One Loving Electron
I got a little taste of taking my own medicine today.
This morning, before I’d finished my coffee, I got tricked into opening an attachment on an email. Out of an abundance of caution, I restored my phone from a backup and changed my passwords.
It set my schedule back, but I have posts pre-written. I could have fallen back on one of those… but it didn’t feel right.
I realized it’s time to talk about how I haven’t been following my own advice.
Last week I wrote about Agile software development’s one simple principle — do the most important thing first — as a form of bucket list. What do you want to get done before you die?
This led me back to Hemingway’s advice on writer’s block: “Write one true thing. Write the truest thing you know.”
Simple, right? ‘Course, simple ain’t ever easy. I could say the truest thing I know is, ‘the sum of the squares of the sides of a right triangle is equal to the square of the hypotenuse.” Or love, I know love is true.
Hot dang, those are true things. But not very original. Lots of people have said that already. It’s not a good use of your time.
The emphasis is on “you”. What’s the truest thing _you_ know? That others don’t?
I’ve been thinking for a long time about what ideas I have that are truly original, and it turns out, there aren’t very many of them. (Most of my ideas, most of everybody’s, are about other ideas.)
But originality and importance aren’t the same. Do the most important thing first. If I died tomorrow, what would I want to leave to everyone?
Everything in the universe, all matter, comes from one single electron.
This is speculative, in the sense there’s not a lot of evidence for or against it.
But it’s not crackpot. The idea came up as a casual aside in a discussion between Feynman and Wheeler, two giants of 20th Century physics (Einstein was on Feynman’s PhD thesis committee, Wheeler coined the phrase “black hole”).
Neither of them pursued the issue because they had problems to work on which _did_ involve direct experiments. But if neither of them had a problem with the idea, no obvious mathematical or physical objections, that’s a pretty good endorsement to me.
The hypothesis goes, while we perceive individual atoms as having separate electrons, that’s a trick of perspective. Imagine I showed you a plate of spaghetti cut in half — you’d see what looked like individual strands, but they could all part of one long loop, coiled up.
(The only argument I’ve heard against this theory is that the electron should be evenly matched with its antimatter counterpart, the positron. So if we see the one electron bouncing around, where is the bouncing positron? This sounds like a good argument, except the Standard Model can’t explain the imbalance between matter and anti-matter either. As long as the argument applies equally to both theories, it’s invalid to only require it from one).
A couple ideas crystallized out of this that I’ve never heard anyone discuss before.
All experiments have an electron on each end: an electron in one place emits a photon of light, and that particle is absorbed by an electron in another. If the same electron jumps between both places, the duration we measure in between would not the speed of light, but the speed of the electron. If light travels instantaneously between two electron-places, a ton of singularities (mathematical problem children) would disappear.
The well established phenomenon of “quantum tunneling” could have a physical answer: the electron only _looks_ like it passed through a solid barrier, because it was off being the one electron somewhere else at the moment of collision.
The difficulties of distant correspondences from Bell’s Inequalities would have an explanation. The reason 6 billion year old starlight corresponds with spin state in the present is because there is a literal correspondence — the same electron is playing pitcher and catcher on both ends of the photon.
But beyond the science, the idea is simply beautiful. Everything is made out of the same stuff. The energy of the universe vibrates in a cosmic harmony.
You and I are made out of the same stuff.