Have you ever sat down to critically wonder what the fundamental building blocks of the universe might be, I bet most of you haven't. Well if you ask majority especially from the scientific community the answer would be particles, the universe is made up of matter/energy and this matter/energy can be reduced to elementary particles as presented by the standard model of particle physics, see image below
It is generally believed that these "elementary" particles as it name implies have no internal structure and so cannot be made up of stuffs - it is just fundamental.
As interesting as it might sound, some scientists including i, don't believe particles could be the fundamental building blocks of the universe, the reasons are what we are about to find out now, get ready to get your minds blown.
What is a particle ?
When asked what a particle is, it is commonly described from a classical perspective - point-like, like a dot and therefore expect elementary particles to be like that, but physicists - scientists very much interested in the fundamentals of matter, knows otherwise, in fact there are different descriptions of particles among different physicists, below are the different descriptions of particles among physicists.
It's a collapsed wave function
Just to be frank, this wave function is not a physical entity like the classical wave (water waves, sound waves, electromagnetic waves, e.t.c), it is just an abstract mathematical object conceived by our mind for calculating probabilities, the collapsing wave function is a sum of individual wave functions, each representing the different states of the particle. So if a wave function collapses, it collapses to one of the individual wave functions it is made up of but surprisingly this individual mathematical abstract entity that the wave function collapses to, appears as a particle, the double slit experiment confirms it.
It's an excitation of a quantum field
This belief is popular among physicists interested in quantum field theory (QFT), this theory (QFT) is an extension of quantum mechanics that includes special relativity, according to this theory particles are excitations of certain fields - discrete/quantized change in energy of the fields, each elementary particles have their corresponding fields, an electron is an excitation of the electron field, photons are excitations of the electromagnetic field, e.t.c. Interactions between particles can be described using quantum field theory and in fact the standard model of particle physics is based theoretically on quantum field theory which has indeed passed experimental tests. In this perspective it appears fields are more fundamental since it has to get excited before particles exists.
Others - see the article what is a particle ?
From this section of this article, the conclusion that can be drawn is that particles are not what we generally portray them to be (classically) and that they seem not to be the fundamental building blocks of matter/the universe.
The universe has four fundamental forces, namely(in order of decreasing strength)
Stong nuclear force - responsible for holding nucleons together
Electromagnetic force - responsible for electric and magnetic interactions
Weak nuclear force - responsible for beta decay
Gravitational force - responsible for gravitational influences
The first three forces (strong nuclear to weak nuclear) can be described almost accurately from a particle perspective, they can be described by the standard model of particle physics and also can be unified as a single force at high energies but the last one being gravity is an exception, it's proposed particulate form - graviton, is yet to be discovered experimentally. The current best description of gravity is Einstein's general theory of relativity, it describes gravity as the change in geometric properties of spacetime due to the presence of matter/energy, the famous physicist John Wheeler puts it this way,
Spacetime tells matter how to move, matter tells spacetime how to curve.
From this point, taking the universe to be fundamentally made up of particles seems absurd.
Overall composition of the universe
Current observation suggests that our observable universe is made up of 68% dark energy, 27% dark matter and 5% baryonic/normal matter, let's clarify this.
5% baryonic/normal matter comprises all the stars, rocks in outer space(asteroids), cosmic radiation, dust, planets including all the living creatures in the entire universe.
Dark energy on the other hand is responsible for the accelerated expansion of the universe (galaxies are moving far apart from each other at an increasing rate faster than the vacuum speed of light), a simple way of viewing it is thinking of the universe as an inflating balloon.
Nobody knows what exactly is causing the expansion but because mainstream science believes everything can be reduced to particles, they say an unknown particle is responsible, however attempts have been made to detect this particle even with our current most sophisticated instruments, yet this particle refuses detection, because it cannot be detected we call it "dark energy". This unphysical entity - dark energy, makes up 68% of our observable universe.
Credit: Tom Gauld
Dark matter too is another unphysical make up of our universe, it makes up about 27% of our universe. It behaves differently from dark energy, galaxies are known to be rotating faster than their masses require and in theory this rotational speed is enough to make constituents of these galaxies part ways from each other but observation suggests that something is still keeping the galaxy's constituents in place, implying that galaxies contains extra mass, since mass is a property of matter, scientists think there is extra matter in the galaxies. But just like dark energy, it too cannot be detected and has earned it the name "dark matter". Now if we analyse further, we discover that 95% of our physical universe is not physical, what a weird universe.
Theoretically attempts have been made to pin down what these unphysical entities might be from a particle perspective but still yet it appears impossible, this is because predictions are very difficult to verify experimentally, notice that the standard model of particle physics doesn't predict/contain dark matter and dark energy.
We see here also that particles might not be fundamental building blocks of the universe, there are other strange phenomena in addition to the aforementioned observed phenomena that the particle perspective cannot fully account for, like quantum entanglement and teleportation.
Could there be another way ?
Probably yes, some scientists including I believe information as the fundamental building block of the universe could resolve these discrepancies. You see my friends, quantum mechanics has a way of revealing our ignorance,
But however, I like my cancerian brother (zodiac constellation) and notable physicist John Wheeler studied quantum mechanics deeply and realized that reality basically boils down to information and observer and in fact the observer is information oriented - information system that receives information, processes and stores information, and lastly sends out information. This is what Wheeler said in his own words
It from bit. Otherwise put, every it — every particle, every field of force, even the space-time continuum itself — derives its function, its meaning, its very existence entirely — even if in some contexts indirectly — from the apparatus-elicited answers to yes-or-no questions, binary choices, bits. It from bit symbolizes the idea that every item of the physical world has at bottom — a very deep bottom, in most instances — an immaterial source and explanation; that which we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes-no questions and the registering of equipment-evoked responses; in short, that all things physical are information-theoretic in origin and that this is a participatory universe.
It appears there's more to information than we realize. When you are presented with a question concerning existence like, does this object exist?,
The answer obviously would be either a Yes or a No, Yes in the sense that we can observe and communicate about the object based on it's properties and No, still based on it's properties but in this case you don't observe any property. What are these properties ?, Take your pen for example, it has properties (bulk) like bulk mass, length, width, thickness, shape, texture (when you touch it), color, use, temperature, e t.c, but these properties are not made up of particles like the pen, they don't have an exact physical form, they are simply informations encoded in the molecular/atomic arrangements of the pen somewhat like every character in your computer screen encoded in your computer hardware/circuit as strings of 0's and 1's or biological properties encoded in the DNA. Also the molecules that make up the pen have properties that arise from atomic configurations, like wise atoms have properties that arise from subatomic arrangements, we continue like this till we get to the so called elementary particles which have properties arising from nowhere. Properties however can be thought of as pure/immaterialised informations like informations in our minds but what makes these pure informations appear materialistic/objective so that everyone can observe and agree it exists irrespective of properties (since properties are subjective) is energy, energy is a form of information (there's experimental proof that energy is information, see Information Converted to Energy) that transforms immaterialised informations to materialised informations, general theory of relativity confirms it, spacetime which is supposed to be an immaterialised information becomes materialistic - the presence of energy/matter makes it have noticeable geometric properties. No wonder elementary particles which we can call pure informations can be detected thanks to their rest energy E = mc^2. The pure information perspective of elementary particles could explain why they appear to be equivalent to abstract mathematical entities with different meanings in quantum physics. Also dark matter and dark energy could be pure informations lacking energy/rest energy to make them detectable. Information perspective of matter could also explain quantum entanglement, non locality and why there are different interpretations of quantum mechanics but this would be a topic for another time.
Clearly we can see that understanding information and accepting it as the fundamental building block of the universe could go a long way in better understanding our universe, including consciousness, for a fact, in my article titled "Can Consciousness Be Described Mathematically ? - The Beginning Of A New Era" , I made mention of a new theory called IIT(integrated information theory) that attempts to describe consciousness mathematically, this theory's main ingredient is information/information theory.
Maybe the universe might not be fundamentally made up of informations, maybe we are just being too delusional, maybe it could be made up of something else, probably something we might not have discovered, who knows, however it's good to view things from other perspectives as it awakens our genius, after all if Einstein had not viewed gravity from a different perspective, the field of cosmology as it is today wouldn't have been possible and he wouldn't have been considered one of the greatest minds of all time. What ever the universe might be fundamentally made up of, the universe awaits us to discover.
For further reading
There is no dark matter. Instead information has mass, physicist says
Is ‘Information’ Fundamental for a Scientific Theory of Consciousness?
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