All throughout my life I’ve had this nagging suspicion that things aren’t quite as they seem. It’s not that I’m paranoid or delusional,,, but I have sincerely at times questioned the reality of “reality”.
In light of current science however, this feeling may be completely justified. In fact, the more we know about reality on a subatomic scale, the less “real” it becomes.
Following are 5 factual conclusions of modern physics that may make you begin to wonder, “Is reality real”?
#1 - Things may not exist when you are not looking at them:
As odd as this may seem it is verifiably true. It would seem intuitively obvious that your table, car, spouse and so on exist independently of weather you observe them or not however on the quantum scale (sub-atomic) this is definitely not the case. As an example, electrons (elementary particles) can exists as both particles and waves. When they are not being observed they exhibit wave like characteristics. When they are observed or measured however, they become particles. The conclusion is that the electron exists in both states (wave and particle) at the same time. Better put,,, the electron exist as a “probability wave” which does not collapse into a particle until it is observed.
As odd as this may sound it has been proven in countless experiments to be measurably true. The most famous example of this is known as the double slit experiment. The video below does an excellent job of explaining the event.
#2 - Nothing is what is appears to be:
We perceive each other, objects and so on as solid things and yet nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, everything that we can perceive is nearly entirely empty space.
Let’s put this into perspective. All matter is composed of atoms and atoms are composed of protons, neutrons and electrons. These particles in turn are composed of yet smaller sub-atomic particles. Each of these levels of structure is inconceivably small, and inconceivably empty. As an example, hydrogen which is the most abundant element in the universe is nearly 99.99999999999 empty space.
Nothing is solid! Now let’s look at this from a much larger perspective. The Big Bang Theory is the most commonly accepted theory held among physicist to explain the origin of the universe. The theory postulates that our entire universe was once compressed to a point of infinite density no larger than a grain of sand.
Consider this, if our entire universe with all of its planets, stars, galaxies and clusters of galaxies which spans billions of light years in diameter could be compressed to a single point,,, then is it really so inconceivable that solid matter is an illusion?
#3 – Empty space may not be “empty”:
One of the strangest things to come out of current theoretical physics is the notion that empty space may be “something”. As stated earlier in this article, subatomic particles can be said to exist as probability waves which collapse into solid forms only when observed. That being said, there is at any time a small but non-zero probability that a particle could burst into and out of existence at any time at any place in the universe. During their extremely brief lifetime, these virtual particles can still interact with real non-virtual particles and have measureable effects.
One of the ways in which the effect of these virtual particles can be measured is in what is called the Casimir Effect where forces between 2 metal plates in a vacuum are modified by the presence of these virtual particles.
Thus virtual particles are indeed real and have observable effects that physicists have devised ways of measuring. Their properties and consequences are well established and well understood consequences of quantum mechanics. Scientific American
#4 – We may be living in a hologram:
In 1982, physicist Alain Aspect performed an experiment at the University of Paris which proved that under certain circumstances, paired electrons could communicate with each other instantly regardless of the distance between them. The phenomenon is known as quantum entanglement and it has far reaching repercussions. The Standard Model in physics accepts that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light and yet the interaction between entangled particles is instantaneous even if billions of miles apart.
In response to this, physicist David Bohm of the University of London suggests that Aspect’s discovery implies that objective reality does not exist and that though the universe appears substantial, it may in fact be an elegant hologram. This idea which has been gaining ground in the theoretical physics community postulates that our world may be nothing more than a projected image from a yet higher level of reality.
Book reference: The Holographic Universe
#5 – We may be dreaming:
Philosophers, dreamers and deep thinkers have pondered this one for thousands of years, the concept that our life and all of our experience may be nothing more than a very vivid dream. Can you prove otherwise?
“How can you prove whether at this moment we are sleeping, and all our thoughts are a dream; or whether we are awake, and talking to one another in the waking state? ”
Dreams can seem very real while they are occurring. You may experience ecstasy or awaken in horror, either way you will bear the physical consequences in terms of heart rate and excitement. Feelings, emotions, pain and pleasure are all experienced while in the dream state and yet the dreamer likely doesn’t know that he or she is dreaming. Waking life may be nothing more than vivid dream from which we are waiting to be awakened.
As we have seen in some of the earlier comments, we may be living in a virtual reality world and life as we know it is truly but a dream within a dream.