January 27, 2009

The Great Grid Theory

'Looking down on the valley of everyday reality, we perceive much more than before. Beneath the familiar, sober appearances of enduring matter in empty space, our minds envision the dance of intricate patterns within a pervasive, ever-present, effervescent medium. We perceive that mass, the very quality that renders matter sluggish and controllable, derives from the energy of quarks and gluons ever moving at the speed of light, compelled to huddle together to shield one another from the buffeting of that medium. Our substance is the hum of a strange music, a mathematical music more precise and complex than a Bach fugue, the Music of the Grid.'

Meet Frank Wilczek, the physicist who won a Nobel for his work on quantum chromodynamics (QCD) when he was only twenty-one. (QCD is now the bedrock of particle physics and explains the strong force interaction between quarks.) The excerpt above is from his new book The Lightness of Being, so titled for its theory of matter being built from particles of almost--but not quite--zero mass. Flipping Einstein's fabled E = mc2 equation into the more provocative m = E/c2, Wilczek proves that pure energy--E--is really the component that gives matter its mass, via a dynamic Grid that is the makeup of all "primary world-stuff." Imagine it this way: superimposed over everything is a grid that bustles with fluctuating quantum activity, quark-antiquark condensates, the metric field that defines gravity and space-time, and dark energy (more on that later). Space, no longer empty at all, is a conduit of energy, which (according to Einstein's equations) gives everything its mass. Suddenly, the unification of forces has a medium to work with, and indeed, Wilczek manages to tinker with equations to produce a facet of SUSY that incorporates gravity (albeit roughly)!

For Higgs enthusiasts, this might dampen the "God Particle" quotient, since energy gives matter its mass instead (according to Grid theory). However, this only accounts for matter that is bound up by atoms, which (while it makes up nearly everything on our planet) accounts for only a microscopic percentage--5%--of a universe that is made up of almost all dark matter and energy. That's where the mystery and adventure remains: dark matter is surely explainable, especially with the LHC rearing to discover stuff; Wilczek writes that "dark-matter is ripe for solution." SUSY, again, may be the deus ex machina; the lightest SUSY partner just might be dark matter. Wouldn't that be cozy?

1 comment:

  1. Interesting: mass emerging from energy and as the c2 suggests, through spin. An idea already advocated in the LOTA philosophy of science published on www.universe-grand-design.info which also offers a free ebook download.