Matter and little ghosts

An interesting citation from Robert B. Laughlin, A Different Universe, Chapter 4, Water, Ice, and Vapor, p. 42.

By the most important effect of phase organisation is to cause objects to exist. This point is subtle and easily overlooked, since we are accustomed to thinking about solidification in terms of packing of Newtonian spheres. Atoms are not Newtonian spheres, however, but ethereal quantum-mechanical entities lacking that most central of all properties of an object – an identifiable position. This is why attempts to describe free atoms in Newtonian terms always result in nonsense statements such as their being neither here nor there but simultaneously everywhere. It is aggregation into large objects that makes a Newtonian description of the atoms meaningful, not the reverse. One might compare this phenomenon with a yet-to-be-filmed Stephen Spilberg movie in which a huge number of little ghosts lock arms and, in doing so, become corporeal.


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