QR4.5.7 The Particle Model

Aristotle’s ancient idea of a matter substance implies that it can be broken down into fundamental particles and battering matter into bits seemed the best way to do that. Physics spent much of last century and billions of dollars smashing matter apart to find fundamental particles, defined as what can’t be broken down further.

But when pressed on what a particle actually is, physicists retreat to wave equations that don’t describe particles at all. This bait-and-switch, talking about a particle but giving a meaningless wave equation, is now the physics norm. If one points out that the equations describe waves not particles, they reply it doesn’t matter because the equations are fictional! Feynman explains how this double-speak began:

In fact, both objects (electrons and photons) behave somewhat like waves and somewhat like particles. In order to save ourselves from inventing new words such as wavicles, we have chosen to call these objects particles.” (RichardFeyman, 1985) p85

Imagine if an engineer said “This vehicle has two wheels like a bicycle and an engine like a car so to avoid inventing a new word like motorcycle we have chosen to call it a car”. A boy with a hammer thinks everything is a nail and likewise physicists with particle accelerators think everything is a particle but it isn’t always so. What physics found by battering matter apart turned out to be neither fundamental nor particles, because it was:

1. Ephemeral. A lightning bolt is long-lived compared to what physics today calls a particle, e.g. a tau is a million, million, millionth of a second energy spike. We don’t call a lightning bolt a particle so why call a tau a particle?

2. Classifiable. The standard model classifies a tiny electron, a massive tau and a positron as leptons but what can be classified isn’t fundamental. Classifying requires common properties that imply something else more fundamental. “Fundamental” in physics today just means that which can’t be further smashed apart by high speed protons.

3. Massive. The “fundamental” top quark has the same mass as a gold nucleus of 79 protons and 118 neutrons. It is 75,000 times heavier than an up quark, so why does the cosmic Lego-set have such a huge building block? Not surprisingly, this fundamental entity plays no part at all in the function of the universe we see.

4. Unstable. If a top quark is fundamental, why does it instantly decay into other particles? When a neutron decays into a proton and an electron, three fundamental particles become four, which is a strange use of the term fundamental.

Entities that decay and transform into each other aren’t fundamental because what is fundamental isn’t subject to decay or transformation, and energy events that last less than a millionth of a second aren’t particles because what is substantial should last longer than that. A brief eddy in a stream isn’t a particle, so why is a brief quantum eddy a particle? It follows that the fundamental particles of the standard model are neither fundamental nor particles but rather quantum events.

Figure 4.18. The standard particle model

The standard particle model (Figure 4.18) describes fundamental particles that are classifiable and virtual bosons that come from nowhere to make things happen. This, we are told, is the end of the story because particle accelerators can’t break point particles down any further. How then does a particle that exists at a point take up space? Apparently, they create invisible fields that generate virtual particles to keep them apart. It is a wonderfully circular argument that can’t be tested because the agents involved are unobservable.

The particle model survives because physicists are conditioned to not look behind the curtain of physical reality. The wizard of Oz told Dorothy: “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain” to distract her from what really orchestrates events, and likewise the wizards of physics ask us to pay no attention to the quantum waves that quantum theory says create physical reality. Quantum realism looks behind the curtain to see that quantum processes cause physical events.