Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Practical Implications of Quantum Physics

I hope that with G-d’s help I have been able to explain in my previous essays on the Higgs boson the nothingness of the physical world in which we exist, in a short but clear way.
The fundamental question comes to mind, a question that may change our entire view of who we are: What is our goal in the life? What should we do to achieve this goal?
The question is as follows: Are we physical beings equipped with some spiritual, Divine element or our true self is taken from the Divine, and physicality — our bodies and all the creation around — serves some other purpose?
Is religion just a means to help us go through difficult moments of life or give some additional taste to the sweeter parts of it? Or is the service of the Creator fundamental and the only reason for our existence?
Does this absolute service make our life more difficult, perhaps sober or even sad because there are so many limitations? Will it bring peace to the relationship we have with our surroundings (not necessary with other human beings, as the spirit of Amalek is still thriving) and, most important, with the One who gave us our existence?
Too many questions? There are more.
Someone may ask, “Isn’t it the domain of theology and religion to answer these questions?” “Why do we need physics to understand this? Didn’t Chazal — our sages, of blessed memory — reveal this to us long ago?
Yes they did, but somehow for so many of us this awareness that Chazal gave us has not stayed in our consciousness long enough to keep our life elevated according to the guidance of the revelation. Somehow, at the shiur, the lecture, we understand about the fascinating teachings, that there was tzimtzum and nothingness was separated and that there are sefirot distancing us and at the same time connecting to Ein Sof — the Unknown. But this awareness doesn’t last; even after such lectures about the depths of our Torah, we soon forget all of these lofty thoughts when we get caught up in the mundane activities we do each day.
There is nothing wrong with doing mundane things. We were put here on this earth, in this physical realty, to do mundane activities but we were told to do them in certain way. We were also told not to do other things, most of the time without even explanation why we shouldn’t do them. We were also made aware that this temporary situation is only a means to test us, as the reason for our creation can only be executed in this physical world. Only by doing or restraining ourselves from doing can we make choices, and the ability to choose freely is the reason for which we were created. By choosing, we are show that we are created b’tzelem Elokim – in the likeness of G-d. Only He has real power of choice, but out of his love He decided to share it with us. He gave the power of choice to the lowest of the spiritual creatures. We are the lowest due to our physical makeup, but we have the greatest potential to became highest, to the extent of unification with the Unknown.
But how often are we aware of this fundamental truth?
How often do we realize that what we treasure so much, what we running after, what we spend our life looking for, what we sacrifice so much for, what we give up our principles for, is really nothing.
Nothing — because it exists only due to the extensive withdrawal of spirituality.
Nothing, because even if it shines and glows, attracting our senses, but is made from material matter, which is “nothing in its essence, the final product that we are foolishly running after is also nothing.
It is almost like projection (almost, because the quantum effect is more than mere projection) of our consciousness. It is our true selves, the spiritual being — temporary residents of these clay structures called bodies — that are causing this physical universe to “exist.”
Do you feel it? Do we grasp the naked true about our existence in this universe?
This universe has no other reason to be, other than serving as the battlefield in our struggle with the yetzer hara  urges. It has no other reason than to give us opportunity to elevate our true self, win the battle, and became who we were intended to be, free of struggle and pain, united with our G-d, in reality closer to the Unknown, a reality often called by the name “Heaven.”
We are so tired of our leaders telling us again and again about the gashmiyus that we are running after. Once again we are dismayed to say that they don’t like how we enjoy life though some of them appear to get caught in the very materialism they so often condemn.
To achieve, to get to utilize some of the “gear” giving us moments of pleasure, we invest our time and emotions, and many times we compromise what we believe in. What counts at these moments is the sensation of temporary fulfillment, calm, or what the public calls “happiness.”
Other times we just kill time. We see almost nothing wrong with it. We engage in activities that don’t do anything good for us or are so far removed from the possibility to do any good for us.
On the other hand, there are lot of activities that the Torah and Chazal direct us to do, including those giving enjoyment, health, or pleasure to our bodies and to our mind. All of this is good, as long as we remember Who gave us the senses to serve Him with our enjoyment, and bodies to engage in His happy service.
The essence of all of this comes to one thing: enjoyment and pleasure happen in our physical body; more, they give health and strength to the body. However, these feelings originate in a nonmaterial reality where the brain is only a transmitter of those higher sensations. The direct profiteer of these sensations is the body and for our body we undertake these pleasant actions. On the higher plane, though, what is happening is that our bechirah — G-d-given free choice — is being used. Depending on whether we achieve the permitted or even advised pleasures, or forbidden pleasures by permitted or forbidden means, we realize the goal of our existence. It is our spiritual self — our real self, who can profit or lose as a result of these choices.

Ksime ve Chasime Tova a git un gebenched yur to all.

Matys Weiser

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Higgs boson 3

In last essay we concluded with expressions of doubt about the existence of the Higgs boson, but observation in the standard model of physics says that there must be a power or component of the atom giving mass to other subatomic particles.
Whatever this power or component is, I really don’t understand how it could possibly prove or disprove the existence of the Creator. It can tell us some more about how nothing became something or rather how nothing IS something, but not more than that. We Jews and following us adherents of Abrahamic religions, already know that the world was created from nothing. Our deepest teachings tell us more. They tells us that the universe is formed from nothing, it is nothing as we speak, and it always will be nothing.
The science of physics gives us some description of it.
The first level of nothing is the atom itself. It is empty inside. The electrons orbiting the nucleus are at such a distance from the nucleus that most of the atom is space — nothing — yet it appears to be something.
On the lower level, the level of the subatomic particles, the sub-particles are built out of pure energy which somehow gains mass. It may be nice to know how it happens, but this knowledge is otherwise insignificant. The fact is that immaterial — i.e. nothing — is becoming material — something.
Newly developed theories, called string theory or membrane theory, may teach us about deeper and deeper levels of nothingness that we and everything around us is built from – what we see as reality.
Here again we can use quantum mechanics theory. According to the most accepted interpretation of this theory, the atom exists only when we are conscious of it, when we try to measure it. What we call “something,” what we call “matter,” what we call “reality” exists only in our consciousness. In our mind.
But wait! Isn’t the brain built out of these very same atoms that are the product of random evolution of energy? Energy that formed atoms, which randomly joined together to form amino acids, and those amino acids joined together to form living cells, and then the cell randomly joined together to form organs, and then organs joined randomly together to sustain the brain — a random product of a long evolutionary chain of nothingness becoming an apparatus of self-awareness that is necessary for the existence of matter itself.
Oh man, anyone believing this must be a man of faith. No! Of unlimited faith.
Somehow, however, many of the people searching to understand the mechanisms of Creation declare themselves to be atheists. Like for example David Deutsh, British physicist born in Tel Aviv. He is himself an adherent of Everett’s multiverse theory, which is another one of the interpretations of quantum mechanics theory. Asked how matter can exist only as a result of activity of our minds, he simply called it a paradox.
Many times in my life I’ve told people that I don’t believe that atheism exists. Their nonexistence doesn’t have anything to do with our existence in general, as it is described above. I simply don’t think that they are nonbelievers. Thy use all kind of equilibristic logic figures to push the Creator away from their consciousness and conscience. I will not explain now why I think it happened to them, but the fact is that if a person doesn’t see order and design in this universe, he is still a believer. He has chosen to believe that G-d doesn’t exist. Well … he has free choice, guaranteed by G-d.
I chose to recognize that He gave me my existence and placed me and other like me in a three-dimensional reality where I can exercise my bechirah — free choice — a characteristic that in His infinite love, the Holy One blessed is His Name decided to share with me and other creatures like me. Middah – the attribute of freedom can be gained only here in the possibly lowest level of spiritual existence called “the universe.”
To construct an exercise field for our free choice, the Giver of existence withdrew, according to the words of Chazal (Sages), and constructed the universe from nothing.
I will emphasize it one more time: If the emptiness of the atom is not “nothing” enough, then mass-less particles of energy that form the atom are more “nothing” in its nothingness. But according to the words of Chazal, even the energy that serves as the building blocks of matter comes as an end product of many levels of withdrawing on the part of the Divine far away, to give a “space” for us and the universe but to be close enough to be involved in matters that are the crown of His creation — human beings — bnei adom.
In our universe, the Creator gave us seven categories of bechirah (choice), which by consciously choosing according to His will we recognize Him as our Maker and we can free ourselves from the bond of the materialistic, and ultimately matter itself.
To achieve this high goal, HaKadosh Baruch Hu chose spiritual leaders of humanity, who, by their humble example, model for the rest of mankind total devotion and submission to the will of the Creator. For this, the Jewish family was equipped with the Torah and 613 commandments, as well as with spiritual attributes and talents. These attributes and talents are supposed to serve for one and only one reason — serving as mankind’s priests — i.e. spiritual leaders — to bring the light of recognition of the Creator back to humanity. The details of this work and its applications and implications are described in the vast ocean of the writings of our Sages of blessed memory.

Look back for conclusion of my essays on Higgs boson on coming Sunday, before Scientist from CERN will tell us that "standard model" felled apart :).

Matys Weiser

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Higgs boson 2

I hope that last week I was able to roughly explain not only the history of the discovery of the atom, but also its basic structure. I’m aware that all this knowledge cannot be comprehensively described in a short essay, so if you are interested in this science of matter, I encourage you to do further research on this topic. Meanwhile, as promised, I will continue to explain the significance of the search for the Higgs boson.
Within the last hundred or so years we learned about the atom and it subatomic components. We accepted the so-called “standard model” of the particle as the description of the building blocks of the universe and experiments confirmed the existence of these subatomic particles. All of them with one exception — the Higgs boson.
That standard model does not explain that which is postulated by the Big Bang theory, that equal amounts of antimatter where electrons are loaded positively and the nucleus negatively. Statistically there is supposed to be the same amount of antimatter as matter (what everything and everyone is made from) in the universe. But the reaction of the matter and antimatter would leave nothing but energy. The question is how the energy that precedes the formation of matter, and is the “material” that matter is built from, reacts “peacefully” as the cosmic fusion became matter. Soon after the subatomic particles of energy form the atom, they should collide with the particles of antimatter that are located just next to them and annihilate each other, becoming … subatomic particles of energy.
It doesn’t happen. Miraculously, the matter and antimatter are separated and, thank G-d, antimatter doesn’t exist anywhere next to us, in our corner of galaxy. This is not the case with one of the major components of atoms of antimatter, a positively loaded electron called positron. Positron is produced commercially and is used widely in, for example, PET scanners. In other words, it exists in actuality, not only in theory.
The other issue the standard model, as we understand it today, does not explain is the postulated existence of so-called “dark matter” — matter that is invisible to our instruments and that is keeping galaxies together from within, by the force of its strong gravity.
Before I explain where the Higgs boson fits in here, I want to explain that the atom has mass. The attribute of mass causes the atoms to form solid matter, which is then manifested in four forms: solid, liquid, gas, and plasma, or as it was described in ancient times: earth, water, air, and fire. Some of the atom’s sub-particle components have measurable mass as well.
However, here comes the big surprise: These components themselves are particles of pure energy, and the questions that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is supposed to address are: What gives these particles of energy their mass? What is giving mass to the atom? What cause matter and everything in which matter is manifested to exist?
To be clear, we are not talking here about Aristotelian “first cause,” but only about the physical reasons for matter to perform as it does.

So what does the Higgs boson have to do with atoms and matter? In 1964, leading physicists, among them Peter Higgs, postulated the existence of the power that gives the atom its mass. Regardless of the fact that several of the scientists were working toward this independently at the same time, the energy or power was called the “Higgs mechanism” or “Higgs field” (though they are not the same thing).
In the following years of Higgs’s discovery, there were further discoveries of other subatomic particles, as described briefly above. The scientists postulated the existence of a separate sub-particle and called it the “Higgs boson.” The Higgs boson is supposed to be a particle that slows down, catches or causes somehow in a different way, the other particles to have mass, thereby giving mass to atoms, and matter in general.
I hope what I wrote above is clear enough so that you can understand the importance of finding the Higgs boson. Some people even claim that it can somehow prove the existence or nonexistence of the Creator. They call this particle “G-d’s particle.” Using that term is confusing and is used to give by the media to make the hunt for Higgs boson dramatic to the general public.
In one of my opening posts I wrote that if there is a question about existence it is our existence. In this and my following essays, I will explain a lit bit more about what I meant by my words.
Soon after the first experiments in CERN’s laboratory, some of the scientists expressed the opinion that perhaps the Higgs boson doesn’t exist at all. This is not something new. Stephen Hawking, a famous physicist, bet $100 on the nonexistence of the Higgs boson. I’m not sure if he expressed disbelief in the particle itself or also in the Higgs field or Higgs mechanism. Without a doubt, in the standard model there must be 'something' that gives matter its mass. It’s postulated that this 'something' is the Higgs boson, also called “G-d’s particle.” Recently, especially after the first experiments by LHC, some of the authorities who believed previously in the existence of the Higgs boson have said that perhaps the boson itself doesn’t exist and maybe there is more than one particle causing other subatomic particles to gain mass as they join together to form the atom. Check back here next few days for more on this.

Matys Weiser

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Higgs Boson 1

Two weeks ago, the whole world held its breath. Humanity awaited in astonishment for the outcome. No, we are not talking about Hurricane Irene, which was destroying the East Coast. We are talking India, the country where a quarter of the world population lives. In one of their biggest cities, Mumbai, they hosted the Lepton-Photon 2011 conference of leading physicists, including those working on the CERN project in Switzerland, working in the field of particle physics.
Just a month before, the same scientists convened in the European city of Grenoble to discuss similar issues. But now they have double the amount of data coming from the CERN laboratory and its LHC (Large Hadron Collider), the most expensive and perhaps the biggest machine build by humanity.
Of course I was being sarcastic in saying that all of humanity was waiting for some news coming from the conference. Unfortunately, most of humanity is busy hunting for food and entertainment and don’t even know about this big machine and round tunnel that is located under the Alps. However a number of readers have some understanding of what we are waiting for. It is necessary, however, to articulate that this understanding cannot come from sketchy articles in daily newspapers or popular magazines. For a while the popular media were frightening people with stories of antimatter being produced that would be capable of destroying the universe, or at least part of it. That’s simply foolish.
To understand the major aspects of what those scientists are convening about requires more than following popular media.
To make long story short, in 1905 Albert Einstein was experimenting with Polon (a chemical element discovered not long before by Marie Curie Sklodowska) on the surface of water and he made mathematical calculations proving the century-old atomic theory of John Dalton’s. Einstein proved the existence of an atom — from the Greek word “atomos – indivisible.” The atom was the smallest particle according to his and his contemporaries’ understanding; atoms were the building block of matter and the universe.
Only six years later it was discovered by New Zealand–born, British chemist and physicist Ernest Rutherford that the atom is built out of electrically negative electrons orbiting a positively loaded nucleus. Six more years and the same Rutherford, who by the way was the son of a farmer, was the first to experiment with atomic fusion and discovered that the nucleus is a combination of a positively loaded proton and electrically neutral neutrons.
We have to mention the name of one of the great scientists in theoretical physics of that century, and perhaps ever, the Danish Niles Bohr. In 1913, Bohr confirmed Rutherford’s discovery that the electron is orbiting the nucleus, but his greatest breakthrough was that of Quantum Theory or Quantum Mechanics — a mathematically proven description of the atom as a particle that exists only when we measure it, i.e. it depends on the conscious observer. I’m simplifying the whole theory here, and for sure I will not go to the various interpretations of this theory. I will limit myself to the most accepted Copenhagen Interpretation of it, which I will explain later, im yirtzeh Hashem.
For the next half century, mankind was busy determining how to use the new discoveries to annihilate their fellow human beings. But along the way, the structure and nature of the atom was understood more and more.
In 1964, two scientists, Gellman and Zweig, independently proposed the existence of quarks — the building components of the proton and neutron, which had recently been renamed hadrons.
Since then, the atom was divided even further and today we recognize whole families of subatomic particles. The picture below will give some idea of what are we talking about.
The picture was taken from here:http://profmattstrassler.com/ and this is right place if you like to learn more about particles.

Along with the discoveries of the structure of the atom, we also came to understand most of the mechanisms ruling within the atom and, on a higher level, matter itself.
Among the recognized subparticles of the atom there are gluons, which are responsible for atom’s quarks sticking together against the other laws of physics. Quarks are building blocks of positively charged protons and all the elements besides the hydrogen are built from more than one proton. Gluon creates a strong nuclear force to hold them together. It belongs to the family of subparticles called “bosons,” which are cousins of fermions. Fermions are the subparticles that can be described as the building material of the atom, while the bosons are the particles giving the atom its feature or keeping everything together. If the fermions and bosons are cousins, then the Higgs boson is closer to the family of gluons.
We want to describe what the function is of the Higgs boson within the atom and if it exists at all; we will spend some time on it. But before we do this, first you should know that all of the particles described above and on the picture have been proven to exist. This isn’t the case with the Higgs boson and that’s what we are waiting to hear from the final statement of the scientists gathered in Mumbai. It is also important to say that the Higgs boson is perhaps the most important part of the atom, because it gives the atom its mass —without it our senses wouldn’t experience the matter as the solid entity it is — possible to touch, be walked on, or being building blocks of who we are, or rather the vessels for who we really are. More to come.

Matys Weiser

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Elul – Hashem’s Trap for His People

Traveling in time is something many people dream of. Can it really be done? Is it possible? What is the nature of time?
We are all placed in a three-dimensional reality, where each of the three dimensions cross each other in a central point. The Maharal from Prague describes this in a different language. He talks about six directions rather than three dimensions. The central point in his thinking is an additional and separate reality — the most important seventh measurement from where our world and our perception of it starts.
Our world is located in this seventh point, with each one of us the center of our own universe. Naturally, the number seven became special in this vision of the reality, the number seven became a holy number.
According to Chazal, just as physical reality is creation, time is a creation. Just as the physical world has outer reality, so does time. In higher reality, time does not exist. It was given to us as one of the elements that are necessary in order for us to exercise our freedom of choice, our bechirah.
We can travel in the physical world in all directions, being limited only by the laws of physics. With time, the story is entirely different. There are three components of time defined by man — past, present, and future. We can travel back in time with our mind, but not with our body. We can travel to the future with our body, as the present is always moving in that direction, but our mind is much more limited in traveling to the future. Presence — we are always there.
As our presence moves on, forward, we frequently come to the same point of time, as it was described by the great chachamim. Our movement in time resembles a spiral or coil, where we come to the same places of time, called by different names in the Jewish calendar. In other words, the nature of time is circular, not straight, coming again and again to the same stations on the “road.”
This past week the “train” of our presence approached the part of the road known to us as Chodesh Elul — the month of Elul. Elul is a month of preparation for the great day of Teriah, of shofar-blowing, on the first days of Tishrei and then on Yom Hakippurim — the Day of Atonement.
On these days, even the fish in Hudson River shake in awe of the Creator, and every Jew  prepares for the days of great cheshbon hanefesh, where our sins will be counted, even if we don’t like for them to be counted. How our next year turns out, what awaits us in this part of time between this Rosh HaShanah and the next one, will be result of these calculations.
But didn’t we say than time is just one of the creations, and if it is then certainly the Creator of it is above all of it? Doesn’t He know already, billions of Rosh HaShanahs (if there would be so many) before, what will we do and how we will ask for atonement for our sins? Indeed, He knows and yet it is entirely our free will to do His will or, chas v’chalila, not to do it. It is our own cheshbon hanefesh that causes us to ask for forgiveness and promise to ourselves and our Creator that next year we will be better.
What then is Hashem counting? Nothing. He has it all calculated for us. The part of the road called “Elul” and the stations of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur were created for us like everything else, and not for Him.
Last week we were reading three psukim of Torah where all the “cards” were placed on the “table.” We were told what is expected from us, what is good for us, and which direction we should chose.
“Now, O Yisroel, what does Hashem, your G-d, ask of you? Only to fear Hashem.”
See Him, be aware of Him, have Him in your conscience and be in awe of Him always. Be aware of Him whatever you do and wherever you are, in all you activities, at all times “go in all His ways, and love Him with all your heart and all your soul.” Whatever and wherever you do anything do it “observing His commandments and decrees for your benefit.” “Your benefit, not Mine,” says Hashem. “You harm yourself or your fellow Jews by not observing what I told you. You are proving your own stupidity by disobedience and it bring no essential harm to Me; what I am telling you is only for your own benefit.” He is above Heaven and Heaven of Heavens, continues the pasuk. It is we who are in the center of this creation and all of this was created only for us from His Love. How can we forget this? How can we?
Well we do. And that’s why we need the remainders. To pull us out of the rut of ruach hashtus — the spirit of stupidity. To give us another opportunity to come back to a higher awareness of our Creator. This what Elul does for us, as well as the other special times.
For those who don’t know, my main profession is guiding people in special places. A tour guide. Places special for their history or beauty.
A few weeks ago, among the other phone calls I got, was one to remember.
The person asked me if I still had open time this summer. I answered that I had time in Chodesh Elul. The person yelled at me: “You want me to go for vacation in Elul??? No way!”
I started to explain that going with me those few days might be excellent preparation for achieving a higher awareness of Hashem, but the person on the line only mumbled something and hung up the phone. I was puzzled for only a few seconds.
I know what “vacation” means for many of our people. As I said once to a group of young men in my opening speech on one such tour: “Leave the Boro Park, Flatbush, Monsey shtick where it came from. Please don’t forget who are you and Who you are serving.” Unfortunately, so many people go out on vacation, or into life, and leave their personal Shulchan Aruch on the bookshelf at home, or at least some parts of it.

There is chassidishe maaseh — a chassidic tale that the Rebbe, perhaps the Baal Shem Tov himself, told his chassidim (followers) so that they should learn from the smugglers.
How can a pious person learn from the smuggler?
The story goes like this:
A smuggler wanted to smuggle diamonds through the granitz, the border. He hired a  balagala (wagon driver) and filled his wagon with the hay. Somewhere in the middle of the pile of hay he placed the small sack filled with his contraband. From the very beginning of the trip toward the border he was consumed with hesitation, almost panic.
What will happen with me if the border officers will find my smuggling? They will put me in jail, and maybe torture me — or even worse …
His heart was beating like crazy; he was sweating and shaking, trying hard as he could to make his anxiety unnoticeable to anybody.
The balagala knew about the smuggler’s business, but he seemed to be not worried at all … for a while at least. He calculated that since he was not the owner of the contraband, he would have nothing to be concerned about. But the closer they drove to the granitz, even his heart began to beat faster and faster.
What if the authorities will consider me a shuteff (partner) in this shady business? In fact, since I know about what’s going on, maybe I’m indeed a partner and they will have all legal rights to put me into jail or even torture me
Such thoughts continued to cross his mind and he had to hold himself together as they got closer and closer.
But what about the horses pulling the wagon? The horses didn’t hesitate; they were not frightened about the issue of contraband and jail and possible torture. The horses pulled with their heads down and eyes protected from viewing what was to the sides.
We learn from the smuggler, tells the story, to be concerned all the time — all year long — about what we might be doing wrong. Balagalas worry only before they get to the granitz — the border, but horses crossing the border without even noticing that anything is wrong.
Fools! The same Creator is here and there! The same Creator is watching me and you in Kislev and Elul! The same Creator is asking me and you to have Him in our conscience always and everywhere and in whatever we do.
If we can stay in touch with this in Elul, we can do it in this one month, then we can do it in the rest of the year as well. Let’s try to keep it up!

Matys Weiser