A fundamental property of elements is that they are made up of atoms that are absolutely identical in every respect. Electrons are similarly identical, as are subatomic particles.
Time is subdivided into increasingly small partitions until there is reached an almost (but not quite) infinitesimally small division hypothesized as the "Planck instant," in which, like the tick of a clock, quantum states change from one condition to another.
The simplest explanation is often the best: the Plank instant is not infinitely small, it is actually eternally large, though we cannot perceive it as such, because within that instant time in the entire universe -- as the objects composed of atoms perceive it -- stops.
The next simple explanation refers to the absolute identicality of atoms as well as the elements of which atoms are composed: the only thing that can be identical to an object is that object itself. The moment there is another object, no matter how similar it may originally have been, the two objects necessarily begin to diverge, and the identicality is lost. Therefore, the simple explanation is that there is only one atom of each kind, or even that there is only one of each subatomic particle, or perhaps only one subatomic particle which manifests itself in different aspects as far as we can observe it. However, there is only one, and within the infinitely large Plank instant, it manifests itself as all the things in the universe.
The speed of light, the speed limit of the universe, is so because to equal or exceed it, the object so doing would become infinite in mass. Within the Planck instant, however, there is no time, no space and no motion. Thus, in the early universe, a rapid expansion from the Cosmic Singularity to a large prototype universe, happened much more quickly than matter could travel if it were limited by the speed of light. Again, the simple explanation is that the Cosmic Singularity did not need to observe the limitations of the speed of light because it was massless. Only the perceived universe has mass, just as only in the perceived universe is there time and space. During a conversation on All Saint's Eve with my philosophical Richard Seibert I realized that the interesting thing about time and the speed of light is this: as an object approaches the speed of light, time dilates relative to the rest of the universe. If an object were to exceed the speed of light, time would flow backward, relative to the rest of the universe. At this point, it struck me that at precisely the speed of light, time must stop entirely. As our hyperactive photon zips about its almost-but-not-quite infinite task of illuminating the universe, as far as it is concerned there is no time at all, and therefore the trick of being everywhere at once--as far as the poky universe is concerned--is no trick at all. It has all the time in the world at its disposal.
Time, space and matter are illusions within which we reside. Should we discover how to operate within the Planck instant, we could travel from one end of the universe to the other instantly. Perhaps we could perceive the past or the future with equal ease, as the illusory nature of time would become apparent. Eternity would be but an hour and our universe a grain of sand. *
* To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.
-William Blake (1757 - 1827),
Auguries of Innocence [c. 1804]
November 1, 2002
Previous Article This Article Next Article Return to S - Y Index