Electrons or ELECTRON? Physicists John Wheeler and Richard Feynman had an unorthodox perspective. The latter holds that there is actually only ONE electron in the entire universe, bouncing back and forth between the big bang event and the contraction/decay/end of the universe. That the 10^80 electrons we see at any given point in time are just that same electron coming back over and over again. One electron whizzing between every atom, every molecule, immune to the effects of space and time…
The one-electron universe postulate, proposed by John Wheeler in a telephone call to Richard Feynman hypothesizes that all electrons and positrons are actually manifestations of a single entity moving backwards and forwards in time:
“I received a telephone call one day at the graduate college at Princeton from Professor Wheeler, in which he said, “Feynman, I know why all electrons have the same charge and the same mass” “Why?” “ Because, they are all the same electron!” – Richard Feynman
It was Quantum Entanglement that led Wheeler to propose that the “Positron” was actually just an electron going back in time and today it is now widely accepted as fact in the scientific community. Feynman later proposed this interpretation of the positron as an electron moving backward in time in his 1949 paper “The Theory of Positrons” at Harvard (found here).
The idea is based on the world lines traced out across spacetime by every electron. Rather than have myriad such lines, Wheeler suggested that they could all be parts of one single line like a huge tangled knot, traced out by the one electron. Any given moment in time is represented by a slice across spacetime (meeting the knotted line a great many times). At those points, half the lines will be directed forward in time and half will have looped round and be directed backwards. Wheeler suggested that these backwards sections appeared as the antiparticle to the electron, the positron.
So for many wondering, the question here is… what were Feynman and Wheeler smoking?!!! As mystical as this concept appears to be, there are well-established scientific concepts that lead to them supporting such an idea:
THE “BIG ELECTRON” HYPOTHESIS IN A NUTSHELL
Quanta are not, as Einstein said, “spooky action at a distance”, they do not exist within space and time, they do not occupy 3-dimensional positions. In fact, time and space are created by the interactions of quanta, specifically, “Quantum Entanglement”. This phenomena has been described by our equations and has been confirmed experimentally . In fact, in an entangled universe, time itself may be just an illusion. Although, this brings us to another important question… what does it mean if all particles are entangled? What does it mean for electrons to transcend space and time?
Imagine an incredibly fast time travelling particle during the very early stages in the life of the universe travelling so far forward in time that it hit a “wall” (the end of the expansion of the Universe, where it could no longer “move” entropically) and rebounded back in time to hit the big bang event where it was shot forward in time again. Doing this so quickly over and over again creates clones of that same electron, making it appear as though there were trillions of them all in different places at once.
Let’s try a thought-experiment:
If on Monday you travelled back in time to Sunday, came home, then repeated the process later for every day of the week (Mon, Tue, Wed, etc.) then you would end up with 5 copies of yourself on that same Sunday!!! Now imagine an electron doing this trillions of times with “Sunday” being the current epoch of our universe!
This concept isn’t science fiction, as mentioned earlier, we have a name for an electron going backwards in time, the positron. If that term sounds familiar it’s because we also use it to refer to an anti-electron, the antimatter analog which annihilates with the electron upon contact. One might suppose it would be akin to particle version of the time-traveler’s “grandfather paradox” so to speak (an electron paradoxically occupying the same space as it’s past self).
Theoretical Physicist Yoichiro Nambu later applied it to all production and annihilation of particle-antiparticle pairs this paper, stating that “the eventual creation and annihilation of pairs that may occur now and then is no creation or annihilation, but only a CHANGE IN DIRECTION of moving particles, from past to future, or from future to past.
This also may as well be the reason any given electron cannot be trapped by any amount of energy exerted, or why we can’t know both an electron’s momentum and position at the same time (The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle). To understand why Wheeler thought of electrons this way we will need to revisite their properties for a closer examination of the argument, and perhaps even a philosophical redefinition of the human condition…
THE ONE ELECTRON UNIVERSE
Quanta are not “objects” as one might conceptualize. Electrons possess wave-particle duality, meaning that they can behave both as a particle or a wave depending on how they interact. A more accurate way of conceptualizing quanta would be to think of the wave state as a field of probability, which we record as an interference pattern, and the particle state is that same probability collapsed to a single point of interaction.
General relativity holds that space and time are one, but when it comes to connecting general relativity to quantum mechanics, theorists and cosmologists have been thrown off. Although they know that the origin of the universe, the singularity, is a timeless state of space… except they don’t fully recognize the implications of what this means:
We can’t say that “the singularity exists before the big bang”, that would be putting the timeless inside “time”, a contradiction. In fact, the timeless has no temporal relationships, it cannot be before or after anything. General relativity tells us that time and space are a fabric, this is not just a theory, satellites even have to account for latency and sources of time caused by speed, otherwise their readings would be off by several miles. Because time and space are one fabric, that space cannot have time and that time can’t have space.
Quanta actually share several key characteristics with the big bang singularity, they both timeless and spaceless energy. If they are both timeless and spaceless, then they cannot be separated. The very concept of “seperation” exists in a time space continuum. If a testable experiment where ever devised defined for the electron and its relativity, one would expect time to cancel out as the electron a timeless particle (it dosnt “move”, it “jumps”, so to speak).
If quanta and the singularity are not seperate then they are actually one, and here we arrive at the crux of the matter. The singularity didn’t cease to exist in an explosion billions of years ago, quanta ARE the singularity interacting with itself. Everything is one, literally. THIS is quantum relativity.
You might ask, what about gravity? General relativity tells us that gravity is a geometric property of space and time, but experimental evidence shows that space and time are byproducts of quantum entanglement. Scientists have recently discovered that certain geometric models can be used to dramatically simplify calculations of quantum interactions and quantum entanglement. So its not a massive leap to consider that the geometry that creates gravity is actually a characteristic of quantum probability fields. In fact some researchers are actually exploring this very possibility.
Quantum entanglement circumvents limitations on the speed that information can be transmitted. Interactions between entangled particles happen instantaneously regardless of the distance between them. This might suggest, topologically speaking, that there is no space between the two. Is time the perception of an illusion produced by the observer? Is space is just as illusory as time?
The only way it would be possible for an electron to be both ‘here’ and ‘there’ at the same time is if, as Einstein liked to say, the separation between past, present, and future is an illusion. If there is an underlying fabric where everything happens simultaneously, then that single electron could be like the threads in my shirt, weaving back and forth to create the fabric. Of course, there are still many significant problems with this worldview…
CRITICISM AND CONTROVERSY
1) The Missing Antimatter – Wheeler’s Universe would imply that there are an equal number of positrons as electrons – but there AREN’T! Many more electrons have been observed than positrons, and electrons are thought to comfortably outnumber them.
The Answer? According to Feynman he raised this issue with Wheeler, who speculated here that the missing positrons might be hidden within protons (via “Positron Capture”).
2) Stacking – So if there’s just one electron endlessly looping in time, wouldn’t that mean that each incarnation of the universe would be one electron larger than the previous? Wouldn’t the universe eventually thus overload with electrons travelling back in time?
3) Other properties of the electron – Electrons are also subject to decay. Wouldn’t the parade of reincarnated universes be getting both larger and less stable?
THE TRANSCENDENCE OF DETERMINISM
So what does this mean for us??? How does all of this relate to us in this human experience? We still have to deal with this real world, its time, thoughts, bills, wars, and petty tyrants right? Well, this rabbit hole actually goes much much deeper, but if you want to take something home at this level, start here:
There is now a way of viewing and understanding reality in a way which is outside of time and space, where everything happens simultaneously, where all possible outcomes exist as potential.
It doesn’t have to be this way, choose something different. Find that millimeter of free will within and expand it. As you do you will start to realize that reality is a creative process, not a mechanical linear progression. God is the electron, the electron is you, you are everybody else. You are the quantum singularity interacting with itself. The more we wake up to that, the wider the possibilities become…
For fun: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvz9uSK3zXo