The fundamental unit of matter is the universe itself.
"Multiplication through division"
-- Buckminster Fuller
Answers and Replies
The Road to the Looney Bin
The following quotes are from a book called "The God Particle", ...by two fiction writers, Leon L. Lederman and Dick Teresi, one of whom won a Nobel prize in Physics. ...
Lederman [L]: I bet you're speaking of the atom, the atomos.
Democritus [D]: Yes, the a-tom, the ultimate building block of all matter.
D: However, what you scientists call the atom is not what I had in mind. ...
L: ... Those guys jumped the gun. They thought they had found your atoms. But they were still many cuts away from the ultimate cheese. [Sic!]
D: And today you have found it?
L: Found them. There's more than one. ... They have shape [my italics], but are otherwise structureless. ...
L: So you Greeks accepted the concept of space. The void.
D: Sure. ... You moderns accept nothingness unflinchingly?
L: One has to. ...
L: So, to sum up, your universe is quite simple.
D: Nothing exists except atoms and empty space; everything else is opinion.
L: Yes and no. ... At this stage we have a small number of a-toms. We call one type of a-tom "quark" and another type "lepton", and we recognize six forms of each type. ... They are indivisible, solid, structureless. ...
We think the quark ["matter particle"] is pointlike. It has no dimension, and, unlike your a-tom [or anything real], it therefore has no shape. ["They have shape" but have "no shape"?]
D. No dimensions? Yet it exists, it is solid?
L: We believe it to be a mathematical point ... [What is the shape of a point?]
D: ... I can accept this quark, this substance with no dimension. ... [I can't!]
L: There is a strong force between quarks ... that behaves very differently from the electrical forces, which are also involved. ... ... The quarks are actually held together by particles we call gluons.
D: ... Now we're talking about a whole new kind of particle. I thought the quarks were it, that they made matter.
L: They do. But don't forget about forces. There are also particles we call gauge bosons. ... Their job is to carry information about the force from particle A to particle B and back again to A. Otherwise, how would B know that A is exerting a force on it?
[Their hang-up was empty space. How indeed can empty space exert a force on A or B...]
L: The gauge bosons or force carriers or, as we call them, mediators of the force have properties ...which in fact determine the behavior of the force. So, for example ...
Me: Perchance have the "particles of matter" been mistaken to be the "particles of force" and vice versa?
L: So, for example, the photons, which carry the electromagnetic force, have zero mass ... .
Me: e=mc2 says, No they don't! They have e/c2 = hf/c2 worth per sequence. And anyway, they are not an electromagnetic force; they are variations in the electromagnetic field. And anyway, if they have zero mass then why do their paths bend in a gravitational field? [Because the variable density refracts them. Shhh!]
L: ... the photons ... have zero mass, enabling them to travel very fast. [That conclusion is a non-sequitur.] ... The strong force, carried by zero-mass gluons, also reaches out to infinity, but the force is so strong that the quarks never get very far from one another. ...
D: And it all starts with quarks. ... And that's all you need.
L: Not exactly. You need something that allows atoms to stay together and then stick to other atoms.
D: The gluons again.
L: No, they only stick quarks together.
[Littlest: 'Smagic! How dooze they know the difrince?]
D: So [electrons] are gauge bosons, too, like photons and W's and Z's?
L: No, electrons are particles of matter. They belong to the lepton family. Quarks and leptons make up matter. Photons, gluons, W's, Z's, and gravitons make up forces. One of the most intriguing developments today is that the very distinction between force and matter is blurring. It's all particles [and voids]. A new simplicity.
Littlest: Hee hee...
L: ... We believe this: there are twelve basic particles of matter. Six quarks, six leptons. ... they were all here on an equal footing during the Big Bang, the birth of the universe.
D: And who believes all this ... ?
L: All of us. At least, all the intelligent particle physicists. [NOBODY? Shh!]
... There are also six antiquarks and six antileptons and --
D: ... Great Zeus's underpants! [Holy sh Shh! 'Snot what he meant? SHHHH!] ...
D: ... The quarks -- they're all pointlike, dimensionless; they have no real size. So, outside of their electrical charge, how do you tell them apart?
L: They have different masses. ... It's even worse with the gauge bosons. The sensible theories say that their masses should be zero, nothing, zilch! But --- "
I overheard another conversation just then. Sort of went like this:
+F: "Hello. I came to tell you that Q2 just exerted a repulsive quantum of force on you. I'm it."
Q1: "What's a Q2?" "Oh just another quark, a matter-particle. Q2 is the one over there on the other side of that empty space through which I just came." "I don't see it!" "Of course not. It has no size, nadda, zip, zilch. Just like you." "Hymmm... just like me? So how did you find me? How wonderful!"
-F: "Hello. I came to tell you that Q4 just exerted a quantum of attractive me on you. Move closer." "[Ditto, above.]"
nF: "Hello, Q5. I came to tell you nothing's happening." "Who needs you? I already knew that." "Well, the table of organization demands that I spin over to tell you anyway." "Get out of here!"
nF: "Oh boy. There comes an invisible point moving toward me. Knock knock."
Q6: "Who's there?"
nF+: "Gedowda boson." "Gedowda WHO?" "GEDOWDA HERE!" As Q6 recoiled in shock, nF chortled in impish glee, "Plus and minus are relative to the observer, and I just got oddly even."
nF: "Oh boy. I'm catching up to a departing quark this time. Hello, Q3. Q2 is exerting a fraction of an indivisible quantum of attractive me on you. Don't worry. Once you stop running away, I can't do anything." "[Ditto first conversation, with Doppler mentioned in the middle.]"
nF, puzzled: "Hey! Why you run away again? I din' tell you nothin!" "Oh, a graviton just whispered a different message in my ear." "A graviton? No such messenger in our table. I don't see any around here."
Q3: "Of course not. It's a boson. It has a frequency, thus a wavelength, thus extension. Just like you."
ƒpnF: "Hymmmm --- just like me. No wonder no one can see it. We can only see invisible things with zero size, like you." "Like me? How can I have zero size when I am a particle of matter?" "Oh that's obvious. Any body that has more than zero size was found to be compressible. Since matter is incompressible, it is clear that you therefore have zero size." (There is no way to further shrink an extensionless point.) "That's also why you quarks were so easy to find, while SHE remains missing." "Who is 'Miss Ing'?" "The God Particle. No one ever saw Her." "I guess that's why she's still a Miss. She must be very big, to be called the God Particle." "Oh no. She has enormous energy. The more the energy the shorter the wave, you know. That's why She's still amiss. Takes more money than anyone put up, to make one." "Make one? Don't She exist otherwise." "Of course She do -- does. All over the place. But don't forget, infinity times zero equals zero, so She is infinitely larger than an infinity of you. That's why we can see you, but not Her." "Is she very strong?" "And how! She can hit you with 90 Tillion amperes per square meter."
The poor extensionless quark wandered away toward the G-field, terrorized at the thought that it might at any moment be hit broadside by a tremendous Miss of 90 Tillion amperes per square meter. "Brrrr... let's see... how much is that per square nothing? --- I wish I knew mathematics..."
D: ... Using Pure Reason, I don't see why matter should have any mass at all. [Note. Leon Lederman - or was it Dick Teresi - wrote that thought, not Democritus. It is very sensible. Raw matter - 90% of the universe - has no mass.]
D: ... What gives particles their mass?
L: It's a mystery. ... We suspect that mass comes from a field. ... Our theoretical physicists call it the Higgs field. It pervades all of space ... tugging on matter, making it heavy. [hee hee SH.] ... The field is represented by a particle we call the Higgs boson. ... We haven't found it yet.
D: Why do you believe in it?
L: Because it has to exist. The quarks, the leptons, the four known forces -- none of these make complete sense unless there is a massive field distorting what we see, skewing our experimental results. By deduction, the Higgs is out there.
Me: Hoo hah. They are looking for the continuous field made of separate particles. Given the technology, no doubt they can also manufacture a Higgs boson. And then another, smaller category of non-existent point-particles with spin and charge and wavelength and mass and energy and SHHH
We are now told that matter is made of particles that don't exist (have no extension at all); that particles of pressure -- measured in voltages of energy rather than wavelengths or dynes, because wavelengths need a size and a material-actor thus can't be treated as per modern Nobel-prize winning fiction -- bring them messages; thus that everything is made of nothing, acted on by particles of pressure existing in and exerted by the very same empty nothing.
And so at last I admit to an error in my metaphysics. A void does exist. Several hundred thousand of them. Locked in some ivory towers with eyes that don't believe what they see; ears that don't allow reasonable questions; tongues that speak only in mystic signs and symbols; because right where there should have been a brain, there's "The void"!
What happened to "empathy"? Oh I'm just kidding. It's not their fault. A false premise leads to false conclusions. Not their fault. Blame it on Democritus.