By Roland Watson

So far in this series, we have considered two different perspectives: the universe as a collection of parts, and of matter-energy; and the universe as a totality, and of space-time. The conventional view is that they both exist, that matter-energy occupies space-time. Or, from a different perspective, and as I implied earlier, that this constitutes another type of duality - that it depends on how you look at it, meaning, the universe.

However, in this brief article I am going to argue that there is only one. I am going to try to simplify the choice between the two by asking whether just one - matter-energy or space-time - is the core - or sole - component of physical reality? In other words, is matter-energy only a distortion of space-time, or is space-time merely the manifestation of matter-energy? Bertrand Russell sided with space-time. I will make a case for matter-energy.

Space-time or matter-energy?

Under this view, space-time can be considered to be the perceivable consequence of the quantum jump from the potential to the actual. And, this is supported by the fact that space is curved to the greatest extent within a dense object. Its curvature, this aspect of its basic properties, is a function of the amount of matter-energy that is present. Also, the speed with which the curvature of space-time can change is limited to the speed of light, to the velocity limit of matter-energy. Similarly, time is relative to the motion of the observer. It is dependent upon the matter of the observer, and the energy to which it is subjected.

Of course, all of this begs the question: how can something that is continuous and perhaps even infinite be manifested by something that is discontinuous and finite? Or, more generally, how can something organize itself to create something that it is not, and which seemingly has an independent existence? However, for the second question, this does occur, through the reproduction of life. But, even still, we should not rule out the possibility that space-time is not continuous, or infinite.

It's all energy

We know that life is discontinuous at the macro level, such as through our ability to distinguish one person from another. Discontinuity further exists at the micro level, with our component packets of energy. But space and time are supposed to be continuous. Indeed, for space alone, if this were not the case, what would be between its different pieces? And, for time alone, why would it stop, and start, again and again? But, if space and time are connected, as relativity has shown they are, into a series of events, it may be possible to overcome these objections.

Furthermore, if the universe is a totality, then there can only be one: not matter-energy manifested in space-time; only energy, existing in various forms, including as matter, and with a variety of observable consequences, including a seemingly independent space-time. From Gary Zukav: "The world is fundamentally dancing energy; energy that is everywhere and incessantly assuming first this form and then that."

If there is space inside an atom, this implies a lack of connection. Also, wouldn't such space itself be curved by the presence of the atomic nucleus? But, if everything is energy, then it is all connected, as in a lattice or matrix. I might add, this is similar to my earlier described topology of ideas. Patterns of energy and patterns of thought are symmetrical. Furthermore, energy is necessarily dynamic, hence it, and space-time, must be moving. The universe must be expanding, or contracting. It cannot be still. And, your mind never rests.

Where does life fit in?

All of this leads us to a critical issue that I have not addressed so far, which is the existence of life. Life is a self-propelled distortion in the space-time continuum. However, physical theory does not account for this. We are supposed to follow the path of least resistance, but we don't. We choose, with our will, not to. Indeed, this is the specific or initial means by which we are free of the inanimate. Even more, we create additional, independent, space-time distortions. It seems we are not "rolling stones" after all.

Physicists rarely pay much attention to the singularity of life. (This is a social form.) Such study is reserved for biology. And, as with the social elite, they too have narrow lives, spent mainly in labs, classrooms and offices. So, while they may say that reality is not independent of us, many of them remain trapped by the view, which is another form, that it is.

If there is only energy, space-time, as a manifestation of it, necessarily is full of it. But then the question becomes, what is energy? If the universe is only energy, as in particles or waves, then what are the particles or waves made of? The problem, of course, is that even if we do someday find the ultimate stuff of the universe, something that really is indivisible, we will still be left with the question of what it is. And, to this we can add, if we do not know what it is, what is developing, how can we truly understand how, and why, it develops? To understand something, you have to know what you are talking about!

I should add, under superstring theory scientists have finally found a way to picture physical reality as both waves and particles. The waves are formed when a string vibrates. They travel down the length of the string. And particles are formed as strings divide and join. Also, strings have tension. As we have seen, gravity can be viewed as a coherent array of strings, interacting with other sets of strings, those which form material bodies, and which effectively pull them together. However, even if this is true, there is still the question: but what is a string?

In the next article, I will consider the universe as a whole.

© Roland Watson 2015