Relative Mind - Relative Matter
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Waves and Particles

In the mid 1960s, I studied physics at the university of Reading. I was fascinated with the world of atomic phenomena. Nevertheless, at that time I felt that physicists were going in the wrong direction in their attempts to understand this world. I felt that the focus on pursuing a seemingly-endless host of unstable and transient particles could only lead to a dead-end. This feeling has never left me. I always preferred the ideas of Arthur Eddington. My poor mathematical and analytical abilities did not allow me to pinpoint what I felt was wrong about particle physics.

30 years later my analytical ability has grown but not my maths. So I have managed to clarify qualitatively some of my disagreements, and that is the reason I have built this website.

One problem that has baffled scientists in the twentieth century is that of the contradictory way in which atoms and particles of matter can behave. In some experiments atomic particles can act as if they are discrete pieces of matter, like minute billiard balls. Their behaviour is not totally predictable and so probability equations have to be used in order to quantify the results. In other experiments, for example those involving diffraction, the particles act like a wave ; now it is almost as if the particles only have a group or relational existence. This group existence has been likened to a web of relationships.

Electrons and other particles are assumed to have ‘ matter ’  waves associated with them. Every piece of matter has its own wave. Why do some experiments highlight the particle (the piece of matter), and other experiments the wave?  How can a particle behave like a wave, and how can a wave behave like a particle?  If both forms of behaviour are legitimately real, which they seem to be, then how can we resolve the paradoxical behaviour?  Where does the fault-line in theory reside?  A paradox does not indicate a fault in reality, but a fault in the conceptual framework within which the paradox appears. The paradox indicates that the way of understanding present-day atomic physics is faulty. From this point of view, when an accurate theory of atomic phenomena is finally formulated, it will contain no paradoxes.

Paradoxes in theories of matter are no different from metaphysical paradoxes within philosophy. Metaphysical paradoxes came to the foreground in philosophy through the ideas of  Immanuel Kant, who called them the ‘antinomies’. For example, one paradox is : do we have free will, or is determinism all-powerful? 

I consider that my understanding of paradoxes points the way to attaining a correct understanding of atomic phenomena. Why does a paradox occur?  Where is the misconception in current theory?  The primary error is in assuming that all phenomena, including atomic phenomena, are unitary ones. Whereas, in my view, all phenomena are binary ones in the way that they appear to us.

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A Digression on Binary Ideas.
What do I mean by the idea that phenomena are binary ones?  A binary system is any system that has two axes to it. Consider consciousness as an analogy.

Now consciousness can be analysed into two parts or "along two axes": these being its present arrangement and its past structure. Present arrangement is dynamic (it is changeable) and past structure is static (it is difficult to change).

The dynamic aspect of consciousness is the arrangement of it due to influences from the present, and this arrangement is the ego. The static structure is the arrangement of consciousness due to influences from the past, and this primarily means the influences of determinism. Determinism can also be called fate or karma. [¹].

For the normal person, the dynamic aspect of consciousness is the ego; the ego is unstructured. The static aspect of consciousness creates structure from the person's past, which centres on determinism or karma.

This presentation of consciousness turns it into a binary phenomenon. There are other ways of understanding consciousness, so what does this presentation offer to us?  We need a binary framework in order to understand all the experiences that happen to a person. A binary framework for consciousness means that it has two axes of explanation or interpretation of phenomena : one axis being the perspective of the ego and the other one being the perspective of karma.

What happens when both axes are rolled indiscriminately into one, that is, when thinking becomes one-dimensional?  Then we lose the ability to understand a person. All we can do is observe his behaviour; we cannot understand his motivation for getting out of bed in the morning.

The same thing happens with philosophy and with atomic phenomena. When both axes of description are rolled into one, then we get the paradoxes of the antinomies and the paradox of the nature of the atomic particle. Conversely, we can resolve the paradoxes by switching from one perspective to two perspectives. The meaning of a paradox is that we are not using enough perspectives or axes in our conceptual framework. [See article on The Antinomies ].

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Now I return to the wave-particle paradox.
When experiments give rise to contradictory results then the theory that attempts to explain these results needs to have more than one perspective. The contrariness in the results indicates that the experimental paradigm follows only one axis of explanation. The two axes of explanation that are needed have effectively been rolled into one. In order to make the results intelligible, the theorist needs to accept that one result arises from one axis of explanation and the other result from another axis. Within twentieth-century theories of science there is no room for two axes of explanation. Hence such contrary phenomena remain inexplicable.

Therefore, to remove the paradoxes from atomic theory, we need to put all relevant ideas within a binary framework.

The answer to the wave-particle paradox requires an understanding of my view of relativity.

A Digression on Relativity.
My understanding of relativity is derived from my analysis of perception, and is different from the traditional view of it. My definition of relativity is that anything that is relative has both a subjective component and an objective component to it. Relativity is a relationship between a subjective aspect and an objective aspect of the object or matter in question.

The general meaning of relativity is :
In any relative relationship, a subjective effect is always tied to an objective effect. [²]

The importance of this view of relativity lies in my view that the ego is a relative construction. The ego is constructed by the new-born baby as it learns to relativise the sensory stimuli acting on it into certain recurrent shapes, shapes that one day it will recognise as being the teddy bear, the rattle, the face of the mother, etc. It learns to discriminate by relativising its sensory stimuli into patterns. These patterns become the objects of the everyday world, and the baby becomes the subject who sees these objects. The relationship between the subjective world of the baby and the objective world of external objects is a relative relationship. Hence the ego is a relative construction. A relative ego means that a subjective ego is always linked to some form of an objective world.

A relative ego participates in a relative world. The world as we see it is a relative phenomenon. And everything in the world is relative, including atomic particles.

Back to the wave-particle paradox.
The particles are part of a relative existence. The particles are tied to the wave by relativity. In this paradox, one factor is a relative subjectivity and the other is a relative objectivity. Which is which? The particle is an object, a piece of matter ; hence it is the relative objectivity. This leaves the wave as the relative subjectivity.

The objective component of relativity is the particle.
The subjective component of relativity is the wave.

The wave of a particle is its subjective component whereas the particle is the objective component. Within the atom the electron is objective and the diffraction waves indicate subjective relationships between the electrons. Wave and particle exist only in relation to each other – neither wave nor particle on its own can be real. When the wave ceases the particle ceases as well. Anything without a corresponding wave is purely objective and non-relative : it has never been seen and cannot be imagined. Any wave without a corresponding objectivity is purely subjective, and exists only in the mind of the thinker.

I give an analogy to demonstrate the reality of relative subjectivity. If I drop a stone into a calm pond, ripples will be created in the water. These ripples will travel across the pond surface. However, it is not water that is travelling across the surface but only the wave. The water just moves up and down to produce crests and troughs as the ripple passes over it. The water, by moving up and down, is acting like particles. Whereas the ripple is the wave ; the wave is subjective but it is real.

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Language Problems

The difficulty for physicists in trying to understand what happens inside the atom or what happens between particles is due to faulty comprehension of terminology. They fail to understand the philosophical meanings of the terms ‘objectivity ’, ‘subjectivity ’, and ‘relativity ’. And they fail to understand the way that these terms relate to each other.

A common failing is to assume that only something which is purely objective can exist. The physicist is forced to decide which is objective, the particle or the wave. In some modern interpretations (Capra) the wave is thought to be real, since it is more amenable to mathematical procedures, and so only systems of relationships are considered. Since the electron and other particles are treated as being subjective, so physicists assume that they cannot picture these particles as being real existents. Whereupon the phenomena occurring inside the atom cease to have any comparison to the everyday world of nature. Individual particles (though necessary for some mathematical operations and some kinds of experiments) become solely a product of the scientist’s imagination, and only a web or system of relationships seems to be real. Whence mathematics becomes the only way to handle particle reality. Particle physics becomes a mysterious, incomprehensible world beyond the powers of language to describe.

However, this view largely disappears once terminology is properly understood, once subjectivity ceases to be an insurmountable problem. Particles are the objective component of relativity. Relationships between particles are the subjective components. The point to understand is that the particles are not subjective but objective. It is the waves that are subjective ; but this subjectivity is a relative one, hence they have real existence. Particle physics becomes what it has always been – a game of high-energy billiards played with particles that actually exist.

It is no longer necessary to rely solely on mathematical equations in order to explain and describe atomic phenomena. Understanding the relativity of matter resolves the conflict within physics as to which is real : particles or a web of relationships. The web of relationships certainly exists, but so too, in my view, do individual particles.

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The number in brackets at the end of each reference takes you back to the paragraph that featured it.
The addresses of my other websites are on the Links page.

[¹]. My ideas on the binary nature of consciousness begin in the article Existentialism and Psychology. In this article, the two axes around which consciousness is constructed are called ego and karma. [1]

[²]. Section 1 describes aspects of relativity as it applies to perception and to consciousness. The first article in this section is The Ego and Relativity. [2]


Capra, Fritjof.
---- The Tao of Physics. 3rd edition. Flamingo, 1992.

---- Uncommon Wisdom. Flamingo, 1989

Home Emotion and Abreaction References and Links Note on Karma

The articles in this section are :

Charge and Feeling

Waves and Particles

Causality and Change

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Ian Heath
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