Past is a particle, future is a wave

I am reading John D. Barrow’s book “the Book of Universes.” This is one of the best books I have read in recent years. This is a very readable book. There are human stories in it too. Cosmologists are very interesting people and some of them were very unconventional. I learned new things about the people of Cosmology from this book.

In the chapter titled “Something Completely Different,” the section “Schrodinger’s Universe” starts with this quote

Everything in the future is a wave, everything in the past is a particle.” – Lawrence Bragg [1]

This is a deeply insightful thought! When I read it, I had a flash. This aphorism succinctly summarized what I have been thinking and writing recently.

Lawrence Bragg and his son William L. Bragg received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915 “for their services in the analysis of crystal structure by means of X-rays.” William L. Bragg is the youngest recipient of a Nobel Prize in Physics; he was only 25 years old in 1915. There are 4 father-son pairs that won Nobel Prizes in Physics but L.H. Bragg and W.L. Bragg shared the prize in the same year. Other father-son pairs won their prizes in different years

J. J. Thomson, 1906 and George Paget Thomson, 1937
Niels Bohr, 1922 and Aage N. Bohr, 1975
Manne Siegbahn, 1924 and Kai M. Siegbahn, 1981

Everything in the future is a wave, everything in the past is a particle.” I believe the motivation for this aphorism came from quantum mechanics. The word “wave” is intimately associated with quantum mechanics which is essentially wave mechanics.

In my article “New Perspective on the Quantum Mechanical Nature: Seeking Freedom” I reminded readers that the quantum mechanical behavior manifests when a particle is confined to a small volume of space. For example, if we confine an electron to an atom the trajectory concept is no longer valid.  Position and momentum of that electron cannot be measured simultaneously. The energy of the electron becomes quantized.  Tunneling (escape) probability becomes nonzero. The elementary particle tries to escape the confinement by becoming quantum mechanical. The particle escapes the bondage by becoming a wave.

As the particle transitions from being a particle into being a wave it is transitioning from individuality to collectivity. The particle represents individuality and the wave represents collectivity. In my article “New Perspective on Unification” I introduced the horizontal/vertical attribute pairs and explained that the most general pair is individuality and collectivity.

All entities are mixtures of individuality and collectivity. My individuality depends on my history; where I was born, the family I grew up with, the schools I attended, the jobs I had, the genetics I inherited, the books I read, the people I met, the people who influenced me. My individuality depends on my personal history in this lifetime and perhaps to some degree on my history in other lifetimes. I have many characteristics that are unique to me but I also have many characteristics that I share with my family, and other groups. An elementary particle’s individuality depends on its intrinsic attributes such as mass, electric charge and spin; but it also depends on the environment. For example, if the particle is confined to a small volume of space then it exhibits quantum mechanical behavior which is a type of “collective” behavior.

Time is a consequence of individuality

Time is a consequence of individuality. We can also say that time is a result of individuation. This is the same as saying that time is an objectivation. Time (as in “past time”) manifests as the particle behavior emerges. Time (as in “past time”) manifests as individuality increases.

When the entity transitions from individuality to collectivity, in some sense, time is “unmanifested.” The concept of time in collectivity is very different. Collectivity hides the time dimension. I talked about this ‘hiding the time dimension” concept in “Coupling between past and future.” The “wave” is a collective. The future emerges from the collective. The future emerges from the wave.

“Everything in the future is a wave, everything in the past is a particle.” This aphorism explains a lot indeed!

[1] Quoted by Freeman Dyson in J.D.Barrow, P.C.W.Davies and C.L.Harper (eds), “Science and Ultimate Reality,” Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (2004), p.83


About Suresh Emre

I have worked as a physicist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the Superconducting Super Collider Laboratory. I am a volunteer for the Renaissance Universal movement. My main goal is to inspire the reader to engage in Self-discovery and expansion of consciousness.
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