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Try this one FREE activity… Science shows it can completely transform your life!

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Dr Kelly Neff, The Lucid Planet

For thousands of years, ancient traditions have encouraged a variety of meditation techniques to calm the mind and relax the body.

I began meditating during an incredible tumultuous time in my life. I was suffering through personal and relational turmoil, and was struggling with massive amounts of anxiety caused by feeling trapped in downward spirals of over-thinking. I felt panicked, like I could not relax or catch my breath.

Meditation helped slow everything down and observe myself from a distance. It taught me to be present, and to have discipline over my thoughts. Learning to meditate also helped me relax my body in ways I had never been able to before, and cope with the many health problems I had developed from living life so stressed for so long. For more on my journey to health, and to hear from my meditation mentor Jimmy Ohm on how to meditate, listen to Episode 2 of my new show Lucid Planet Radio.

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While many like myself have taken up meditation on faith (or out of total desperation!) and continued it because of how good it makes us feel, others will remain naturally skeptical until scientific data is presented to them.

It appears that science is finally catching up to what yogis and gurus have known for thousands of years: Meditation can improve your life in many areas, including making you happier, healthier, smarter, more productive, and more socially well adjusted.

 1. Increased Happiness

Happiness feels like the Holy Grail we are always chasing after in this world. Often we place ur happiness just of reach, into the future, and say things like “I’ll be happy when…. I get this new job” or “when I can go on vacation next month.” By grounding us into the present moment, meditation helps us to be happy NOW, no strings attached.

Research shows that meditation increases activity in areas of the brain that help to form positive emotions, while decreasing activity in areas of the bran that help to form negative emotions and calming the part of the brain that experiences anger. Meditation also makes you feel happy by decreasing anxiety, reducing depression, enhancing positive emotions, and decreasing stress. If you read the studies, the majority of them employ mindfulness techniques, designed to help us become fully present in the conscious direction of our awareness.

2. Improved Health & Wellness

Many of us live stressful lives, trying to become functional and well-adjusted in an intense, sometimes dysfunctional world. This struggle can take a toll on us emotionally and also physically, as the body can manifest internalized stress as sickness and disease.

Scientific research indicates that meditation makes you healthier by enhancing the functioning of the immune system and reducing cellular inflammation. Meditation can help people with somatic problems, including helping to treat sleep disorders and leading to longer, more restful sleep .Mindfulness meditation has also been used successfully to treat chronic pain, even replacing narcotic pain meditations in some cases. Transcendental meditation, which focuses on the use of mantras, has even been purported to help regulate blood sugar and lower cholesterol!

3. Enhanced Brain Functioning

Science and popular culture both seem heavily focused on how to activate and enhance certain regions of the brain, with a seemingly endless emphasis on brain enhancing foods, vitamins, supplements pills, activities or therapies. But it appears that one of the best things you can do to enhance your brain functioning is easy and FREE.

Studies have shown that over the course of meditating for thousands of hours, experienced meditators have actually been able to alter the structure and function of the brains, enhancing their neuroplasticity. Meditation is correlated with an increased volume of grey matter in the areas of the brain associated with emotional regulation and impulse control. Meditation is also associated with increased cortical thickness in areas related to attention and sensory processing. Meditation has even been shown to improve memory loss in adults with Alzheimer’s Disease. In addition, an fMRI study of people practicing non-directive meditation (where they allowed their minds to drift through spontaneous thoughts and emotions) confirmed that during this form of meditation, the brain has an enhanced ability for the retrieval of episodic memories and emotional processing.

4. Boosted Productivity & Creativity

The constant focus on deadlines, due-dates and pressure to perform can be a major source of stress in our lives. It can be really difficult to deliver amazing creative work on-demand, but meditation can help you focus to accomplish your goals.

Research shows that meditation can enhance your memory and help you multitask. A plethora of studies show that meditation can enhance your focus and attention, including that it can help control the distribution of limited brain resources and significantly improve visuo-spatial processing, working memory, and executive functioning. In terms of creative thought, meditation has been shown to enhance divergent thinking and the generation of new ideas, while reducing cognitive rigidity.

 5. Improved Social Adjustment

Having good friends and a supportive social network is incredibly important to our overall well-being and life satisfaction. It might seem counter-intuitive that a solitary activity like meditation could enhance our social relationships, but when you consider the benefits it makes sense that people who meditate would be not only  more connected to themselves, but also, to others.

First of all, meditation greatly enhances our compassion, including compassion for others, our ability to receive compassion, and compassion for ourselves. Loving-kindness meditation can build emotional intelligence and open up pathways for enhanced positive emotions and social support. In one study, even a few moments of loving-kindness meditation increased people’s social connection to complete strangers in a laboratory context. Perhaps this is why meditation has been shown to reduce loneliness in older adults.

With all of these benefits, are curious how to meditate or looking to pick up some new techniques? Listen to Episode 2 of Lucid Planet Radio and stay tuned for more articles from me on meditation, including my advice to beginners, and how to overcome the most pervasive meditation myths. Light and Love!

Artwork Credit: Alpha-Centauri by the amazing Visionary Artist Luke Brown

AUTHOR BIO

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Dr. Kelly Neff is a renowned psychologist, author, founder of The Lucid Planet and the host of the hit new show, Lucid Planet Radio. She has reached millions of people with her articles on psychology, transformation, and wellness, which have been featured on websites like The Mind Unleashed, Mind Body Green, My Tiny Secrets, and now, The Lucid Planet. Before she became a full-time author, Dr. Neff spent seven years as a psychology professor where she helped thousands of students learn about health, relationships, love and sexuality, and co-authored the groundbreaking manual in her field, Teaching Psychology Online. She has a B.A. in Psychology from Georgetown University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Claremont Graduate University. Dr. Neff is an avid participant in the visionary art, music and culture scene in her home state of Colorado and beyond. You might find her traveling the globe to give workshops, speeches and do research at transformational festivals like Firefly, Sonic Bloom and Lucidity. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter. Light and Love!

Consciousness

7 Powerful Books That Will Unleash The Hidden Potential Of Your Mind

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“A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.” ~George R.R. Martin

There it is: your mind –all leashed-up, bored, bookless and chasing its own tail in the corner. It’s time to unleash it. It’s time to toss it back into the shocking waters of wonder and awe. It’s time to distract it from the all too familiar tail (or tale, to wit), and give it a juicy carrot to chase around instead. Seven juicy carrots, to be exact.

So, store that leash, open up your mind, curl up with your best friend, and dive right on in to the following mind-unleashing books. But keep the light on. As Groucho Marx wittily opined, “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”

1.) “The Beginning of Infinity” by David Deutsche

“We never know any data before interpreting it through theories. All observations are, as Popper put it, theory-laden, and hence fallible, as all our theories are.” ~David Deutsche

From epistemology and quantum fungibility to environmental ethics and societal evolution, David Deutsche takes us on a thought-provoking journey into answering a single question: Is there a limit to what can be understood? He comes at a mind-expending answer of “no” by diving deep into the expanding waters of epistemology and ontology. He profoundly claims that our understanding of anything is always at the “beginning of infinity” and there will always be an infinite amount more left for us to understand. Basically surmising that, with accurate and adaptable knowledge, anything is possible unless it is prohibited by the laws of physics.

Highly rational and integrating, The beginning of Infinity launches us into higher thinking on the path toward better and better explanations. He takes us from parochial, outdated ways of thinking to the concept of universality and updated ways of thinking about the universe as a thing to be progressively evolved into using ever-expanding technologies. Thus bridging the gap from man to overman. As he made clear, “There is only one way of thinking that is capable of making progress, or of surviving in the long run, and that is the way of seeking good explanations through creativity and criticism.”

2.) “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

“Most enjoyable activities are not natural; they demand an effort that initially one is reluctant to make. But once the interaction starts to provide feedback to the person’s skills, it usually begins to be intrinsically rewarding.” ~Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Thanks to Csikszentmihalyi, the idea of the “flow state” has become a vital aspect of our cultural awakening. The optimal experience is gained through deep discipline in a particular field/art/sport that provides intrinsic reward, challenge, and feedback, thus integrating confidence, concentration, control, adaptability, and connectivity. Time stops or slows down. Insecurities disappear. We stop caring about what others think of us. A creative unfolding of something larger manifests. Everything flows effortlessly in interconnected unison with us as its interdependent spearhead. In short: we stop thinking and just do.

By simply asking the question, “When are people most happy?” Csikszentmihalyi, through time tested research, pinpoints flow states as the answer. Athletes call it “being in the zone,” mystics have described it as “ecstasy,” and artists term it “rapture.” Unleashing optimal experience is about doing what we love as a pathway toward greater meaning, happiness, and a self of higher complexity. By doing what we love in challenging ways, we leverage optimal experience into our lives. This book powerfully explains the psychology of this vital process.

3.) “Phi: A Voyage from the Brain to the Soul” by Giulio Tononi

“Murky thoughts, like murky waters, can serve two purposes only: to hide what lies beneath, which is our ignorance, or to make the shallow seem deep” ~Giulio Tononi

Phi takes the reader on a mind-altering journey through the nature of consciousness. It interweaves science, art, and the imagination with golden ratios, Fibonacci sequences, and fractal cosmology. The reader has the joy of perceiving the world through such masters as Galileo, Alan Turing, Darwin and Francis Crick, among others. From neuroscience to pseudoscience, from deep introspection to mindful meditation, Tononi elucidates on how consciousness is an evolving, ever-deepening awareness of ourselves as finite, spiritual beings in an infinite universe.

We learn how consciousness is integrated information and how the power of that integration requires the utmost responsibility and credulity. It teaches how the brain is the seat of our perceptions, and is a creative force par excellence, and can even create new shapes and new qualia. It teaches how, by growing consciousness, the universe comes more and more into being, and synthesizes the one and the many, the ego and the eco, the individual and the interdependence of all things into a unified force of Nature.

4.) “The Art of Fear” by Kristen Ulmer

““Everything is fine” is actually a copout, a stuck place, an obstruction to the exploration of who and what you are expanding into higher and further, not to mention the evolution of humanity.” ~Kristen Ulmer

The Art of fear is about curiously embracing fear rather than conquering or repressing it. It’s about rebuilding our understanding of fear from the ground up. It’s about realizing that Fear is only one of 10,000 employees at You Incorporated, and how they all need a voice. But Fear most of all, lest all voices become repressed shadows. The key to fear, she explains, is being curious about it, thereby harnessing its power rather than conquering it. Between courage and curiosity is everything we need to be fearless.

Ulmer’s personal journey with fear eventually led her to study with Zen masters, from which she learned a mindfulness tool called “Shift” which shifts our perspective of fear from ignorant repression to proactive curiosity, thus aligning it authentically with our true nature. The basic tenet being this: Instead of repressing fear, empower it, by being curious and questioning rather than judgmental and accusing. Honor it with deep respect so it doesn’t operate covertly in twisted ways beneath the surface.

5.) “Endgame: The Problem of Civilization” by Derrick Jensen

“Premise One: Civilization is not and can never be sustainable. This is especially true for industrial civilization.” ~Derrick Jensen

Endgame will take everything you think you know about being a social being in a seemingly functional society and turn it on its head. Definitely not for the typical statist, nor the faithful law-abiding citizen. Endgame is about the imperative need to immediately dismantle the unhealthy civilization that surrounds us. Endgame is a scathing, raging critique against the unhealthy, unsustainable, and ecologically unsound man-machine that is our modern culture.

Breaking the book down into a series of simple but increasingly provocative premises, Jensen takes us on a mind-bending and convincing ride into the unhealthy belly of the violent, ecocidal beast that is modern day civilization. His basic premise is simple: Industrial civilization is unsustainable. It’s not a question of “if” but a question of “when” it’s going to fail.

He argues that the longer it takes civilization to fall, the worse the tragedy will be. In that light, there are two things we should be doing: Bringing about the fall sooner rather than later; and preparing to survive it. His attitude is caustic and cavalier, but all the better for the shock value it provides. This book really flattens the box we’re all so desperately trying to think outside of. A complimentary (and perhaps less aggressive) read is Beyond Civilization by Daniel Quinn.

6.) Trickster Makes this World: Mischief, Myth, and Art by Lewis Hyde

“Better to operate with detachment, then; better to have a way but infuse it with a little humor; best, to have no way at all but to have instead the wit constantly to make one’s way anew from the materials at hand.” ~Lewis Hyde

Trickster Makes This World is a mythological cornerstone for Sacred Clowns and practicing trickster-gods the world over, digging into the guts of the primordial importance of sacred play and rowdy behavior. Hyde explores how trickster figures represent the “disruptive imagination” that inverts, rearranges, and overturns conventional wisdom. From Raven to Coyote, Monkey to Crow, Hermes to Loki, Eshu to Legba, Hyde reveals connections between mythological tricksters that form a hidden network that connects cultural divides.

The best part about this book is its ability to show how mythology becomes reality. “Trickster consciousness’” is a vital component of human imagination. It reveals that we are the gods of renewal and rebirth, if we choose to be. We are the creators of mischief and mayhem. We are the trickster gods in training. Trickster is us, and we are Trickster. We are the ultimate boundary-crossers. No manmade rules or laws can contain us, unless we let them. Even cosmic rules and laws can hardly contain us. Trickster makes this world by tearing the old world down through high humor, moral ambiguity, foolishness, and strategic transgression and then dances in the ashes of its destruction. But it is precisely from the dancing, the kicking up of dust and ash, where brave new worlds emerge.

7.) “Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them” by Joshua Greene

“We need a kind of thinking that enables groups with conflicting moralities to live together and prosper. In other words, we need a metamorality. We need a moral system that resolves disagreements among groups with different moral ideals, just as ordinary first-order morality resolves disagreements among individuals with different selfish interests.” ~Joshua Greene

Moral Tribes is hands-on moral psychology and a refreshing new take on utilitarianism. Greene wraps game theory, evolutionary biology, and neuroscience into a nice digestible package to bolster his theory of cognition, which builds elegantly into a theory of moral psychology. A sweeping synthesis of neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy, Moral Tribes opens a can of psychosocial worms that takes the concept of morality to the next level, revealing how we are exceptionally well-adept at solving the dilemma between “Me” and “Us,” through the concept of the “tribe,” but how we are ridiculously less-adept at solving the meta-dilemma between “Us” and “Them.”

Greene’s concept of metamorlity squares this psychosocial circle by counterintuitively applying utilitarianism to our base, knee-jerk reaction to morality (evolved morality) by becoming aware of our apathy in order to become more empathetic. By reinforcing humanity instead of nationalism, and worldly patriotism instead of patriotic nationalism, we turn the tables on both xenophobia and apathy and we become more compassionate and empathetic toward others. When we celebrate diversity instead of trying to cram the square peg of colonialism into the round hole of cultural affiliation, we turn the tables on the monkey-mind’s one-dimensional moral tribalism and we usher in Joshua Greene’s multi-dimensional metamorality.

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Consciousness

10 Things You Don’t Wan’t To Know About Yourself

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“Freedom is the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear.” ~George Orwell

Sick of all those self-affirmation articles? Tired of all the self-help gurus blowing sunshine up your skirt? Need something a little more grounding? More down-to-earth? More humbling? Here’s a fresh batch of wake-up calls and kicks-in-the-shin straight from the oven. Get it while its hot…

1.) You are an animal:

“What a chimera then is humankind. What a novelty; what a monster, what a chaos.” ~Blaise Pascal
This one is painfully obvious, but you probably need a reminder.

You are a naked ape. You are blood and bones and improbable apposable thumbs. You were born from the womb and you will one day be food for worms. In the womb, you went through all the phases of evolution: from a single-celled amoeba to a multicellular tadpole to a brain-wielding infant.

In your short life, you will piss and s*** and bleed. You will rage and cry and sleep. You will go through all the profane motions of being a mortal mammal within an amoral universe. And here’s the real kick in the teeth: it’s going to hurt like hell. Hope you have a good sense of humor, because you’re going to need it.

2.) You are fallible:

“Things fall apart. The center cannot hold.” ~W.B. Yeats

You are terribly imperfect. You will make mistakes. More so, you are mistaken about a great many things. Most of which you will probably never admit to yourself, because admitting you are wrong is one of the most difficult things a human being can do.

But it goes deeper than that. There are fallibilities within fallibilities. It’s a veritable fractal forest of fallibility. A fractal wrongness, if you will.

You are more wrong about things than you can possibly imagine, and yet you insist. You force your wrongness. You are fierce with it, ruthlessly certain with it. You are so hungry for rightness that you bludgeon the Truth with your wrongness. All the while imagining that you are right.

As it turns out, you are more likely to be right by admitting that you are probably wrong than by declaring that you are probably right.

3.) You are a hypocrite:

“You have not learned to play and mock the way a man ought to play and mock. Are we not always seated at a great table for play and mockery? Learn to laugh at yourselves as a man ought to laugh. Learn to laugh beyond yourselves, and learn to laugh well.” ~Nietzsche

You are a hypocrite by nature. By the fact that you perceive an unfathomable reality with fallible faculties. It’s not even your fault. Just the fact that you are a “you” precludes hypocrisy. The self is smoke and mirrors, masks and mayhem. More akin to a chaotic theater of actors than a single personality.

Indeed, the self is masks all the way down perceiving delusions all the way up. Hypocrisy was always inevitable. Merely the biproduct of a fallible self.

Amidst this mayhem of fallible selfhood, you will experience dissimulation and self-deception, dishonesty and deep pretension, inauthenticity and artificiality. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The rest is hidden beneath layer upon layer of subconscious/unconscious double-dealings, feigned sincerity, two-faced unctuousness, and the mealymouthed choruses of canting contradictions.

Your hypocrisy knows no bounds, so you might as well own up to it.

4.) You will fail:

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” ~Samuel Beckett

Failure is a given when you are merely a fallible, hypocritical animal going through the motions of living life in an uncertain universe.

But there is wisdom hidden in failure if you are keen to it. Setbacks can be transformed into steppingstones. Tragedy can be hardwired into comedy. Catastrophe can be whittled into accomplishment. You can build a ladder out of the shattered pieces of your life and climb out of the abyss.

But guess what? You will probably fail again. The higher you climb the farther you may fall. When it comes to failure, there is always a deeper abyss. Defeat, hard luck, and utter collapse are right around the corner. Disappointment is Accomplishment’s kissing cousin. Tragedy is Triumph’s red-headed stepchild. Today’s achievement could very well be tomorrow’s tripwire. So be it. Use it all as a sharpening stone for your all-too-mortal soul.

5.) You are never not broken:

“We adore chaos because we love to produce order.” ~M.C. Escher

Wholeness does not imply perfection. It infers embracing brokenness as an essential part of being human. There is never a state in which you are not broken.
You are a walking, talking broken heart going through the motions of breaking apart and coming back together again. This also applies to the mind, the body, and the soul. You are constantly in a state of repair.

Your suffering is sufferable. What’s insufferable is your ideal of perfection. There will always be pain. There will always be heartache. There will always be existential angst. We wreck ourselves against these. Then we knock out the dents, mend the cracks, and heal the wounds. We do this in the hope that it will make us stronger. But perhaps it won’t.
The wound may or may not become a sacred wound. All you can do is hurt, heal, and hope. Hurt, heal, and hope. From fragility to robustness to antifragility, you will always be in a state of falling apart and coming back together again. Embrace it.

6.) You have a dark side:

“There are no shortcuts to wholeness. The only way to become whole is to put our arms lovingly around everything we know ourselves to be: self-serving and generous, spiteful and compassionate, cowardly and courageous, treacherous and trustworthy. We must be able to say, ‘I am all of the above.’” ~Parker J. Palmer

You have a shadow. Even your shadow has a shadow called the golden shadow. Your shadow is your repressed or unconscious self, struggling to be liberated and more conscious. Awareness is key. Becoming aware of our shadow side is shining a light into the darkness and giving our dark side permission to shine its blacklight back into the blinding light, which creates a unity of opposites.
An empowered dark side balances out the equation of the complicated human condition. Without this balance, you risk fragile one-dimensionality and a brittle ego terrified of taking responsibility for its shadow and thus fearful of the shadow of others.

You cannot fully know yourself without knowing your dark side and embracing your shadow. Such wholeness breeds wisdom and the ability to experience the full range of what it means to be human.

7.) Your beliefs limit you:

“If you adopt an idea or perception as the absolute truth, you close the door of your mind. Attachment to views, attachment to ideas, attachment to perceptions are the biggest obstacle to truth.” ~The Buddha

Your beliefs are incredibly restricting. You’ve been indoctrinated to think that you need to believe. Even worse, you’ve been brainwashed to believe more than you think.

In the battle against bewitchment, all beliefs, no matter how powerful or well-intended, are a hinderance to clear thought and self-improvement.

tter to think rather than believe. Thinking that something might be true allows for error, fallibility, and wrongness. Believing that something is certainly true cuts us off from all other possibilities. Belief is all or nothing, predicated upon faith despite facts or evidence. Thought is open-ended, taking beliefs, facts, and evidence into deep consideration and then using probability and validity to discover the truth.

More importantly, thinking rather than believing allows for skepticism and questioning. It is considered blasphemous to question a belief. Whereas questioning a thought is considered appropriate. Might as well just skip belief altogether and simply take things into thoughtful consideration.

8.) You are culturally conditioned:

“When war turns whole populations into sleepwalkers, outlaws don’t join forces with alarm clocks. Outlaws, like poets, rearrange the nightmare.” ~Tom Robbins

You are programmed to think a certain way. This programming has propped-up your identity into perceiving a particular worldview that may or may not be based in reality. It might not even be healthy. This identity tied up in your worldview is an abstraction of an abstraction, a story within a story that you’ve convinced yourself is true.

But you have the power to reprogram your programming.

We are all conditioned by culture. The key is to become aware of it and to weigh our conditioning against the truth of reality. Then recondition the conditioning. We each have our own Plato’s Cave to navigate.

The extent to which you can become aware of your own “cave” will be the extent of your flexibility, open-mindedness, and personal freedom.

9.) You know less than you think:

“Some people are more certain of everything than I am of anything.” ~Robert Rubin

You think you know more than you actually do. Your certainty about a great many things limits your imagination, creative thinking, and ability to question. It leads to dogmatic reasoning and close-mindedness.

ou are just so certain, aren’t you? Your certitude is so powerful that you cannot see past your beliefs. Hung up on what you’ve found, you have given up the search. Your journey has come to an end. Your certainty has led you to a dead-end. You are stuck. And the only way out is to question what you think you know.

The more you question, the more you realize that the only answer that makes any sense is to keep questioning. When you stop questioning the journey for truth comes to an end and stagnation, sloth, and dogmatism begin to rule your world. Keep things in perspective by accepting that you know less than you think you do and keep questioning.

10.) Your life is terribly inconsequential:

“Don’t slip on the banana peel of nihilism, even while listening to the roar of Nothingness.” ~Lawrence Ferlinghetti

When it comes down to it, your life is a flash in the pan. It’s dust in the cosmic wind. It’s an infinitesimally insignificant spark in an unfathomably dark, unforgiving, and meaningless universe. But it is a spark.

What you do won’t matter in the grand scheme of things. But it’s very important that you do it anyway. Why? Because you are the universe attempting to become aware of itself. You are an awareness machine in an otherwise unaware cosmos. You are a meaning-generator in a reality void of meaning. You might be nothing more than a speck in the universe, but you are also the entire universe in a speck.

Either way, you will one day be dust. Your tiny insignificant life will end. Face that fleetingness with a fierceness. Laugh into the abyss. Face fear with fearlessness. Climb the highest mountain and kick God in the nuts. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Or not. None of it will matter in the end. You will still be the butt-end of the cosmic joke. It’s all laughable. So you might as well have a laugh.

Gary Z McGee, Self-inflicted Philosophy, republished here with permission.

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Physicists Suggest All Matter Could Be Made Up of Energy ‘Fragments’

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Matter is what makes up the Universe, but what makes up matter? This question has long been tricky for those who think about it – especially for the physicists.

Reflecting recent trends in physics, my colleague Jeffrey Eischen and I have described an updated way to think about matter. We propose that matter is not made of particles or waves, as was long thought, but – more fundamentally – that matter is made of fragments of energy.

From Five to One

The ancient Greeks conceived of five building blocks of matter – from bottom to top: earth, water, air, fire and aether. Aether was the matter that filled the heavens and explained the rotation of the stars, as observed from the Earth vantage point.

These were the first most basic elements from which one could build up a world. Their conceptions of the physical elements did not change dramatically for nearly 2,000 years.

Then, about 300 years ago, Sir Isaac Newton introduced the idea that all matter exists at points called particles. One hundred fifty years after that, James Clerk Maxwell introduced the electromagnetic wave – the underlying and often invisible form of magnetism, electricity and light.

The particle served as the building block for mechanics and the wave for electromagnetism – and the public settled on the particle and the wave as the two building blocks of matter. Together, the particles and waves became the building blocks of all kinds of matter.

This was a vast improvement over the ancient Greeks’ five elements but was still flawed. In a famous series of experiments, known as the double-slit experiments, light sometimes acts like a particle and at other times acts like a wave. And while the theories and math of waves and particles allow scientists to make incredibly accurate predictions about the Universe, the rules break down at the largest and tiniest scales.

Einstein proposed a remedy in his theory of general relativity. Using the mathematical tools available to him at the time, Einstein was able to better explain certain physical phenomena and also resolve a longstanding paradox relating to inertia and gravity.

But instead of improving on particles or waves, he eliminated them as he proposed the warping of space and time.

Using newer mathematical tools, my colleague and I have demonstrated a new theory that may accurately describe the Universe. Instead of basing the theory on the warping of space and time, we considered that there could be a building block that is more fundamental than the particle and the wave.

Scientists understand that particles and waves are existential opposites: A particle is a source of matter that exists at a single point, and waves exist everywhere except at the points that create them.

My colleague and I thought it made logical sense for there to be an underlying connection between them.

Flow and Fragments of Energy

Our theory begins with a new fundamental idea – that energy always “flows” through regions of space and time.

Think of energy as made up of lines that fill up a region of space and time, flowing into and out of that region, never beginning, never ending and never crossing one another.

Working from the idea of a universe of flowing energy lines, we looked for a single building block for the flowing energy. If we could find and define such a thing, we hoped we could use it to accurately make predictions about the Universe at the largest and tiniest scales.

There were many building blocks to choose from mathematically, but we sought one that had the features of both the particle and wave – concentrated like the particle but also spread out over space and time like the wave.

The answer was a building block that looks like a concentration of energy – kind of like a star – having energy that is highest at the center, and that gets smaller farther away from the center.

Much to our surprise, we discovered that there were only a limited number of ways to describe a concentration of energy that flows. Of those, we found just one that works in accordance with our mathematical definition of flow.

We named it a fragment of energy. For the math and physics aficionados, it is defined as A = -⍺/r where ⍺ is intensity and r is the distance function.

Using the fragment of energy as a building block of matter, we then constructed the math necessary to solve physics problems. The final step was to test it out.

Back to Einstein, Adding Universality

More than 100 ago, Einstein had turned to two legendary problems in physics to validate general relativity: the ever-so-slight yearly shift – or precession – in Mercury’s orbit, and the tiny bending of light as it passes the Sun.

These problems were at the two extremes of the size spectrum. Neither wave nor particle theories of matter could solve them, but general relativity did.

The theory of general relativity warped space and time in such way as to cause the trajectory of Mercury to shift and light to bend in precisely the amounts seen in astronomical observations.

If our new theory was to have a chance at replacing the particle and the wave with the presumably more fundamental fragment, we would have to be able to solve these problems with our theory, too.

For the precession-of-Mercury problem, we modeled the Sun as an enormous stationary fragment of energy and Mercury as a smaller but still enormous slow-moving fragment of energy. For the bending-of-light problem, the Sun was modeled the same way, but the photon was modeled as a minuscule fragment of energy moving at the speed of light.

In both problems, we calculated the trajectories of the moving fragments and got the same answers as those predicted by the theory of general relativity. We were stunned.

Our initial work demonstrated how a new building block is capable of accurately modeling bodies from the enormous to the minuscule. Where particles and waves break down, the fragment of energy building block held strong.

The fragment could be a single potentially universal building block from which to model reality mathematically – and update the way people think about the building blocks of the Universe.

Republished from TheConversation.com under Creative Commons

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