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Matter, Antimatter, Photons and Time
Everyone over the age of six knows that time moves in only one direction. Yesterday came before today, and today comes before tomorrow. But in the quantum world time zigzags back and forth in a shimmering dance as matter, antimatter and photons interact with each other. When a photon (light particle) encounters a vacuum, it discharges itself into an electron (matter), and a positron (antimatter) converting its energy into mass. Rather than be completely destroyed, the photon moves backward in time to give the electron and positron “space” to collide, annihilating each other with the ensuing energy discharging the photon that started the dance.
There is an exception to the matter/antimatter cycle of destruction that involves a singularity (black hole). If the photon is converted into mass along the gravitational vortex of a singularity, the matter and antimatter are not able to collide because one will be drawn into the gravitational field of the black hole while the other will race off in the opposite direction. Fifteen thousand million years ago, the universe was one giant singularity. When light surrounded the singularity, mass and radiation was created that began spreading out in all directions beginning the expanding, cooling universe we know today. That expansion is what started the clock moving forward. As long as the universe is expanding, time moves away from yesterday and toward tomorrow. This moment of primordial light interacting with primordial darkness is what we know as the big bang. Genesis describes it this way, “God said: ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God separated the light from the darkness.”
Light particles (photons) are able to do this because of two basic properties of the photon. First, every particle in the universe has an antiparticle seeking to destroy it except for one, the photon. Photons are their own antiparticle so they are never destroyed in matter – antimatter collisions. Second, from a photon’s perspective, there is no such thing as time.
We turn our radio telescopes to the sky and watch photons in the cosmic background radiation pass by the Earth. It is easy for us to imagine those photons traveling for 15 thousand million years from the big bang itself. But the photon “sees” the big bang, the current state of the universe, and the chilling end of the universe in the same instant. To a photon, all times are “now”. The result is that everything in the universe: past, present, and future, is connected to everything else by a web of electromagnetic radiation that “sees” everything at once. No wonder Saint John wrote, “God is light. In him is no darkness at all.”
Once again, we come back to the basic quantum understanding of God, which is the incarnate understanding of God, that Creator and Creation are one. God is the energy that permeates the universe and empowers its existence. This is a giant leap of courage for the lifelong believer to give up their Sunday school understanding of God who is “out there somewhere watching” to one in which God’s glory is not just seen in the world, but is “all and in all”. It is also a giant leap of courage for those who have decided that science has made God irrelevant to recognize that science and the universe make no sense without God for “in God we live and move and have our being.”