Thought forms and shapes of the Universe

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

Thought forms and shapes of the Universe

Philosophy is the vernacular form of all objects, physical and conceptual. We find ourselves on a life mission to identify every single one of the shadows surrounding us. Knowledge is perspectival. It colors our expectations of what remains out of reach. Even a void-centered conception of reality would still attach a form to an object. The French philosopher Tristan Garcia writes that nothingness is “the negative form of something in the absence of that something. Nothingness is not the opposite of something, but rather the opposite of something added to the absence of something.” This realization was highlighted in the past by Taoist philosophers and Zen Buddhism masters. 

The Tao that can be told of is not the eternal Tao; The name that can be named is not the eternal name.The Nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth; The Named is the mother of all things.Therefore let there always be non-being, so we may see their subtlety, And let there always be being, so we may see their outcome.The two are the same, But after they are produced, they have different names. They both may be called deep and profound. Deeper and more profound, The door to all subtleties!

The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, section 1, translated by Wing-Tsit Chan, 1963

Objects leave their footprints in the fabric of spacetime and form a multidimensional physical complexity like a spiderweb in which we are trapped. We wonder what lies outside the observable Universe. As soon as we try to catch nothingness in the act, it becomes an object, maybe a hypothetical particle or a cosmic string. What we have found so far are layers upon layers of infinitesimally small-mass objects. I wish to visualize the revolving door of particles, their dance moves, what physicists would describe as their coupling and decoupling.  


Among the vanishingly small particles crossing the four-dimensional reality and swimming in higher dimensions, neutrinos play a fundamental role. They affect the structure and evolution of the Universe by the constraints they impose on the formation of galaxies. Although their emission may be attributed to gamma-ray burst jets in supernovas, hadronic collisions and nuclear reactions in stars like the Sun, neutrinos form a larger fraction of the matter density in voids than in denser regions. The free-streaming length of neutrinos is comparable to the size of voids. At scales below their free-streaming length, they suppress the growth of structures. A 2019 study aimed to explore the effects of massive neutrinos on dark matter haloes in galaxies within voids concluded that, for both all halos and void halos, increasing the neutrino mass leads to a decrease in the number of massive halos, but more importantly, this effect is more pronounced in the void halo population. Could the neutrino mass mechanism explain why the Universe is expanding faster than expected? But, then, if we live in a large underdensity named Keenan–Barger–Cowie Void, does it imply that our local patch inflated more rapidly than denser parts of the Universe, sufficiently for life to arise?


Cosmic neutrinos pass through us every second. What’s unsettling is that it’s happening without us realizing it as our visible Universe overlaps an invisible realm of particles like an intricate set of multidimensional universes from the infinitely small to the infinitely large placed in and out of each other. Neutrinos may be more abundant than any other type of particle, perhaps with the exception of photons. Once produced, they are hard to destroy. We wonder then about their lifetime. Our understanding of processes involved in the finite yet tiny neutrino masses could help us gain more ground and push further into retreat the concept of nothingness. Decay processes and relational dynamics are the subject of a great number of studies,  prompting particle physicists to imagine all sorts of scenarios to explain how neutrinos get their tiny masses.


Zooming out, from a philosophical standpoint that dominates the forest of theories, shapeless nothingness waits behind the curtains of a cosmic neutrino background or a gravitational field. The Universe is filled with forms and shapes constantly changing and moving. From the initial singularity, the rate of expansion measures the speed at which individual bodies travel from each other and how large their change of position is relative to the changes in position of other bodies in the Universe, with — as I understand it — degrees of freedom of particles such as neutrinos opening up new dimensions. But, on the quantum level, what is changing isn’t the positions of particles, Steven Weinberg argues, but something called the state vector, which I would read like a concept, a metaphysical idea that brings me back to the two-state vector formalism

A particle is simply a physical system that has no continuous degrees of freedom except for its total momentum.

Steven Weinberg, Third Thoughts, p.75

What is the role of the shape-shifting neutrino in all of this? With electrons, muons, and taus, neutrinos form a set of particles called leptons. They are left-handed, prompting the search for right-handed neutrinos such as the hypothetical particles referred to as sterile neutrinos. Among other hypothetical particles, majorons — through their interaction with neutrinos — and sterile neutrinos are introduced as possible dark matter candidates in the goal to elucidate the observed asymmetry between matter and antimatter and the expansion history of the Universe. Researchers investigate as well whether neutrinos are their own antiparticles. Could the so-called ghost particles shed light on the phantom window between matter and antimatter? 

The shapes of the Universe influence the forms of our thoughts: that is what defines consciousness in a broader sense. There exists a language, a relationship between them like a reflection of one action on the other in an endless succession of events except that like with a mirror, the shapes appear in reverse, as an outcome whose whereabouts need to be retraced. The Universe is composed of shifting conceptual components. The faint form of a geometrical object with concepts as coordinate axes emerges. Circles become elliptical or spherical. Is the Universe shaped like the Sun, the Earth, or a flat galaxy? Or is it something else with a more irregular form like a walking brain? 














The above relational framework creates in my head a new image of three inverted pyramids. It conveys the notion that there is no agency without space, no sentience without time, no consciousness without gravity. Of course, this preliminary list of fundamental concepts isn’t exhaustive and can be looked at not only horizontally, vertically, but any other way it pleases. In the end, there isn’t anything wrong with being wrong. At least the recognition of a mistake opens the door to the unexpected. Uncertainties affect the forms of our thoughts and the shapes of the Universe. The hardest part is the state of confusion that precedes a spark in the dark. Perhaps, “there is no underlying theory, that all we will ever have is a number of approximate theories, each valid under different circumstances, and agreeing with each other where the circumstances overlap.” * Theoretical studies and intellectual models are what we do when we dare to reach beyond what we can directly test on Earth. Approximative theories are cobblestones used for paving the way to a theory of everything that appears to be in constant evolution.





Tristan Garcia, Forme et Objet

Julian Barbour, The Janus Point

* Steven Weinberg, Third Thoughts

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