## Scientific Surprises

As you have been reading through the pages of this website, you may have been surprised by many of the things you have read, particularly on the science pages, where we discovered that reality is very different from what most of us think it is.

Here is a brief summary of some of the most interesting and surprising discoveries so far:

Einstein's theory of relativity tells us that time is not what we think it is but depends on where we are and how fast we are going, and each one of us has a different perception of time. Because the fastest speed within the universe is light speed, anything further away than our retinas is unknown to us because its light has not reached us yet. What we see now is what happened in the past, so we can only see the universe as it used to be and have no real way of knowing what is out there now. The universe itself is not limited by the laws that exist within it. The universe itself can travel much faster than the speed of light! It is also thought that the normal laws of time and space break down inside a black hole.

Infinite histories theory suggests that there is just now and that we generate the past by looking backwards in time (see Stephen Hawking's latest book :

Psychologists have found that our memories are unreliable and each one of us has different perceptions of past events.

Quantum Physics tells us that matter is not composed of anything solid at all; it is mostly empty space and the basic building blocks that make up everything we see, including our own bodies, are no more substantial than vibrating waves of energy that flicker in and out of existence. These building blocks are only there when we look for them and can communicate with each other instantaneously, apparently flouting the universal requirement that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light.

String Theory suggests that these building blocks exist as tiny strings, loops or membranes or bubbles (quantum froth) that vibrate at different frequencies and it is the particular frequency of vibration which makes one an electron and another a quark or other type of "particle". String theory also suggests that there are possibly eleven dimensions rather than the four we are normally aware of.

Astronomers tell us that we can only see a small fraction of the universe, (which may actually be infinite and appears to be expanding). Within this part of the universe that is known to us, we can only see about 4.6 percent of it, the rest being invisible - perhaps dark matter and dark energy.

Holographic Theory is based on the knowledge that the entropy of a sphere is equivalent to its surface area, not its volume. Entropy can be thought of as increasing disorder in the universe; things progress from order towards chaos. Entropy can be measured and our measurements suggest that the amount of entropy in the universe is equivalent to what we would find if it were two dimensional (flat) rather than the three dimensional structure we observe. This is one of the reasons that scientists are currently speculating that the universe may be a hologram.

From neuroscience, we know that we only "see" about 10 percent of what is in front of us. The other 90 percent is generated by our brains from our expectations. This is why magicians' tricks can so easily deceive us. Our eyes are only partly responsible for our ability to "see". Incoming patterns of light give rise to signals in the brain from which a partial image is created, the rest of the details being filled in by our own minds.

Meanwhile, at the LHC, the plot continues to thicken! The laws of physics did not, until the recent discovery of the Higgs Boson, provide a satisfactory explanation for why matter has mass. It now appears that there may indeed be a "Higgs field" underlying everything which accounts for the mass of other particles and the moment of inertia (reluctance to begin moving) of objects at rest.

Here is a brief summary of some of the most interesting and surprising discoveries so far:

Einstein's theory of relativity tells us that time is not what we think it is but depends on where we are and how fast we are going, and each one of us has a different perception of time. Because the fastest speed within the universe is light speed, anything further away than our retinas is unknown to us because its light has not reached us yet. What we see now is what happened in the past, so we can only see the universe as it used to be and have no real way of knowing what is out there now. The universe itself is not limited by the laws that exist within it. The universe itself can travel much faster than the speed of light! It is also thought that the normal laws of time and space break down inside a black hole.

Infinite histories theory suggests that there is just now and that we generate the past by looking backwards in time (see Stephen Hawking's latest book :

*The Grand Design*).Psychologists have found that our memories are unreliable and each one of us has different perceptions of past events.

Quantum Physics tells us that matter is not composed of anything solid at all; it is mostly empty space and the basic building blocks that make up everything we see, including our own bodies, are no more substantial than vibrating waves of energy that flicker in and out of existence. These building blocks are only there when we look for them and can communicate with each other instantaneously, apparently flouting the universal requirement that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light.

String Theory suggests that these building blocks exist as tiny strings, loops or membranes or bubbles (quantum froth) that vibrate at different frequencies and it is the particular frequency of vibration which makes one an electron and another a quark or other type of "particle". String theory also suggests that there are possibly eleven dimensions rather than the four we are normally aware of.

Astronomers tell us that we can only see a small fraction of the universe, (which may actually be infinite and appears to be expanding). Within this part of the universe that is known to us, we can only see about 4.6 percent of it, the rest being invisible - perhaps dark matter and dark energy.

Holographic Theory is based on the knowledge that the entropy of a sphere is equivalent to its surface area, not its volume. Entropy can be thought of as increasing disorder in the universe; things progress from order towards chaos. Entropy can be measured and our measurements suggest that the amount of entropy in the universe is equivalent to what we would find if it were two dimensional (flat) rather than the three dimensional structure we observe. This is one of the reasons that scientists are currently speculating that the universe may be a hologram.

From neuroscience, we know that we only "see" about 10 percent of what is in front of us. The other 90 percent is generated by our brains from our expectations. This is why magicians' tricks can so easily deceive us. Our eyes are only partly responsible for our ability to "see". Incoming patterns of light give rise to signals in the brain from which a partial image is created, the rest of the details being filled in by our own minds.

Meanwhile, at the LHC, the plot continues to thicken! The laws of physics did not, until the recent discovery of the Higgs Boson, provide a satisfactory explanation for why matter has mass. It now appears that there may indeed be a "Higgs field" underlying everything which accounts for the mass of other particles and the moment of inertia (reluctance to begin moving) of objects at rest.

Here are a few more surprising discoveries:

From the field of Information Technology, and current research into quantum computing, we learn that:

The more we learn about how to build a quantum computer, the more we discover that the universe itself appears to work that way. Computers are designed to store and process information.

A bit of information is a digit whose value can be 0 or 1.

A qubit is a quantum system which can exist in any or all combinations of 0 and 1 simultaneously (eg the spin of an electron)

A proton has 40 bits of information.

A hydrogen atom has the capacity to encode 4 million bits of information (better than any current computer!).

The human brain has the capacity to encode 10 to the power 44 (1 with 44 zeros after it) bits of information.

The known universe can encode ten to the power 100 bits of information.

The processing capacity of a Pentium 4 processor is 10 to the power 10 bits per second.

The processing capacity of the known universe is 10 to the power 90 bits per second.

We would need 10 to the power 80 computers to simulate the universe as we know it.

Some possible implications

There are currently about 7 billion people alive on our planet. Considering the information storage and processing capacity of just one human brain, there arises the possibility that 7 billion human brains have the capacity to generate the known universe as we see it. We don't see all of it at once, the outer bits become more vague and wooly, as do the smallest bits when we try to look at them. We see detail in things that are close up and in areas we are currently looking at and then make general inferences about the rest, which requires very little processing activity.

Here are some thoughts from Vlatko Vedral, a leading expert in the field of quantum computing:

Or as John Wheeler says: "Physics gives rise to observer participancy:observer participancy gives rise to information; information gives rise to physics."

From the field of Information Technology, and current research into quantum computing, we learn that:

The more we learn about how to build a quantum computer, the more we discover that the universe itself appears to work that way. Computers are designed to store and process information.

A bit of information is a digit whose value can be 0 or 1.

A qubit is a quantum system which can exist in any or all combinations of 0 and 1 simultaneously (eg the spin of an electron)

A proton has 40 bits of information.

A hydrogen atom has the capacity to encode 4 million bits of information (better than any current computer!).

The human brain has the capacity to encode 10 to the power 44 (1 with 44 zeros after it) bits of information.

The known universe can encode ten to the power 100 bits of information.

The processing capacity of a Pentium 4 processor is 10 to the power 10 bits per second.

The processing capacity of the known universe is 10 to the power 90 bits per second.

We would need 10 to the power 80 computers to simulate the universe as we know it.

Some possible implications

There are currently about 7 billion people alive on our planet. Considering the information storage and processing capacity of just one human brain, there arises the possibility that 7 billion human brains have the capacity to generate the known universe as we see it. We don't see all of it at once, the outer bits become more vague and wooly, as do the smallest bits when we try to look at them. We see detail in things that are close up and in areas we are currently looking at and then make general inferences about the rest, which requires very little processing activity.

Here are some thoughts from Vlatko Vedral, a leading expert in the field of quantum computing:

*"Could it be that there is no other information in the universe than that generated by us as we create our own reality?"*

..."This leads us to a startling possibility. If indeed the randomness in the universe, as demonstrated by quantum mechanics, is a consequence of our generation of reality then it is as if we generate our own destiny. It is as if we exist within a simulation, where there is a program that is generating us and everything we see around us.

There is no way out for us. This is because in the end we are creators of our own simulation."..."This leads us to a startling possibility. If indeed the randomness in the universe, as demonstrated by quantum mechanics, is a consequence of our generation of reality then it is as if we generate our own destiny. It is as if we exist within a simulation, where there is a program that is generating us and everything we see around us.

There is no way out for us. This is because in the end we are creators of our own simulation."

Or as John Wheeler says: "Physics gives rise to observer participancy:observer participancy gives rise to information; information gives rise to physics."

From holographic theory we know that:

A hologram is a 3 dimensional image projected from a 2 dimensional image by bouncing light off its surface and creating interference patterns.

It follows that an n dimesional image can be created from an n-1 dimensional object.

So the 4 dimensional spacetime we call our universe could be created from something 3 dimensional and, in theory, 4 dimensions could give rise to five etc.

Going backwards, since 3D can arise from 2D, perhaps 2D can arise from 1D but how then would we define what we mean by one dimensional?

If we take 3D to refer to anything that has height, length and width and 2D dimensional as something that is flat like a sheet of paper or the surface of a table , having only length and width but no height, and 1D as a straight line which has only length but no height or width, we can get some idea of what we mean by these dimensions and we will return to this shortly.

But first, let's have a look at a suggestion, which has been made recently, that if the universe is indeed a hologram, it must be projected from a 2D surface such as the inside of a sphere. Imagine a huge sphere within which the whole universe is suspended. This theory would possibly explain our strange discovery about the entropy of the universe, as discussed above.

In my opinion, this idea seems a bit back to front. If there is a sphere generating our infinitley big, expanding universe then the sphere is also infinitley expanding and moving away from what it is projecting. If it has an inner surface, it must also have an outer one and a sphere is itself a three -dimensional shape, so what projected that? And what lies outside it?

It seems more reasonable to suppose that, rather than being projected from the outside in, the universe would be more likely to be projected from the inside out. A very small sphere also has a 2D surface that could give rise to a 3D image that is infinitely large. Now we are getting somewhere because, following the n from n-1 rule, something one dimensional within that small sphere with its 2D surface could, in theory, give rise to it.

We would have to be very careful here in defining what exactly we mean by one dimensional.

If you look at a stretched out piece of string from the other side of a room, it might look like a straight line but as you approach you see that the string has a thickness to it that makes it look more like a long, very thin rectangle. As you get nearer still you see that it also has depth and is acually a very long, thin cylindrical object and is therefore three-dimensional. For it to be one dimensional, it would have to be so narrow that it would remain one-dimensional at whatever magnification. Now in physics there is a distance which cannot be further reducable. It's called the Plank length. So we can now propose the existence of a piece of "string" one plank length in diameter. Its length could be infinite or it could be only one Plank length long. It could exist as a free "string" or its ends could be joined together to form a loop. Were it to be used to generate a 2D object, it could give rise to a flat membrane, one Plank length thick (in order for this to be truly 2 dimensional and not just a very thin cuboid) or fold around to form a tiny sphere, bubble or other three-dimensional shape with a 2D surface. If the string was only one Plank length long it would be a single point, one Plank length in diameter, with a 2D surface.

So we arrive by an unusual route at string theory and our ideas of reality begin to converge with those of others coming at it from different directions.

Let's go further still. We can reasonably ask ourselves where the 1D object came from in the first place. Continuing with our n arising from n-1 law, we can infer the presence of a zero-dimensional "something" from which our one dimension was projected. Zero dimensions means that this something, let's call it the Zero D for convenience, has no dimensions, which in a three dimensional universe means it does not exist. But supposing it does exist, it just has no dimensions, so it would be in the universe but not of the universe and therefore could be both everywhere and nowhere.

Since writing the above, I have read that a single point can be referred to as zero-dimensional, while "one-dimensional" refers to a line. (So where, one might ask, did that come from? Zero -1?) Interestingly, I have also read that a hypothetical object one plank length in diameter is likely to be a tiny and very hot black hole! There is also a theory that the insides of black holes are like fuzzballs created from balls of strings!

A hologram is a 3 dimensional image projected from a 2 dimensional image by bouncing light off its surface and creating interference patterns.

It follows that an n dimesional image can be created from an n-1 dimensional object.

So the 4 dimensional spacetime we call our universe could be created from something 3 dimensional and, in theory, 4 dimensions could give rise to five etc.

Going backwards, since 3D can arise from 2D, perhaps 2D can arise from 1D but how then would we define what we mean by one dimensional?

If we take 3D to refer to anything that has height, length and width and 2D dimensional as something that is flat like a sheet of paper or the surface of a table , having only length and width but no height, and 1D as a straight line which has only length but no height or width, we can get some idea of what we mean by these dimensions and we will return to this shortly.

But first, let's have a look at a suggestion, which has been made recently, that if the universe is indeed a hologram, it must be projected from a 2D surface such as the inside of a sphere. Imagine a huge sphere within which the whole universe is suspended. This theory would possibly explain our strange discovery about the entropy of the universe, as discussed above.

In my opinion, this idea seems a bit back to front. If there is a sphere generating our infinitley big, expanding universe then the sphere is also infinitley expanding and moving away from what it is projecting. If it has an inner surface, it must also have an outer one and a sphere is itself a three -dimensional shape, so what projected that? And what lies outside it?

It seems more reasonable to suppose that, rather than being projected from the outside in, the universe would be more likely to be projected from the inside out. A very small sphere also has a 2D surface that could give rise to a 3D image that is infinitely large. Now we are getting somewhere because, following the n from n-1 rule, something one dimensional within that small sphere with its 2D surface could, in theory, give rise to it.

We would have to be very careful here in defining what exactly we mean by one dimensional.

If you look at a stretched out piece of string from the other side of a room, it might look like a straight line but as you approach you see that the string has a thickness to it that makes it look more like a long, very thin rectangle. As you get nearer still you see that it also has depth and is acually a very long, thin cylindrical object and is therefore three-dimensional. For it to be one dimensional, it would have to be so narrow that it would remain one-dimensional at whatever magnification. Now in physics there is a distance which cannot be further reducable. It's called the Plank length. So we can now propose the existence of a piece of "string" one plank length in diameter. Its length could be infinite or it could be only one Plank length long. It could exist as a free "string" or its ends could be joined together to form a loop. Were it to be used to generate a 2D object, it could give rise to a flat membrane, one Plank length thick (in order for this to be truly 2 dimensional and not just a very thin cuboid) or fold around to form a tiny sphere, bubble or other three-dimensional shape with a 2D surface. If the string was only one Plank length long it would be a single point, one Plank length in diameter, with a 2D surface.

So we arrive by an unusual route at string theory and our ideas of reality begin to converge with those of others coming at it from different directions.

Let's go further still. We can reasonably ask ourselves where the 1D object came from in the first place. Continuing with our n arising from n-1 law, we can infer the presence of a zero-dimensional "something" from which our one dimension was projected. Zero dimensions means that this something, let's call it the Zero D for convenience, has no dimensions, which in a three dimensional universe means it does not exist. But supposing it does exist, it just has no dimensions, so it would be in the universe but not of the universe and therefore could be both everywhere and nowhere.

Since writing the above, I have read that a single point can be referred to as zero-dimensional, while "one-dimensional" refers to a line. (So where, one might ask, did that come from? Zero -1?) Interestingly, I have also read that a hypothetical object one plank length in diameter is likely to be a tiny and very hot black hole! There is also a theory that the insides of black holes are like fuzzballs created from balls of strings!

Some thoughts of my own

I am at the moment still considering the implications of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle in relation to the singularity at the heart of a black hole.

Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle - At absolute zero, where no heat energy is available, atoms should be perfectly still, but experiments have shown that they are not still, they vibrate (quantum jiggling or zero point motion) and this is apparently because of the Uncertainty Principle - you can't know the position and velocity of a particle both at the same time. The more you narrow the probabliity of one of those aspects, the less you know about the other.

So I'm wondering what happens inside a singularity where, although not necessarily cold (apparently the temperature of a black hole is inversely proportional to its mass so the bigger it is the colder it is and the smaller it is the hotter it is), atoms get so squashed together under gravity that even the space between the atomic nucleus collapses. You know where the particle is (inside the singularity) but there is no room for manoeuvre so it should be about as still as it can get.

Perhaps the only place to go in such circumstances would be out of the known universe and back into it elsewhere, (ie through a wormhole in the fabric of spacetime) in order for the energy and information content of the universe to be conserved as a whole (thereby avoiding violating the laws of thermodynamics) while resulting in a gradual shrinkage of material within black holes and the evolution of galaxies, as previously suggested. Quantum tunnelling and non-locality are known phenomena in the quantum world. If the universe we can see is a phase boundary or membrane, like the surface of the sea, then just as a fish can swim over a wave or through it, perhaps a particle can "tunnel" through the underlying "bulk" and pop up further along sooner than expected. So, if a particle can be anywhere, maybe it gets more likely that it will turn up in the intergalactic void than continue to be squashed inside the singularity of a black hole.

The idea that black holes shrink is not not a new one, but whether this is entirely due to Hawking radiation or whether other processes are involved as well is what currently fascinates me. (Hawking radiation, as you probably know, comes from pairs of virtual photons or other particles emerging from the void at the event horizon; one gets trapped inside the black hole while the other stays on the outside and radiates away from it.) I'm more concerned about what happens to the fundamental stuff of quarks, gluons etc when they are compressed inside a singularity. When sub-atomic particles are squidged down to something the diameter of the plank length, it occurs to me that a looped string could perhaps come unglued and (like an unravelled protein inserting itself through a cell membrane) slip through the mesh of the fabric of spacetime, to emerge elsewhere, giving rise to universal expansion and eventually reforming into matter, coalescing into galaxies and getting swallowed up by a black hole again, like a cosmic recycling process:or maybe becoming free neutrinos, tachyons or whatever, zipping around happily without interacting with the more substantial stuff but contributing to the dark energy or dark matter content of the universe.

This idea has been in my mind for many years (see gTheory), and from it I predicted the existence of black holes at the centre of galaxies, the evolution of galaxies, and the existence of dark matter and/or dark energy in the intergalactic void, long before such concepts began to appear in the media. While I fully expected that my personal theory was likely to be wrong, there now seems to be vastly more evidence to support it. Whether or not that's because I'm on the right lines remains to be seen.

(Interestingly, when I originally wrote this, back in 2012, Leonard Susskind was not keen on the idea of black holes generating wormholes. Do read his excellent book:

*"The Black Hole War*

*:*

*My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics".*However, he has recently done a U turn and in New Scientist a couple of weeks ago (August 2013) you will find his article describing why he now believes that such wormholes are not only possible but are likely to be ubiquitous throughout the universe.)

Your Comments Please

If you are lucky enough to be a physics undergraduate who can afford to continue studying in today's financial climate, or a professor of physics with sufficient time and patience to read this page in the Plank-length gap between teaching students and chasing statistics to keep educational inspectors happy, I'd be grateful for your comments. I know that physicists may be irritated by the pet theories and incessant questions of those of us without a PhD in hard sums, which makes it difficult for the average man or woman in the street to have the temerity to bother such revered beings, but I also believe that there are more and more people earnestly seeking answers to these questions as our species finally comes of age; no longer content to trundle round the treadmill of day to day existence wearing blindfolds or praying for miracles when the biggest miracle of all, the universe with all its physical laws, stares us in the face.

The more people involved in the debate, the more we might just come up with the bit of lateral thinking that provides a spark for the greatest discoveries to be made. Perhaps it will come from another clerk in a patent office, perhaps a plumber from Barnsley, perhaps a silver-surfer in a residential care home. Potentially, we have six and a half billion potential Einsteins with an internet to connect them and keep them informed! Let's take the time to listen to everyone's ideas!

As a biochemist, I have come to realise that the most perplexing questions usually turn out to have fairly simple answers and I strongly suspect that when we eventually discover what's really going on in our universe, it will be neat, logical and so blindingly obvious that we'll all look at each other and say, not "Eureka" but: "Well, duh!"

If you are lucky enough to be a physics undergraduate who can afford to continue studying in today's financial climate, or a professor of physics with sufficient time and patience to read this page in the Plank-length gap between teaching students and chasing statistics to keep educational inspectors happy, I'd be grateful for your comments. I know that physicists may be irritated by the pet theories and incessant questions of those of us without a PhD in hard sums, which makes it difficult for the average man or woman in the street to have the temerity to bother such revered beings, but I also believe that there are more and more people earnestly seeking answers to these questions as our species finally comes of age; no longer content to trundle round the treadmill of day to day existence wearing blindfolds or praying for miracles when the biggest miracle of all, the universe with all its physical laws, stares us in the face.

The more people involved in the debate, the more we might just come up with the bit of lateral thinking that provides a spark for the greatest discoveries to be made. Perhaps it will come from another clerk in a patent office, perhaps a plumber from Barnsley, perhaps a silver-surfer in a residential care home. Potentially, we have six and a half billion potential Einsteins with an internet to connect them and keep them informed! Let's take the time to listen to everyone's ideas!

As a biochemist, I have come to realise that the most perplexing questions usually turn out to have fairly simple answers and I strongly suspect that when we eventually discover what's really going on in our universe, it will be neat, logical and so blindingly obvious that we'll all look at each other and say, not "Eureka" but: "Well, duh!"

Where to study without winning the lottery first

If you want to learn some good stuff and can't afford current university fees, type in "theoretical physics lectures" on your search engine. There are some brilliant lectures by all time greats now available on YouTube, plus some very informative cartoon-type explanations of quite advanced concepts. How great to see that the internet isn't all about which celebrity has had what implant or who ate what for breakfast, but can actually be a resource for the whole of mankind to share scientific knowledge without having to win the lottery. Special thanks go to Stanford University for sharing 60 Susskind lectures with the world and to all the people who put Richard Feynman on YouTube.

Meanwhile, as always, I would welcome any comments you may wish to make (however rude but preferably constructive) by emailing me at: gswebsite@hotmail.co.uk or by participating in the blog on this website.

I anticipate that anyone with the patience to read this far must have a genuine interest in the subject and will either find these ideas worthy of consideration or will be clever enough to attract my attention to any flaws in my reasoning.

Either way, your feedback would be appreciated - as this is how we all learn - so do feel free to argue with me!

All the best, g

Return

If you want to learn some good stuff and can't afford current university fees, type in "theoretical physics lectures" on your search engine. There are some brilliant lectures by all time greats now available on YouTube, plus some very informative cartoon-type explanations of quite advanced concepts. How great to see that the internet isn't all about which celebrity has had what implant or who ate what for breakfast, but can actually be a resource for the whole of mankind to share scientific knowledge without having to win the lottery. Special thanks go to Stanford University for sharing 60 Susskind lectures with the world and to all the people who put Richard Feynman on YouTube.

Meanwhile, as always, I would welcome any comments you may wish to make (however rude but preferably constructive) by emailing me at: gswebsite@hotmail.co.uk or by participating in the blog on this website.

I anticipate that anyone with the patience to read this far must have a genuine interest in the subject and will either find these ideas worthy of consideration or will be clever enough to attract my attention to any flaws in my reasoning.

Either way, your feedback would be appreciated - as this is how we all learn - so do feel free to argue with me!

All the best, g

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