold must be crossed before wave-like behavior converts to particle-like behavior. If that "conversion constant" could be determined it might be possible to determine how much mass would have had to accrue in the proto-universe before the cosmos could become classical, and by inference when time began.

Whether that could shed light on the total age of the manifest universe (as opposed to the proto-universe) and consequently how "everything" (including other possible universes that were either derived from or were co-active with ours) came to be) is hard to tell. Would such knowledge provide dramatic closer to the ultimate story? Would we at last find an interface between science and God in a para-physical state whereby the "conversion" itself could not be described physically. only in abstract and transitional terms - just as the waves in water are not molecular per se yet still provide an "escort force."

The juxtaposition of God and science in discussions seems to be both an obsession and an aversion among theoretical physicists. Many books written on theoretical physics include some discussion of God. Hawking rejected the idea of a God-causation. Others seem a bit more ambivalent. Einstein himself, though not terribly religious resorted to the famous (para) phrase: God does not play dice with the universe" In truth it might be hard to find an resolute atheist within the scientific community, although agnosticism is undoubtedly rampant. Yet if one could change the picture of God, from personified being to uber-regulatory, causative force with only a transitional , information-based essence (a law for its own sake that cannot be undone or challenged) then it might be possible to presume there is, if not a spiritual, then at least a meta physical factor at work in the natural world.

How might this play out in terms of a hybrid physics-metaphysics etiology? If there is a mass/gravity quantity that converts uncertainty to lawful closure it would suggest there is actually an over riding creative force involved, not one with a beard who speaks to a select group of people about a specific doctrine or set of laws, but an inanimate force - a cosmic starting point that creates the inanimate world, including, time, beginnings, ends and existence itself, and whose powers of conversion provide particles. waves, motion and energy as well as the brains of animate beings that produce motion, the perception of these phenomena and a capacity to see beyond the material world.

While Aristotle did not presume the Unmoved Mover created everything from scratch he did believe it was the fulcrum around which every cosmic event took place. If he had been aware of the relationship between mass and gravity he might have come to believe his metaphysical constant brought time and space into being and that the Mover was really a two sided coin, consisting of mass/gravity - not as spiritual as he might have hoped, yet still the fundamental creator of reality.

Notes and References

Bach, R. March 2013. Controlled double slit electron diffraction. New Journal of Physics 15 (3)

On the classical world of motion...

Isaac Newton relied on mathematics (including his development of calculus) to determine the laws of motion. In that context he believe science could predict not only the path and destination of all objects but eventually all that transpires in the universe.

Einstein also felt the universe was a closed system subject to specific laws, including motion. However through Special Relativity Theory he discovered that speed and destination of objects while calculable were influenced by other motions and objects in the universe. Far him all of nature was an information package (all things communicating/interacting with other things rather than consisting of singular objects adhering to singular laws.

On Feynman's Sum of Histories Concept...

Feynman. R.P. Hibbs, A.R. Styer, D.F. (2010) Quantum Mechanics and Path Intervals Mineola, NY. Dover Publications

Hawking, S. Mlodinow, L. (2010) The Grand Design. Bantam Books

On Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle...

Sen. D. (2014) The Uncertainty Relations in Quantum Mechanics. Current Science 107 (2) 203-218

On the Double Slit Experiment...

Shields, C.J. (2007) Aristotle. Taylor & Francis p 187

Towler, M. (Feb 2009) De Broglie-Bohm Pilot-Wave Theory and the Foundations of Quantum Mechanics University of Cambridge Press

Robert DePaolo. Retired Practitioner of Clinical, Educational and Neuropsychology, former Prof of Psychology NH University System, author of many articles on science, psychology, religion and politics. Author of recently published book on the psychological makeup of serial killer Ted Bundy; Bundy: A Clinical Discussion of the Perfect Storm.

Article source:
This article has been viewed 356 times.

Rate article

This article has a 4 rating with 1 vote.

Article comments

There are no posted comments.