This is Essay XCVII of Mr. Stolyarov’s series, “A Rational Cosmology,” which seeks to present objective, absolute, rationally grounded views of terms such as universe, matter, volume, space, time, motion, sound, light, forces, fields, and even the higher-order concepts of life, consciousness, and volition. See the index of all the essays in “A Rational Cosmology” here.
Here, I shall refute the prevailing view among today’s physicists that spin rather than matter is the defining characteristic of a particle. Indeed, the primary attribute of any entity, including particles, is matter, measured by mass.
Eddie Wood on The Autonomist Forum, challenged my argument that all particles must have mass, instead putting forth the post-Classical scientists’ view of “spin” as the defining characteristic of particles. He wrote:
“Your argument rests on insisting on a certain definition of ‘particle’ which is not very informative. You insist that a particle (or any entity) must have mass and if it doesn’t have mass then it is not a particle (or entity). Yet if you look at the fundamental particles, you will see that the common characteristic they all have is spin, not mass. The photon just happens to be the only known elementary particle that doesn’t have mass.”
Again, the modern physicists have committed a philosophical error: the reversal of primaries and derivatives. In reality, entities are primary to relationships, and relationships are defined in terms of entities. However, under the post-Classical definition, a relationship, “spin,” is wrongly considered primary to entities, and entities are defined in terms of it.
Spin cannot be a fundamental characteristic of particles, because “spin” implies that, which is spinning. Nothing can spin without a constituent quality that enables it to spin. Spinning is a relationship, and all relationships require certain qualities to make them possible. In the case of spin, such a quality is matter, of which mass is an index. Nothing can spin without being massive, i.e., without being composed of anything whatsoever.
The idea that “spin,” rather than mass, is a fundamental constituent of particles, is an example of the same fallacy Ayn Rand thoroughly debunked in Atlas Shrugged: the idea that the fundamental “elements” of the world are “change,” “motion,” and “action.”
Rand brilliantly showed that one cannot have change without that which is changing, motion without that which moves, action without that which acts. Entities are primary to relationships, and relationships can only happen by virtue of qualities. Spin is a change of position, i.e., a change of an entity’s three spatial qualities. An entity can and must have the three spatial qualities (dimensions) by virtue of its volume. It can only have volume if it has mass; a mass-less entity with volume would just be some arbitrarily delineated region of empty space (or “space-as-absence”).
In further clarification of his position, Mr. Wood wrote: “When I say that light has a spin, or any elementary particle has a spin for that matter, it really means that light has an intrinsic angular momentum.”
Yet angular momentum is a mathematical expression of a relationship which depends on mass to exist. The angular momentum, L, of a rotating object is defined as L= m*v*r. Angular momentum is a simply a relationship equal to the product of an entity’s velocity, its “moment arm” (or perpendicular distance from the point around which it rotates), and its mass. Any entity that has zero mass would have its angular momentum equal to 0*v*r, which is, of course, zero. If light does not have mass, it cannot have angular momentum, so — even by that definition — it cannot be a particle.
Of course, defining particles in terms of angular momentum is again a reversal of essentials. Matter is primary to angular momentum; angular momentum cannot be a relationship of immaterial entities. Matter should thus be the defining characteristic of all entities.
Read other parts of “A Rational Cosmology” by clicking here.