When I was in Los Angeles last winter I was walking downhill through
Griffith Park following a tiny stream running down the edge of the road. And I was thinking about what the poets say, that
it will be happy when it reaches the sea. But the poets are wrong, you know. It won't be happy when it reaches the sea. The
sea is trying desperately to fall to the center of the Earth, but the rocks are in the way. And the rocks are trying to fall
to the center, but the iron of the Earth's core is in the way. And with thousands of miles of rock piled on top of it the
iron itself is trying to collapse, but the size of the atoms themselves prevents it. Now why must the atoms be so big? Why
can't the electrons just sit down on the nucleus? And why are the electrons spaced out in shells?
Enter Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and Pauli's Verbot. Heisenberg’s uncertainty
principle keeps the electrons from sitting on the nucleus, and Pauli's exclusion principle keeps them spaced out in shells
(because no two spin‑one‑half particles can occupy the same energy state). These are the two reasons why the atoms
are so big. This is why they can't collapse. But why Heisenberg and Pauli? Because we live in a world in which we see an electromagnetic
duality against a gravitational totality. And since the duality and the totality exist by contrast to each other, neither
can allow the other to collapse.
It was pointed out by Albert
Einstein in 1905, that what we call matter is just potential energy. Gravitational rest energy, electrical rest energy, nuclear
rest energy, and inertia or mass are all the same thing. It is energy itself which is hard to shake.
Now if we push two electrons toward each other, we do work on them, and that makes them
heavier. Similarly, if we squeeze the charge of one electron down to the size of one electron, we are pushing negative charge
toward negative charge and we are doing work on it. Now the energy required to squeeze the charge of one electron down to
the size of one electron is itself the mass of that electron. There is no material particle in there. There is just the electrical
charge and the smallness of the electrical charge. There is nothing else in there.
But the proton is wound up against gravity as well as against electricity. That is why
it is 1836 times as heavy as the electron. Just as we must do work to space things together in the electrical field, we must
do work to space things apart in the gravitational field. And the work required to space a proton away from all the rest of
the matter in the observable Universe is five hundred atom bombs per pound. That is why all this stuff is so heavy. The proton
is 1836 times heavier than the electron because of its gravitational wind-up. But it is wound up against electricity as well
because electricity and gravity are two sides of the same coin. That is why the proton is so small. We see things spaced out
by seeing them as small. The electron is purely electrical, the proton is not. The proton is smaller and heavier than its
electrical outrigger. The proton is the canoe, the electron is the outrigger.
It is not forbidden that the electron and the positron (an electron with a positive charge) should merge and disappear
in radiation. They are not gravitationally dissimilar. Although they have opposite charges, their masses are equal. But the
proton is much heavier than the electron because of its gravitational wind-up, and in the presence of their gravitational
dissimilarity in the hydrogen atom the proton and the electron cannot merge and disappear in radiation.
Now back to Heisenberg. If an electron were to sit on the nucleus, our uncertainty in its
position would be very small. Then Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle would require that our uncertainty in its momentum
should be so large that the momentum associated with that uncertainty would probably jump the electron off. That is why the
electrons, in the atom, stay out of the nucleus. But why are they spaced out in shells? This is because of Pauli's exclusion
principle. Only two electrons, with opposite spin, can occupy the same position in an atom. This is the other reason why the
atoms are so big. If the nuclei were the size of garden peas, the electron shells around them would fill football stadiums.
And that is why the water, the rocks and the iron can't collapse.
This world is made out of frustration. Maybe you didn't notice. But if we
see what we see in space and time, it will necessarily be made out of frustration because we do not see things as they are.
That which is beyond space and time must necessarily be changeless (beyond time), infinite and undivided (beyond space). That
which is changeless is itself infinite and undivided. It can only be one; not three. But seen in space and time, it's a three‑way
frustration. Gravity wants everything to fall to one place, to be undivided. Electricity wants the size of the particles to
be infinite. And inertia wants everything to stay just as it is.
But even if the atoms of the oceans, the rocks and the core of the Earth could collapse, they'd still be unhappy
because the Earth is failing, though constantly trying, to fall into the Sun. It fails because
its inertia is in the way. But the funny part is that the gravitational rest energy of the Earth, which wants the Earth to
fall in, is itself its inertia which prevents it. The gravitational energy and its inertia are both the same thing.
Meanwhile the Sun is trying to collapse by fusing hydrogen to helium in its
core, but the energy released by this fusion has kept the Sun bloated for nearly five billion years, and will continue to
keep it bloated for another five billion years. Then, when the core finally collapses to the density of some hundred thousand
pounds per pint, the rapid fusion rate around the core will bloat the outer regions of the Sun to the size of the Earth's
present orbit, and the outer regions will puff away, as we see in the Ring Nebula. As the center condenses and the outside
is blown away, the Sun will lose mass and relax its gravitational hold on the Earth, frustrating our effort
to fall to it. The Earth will probably drift away to about the present orbit of Mars, as a molten ball of iron and rock.
The Sun is too small for gravity to overcome the electrical repulsion of nuclei
larger than carbon and oxygen; so the Sun, after puffing the outside away, will end up as a dwarf star made of carbon and
oxygen. In its early days it will radiate in the ultraviolet, and then slowly cool off to black.
But the gravity of a larger star fuses its center to iron which, in three quarters of one
second, collapses by gravity to the density of a hundred thousand battleships in a one‑pint jar. And the energy released
is unbelievable. The energy of the explosion
that blew Crater Lake was only forty‑two pounds, and it blew thirty‑five cubic miles of rock to powder and put
it in the stratosphere at eighty thousand feet. The energy that the Sun releases in only one second is four and one half million
tons. But the gravitational energy released in only three quarters of one second when one of these iron‑core stars collapses
is a hundred times as much as the Sun will release in ten billion years. And it blows the outer portions of the star all over
the galaxy. Now our bodies are made of that stuff which is blown away by this gravitational collapse. Most of the heavier
elements are made in these explosions and scattered far and wide.
And finally, the whole Milky Way is trying to merge by gravity with all the rest of the matter in the observable
Universe, but the cosmological expansion prevents it. But what drives the cosmological expansion? It is the energy which the
radiation loses to redshift in its long traverse of the vast expanding spaces of the Universe. As every mechanic knows, if
the hot gases lose their energy in the expansion of the cylinders of your car, then they drive that expansion. Similarly,
if the radiation from the galaxies and stars loses its energy in the expansion of the Universe, then it drives that expansion.
But if the Universe is expanding, why doesn't its density decrease?
We see a Universe in which all the distant galaxies appear to be running away
from us, and the farther away they appear to be from us, the faster they appear to be running away. Now this cosmological
expansion, as it is called, imposes a boundary to the observable Universe at some fifteen billion light years away in every
direction, because beyond that border things would be receding at speeds in excess of the speed of light so that no messages,
either electrical or gravitational, could be received by us. But if something is receding from us, its radiation will be redshifted
to lower energy. And if its speed approaches the speed of light, the energy of its radiation will approach zero. But if the
energy of the radiation is seen to approach zero, then the energy of the particles giving rise to that radiation must also
be seen to approach zero. Now as Einstein pointed out in 1905, mass and energy are the same thing; so if the energy of the
particles approaches zero, their mass must also approach zero. Now that raises the interesting question: Can the particles
cross the border? And the answer is no. Why? Because if the mass of the particles approaches zero, their momentum must also
approach zero, and with it our uncertainty in that zero momentum. But we know from Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle
that if our uncertainty in their momentum approaches zero, our uncertainty in where they are must approach totality. The particles
simply “tunnel” back into the observable Universe. That is why the density of the observable Universe does not
decrease in spite of the fact that all the distant galaxies appear to be running away.
To the extent that the hydrogen (recycled from the borders of the observable Universe through
Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle) succeeds in condensing into stars, to that extent it radiates. And the final frustration
is this, that the radiation arising from the success of gravitational collapse, losing its energy through redshifting in its long traverse of the vast expanding spaces of the Universe, drives that cosmological expansion.
As Walt Whitman says, “From every fruition of success shall come forth
something to make a greater struggle necessary.”
So cheer up! Even gravity can't win it in the end.