QR4.5.7 The Current Particle Model

Matter as a substance implies that it can be broken down into fundamental particles and battering matter into bits seemed the best way to do that. So physics spent most of last century and billions of dollars smashing matter apart to find what it called fundamental particles, defined as those that 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, displaying a particle but giving a wave equation, is now routine in physics. 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.(Richard Feynman, 1985) p85

It seems that physicists with particle accelerators see everything as a particle, just as a boy with a hammer sees everything as a nail. But the “fundamental particles” that physics found turned out to be:

1. Ephemeral. A lightning bolt is long-lived compared to most of the particles in physics today, e.g. a tau is a million, million, millionth of a second energy spike. Since we don’t call a lightning bolt a particle, why does physics 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 can’t be fundamental because classifying requires common properties that imply that something else is more fundamental. “Fundamental” in physics just means a point entity that can’t be further smashed apart.

3. Massive. A top quark has the mass of 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 one “building block” 75,000 times bigger than another? Not surprisingly, this “fundamental block” plays no part whatsoever in the function of the universe we see.

4. Unstable. If a top quark is “fundamental”, why does it immediately decay into other particles? Equally, when a neutron emits an electron to become a proton, three fundamental particles become four! This is a strange use of the word “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 substantive particles should last longer than that. A brief eddy in a stream isn’t called a particle, so why does physics call a brief quantum eddy a particle? Quantum realism concludes that the fundamental particles of the standard model are neither fundamental nor particles. In this view, what current physics calls particles are actually quantum reboot events.

Figure 4.18. The current particle model

Figure 4.18 summarizes the current particle model. It shows a set of “fundamental” matter particles that are classified plus virtual bosons that come from nowhere to make things happen. Light is clearly a wave but a photon with no mass is still called a particle for convenience. This, we are told, is the end of the story simply because particle accelerators can’t break things down any further.

Meanwhile, the fundamental particles of matter are said to have no size at all despite their “substance”. The conundrum that matter takes up space, and particles with no extent can’t add up to do that, is said to be resolved because virtual particles from invisible fields keep them apart. It is a wonderfully circular argument.

This model is accepted because physicists are conditioned not to look behind the curtain of physical reality. One is reminded of the wizard of Oz telling Dorothy:

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain

in order to distract her from what is really orchestrating events. The wizards we call physicists ask us to pay no attention to the quantum waves that quantum theory tells us are creating physical reality.

Quantum realism is an attempt to look behind the curtain.