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Frustration

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.