Hindus and Buddhists both agree that the world as we see it is an illusion. Christians and Muslims, though they may not mention the word illusion, agree that there is an alternate reality where Heaven exists. For all religions, God exists in that alternate plane of existence, but of course, he can communicate with us in this one. And for all religions, the goal is to reach that alternate reality, so that we can be in God’s presence.
Science of course doesn’t deal in alternate realities that may or may not exist. Science deals in purely what can be observed or deduced. We have five senses by which our entire evolution of scientific theory is based. From Aristotle to Newton to Galileo, science had not found the slightest trace of an alternate reality, and thus began the great feud between science and religion.
Until now. Science hasn’t found the alternate reality yet (dark matter notwithstanding), but it has found some strange peculiarities with our current reality.
Physics has always been looking for the basic building blocks of life. From molecules we found atoms, from atoms we found nucleons and electrons, and beyond that we are finding (we think) quarks and the like. The smaller and smaller these building blocks get, the more oddities we discover about them. These unexpected attributes of the “building blocks” have made us question how we even think of reality. I’ll eventually address many of these attributes, but in this short post, the one that came to mind this morning is emptiness.
When we think of building blocks, we think of solid objects stacked and attached together in complex shapes. What physics has determined is that these objects aren’t very solid. Before understanding this, I had always heard the scientific fact that we are approximately 70-80% water. Which was strange in itself because I don’t feel like a wet blob of liquid. But I could get past that. However, at the atomic level, an atom consists of nucleons in the center and electrons orbitting the nucleus. Have you ever thought about what’s in between? Nothing! Absolutely nothing (we think)! 99.999% (a lot more 9s actually) of an atom’s volume is empty space. The actual “matter” in an atom is almost insignificant. The only reason an atom possesses the characteristics of a building block is because of 1.) the electrons move around so fast that they create an “electron cloud” which is the same illusion we see when a helicopter propellor is spinning (it looks like a disc) and 2.) the cloud gives of electromagnetic fields that allow the “cloud” to have relationships with other clouds.
I’m sure my explanation is a little bit off, but the concept is the same. If an atom is 99.999% empty space, and we are simply a collection of atoms, then we are 99.999% empty space. Our “matter” is just a representation of those electron clouds which don’t really exist.
How strange an idea is that? Sounds like an illusion to me.