Thursday, December 27, 2012

Philosophy Wire: What IS a particle? A surprisingly difficult (and immaterial) question…

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Philosophy Wire by Spiros Kakos [2012-12-27]: In modern physics a particle is an elementary piece of mass. But scientists do not know what mass is and only now they are starting to formulate theories about its true nature (see the Higgs boson for example). So again: a particle is an elementary… something which we do not know what it is exactly. And this… thing is the basis for our physics theories today. Materialists believe that everything is matter. But what is matter? The sum of various particles so vigorously studied by CERN? But again, the definition is not perfect. What is a particle for example? Energy? Wave? A wavefunction collapsing with conscious observation?

As Planck has said...

"As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter." [Max Planck, Das Wesen der Materie (The Nature of Matter), speech at Florence, Italy (1944) (from Archiv zur Geschichte der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Abt. Va, Rep. 11 Planck, Nr. 1797)]

Matter in today's science is more immaterial than the most pure spirit...

Scary, isn’t it? Or extremely liberating?

After all it was Bohr who said "Isolated material particles are abstractions, their properties being definable and observable only through their interaction with other systems.[...] We must be clear that when it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry"...

And it was Werner Heisenberg who said "I think that modern physics has definitely decided in favor of Plato. In fact the smallest units of matter are not physical objects in the ordinary sense; they are forms, ideas which can be expressed unambiguously only in mathematical language"...

(c) Philosophy WIRES - Commenting world news from philosophy's perspective...


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