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If I say they behave like particles, I give the wrong impression; also if I say they behave like waves. They behave in their own imitable way, which technically could be called a quantum mechanical way. They behave in a way that is like nothing that you have ever seen before.
—Richard P. Feynman
I want to tell you a story. It is one on which we have come to rely, yet it is based on a number of persistent illusions. Maybe we learned it as children when our parents read to us. The story, like most children's stories, begins "once upon a time ..." We don't have to go much further, for we are already seeing life through the illusion that there are such things as time was and now and time will be. Skip ahead to Chapter 7 to see what Einstein had to say about this illusion.
Although it may not seem so, our story about time cannot be complete without also including our story of space and matter. For it turns out that space, time, and matter are intimately related. The ongoing discussion of how they are related is itself a story with many turns and twists along the way. Research into this story was and is today being carried out by physicists. We call this story quantum field theory, and the details of the story are called the standard model.
The story is far from complete, the details are ever changing, and, as we shall see, time has been singled out as perhaps the most important character in the ever-unfolding tale.
We cannot talk about time without talking about space, however, and then these concepts beg the question: what fills time and space? The answer is matter, and so we face the braided triplet of time, space, and matter in telling the story. But first things first; so let me begin with an ancient view of time—a look at what we call mythic time.
Mythic Time and Quantum Physics
According to the Vedic version in Indian philosophy, Lord Brahma, the four-headed cosmic engineer of this universe, lives in a subtle body made primarily of intelligence, and he lives for the duration of our own universe, the equivalent of 311 trillion (one thousand billion) of our years, which seem to him to be only one hundred of his years. From our viewpoint, 311 trillion years is an eternity, given that our present universe is only around fifteen or so billion years old. But from the point of view of Over-Lord Vishnu—the original cause of the material creation and even Lord Brahma—that's the time it takes Him to exhale one breath. When Vishnu exhales, all the universes come out of the pores of His skin in seedlike forms, then they develop, and when He inhales, all the universes merge within Him. He breathes slowly, even for Him. Hence, with every breath Vishnu exhales, an infinite number of Parallel Universes appear as big bangs to those who inhabit them, and every time He inhales, they all return to Him in the form of big implosions.
Although this story sounds bizarre to our Western-trained way of thinking, it matches a story that quantum physicists have come up with: our universe wasn't the only one to spring into existence in the all or nothing event called the big bang; many such universes, perhaps an infinite number, were called into being.
Why should anything like this ever occur? One story is that the purpose of the cosmic creation is to accommodate those souls wishing to assume Krishna's position as the supreme enjoyer and proprietor. He does it to satisfy all of us on ego trips! Since everyone is less than God, however, it is impossible to compete with Him. So Krishna makes the impossible a possibility, by creating a temporary illusion called the material world, where we may forget Him and enjoy being illusory controllers for some time. In brief, the universe of universes was created so that each of us could have an experience of being like the creator.
Here again we run into quantum physics, as we shall soon see. It too views the universe of matter as an illusion made so as to give individuals a sense of controlling it. If it is an illusion, how so? Matter is not made of real stuff, according to our present quantum field theory story. It now appears that matter is made of light in different forms, but light nevertheless. And to make matters worse, this light goes nowhere and takes no time doing it! Yet it fills the vast universe we see around us and appears to take its time doing so while traveling vast distances to show us how big the universe is. But even this gigantic lightshow in the huge circus tent of the universe never took place and, if it did, it ended as soon as it began.
"Time I am," declares the Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, "the great destroyer of the worlds. Under my influence and presence as eternal time, the cosmic manifestation you see about you is created, maintained, and annihilated at regular intervals at my whim." Krishna is telling us that time, creation, and annihilation are intimate partners in the production of the cosmic lightshow. And yes, quantum physics tells us that this ancient insight into the nature of time on a cosmic scale of 300 trillions of years turns out to play a similar role on a much smaller time scale of 1,280 trillionths of a trillionth of a second.
Time passes differently according to one's situation in the cosmos. Lord Brahma lives for one hundred years, but twelve of his hours consist of one thousand cycles of four ages called Yugas: Satya, Treta, Dwapara, and Kali. A single cycle of Kali, the shortest Yuga, corresponds to 4,320,000 solar years.
The duration of human life is roughly one hundred years in the present Kali age; one thousand years in Dwapara-yuga; ten thousand in Treta-yuga; and one hundred thousand years in Satya-yuga. Time is relative to the kind of body one occupies. While Brahma's one hundred years equal 311 trillion of our years, an insect's one hundred years might come to no more than one of our days. And on the heavenly planets ruled by Lord Indra, one day equals six of our months.
For electrons and positrons, life is even more fleeting indeed when they do their dance of creation and annihilation, keeping rhythm with a tiny metronome; just a thousand trillions of a trillionth of a second makes one beat. Does this story make any scientific sense? Indeed it does, for in the special theory of relativity, we learn that time and space are no longer absolutely separated and that a new arena for this lightshow must co-join the separate places into one called spacetime. In spacetime, all time is relative, and, indeed, we can scientifically prove (that is, offer a convincing theory that appears to be consistent with all measurements so far performed) that the interval separating observed events can be as long or as short as one might imagine, depending on how the observers of these events are moving relative to the speed of light and to each other.
Time controls and subdues all embodied beings. We all can easily recognize that our material bodies undergo six changes: birth, growth, maintenance, reproduction, decay, and death. Whether we like it or not, every rising and setting of the sun brings us closer to what appears as our inevitable death. The rise and fall of civilizations follow the same pattern, and their Taj Mahals, Parthenons, Chateaus de Versailles, and Pyramids stand as pathetic reminders that time and tide wait for no man, as we all became painfully aware with the rapid destruction of the Twin Towers on 9/11/01. Even if we ourselves don't destroy our creations, time will do so; as the song goes, "The Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble, they're only made of clay ..."
The four ages are fully under the corrupting influence of time. Whereas Satya-yuga is characterized by virtue, wisdom, and religion, these qualities deteriorate with the passing of time, and when Kaliyuga rolls around, we experience mostly strife, vice, ignorance, and irreligion, true virtue being practically nonexistent.
Speaking to Arjuna, Lord Krishna further said, "This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciple succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost." The Lord then explained that same science again to Arjuna five thousand years ago, and it has been brought to us through an unbroken chain of self-realized spiritual masters continuing today.
Arjuna raised a doubt concerning the point that Krishna had spoken millions of years ago to Vivasvan. How could Krishna have instructed him? Lord Krishna replied: "Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot." Krishna remembered acts He had performed millions of years before, but Arjuna could not remember anything, despite the fact that both Krishna and Arjuna are eternal in nature. This is due to the fact that whenever the Lord appears, He appears in His original transcendental form, which never deteriorates. An ordinary person, however, transmigrates from one body to another. And from one life to the next, he forgets his former identity. But Krishna, the very principle of subduing time, is never under the control of time, and thus He remembers everything at all times. "O Arjuna, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, I know everything that has happened in the past, all that is happening in the present, and all things that are yet to come. I also know all living entities; but no one knows Me."
The Srimad Bhagavatam compares time to the deadly sharp blade of a razor. Because time imperceptibly devours the duration of life of everyone, one must use one's life carefully and properly. Since time represents Krishna, using time to search for the Absolute Truth is the best practical use of time. The Narada Pancaratra advises: "By concentrating one's attention on the transcendental form of Krishna, who is all-pervading and beyond time and space, one becomes absorbed in thinking of Krishna and then attains the happy state of transcendental association with Him.
Lord Krishna grants Arjuna divine vision and reveals His spectacular unlimited form as the cosmic universe. Thus He conclusively establishes His divinity. Krishna explains that His own all-beautiful humanlike form is the original form of Godhead. One can perceive this form only by pure devotional service.
Seeing beyond Time
In the Bhagavad Gita, a story is told of King Arjuna having to fight a great battle involving friends and relatives of the great king on both sides of the war. On the eve of the battle, Krishna appears to Arjuna in disguise as his chariot driver and tells the king not to worry, that He is indeed the Krishna, that all this is a great illusion, and, in spite of all that is about to be, all will be well. Arjuna, being skeptical, asks Krishna to show him His universal form, not with any personal desire to see it but primarily to establish Krishna's divinity. Krishna reveals that, except for Arjuna, all the soldiers on both sides will be slain. He therefore exhorts Arjuna to get up and prepare to fight as His instrument and He promises that he will conquer his enemies and enjoy a flourishing kingdom.
Lord Krishna gave Arjuna divine sight to see the brilliant and glaring universal form, which contained hundreds of thousands of forms such as the demigods, sages, and planetary systems. Arjuna trembles as he offers obeisance with folded hands and glorifies the Lord in ecstasy. But finally he requests Krishna to withdraw this fearful vision and reveal His original form.
The Lord then shows His four-armed form and at last He manifests His two-armed form. Upon seeing this beautiful, humanlike form, Arjuna becomes pacified. Krishna's original, two-handed form is more difficult to behold than Krishna's universal form because it is only possible to see the Lord in this way by engaging in pure devotional service.
Seeing into Space, Time, and Matter
Though I can't promise to show you the glory of time as Krishna did for Arjuna, maybe I can give you an insight into space, time, and matter that you may believe is beyond your reach, especially if you haven't studied modern physics. In essence, this is what I propose to do in this book. Time is the first of the triplet we shall explore. Time is the simplest and yet the most mysterious of all.
Time for a Change
In this book, we will look at how the nature of time, space, and matter—even what we mean by these terms—has changed in just the last few decades. This takes us into the world of fundamental particles and shows how they can appear and disappear and, as a result, move through time-loops and twist in space, going forward and backward in time and space. The result is the appearance of matter as we experience it—resistant to our efforts to move it around and inert for all of our practical intents and purposes, but nevertheless made of wispy light-like particles that in themselves have no mass or resistance.
The book is written in a popular style with short, readable chapters (with a few longer, more detailed chapters), many catchy subtitles, and lots of graphic illustration. This is the style I used with effect in my earlier books Taking the Quantum Leap and Parallel Universes. Illustrations using cartoon characters to illustrate the ideas presented are scattered through the text. I have found that people who begin to learn about quantum physics after college or who are just starting out on this educational expedition are usually greatly aided by pictures and drawings, especially since our journey into the ingredients of the universe has many loops and twists that can confound and delight the mind.
I do not go into the subject of gravity to any extent here and will defer this to perhaps another book. Here I confine myself to what we call the standard model of physics, which doesn't include gravity. Models attempting to include gravity, such as string theory (which posits that what comes into existence are vibrating strings not point particles), are appearing, and frankly I don't understand them well enough to explain them. In spite of its seemingly unexciting title, the standard model is full of its own awesome mysteries and dazzling insights that keep laboratories such as the Fermilab outside Chicago and the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland quite busy.
New theories abound these days, and mysteries such as what dark matter and dark energy in the ever-expanding universe really are still remain open questions. It turns out that dark matter and dark energy appear to constitute nearly 90 to 95 percent of all of the universe's mass; dark energy seems to fuel the ever-accelerating universe's expansion. Just what is going on here remains a mystery, and this book aims to help you, the nonscientist, grasp these mysteries with a greater comprehension.CHAPTER 2
What Is Time? What Is Space?
"Hey man, give me some space."
"Sorry bro, I ain't got the time."
—overheard on a Geary Blvd.
bus in San Francisco "What is time?" Saint Augustine of Hippo, the great philosopher and theologian, once once asked himself. He replied, "If no one asks me, I know; but if any person should require me to tell him, I cannot." For many of us, if we thought about it at all, our answer would be "Don't ask!" It doesn't help to appeal to experts because they likewise don't know. Noted physicist John Wheeler was quoted as saying: "Should we be prepared to see some day a new structure for the foundations of physics that does away with time? ... Yes, because 'time' is in trouble."
Albert Einstein pointed out: "The distinction between past, present, and future is only an illusion, even if a stubborn one."
To which Saint Augustine might have responded (even though he said these words hundreds of years before Einstein was born): "How can the past and the future be when the past no longer is and the future is not yet? As for the present, if it were always present and never moved on to become the past, it would not be time but eternity."
Excerpted from TIME LOOPS and SPACE TWISTS by Fred Alan Wolf. Copyright © 2010 Fred Alan Wolf. Excerpted by permission of Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Chapter 1 Introduction 1
Chapter 2 What Is Time? What Is Space? 9
Chapter 3 'Til the Cows Come Home 35
Chapter 4 What Is Matter? 49
Barber Poles, Phases, Hands, and Twists-It's All Done with Mirrors
Chapter 5 Space Twists, Zigzags, Time Reversals, and Negative Energy 65
Chapter 6 Keeping Track of Twists and Loops 81
Where's the Action?
Chapter 7 What Is a Twisted History? 93
Chapter 8 Propagators and Energy Poles 105
What Goes around Comes Around
Chapter 9 Following the Yellow Brick Road to No Free Lunches 141
Why We Say Bye-bye to Causality in Quantum Field Theory
Chapter 10 Propagators without Spin 163
First Signs That You Are on the Right Path
Chapter 11 Half-Spin Propagators, Time Loops, and Space Twists 195
Chapter 12 Shadows of Time, Space, Matter, and Mind-A Conclusion 207
Posted May 30, 2011
I Also Recommend:
What a joy it is to read a cutting-edge physics book written for the lay person! Fred Alan Wolf's book, "Time Warps and Space Twists" sets for itself the challenging goal of describing some of the newest physics explanations for how God created the universe in terms just about anyone can understand. Rather than over-simplifying concepts from physics, Wolf presents each theory and theorem in layman's terms which are clear enough for most anyone to follow. I especially love the way Wolf does such a marvelous job describing how our view of the world has changed so much in just the last few years with regard to things like the Higgs field, tachyons, and tardyons. Thanks to some of the newest findings in quantum physics, we can now "say bye-bye to causality in quantum field theory," providing us with fascinating insights about retrocausality and backward-through-time travel. Highly recommended for anyone interested in spirituality and science!
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 28, 2011
I heard Fred Alan Wolf do a radio interview with Steve Maraboli. The interview intrigued me enough to buy the book. It was a great read and helped my mind open more. Thanks Fred!
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 4, 2012