Infinitely small, infinitely large.
Quantum theory is a powerful and dangerous explosive for our physical concepts.
Quantum physics is the best theory currently available to explain the behaviour of matter at the microscopic level (atoms and everything smaller: protons, photons, electrons, etc.). These rules do not apply to objects on our scale, but let's remember that every object on our scale has its microscopic dimension, as well as every element in the universe... including living matter.
If quantum physics is extremely difficult to access, its concepts have for the most part been demonstrated by experimentation during the 20th century and could be summarized as follows:
The principle of superposition.
Quantum objects can be in several states at the same time. For example being in two places at the same time or going simultaneously at several different speeds.
They can be in several superimposed states (two to infinity!), hence the name: principle of superposition. We could say that they exist in the form of "pure potential" (as physicists say), the superposition being the sum of all probabilities.
The measure is indeterminate.
If we try to measure the speed of an electron being in several states at the same time, we obtain a probability of speed for each state of the electron. There is no way to know the result of the measurement in advance. This quantum randomness is a fundamental aspect of the theory.
If after a first measurement, one measures again, then the electron loses its superposition, as if this second measurement forced it to determine - "choose" as it were - a state. In this case, the electron passes from the superimposed state to the so-called "reduced" state.
In fact, the very fact of measuring has affected the state of the electron. The state of the electron (or any quantum object) cannot be measured without fundamentally changing it.
The wave-corpuscle duality.
Electrons are both wave and corpuscle.
This principle is valid for light, which behaves both as a particle (the photon) and as an electromagnetic wave.
If a particle moves from one point to another, it has the property of taking all the paths at the same time to reach the second point.
The uncertainty principle.
The two aspects of the same reality (such as place and speed) cannot be measured at the same time. They fall under the uncertainty principle. If an electron has a speed of 1000 km/s, for example, then it can be anywhere in space. Quantum objects are therefore described with a probability wave.
In short, particles do not have precisely defined properties and chance intervenes in the measurement, as does the very fact of measuring (or observing); the representation in the form of small balls ordered around a central nucleus is no longer accurate. At the subatomic level, particles rather resemble some kind of manifestation of vibrational energy.
Quantum entanglement, also called non-locality.
When two particles are entangled, they find themselves irremediably linked to each other, with no distance limit. Systems can thus be entangled so that an interaction in one place in the system has an immediate repercussion in other places that transcends time and space.
At the other end of the scale of magnitude, the laws governing the infinitely large are described by Einstein's Theory of Relativity. Its force of gravity sweeps away Newton's, for whom two massive bodies are attracted to each other because there is a force in between, which explains both the fall of the bodies and the movement of the planets. Einstein demonstrates that objects are attracted because the curvature of space-time changes their trajectory and causes them to be attracted. The two methods are very different, but their physical predictions - their results - are similar. With one exception: when the gravitational field becomes intense, it is Einstein's calculations that match the observations.
Relativity theory also predicts black holes (regions of space-time from which nothing seems to be able to escape, not even light) and shows that the universe is not static but either contracting or expanding. Finally, space-time no longer exists as a stable framework in which things happen but becomes a changing, dynamic dimension. For example, it "flows" more slowly in a strong gravitational field.
But here is the problem that physicists have been embarrassed about since the discovery of these laws: General Relativity and quantum physics do not "stick" together.
In 1976, the physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking highlighted the fact that the laws of quantum mechanics (which govern the infinitely small) are opposed to the laws of the infinitesimal, under the name of the information paradox.
Since almost the beginning of the twentieth century and the explosion of knowledge in the field of fundamental physics that we have just mentioned, scientists all over the world have been looking for a "reliable" theoretical and, if possible, experimental way to reconcile quantum physics with the physics of the macrocosm, supported by astronomical observations. A kind of "theory of the whole" that would describe in a coherent and "aesthetically pleasing" physical drawing the laws of the entire universe from the smallest element to the most macroscopic (1).
String theory (or super-string theory), loop quantum gravitation (2) are the most advanced theories on the subject.
The first one, string theory, would indicate that the fundamental elements of the universe are not particles but some kind of vibrating strings possessing a tension, like an elastic band: what we perceive as distinct particles would only be strings vibrating differently. These different types of strings, thus vibrating at different frequencies, would thus be at the origin of all the elementary particles of our Universe.
In this perspective, the universe would contain more than three spatial dimensions (between 11 and 23* according to the theories, sometimes much more, up to more than 70 according to the theories). Some of them are described folded up on themselves, imperceptible at our scales. There are several lines of research, several string theories, and physicists are working on an "M theory" that seeks to unify the different lines.
In a coherent and innovative scheme, the second theory, loop quantum gravitation, provides convincing answers to the information paradox. It even draws a scheme where black holes could be, in fact, stars called Planck stars (bouncing). Similarly, in this configuration, the Big-Bang would be replaced by a big bounce: a phase of contraction would have preceded the expansion of the universe in which we currently live.
Throughout the twentieth century and at the beginning of this century, continuous technological advances have made it possible to uncover other aspects of reality unsuspected until then: dark matter, dark (or dark) energy, black holes have again come to destabilize a world initially described as objectively observable and describable.
Dark matter, invisible... but present.
Since the 1930s, part of the scientific community has been haunted by the enigma known as "hidden mass": the galaxies and clusters of galaxies in our universe rotate far too fast for the gravity produced by the observable mass they contain to cause them to aggregate together.
The mass missing to obtain the extra gravity needed is called "dark matter". If this mysterious matter cannot be observed now, we can observe the gravitational effects it induces on visible matter. Some of its properties are also known: it is not sensitive to the electromagnetic force and therefore cannot absorb, reflect or emit light, making it very difficult to detect.
Many experiments are being conducted for its research at CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva, Switzerland. We don't yet know what it is, but one theory is that it could contain so-called supersymmetric particles.
As things stand now, we can see the following fact: the matter that we know and that makes up all the stars and galaxies represents only 5% of the content of the Universe (3).
This energy seems to be associated with the vacuum of space. Measurements have confirmed its existence and give an estimate of the amount it represents: 68% of the Universe.
It is uniformly distributed, in space but also in time.
It should be noted that these two "invisible" energies are close to the concept of the "aether" envisaged by the philosophers and scientists of previous centuries and millennia.
All the more fascinating as they were described by Einstein, black holes, regions of the Universe where density becomes infinite, have been observed and their existence proven in 2016 (4), a century after they were predicted.
For the famous physicist Stephen Hawkins, who devotes his life to their study, black holes are "a door to another universe (5)", much "stranger than anything imagined by science fiction writers". With this approach, he joins the multiverse hypothesis, which designates the (multiple) other parallel universes envisaged by different physicists. Black holes would be for Stephen Hawking a kind of "secret passage" to these other universes. His descriptions are obviously not due to chance: since the years 1974-1975, he has issued
He put forward the so-called quantum evaporation hypothesis: for him, certain quantum phenomena suggest the possibility that black holes emit radiation.
In 2016, the Israeli physicist Jeff Steinhauer, from the Technion in Haifa, Israel, successfully concluded a solid and precise experiment: the observation of the equivalent of Hawking's radiation, reproduced in the laboratory, the first accreditation of Stephen Hawking's thesis (6).
The Higgs boson, "particle of God".
On 4 July 2012 CERN officially announced the discovery of the Higgs Boson (named after one of its theorists), ending the quest of tens of thousands of researchers over several decades to identify it. The Higgs Boson had been predicted since 1964 by the theory of three researchers, including the Scotsman Peter Higgs, who gave it his name. This boson would be the manifestation of the so-called Higgs field, which fills all the emptiness around us and in space. It is an extremely important discovery, and one that is being toured around the world very quickly. Indeed, the Higgs boson is not a particle like any other: it is the keystone of our current knowledge of matter. In the scientific community, it is known as the "God particle": it is considered to be the keystone of the fundamental structure of matter.
The existence of the Higgs field makes it possible to understand the origin of masses, and thus the possibility for matter to organize itself (knowing that Relativity already expressed the possibility of the creation of particles via mass-energy equivalence).
The function of a boson as an elementary particle is to serve as a "binder" to matter (this is the function of another type of boson, photons, for light). In its family, the Higgs boson has a very precise mission: to give mass to the elements that pass through it. This is how it gives their mass to all the other particles in our universe. Without this "binder", the particles would never meet each other, would never be able to create the protons and neutrons, which, combined with electrons, form matter.
Antimatter and zero-point energy.
Each particle has its antiparticle, which behaves exactly like its oppositely charged "mirror". When the two meet, they combine and return to their indeterminate state. In other words, when matter and antimatter come into contact, they annihilate each other, as if they both fade away in a kind of "energy puff". This is called zero-point energy, quantum vacuum energy. This is the lowest possible energy a system can have. Its fundamental state. This continuous interaction of any subatomic element with the zero-point field explains the stability of all matter: its impact on the stability of hydrogen has been demonstrated.
Zero-point energy, or Nullpunktsenergie as it was named by its discoverer, Max Planck, in 1911, is the lowest possible energy that a quantum physical system can have; that is, when it is in its fundamental state. The "zero-point field", also known as "quantum foam", was revealed by the so-called Casimir experiment, named after the Dutch physicist who conducted it, Hendrick Casimir.
The vacuum is not empty... yet it is empty.
Emptiness does not exist as such and Aristotle had the intuition when he expressed it in this way in his body of ancestral knowledge: "Nature abhors emptiness". The vacuum is formed of an infinite number of particles and antiparticles that continuously annihilate each other in a random manner after having existed for very short periods of time (10 power minus 33 seconds). The vacuum "bubbles" or "swarms". Hence the existence of vacuum energy. In other words, vacuum energy is an underlying energy.
Matter emerging from the vacuum.
Einstein's famous formula E = mc², which does not belong to the quantum field and which can of course be written M=E/C², already describes a world where mass can exist if we have energy. In 2013, Finnish researchers (7) made real photons appear from the vacuum.
In the 1930s, the Russian-born physicist Gregory Breit and his American colleague John Wheeler predicted that matter could be created from collisions in pure photon gas. No doubt this prediction will soon be demonstrated in the laboratory. On May 18, 2014, a British team published an article in the journal Nature claiming that it is possible to create material particles from light rays using an ultra-powerful laser. If this is validated, then it will no longer be just light that emerges from "nothingness" but matter.
Finally, the Frenchman Henri Bergson, known for his famous epistolary exchanges with Albert Einstein, had arrived, by another path - that of philosophy - at a conclusion in line with this scientific discovery. For him, nothingness is a destructive idea of itself: when we think of nothingness, we attribute properties to it, so it is no longer nothingness. CQFD.
All these discoveries push the field of possibilities further and further and have led the scientific community to ask questions that border on the field of philosophy, such as: does time exist?
The time of our human experience does not correspond to the time described by physics.
For the theory of Relativity, not only is there no single particular present, but all moments are also real. The time of our human experience does not correspond to the time described by physics. Many physicists have come to consider that, fundamentally, time does not even exist. In fact, calculations show that, on the scale of Planck, it... would even go "backwards"! (The physicist Max Planck defined a universal unit of time that works throughout the universe and not just on the Earth's scale: Planck's time. Its value is 10 to the power of -43 seconds: an extremely short time).
But as the fact is that we perceive it at our scale, it could be that time has what is called an "emergent property": as for our chair whose matter we perceive is possible thanks to the set of particles assembled whereas they are essentially made up of empty space, it is envisaged that time could be, in the same way, an emergent property, allowed by an assembly of elementary ingredients of the universe.
We have made a quick overview of the most emblematic scientific discoveries of our time and of the last century. Those that are fundamentally changing our knowledge of the world.
The fragmented, soulless, mechanistic, "clockwork" universe no longer corresponds to current scientific knowledge. It describes a world governed at its most fundamental level by the exchange of information and knowledge rather than by matter. A world in which everything is connected, from the smallest element of the microcosm to the most gigantic element of the macrocosm. A world where emptiness is not empty but "swarms" (8), a world, in other words, where nothingness, in the sense of absolute nothingness, does not exist. Nature is not a colossal mechanical colossus subject to blind forces. If one were to find a metaphor, the universe would look more like an infinite number of vibratory sets of energy interacting in an ocean of quantum "light".
Beyond advancing our knowledge by a quantum leap, the science of the 20th and early 21st centuries has literally swept away the mechanistic view of the world and the loss of meaning that went with it. Seen in that light, you could say that it's probably on its way to re-enchanting the world.
*In shamanic exploration, you can travel through at least 352 dimensions. I personnaly think the number of dimensions of mutliverses are: infinite.