Our physics color commentator Rob Sheldon offers some thoughts on the “fields vs particles” debate:
In his autobiography, John Archibald Wheeler (1911–2008) comments that his career can be divided into 3 stages of roughly 20 years each. In the first stage when he was solving nuclear reactor problems, he said “Everything is particles”. In the second stage, when he was resurrecting general relativity for cosmology, he said “Everything is waves”. And in his last phase of life, when he was exploring the foundations of quantum mechanics, he said “Everything is information”.
So it is curious that the author of this Aeon article has frozen Wheeler at his second stage, neglecting to mention his final conclusion. This would suggest that the 3-way debate is really a 4-way debate. But why would a CalTech prof not know the fourth position? Could it be that there is yet another “meta-physical” assumption at stake, one that involves design?
See also: At Aeon: To understand fundamental building blocks of nature, one must think beyond physics In a debate with four other philosophers of physics, Sebens argued that there are no particles, everything is fields.
Max Planck on the force behind the universe. A friend now writes to remind us that physics great Max Planck had quite immaterial views on the nature of the universe.