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Unity with environment an excerpt para from tao pf physics February 11, 2008

Posted by prasannam in Capra, Physics, Relativity.
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Thus modern physics shows us once again-and this time at the macroscopic level-that material objects are not distinct entities, but are inseparably linked to their environment; that their properties can only be understood in terms of their interaction with the rest of the world. According to Mach’s principle, this interaction reaches out to the universe at large, to the distant stars and galaxies.

The basic unity of the cosmos manifests itself, therefore, not only in the world of the very small but also in the world of the very large; a fact which is increasingly acknowledged in modern astrophysics and cosmology.

In the words of the astronomer Fred Hoyle,

Present-day developments in cosmology are coming to suggest rather insistently
that everyday conditions could not persist but for the distant parts of the
Universe, that all our ideas of space and geometry would become entirely invalid
if the distant parts of the Universe were taken away. Our everyday experience
even down to the smallest The details seems to be so closely integrated to the
grand-scale Tao of features of the Universe that it is well-nigh impossible to
Physics contemplate the two being separated,’

The unity and interrelation between a material object and its environment, which is manifest on the macroscopic scale in the general theory of relativity, appears in an even more striking form at the subatomic level. Here, the ideas of classical field theory are combined with those of quantum theory to describe the interactions between subatomic particles. Such a combination has not yet been possible for the gravitational interaction because of the complicated mathematical form of Einstein’s theory of gravity; but the other classical field theory, electrodynamics, has been merged with quantum theory into a theory called ‘quantum electrodynamics’ which describes all electromagnetic interactions between subatomic particles. This theory incorporates both quantum theory and relativity theory. It was the first ‘quantum-relativistic’ model of modern physics and is still the most successful. The striking new feature of quantum electrodynamics arises from the combination of two concepts; that of the electromagnetic field, and that of photons as the particle manifestations of electromagnetic waves. Since photons are also electromagnetic waves, and since these waves are vibrating fields, the photons must be manifestations of electromagnetic fields. Hence the concept of a ‘quantum field’, that is, of a field which can take the form of quanta, or particles. This is indeed an entirely new concept which has been extended to describe all subatomic particles and their interactions, each type of particle corresponding to a different field. In these ‘quantum field theories’, the classical contrast between the solid particles and the space surrounding them is completely overcome.

The quantum field is seen as the fundamental physical entity; a continuous medium which is present everywhere in space. Particles are merely local condensations of the field; concentrations of energy which come and go, thereby losing their individual character and dissolving into the underlying field.

In the words of Albert Einstein:

We may therefore regard matter as being constituted by the regions
of space in which the field is extremely intense There is no place in this new
kind of physics both for the field and matter, for the field is the only
reality.

The unity and interrelation between a material object and its environment, which is manifest on the macroscopic scale in the general theory of relativity, appears in an even more striking form at the subatomic level. Here, the ideas of classical field theory are combined with those of quantum theory to describe the interactions between subatomic particles. Such a combination has not yet been possible for the gravitational interaction because of the complicated mathematical form of Einstein’s theory of gravity; but the other classical field theory, electrodynamics, has been merged with quantum theory into a theory called ‘quantum electrodynamics’ which describes all electromagnetic interactions between subatomic particles. This theory incorporates both quantum theory and relativity theory. It was the first ‘quantum-relativistic’ model of modern physics and is still the most successful.

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