Nothingness and the Quantum Universe

Published on by Catherine Toulsaly

I was a poet once...

Lee Wilson Dodd, Præterita

I lost the Moon the other night behind a blanket of clouds. She was confused about how exactly the universal organism was planning its every step behind the scene. The togetherness of Nothingness and the Quantum Universe infers the difficult predicament of having to dissociate one from the other as if the primordial structure was the meeting of above and below, the drawing of a smudged line with ‘no strands of personal order.’ 

The mind enters the Quantum Forest. It barely scratches the surface and already feels disoriented, climbing over hills of learning and knowledge, wondering whether it could ever find the nature of reality and, if not, what it is all for anyway. From mountain tops, it overlooks foams of particles with hidden and open charm, beauty, color, and flavor. It gazes down fields of elusive neutrinos, trillions of them, passing through, whose natural sources include the Earth’s core, fusion reactions in the Sun, the atmosphere, supernovae, and other neutrino-emitting sources such as, perhaps, the bright and long gamma-ray burst GRB 221009A reported last fall.


 An inverted figure comes out to play. The upside down juggler rests on its head. It takes one step back into the phenomenological investigation and brings up the concept of an emergent period, whether it be a singular structure or a quantum Big Bounce. Is the Universe a tree whose roots reach the depth of the dark sector, or is it more like a loop with one end in the dark? A mirror image involves an awareness of what goes in and out at the threshold of time. It refers to an implicit give-and-take in decay processes from and to a hidden sector of what is concealed and what is revealed. On a chameleon-like field, scenes of exchange become visible.


The more nature is analyzed in little bits, the more we uncover extra dimensions bound into a higher dimensional continuum. Extra dimensions appear mostly spatial, but the cessation and succession of physical and biological cyclicities tell us about something else: intervals between what is, what has passed, and what will be — all hanging onto the same continuous line of time. As I see it, nothingness stands for a split between all actual entities, whether they be up and down sector quarks or entire galaxies. Nothingness disappears under the remnants of what has passed, underpins what will be, haunts what is, and represents the absence within timelessness.


Every discovery and subsequent observation becomes another fundamental constituent of the observable matter and creates small cracks in the dark sector. Has there always been something? The conservation of energy in dark corners may guarantee the homogeneity and viability of the whole universal system beyond horizons. The quintessential question is whether each break contains the quantum-gravitational seeds whether any given quantum spacetime reproduces what happened with the very early quantum universe. 

Hubble Captures Smoking Gun of a Newborn Star (ESA/Hubble & NASA; K. Stapelfeldt)

Hubble Captures Smoking Gun of a Newborn Star (ESA/Hubble & NASA; K. Stapelfeldt)

The early Universe followed a timeline of its own. There is an order of appearance: After a primordial epoch of cosmological inflation and the Big Bang, quarks and gluons roamed in infinite degrees of freedom for a split second, surprisingly shorter than a blink of an eye. A mechanism of inflation driven by the hypothetical inflaton preceded the Big Bang and the quark-gluon plasma. Did inflatons decay into gravitons or other hidden particles? The gravitational force appears to hide its quantum origin in the shadows. 

In the quantum Universe, waves of energy wash up on our shores. Subatomic structures decay while others form, through a cycle of life and death, as if there was a conscious attempt to move forward. If there is no strand of personal order in a quantum gravitational foam, how could it be a ground for absorption and emission of discrete amounts of energy? The togetherness of waves and particles offers a paradox: discrete forms and continuous fields. Crawling out of shadows, the Quantum Universe may have begun with point-like particles and a field named Higgs. Could the Higgs field generate mass and be altogether the carrier of gravity through interaction with other particles?

Beyond the Higgs boson, how to imagine discrete amounts of energy without mass? What appears to be the closest to it are neutrinos. The smallness of their mass would suggest that they carry with them the feeling of absence. Neutrinos travel long distances and through large densities because of weak interactions and via gravity. Even smaller than up and down quarks and electrons, they are electrically neutral and the lightest leptons. As the plasma started to cool, primordial neutrinos propagated in the hot gas of baryons and photons under only one second after the Big Bang and during the subsequent expansion phase.

And, among the force carriers, there are the massless photons and gluons. The gluons’ strong force, the photons’ electromagnetic force, the W and Z bosons’ weak force, and the gravitational force allow connections to take place and bonds to form among particles and matter, as if their energy carriers were channeling bits of ‘life’ and ‘consciousness.’ Could force-carrying bosons be what makes the Universe an organism?

We wonder whether time truly exists during the Universe’s fleeting moments and whether short-lived particles contemplate the prospect of a future. Was there a time flow for axions, tachyons, Higgs, or other unknown primordial particles? At the gates of Nothingness, the most common construction materials — up and down quarks and electrons — make up all the carriages in the Universe. Do quarks see hadronization as their life mission? How do protons feel about time? A proton in its everlasting box may be clueless about how a human feels. 

Tell me where is humanism bred
Or in the heart or in the head?

Lee Wilson Dodd

Like Ruth Renkel, Lee Wilson Dodd (1879-1933) was a prolific writer. His poems and writings are now buried in the archives of newspapers and magazines such as The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and The Nation. He is credited for the following quote: “Much that I sought, I could not find.” In the infinitely small, do the four attributes matter? Could the concept of the four-time components make its way into Nothingness and the Quantum Universe?

Much that I sought, I could not find;
much that I found, I could not bind;
much that I bound, I could not free;
much that I freed, returned to me.

Lee Wilson Dodd

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