News Flash: The World is Not Made Out of Particles
In a recent article, What is Real?, published in Scientific American, Meinard Kuhlmann, Professor of Philosophy at Bielefeld University in Germany, breaks the news: the world is not made out of particles after all.
This conclusion may come as a shock to the vast field of particle physics and the thousands of physicists working at the $6 billion Large Hadron Collider in Europe. As Professor Kuhlman writes, “one must conclude that ‘particle physics’ is a misnomer: despite the fact that physicists keep talking about particles, there is no such thing.”
Quantum theory, in fact, spelled doom for particles almost 100 years ago, but modern physics has not quite absorbed this point into its worldview. Quantum theory, as Professor Kuhlman writes, is based upon on the fundamental precept that no such thing as a particle can be localized in a particular place or time; Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle forever dispelled the notion that we can know the exact location and momentum of a thing. As Heisenberg himself said, atoms are not things. Rather, the closer physicists look, the more Shakespeare appears to have been on the right track: the world is made out of dream-stuff.
Yet, remarkably, science has constructed the giant edifice of particle physics, symbolized by the Large Hadron Collider, in defiance of the findings of quantum theory. Professor Kuhlman writes that particles are inferences from experiments but are not real in the sense that they actually exist in the manner we believe they do. He has a point and is on the right track. Particles are what they have always been: concepts; things we want to exist and find at the root of reality. But they do not exist without the mind desiring them.
It is this point we will need to ponder for a little longer.