The Theory of Everything (String Theory) and Collective Consciousness
May the force be with you.
It all begins with the understanding of force. We all know what force is. We experience it everyday. The Earth holding us down, magnets on our fridge, electricity, the blowing wind, all experience or exert force. All these forces in nature can be grouped into four basic forces, known as the fundamental forces. In order of decreasing strength, they are:
1. Strong Nuclear Force: This force binds the particles forming the nuclei, protons and neutrons, together. This is the strongest force in nature but also very short ranged, equal to the diameter of the nucleus.
2. Electromagnetic Force: The force that exists between all particles that have an electric charge. For example, the electron that is negatively charged and the proton that is positively charged have a force of attraction that exists between them due to the opposite charges. This is the electromagnetic force. The force of repulsion between like charged particles is also the electromagnetic force. This has incredible range, in principle infinite.
3. Weak Nuclear Force: This force is responsible for nuclear decay, also called radiation. It changes one flavour of quarks(I'll get to it) to another. The weak force is crucial to the structure of the universe. The sun wouldn't burn without this force, and we all know how important the sun is.
4. Gravitational Force: This is the force exerted by bodies with mass. The force that holds us firmly to the surface of the Earth. This force compared to the rest is extremely weak and ranges on to infinity. You are exerting a force of gravity on your computer right now, since both have mass, but the force is so weak it is negligible. This force is the protagonist in our story.
Now physicists are a curious lot, and they obviously didn't stop at the discovery and understanding of these forces. They wanted to know what caused these forces? How did they work? How can we sense them? Can they be manipulated? These questions lead to the discovery of all the fundamental particles and gave rise to all the known particles we have on our quantum chart today.
The answer, to how do forces exist and interact, turned out to be quite simple. Just as information is exchanged between two people by exchange of messages, force between particles exists because of an exchange of 'force carriers', known as Field Particles or Gauge Bosons. When two particles exchange a gauge boson, a force is created between them. More the number of field particles transferred, stronger the force.
The force carriers were hypothesized in the 1800s. In fact, it was Einstein who spoke of the 'light carrier' which was later discovered and named the Photon. Physicists back then knew that force was a property that arose due to particles, but they did not have the means to experiment their theories. They however already had the mathematics and equations to back their theories, especially for electromagnetic force. Up until the early nineties, the standard model of particle physics had electrons, protons and neutrons as the smallest particles of matter, that made up atoms which made up molecules which made up all matter that we can see and feel. When the study of forces got stronger(see what I did there), they hypothesized the existence of smaller particles, ones that caused force to exist. In order to experiment, Scientists built underground colliders (just like the large hadron collider we have at Cern) and began smashing hydrogen protons together. The protons eventually crashed head on and presto! a bunch of stuff came tumbling out. The Quarks and other micro particles were discovered. The standard model of particle physics now looks like this:
These 17 particles are the smallest particles in nature known to mankind today. There are six Quarks, and quarks do not stay alone in nature. They combine to make up Hadrons, like Protons and Neutrons. There are six Leptons, for example Electrons, and cannot be broken down further. There are 4 Gauge Bosons, and the recently discovered Higgs Boson.
Of these new found particles, the force carriers are ones of importance to us. These are the Gauge Bosons on our chart, namely the Gluon, the Photon, the Z and W Bosons.
Remember what we discussed earlier? Force between particles exists because of an exchange of force carriers.
The strong nuclear force exists due to the exchange of Gluons between Protons and Neutrons.
The electromagnetic force exists due to the exchange of Photons.
The weak nuclear force exists due to exchange of Z and W Bosons.
The particle causing gravitational force hasn't been discovered yet, but is christened the Graviton. It is the quest for this Graviton that lead to the birth of the string theory.
The understanding we have of how gravity works was proposed by Einstein in his General Theory Of Relativity, in the year 1915. In simple words, Einstein claims the universe is like a fabric of space and time. Bodies with mass rest on this fabric causing a depression, and lighter bodies that come within the periphery fall into the depression and stay in orbit. This is the force of gravity the heavy object exerts on the lighter body. For better understanding, read article gravitational waves for dummies. This theory is still upheld by physicists. The theory however belongs to classical physics, as opposed to standard or modern physics because it does not involve particles. Here is were the problem began.
Einstein, and all physicists of the time and time thereafter, are not comfortable following two models of physics. While three of the forces are known to exist as a result of particle interaction, one seems to exist because of an entirely different phenomenon. Einstein wanted to unify all theories, unify the two models, explain the forces with a single coherent theory which in turn would explain all the physical aspects of the universe. He called this the Unified Theory, or The Theory Of Everything.
The answer, or at least the hope of one, was actually already there in a very old mathematics text book. In the late 1960s, physicist Gabriele Veneziano was looking for a set of equations to describe the strong nuclear force. He happened to glance through an old mathematics text book to find a 200 year old equation written by Leonhard Euler. He later realized, the equations that were considered mere mathematical curiosity, perfectly explained the strong force. He later wrote a paper on it and was immortalized.
Physicists argue that that is just a tale and in actual, they derived a function over years of work and within it, accidentally discovered the string theory. However the discovery, the string theory was found within these equations written by Euler.
Euler's equations seemed to mathematically describe the strong force. Physicists fiddled with the equations, mostly cooped up in their attics, and realized that the equations indicated towards some sort of new particle, one that vibrated and had an internal structure. Most importantly, they realized this new found object was not a point particle. It was rather, a vibrating one dimensional string, like a rubber band, that could vibrate, stretch and contract. The concept completely agreed with the formula which in turn exactly described the strong force. The string theory was born.
This theory however, was killed in its prime, mainly because mainstream physics was focusing on point particles and the idea of a string composing all matter was absurd. Collision experiments were revealing new particles, almost a new one everyday, and in it's glow, the string theory quickly faded.
As physicists discovered the field carriers, they were able to explain the forces in nature. In fact, they believe, when we rewind time to seconds after the big bang, the universe was trillions of degrees in temperature and the field carriers we know of, were actually one! This was a marvelous revelation because it suddenly gave us an explanation of the forces on a subatomic level and gave us a consistent theory of elementary particle physics, one that Einstein had always dreamed of.
Nobel prizes were dolled out, the parties went on till the early hours of the morning and champagne flowed like rivers (assuming physicists celebrate just like us simpletons). But behind it all was one giant flaw. One glaring omission. Although we had a concrete description of the forces that rule nature, there was one force that did not fit the bill. Gravity.
Reveling in the success of the particle theory, except for a handful of physicists, the scientific community soon forgot all about the string theory. It was an elegant theory yes, but it didn't satisfy any of the equations. In fact the string theory had a few major flaws:
First it predicted the existence of a particle called the Tachyon, one that was faster than light! Second it required the existence of ten dimensions in order to exist. Third it predicted a massless particle that was never seen in experiments. These assumptions seemed crazy to people.
By the year 1970, there were only a handful of string theorists left. They were however adamant to prove the existence of strings. They believe the elusive graviton, the particle giving rise to gravity, was described by strings at the quantum level. In fact they later claimed graviton was the massless particle that solved at least one conundrum of the string theory. They also believed strings were what would eventually describe the gauge bosons, thereby unifying the four forces. They believed the string theory, was the theory of everything.
In the year 1984, John Shwarz and Michael Greene finally reduced all mathematical anomalies to zero. They had the mathematics to the dot. They had fixed the string theory equation and it's problems. The equations could also encompass all four forces. This was the first theory to ever bring together all four fundamental forces under one roof. The community went crazy over the discovery. Suddenly hundreds of physicists were on board, tackling the string theory. This is what the theory proclaims:
All matter in the universe is made up of atoms, we know that. Atoms are made up of electrons orbiting around the nucleus. The nucleus is protons and neutrons held together by strong force. The protons and Neutrons are made of quarks. This was the standard model and known concept. String theorists made the bold claim that quarks, and all matter in the universe, is made up of an even smaller particle, a tiny vibrating string, a wiggling band of energy. These strings are unimaginably small. If the atom were the solar system, an individual string would be as big as a tree on earth! Here's the key idea: Just as how different vibrations of a guitar string gives rise to different but distinct musical notes, the different ways these strings vibrate, gives unique properties to particles, like mass or charge. In essence, every particle is made of these strings. The difference in properties is due to the difference in their vibrations. This paragraph summarizes hundreds of years of work, this is the string theory.
This would mean the entire universe is made up of only these strings! It brings about a sense of cosmic symphony. This theory also created a gentle bridge between the subatomic particle based standard physics, and the general relativity based classic physics.
There was still one drawback though. The theory was only solid on paper, with mathematics. There were, and still aren't, any experiments or tests conducted to prove this theory. Another hitch in the theory was the prediction of ten dimensions, nine of space and one of time. In order to be taken seriously, string theorists had to explain the existence of more than the four dimensions we know, three of space and one of time. They finally had an explanation for it.
If you're sitting next to a window, look outside at the electric lines or telephone lines. What do they look like? Single dimensional lines right? Yet if you hold one of these cables in your hand you know they are in fact multi dimensional. For an ant walking on this cable there are multiple paths it can traverse, the length, diameter and the circumference. String physicists claim this is why we cannot see or find all the dimensions, because they are infinitesimally small.
The three dimensions we know of, the X Y and Z, are large enough to perceive. Time as a dimension is also measurable. The other 6 dimensions of space, are so small, that it is invisible to even our imagination. These dimensions probably even morph into multi universes! This made sense. In fact physicists claim the reason they cannot locate the graviton, is because it is made up of strings that permeate our universe and transcend to a different one.
The string theory finally has wheels. It is propelling in the community and turning heads. It since then gave rise to multiple variations which are now culminated into one grand theory called the M-theory. Edward Witten who brought the equations of the then existing 5 theories together, says M stands for magic, mystery or matrix. This is the current theory in place. The mysterious strings are still elusive to physicists but we have faith in these guys, they won't rest until they find it.
Now imagine if you will, a universe made of one single particle. Strings. Strings that vibrate and interact. Every universe, every dimension, all inhabited by strings. Physicists believe there is a sea of strings, and it's from this sea of strings that rises the reality we know and perceive.
Indian Gurus and Yogis preach of Prana. Prana (प्राण, prāṇa) is the Sanskrit word for "life force" or vital principle. It is also known as 'cosmic energy, or the 'divine cosmos'. They say 'every molecule in the universe is vibrating with divine energy. This divine energy is the holographic pattern of the universe'. Are these holy men speaking of the string theory, only in a spiritual context?
The universe is said to be alive with cosmic energy, it is present in every creation, even the inanimate. This energy, or prana, is always moving, expanding, hitting objects, passing through them, emanating from them and converging into them. The whole universe and everything in it is connected by way of this energy.
There is in the universe, an invisible pool of infinite energy, and we draw from it, sustain on it. By drawing from the same pool, we are connected. Doesn't this sound very much like the physicists version of the sea of strings?
This energy is also known as the 'aura'. The aura is known to be an energy that surrounds all beings and objects, vibrating and glowing with colour. Strangely, this is also how physicists defined the strings that make up matter.
Whichever the concept, physics or philosophy, there is one common underlying message: We are all connected. Connected by way of energy, prana or strings doesn't matter. We are drawing energy from one ocean, the universe, and connected through it. This would only mean, we are but one.
The bible says 'Because there is one loaf, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one loaf.' The loaf here can easily be substituted by the universe, or strings or the cosmic energy!
There are signs of it everywhere. Spirituals have always explored the divine energy by way of yoga, and science is always rigging machines to reveal the unknown.
I'll leave you with this scene from All-Star Superman. Lex Luther has injected himself with a serum that give him powers like superman. He has in fact all but killed superman. In the middle of his victory speech, he pauses. He laments that so powerful is his vision, he can actually see the atoms and the electromagnetic spectrum. He exclaims that the fundamental forces are yoked by consciousness! Everything's connected. Everyone.