We’re all familiar with the saying, “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” So, I have a similar problem with modern cosmology: which came first, fields or particles? After the Big Bang …
Well, the answer is sort of neither. There was a long evolutionary path from earlier organisms to creatures that laid eggs (like dinosaurs) and then to birds like the chicken.
In physics, once the first generation of particles appeared — electrons and quarks, for example — there must have been a field (or fields). In the Standard model of particles physics, the Higgs boson and Higgs field predate even those — so that the electron is imparted with mass (at between 10^−12 second and 10^−6 second after the Big Bang ).
From a practical standpoint, our visible universe always has had fields and particles. “Empty space” is not empty. That’s why I have trouble visualizing even the interaction of an electron and proton in a hydrogen atom. Charged particles have fields; fields interact with particles, as well as generate particles. Recursive interaction. Non-linear relations. Follow the math. In practice, descriptive models make adequate approximations.
All of which gets us back to energy, entropy (arrow of time), and chronology of the universe.
_ _ _
 Note that current processors in personal computers operate at gigahertz frequencies — a clock rate in the 10^9 range. So, regarding cosmic evolution, we talking about events occurring in far less time than even one clock cycle of your PC’s microprocessor chip!
One thought on “BB: Chicken or egg redux”
In this YouTube video of David Tong’s lecture “Quantum Fields: The Real Building Blocks of the Universe” 1 published on Feb 15, 2017, in The Royal Institution’s channel, he notes:
 According to our best theories of physics, the fundamental building blocks of matter are not particles, but continuous fluid-like substances known as ‘quantum fields’. David Tong explains what we know about these fields, and how they fit into our understanding of the Universe. Tong is a professor of theoretical physics at Cambridge University, specialising in quantum field theory.
Comments are closed.