Monday, 25 May 2015 22:21

Where did energy and matter come from

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This paper was originally written to help someone grasp basic science; later, I reformulated it and used it to ask philosophical questions. Help me to answer those questions. You can send your answers to me or simply publish them.


Ozodi Osuji

Science tells us that matter exists in three forms: solid, liquid and gas.  Let us see if that is true. Get a solid (rock, wood, human body etc.).  Any solid can be melted when heated. Each solid requires a certain level of temperature to melt it. You are not likely to generate the level of temperature needed to melt a rock, so let us work with a solid that you can melt in your house, wood.

Place a log of wood into fire and burn it. Watch what happens. The log of wood burns and is transformed to gases (you see the smoke leaving the fire; smoke is gas). If you were to capture that smoke (say, by placing a container over the fire and connecting the container with a tube to a bottle) you could separate it into the various elements that compose it, such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen and traces of other elements).

Immerse the bottle in a bucket filled with cold water and the gases in the bottle would cool into liquid.  So what have we accomplished?  We have transformed matter in solid state to gas and then to liquid.

Energy/matter can be transformed from one state to another but cannot be destroyed (this is the first law of thermodynamics, the conservation of energy).

Albert Einstein’s famous equation is E=Mc2.

What this means is that energy and matter are the same thing in two different states; specifically, if you multiple energy with the speed of light...186, 000 miles per second...and square it you get matter. This means that matter can be transformed to energy and energy can be transformed to matter.

Energy has different forms, specifically heat, motion (mechanics), light, electricity and sound. Let us revisit the log of wood that you burned. The act of burning the wood generates heat. Touch that hot wood and see how it feels on your hand, hot! That hot sensation is heat energy.

Now place a kettle filled with water on the burning fire (heat). Momentarily, the water boils (water has boiling point and cooling point; find those out). If the kettle is covered and the water boils it would generate pressure on the cover of the kettle. The heat and pressure would force the kettle’s cap to separate from the kettle (fly away).

What has happened?  Heat has generated motion (mechanics) in the boiling water. That is, heat has transformed itself to motion.  We have converted heat energy to motion/mechanical energy.

Simple idea,  eh? Can you put this simple idea to work, for energy is used to work.  Have you heard of James Watt, the guy who discovered the steam engine? He was boiling water and noticed that the heat and pressure blew away the lid over the kettle.  He figured that heat generates motion. Heat makes things move. Suppose he could heat wood/water and use it to push wheels could they move? He tried it and, viola, the wheels moved. Hitherto, people used their muscle power to move bodies on wheels but Watt used heat energy to move wheels. He made life a lot easier for mankind that was in the past condemned to pushing wheels to move them and in the process exhausted their muscles and died young.

Watt made the train to move (locomotion) by boiling water with wood or coal in a spot in the train’s engine room and the steam the heat generated made the wheels of the train to turn, move.  Cool, eh?

Simple ideas can be put to good use if you are the thoughtful type. James Watt’s steam engine was used to drive trains and ships (steam ships, called steamers that moved people across the oceans and reduced the time it took to travel from Europe to North America).

James Watts’s discovery did not just end with trains and ships. What exactly do you think is happening when you are driving your car?  Let us see.

You put petrol into your car. Petrol is the energy of the sun that was captured in plants, woods and decayed into liquids (over millions of years).

Petrol is energy in liquid form (kind of like water to be boiled). You turn your car’s ignition key and the key turns the spark plugs and those get the engine of the car cooking the petrol in your car (this is called internal combustion). The petrol begins to boil. As it boils it generates heat. That heat is transformed into pressure and the pressure makes the pistons of the car to rotate and that makes the wheels move.  In effect, when you are driving your car you are boiling a liquid which generates heat and heat generates motion and that makes your car move.

What we have demonstrated so far is that heat energy has been transformed to mechanical energy (that which moves). We have shown that energy can be transformed from one form to another.

When your car is moving it generates light and electricity (you use those to light your car). When you burn wood you see fire. What is fire?  Fire is heat and light.  That is, heat is transformed not only to motion but to light.

Fire is composed of photons and electrons. If you were to examine the fire from your burning wood (or boiling water or petrol) you would see that it contains photons and electrons.

What is electricity?  Electricity is derived from flowing electrons. Thus, we have shown that heat becomes motion, light and electricity.

When you are burning a piece of wood don’t you hear some whizzing sound? When you are driving a car don’t you hear some sound?  That is to say that heat has been transformed to motion, light, electricity and sound.

What exactly is sound? Sound is composed of electrons in motion (sound travels at 750 miles per hour).

So, what have we said so far?  We have said that energy can be transformed from one state to another (heat, motion, light, electricity and sound).

All you need to do is perform the experiment we performed and viola you prove to your satisfaction that energy can be transformed from one form to another. The scientific method requires us to perform experiments and if we do so we obtain certain predictable results.

The first law of thermodynamics is called the conservation of energy; it states that energy is not created or destroyed in physical reactions but can be transformed from one form to another; the total quantity of energy in a closed system remains the same.

The second law of thermodynamics states that when we transform energy to other forms some of it   is lost into the environment. When you boil water most of its steam, gas can be captured but some of it is lost into the environment.

The second law of thermodynamics, entropy, states that over time energy/matter is dissipated.  Consider the entire universe as an energy/matter system.

The stars, planets and people are made of energy/matter. Over time, say, trillions of years the stars would run down (stars are mostly hydrogen gas, with traces of helium and other elements, such as carbon, oxygen etc.).   As the universe expands it cools down, that is, loses heat. Stars would have less heat.

All the stars would in time become a mass of hydrogen (the universe is composed of 75% hydrogen and 24% helium; all the other elements in the universe constitute only one percent of the universe!).

The entire universe would be regressed to hydrogen atoms. Hydrogen in time would break up into its constituent particles, electrons and protons.  Those electrons would, in time, decay to photons. Ultimately, protons, the most long lasting particles (in less than ten minutes neutrons decay to protons and electrons if freed from the nucleus of atoms) would decay to quarks and those decay to photons.  In time the universe would be composed of only photons, radiation.

We know that the universe first manifested in heat and light. During the big bang that took place 13.7 billion years ago, something, what it is we do not know, came out of nowhere and became inordinately hot and exploded and generated light, photons.

In a fraction of a second, the photons combined into quarks; quarks combined to protons and neutrons. That light also transformed itself into electrons (electrons are light with minimal mass whereas light itself does not have mass...most of the mass of atoms is in the nucleus, not in the electrons).

Within three minutes after the big bang explosion protons and neutrons combined into the nuclei of simple elements (mostly hydrogen and helium).

400, 000 years after the big bang nuclei captured electrons and the first atoms were formed.  Those atoms, hydrogen and helium were in gaseous form. Thus, the nascent universe was plasma, that is, unattached nuclei, electrons and radiation; somehow, electrons became attached to nuclei and the universe became one continuous cloud of hydrogen and helium.

A few million years later, the cloud of hydrogen experienced asymmetry: space occurred and clumps of hydrogen separated from one another.

Gravity acted on each clump of hydrogen gas so that in its core ignition took place. Heat and pressure inside a cloud of hydrogen led to the fusion of two hydrogen atoms to helium atoms hence stars. The early stars were very massive in size.

The early massive stars burned off their hydrogen rather quickly and began fusing helium, and later other elements such as carbon and oxygen and when they got to iron they swelled up in size and exploded.  The intense heat during the explosion, supernova formed the other elements on Chemistry’s periodic table (hydrogen has chemical number of 1 for it contains only one proton, helium has chemical number 2 for it contains two go down the periodic table until you get to uranium with 92 protons in its nucleus... there are 92 naturally occurring elements but scientists have created another twenty or so elements for a total of 114; the artificial elements live for mere fractions of seconds and die).

When massive stars explode, they shower space with their newly minted elements; those elements eventually coalesce to form medium sized stars and planets; our planet, sun and its nine planets were formed from exploded massive stars.

The core of exploded massive stars collapse to either neutron stars (where all the elements are crushed to neutrons), or black holes (where nothing, not even light can escape from their event horizons.

There are all kinds of stars, including binary stars, red giants, brown dwarfs, white dwarfs, quasars, pulsars and so on (look up, in any text book on astronomy the various types of stars).

For our present purposes, the universe would eventually dissolve to cold radiation; the original universe came from hot radiation.

So, what exactly is it that emerged from nowhere and became hot, exploded and produced radiation (light) with which the universe is made of?

Physics says that its laws break down at the point of singularity where all matter and energy is reduced to the original something that led to the formation of the universe and that it does not know what that something is and cannot explain it.

So, where did energy and matter come from? Did the universe exist before and expanded and then contracted and collapsed and formed the big bang and this process repeats infinite times (re-bounce hypothesis)? Did the universe branch off from another pre-existing universe (M-Brane)?

Studies in quantum mechanics (the motion of particles, the microscopic world, as opposed to the motion of large objects, the macroscopic world) tell us that the instruments used to measure the behavior of particles appear to play a role in how particles behave.  For example, if you have one slit and shoot particles to it, all of the particles would go through that one hole.  If you have two or more slits and shoot the same particles at them somehow the same particles go through all the holes.

As it were, the particles seem to have consciousness and know that you want them to go through one or more than one hole and they do that for you.  So, do particles have consciousness?

What exactly do you think happens when you send your email? You type a letter. That letter is coded into an electron.  You send it to one receiver and it goes to him.  If you send that letter to billions (infinite) receiver email addresses the same electron into which you encoded it, as it were, divides itself into billions (or infinite) of electrons and go to all the addresses you want them to go to. Magic?

No one understands how quantum mechanics works but it works and we use it in our everyday life; we use it in radio, television, computers, internet, telephones and in just about everything else in our technological world!

Eugene Wigner, a Nobel Prize particle physicist says that ultimately there is consciousness that makes all things work as they do.  John Archibald Wheeler, another Nobel Prize particle physicist while not going as far as Wigner did is baffled by particles seeming ability  to behave as the observer want them to behave.

Are you in your living room?  If so look around and what do you see? You probably see walls, tables, chairs and other materials people have in their living rooms.

Let us concentrate on one item in your room, the table in front of you. That table is probably made from wood.

We know that wood is composed of a bunch of elements, especially carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen.   We know that those elements are composed of particles (protons, neutrons and electrons).

From quantum mechanics we know that particles are always moving, are in motion (hence quantum mechanics, the movement of particles).

The table in front of you is composed of particles.  Those particles are moving around.  So, how come you see the table as a solid object?

The entire universe of stars, planets, mountains, our bodies etc. are composed of particles in motion, so, how come we see them as seeming standstill objects?

Take another look at your table or wall or your body.  Many of the particles in your body a few minutes ago have since left your body and are now in other places.

In fact, the elements/particles in your body were at one point in the stars (not just our sun 93 million years away but stars that are several trillion miles away from you).

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Ozodi Osuji Ph.D

Ozodi Thomas Osuji is from Imo State, Nigeria. He obtained his PhD from UCLA. He taught at a couple of Universities and decided to go back to school and study psychology. Thereafter, he worked in the mental health field and was the Executive Director of two mental health agencies. He subsequently left the mental health environment with the goal of being less influenced by others perspectives, so as to be able to think for himself and synthesize Western, Asian and African perspectives on phenomena. Dr Osuji’s goal is to provide us with a unique perspective, one that is not strictly Western or African but a synthesis of both. Dr Osuji teaches, writes and consults on leadership, management, politics, psychology and religions. Dr Osuji is married and has three children; he lives at Anchorage, Alaska, USA.

He can be reached at: (907) 310-8176