theory of stuff

plasma lamp

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Matter is said to have various forms–solid, fluid, gas, plasma, etc.

Energy is also said to have various forms–kinetic, potential, thermal, gravitational, sound, elastic, electromagnetic, etc.

Energy and matter are transformable from one to the other, as when wood burns or nuclear weapons explode. The amount of energy (e) in a piece of matter is equal to the mass (m) of the matter times the speed of light squared (c2),  giving the famous formula e=mc2.

According to the theory of stuff, energy and matter are two different forms of stuff. Stuff may have other forms such as dark matter or dark energy (technically called strange stuff), but we aren’t really sure yet. The important thing is that energy and matter are two forms of the same stuff. What stuff is, in and of itself, is not known. We may know in the future, but we don’t know now. All we know now is that matter and energy are two forms of stuff which can be converted back and  forth. If any of our matter/energy is changing into other kinds of stuff, other kinds of stuff may be changing into our familiar stuff in exchange, without us ever suspecting a thing.

As far as we can tell, the total quantity of matter/energy stuff  in our universe is constant, but this may be a peculiarity of our perspective– our spatially, temporally, and constitutionally limited and local observation. Everything is “wiggling and giggling” so much it’s hard to get a clear fix on things. For all we know, our whole universe is blinking in and out of existence and alternating with any number of other universes. This is the alternating multiverse (AM), as opposed to the direct multiverse (DM), theory. As in the case of alternating and direct current (AC and DC), both AM and DM may coexist[1].

There are many forms of stuff and many, many ways that stuff may interact with other stuff. It is unlikely we will ever know the half of it. It is perfectly reasonable for Shakespeare to say “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy .” (Hamlet Act 1. Scene V). However, all forms of stuff, all properties and behaviors of stuff, and all interactions of stuff with other stuff —are phenomena of stuff.

And by convention/definition, all stuff is is what we call “natural”. Natural simply means “made of real stuff” as opposed to imaginary stuff like unicorn poop.

Getting to the point…

The only point I have here should go without saying: anything that is or has ever been attributed to supernatural agencies or mechanisms, if there is any validity to the experience or observation in question,  is most likely the work of some form of natural stuff.

Just as there is no fundamental dichotomy between matter and energy (only a diversity in the observed form and behavior of stuff), there is probably no real dichotomy between matter and what we call spirit. If spirit exists, it is probably made of stuff.

The real dichotomy is the one between justified and unjustified belief.

Whatever kind of stuff or behavior of stuff is in question, the difference between anecdote and scientifically-established, probable fact remains. All the distinctions between well-controlled experiments and one-off observations, between high and low probability, between justified belief and imagination, etc.– all those distinctions remain in full force and effect.

If that’s not what you are hearing in church lately, maybe you should switch to the Church of Reality.

The Church of Reality

The Church of Reality is about making a religious commitment to the pursuit of the understanding of reality as it really is.

This reality is the sum of everything that actually exists. Our definition of reality includes what some people call “other realities” that actually are real with the exclusion of imaginary realities and religious fiction. We care about what is really real, not what we want to believe is real.

Maybe I’ll see you in church….

Poor Richard



1. My whimsical description of an alternating wave function producing an Alternating Multiverse is remarkably similar on some points to the “Many Worlds” hypothesis of Hugh Everett:

Wikipedia: Hugh Everett III (November 11, 1930 – July 19, 1982) was an American physicist who first proposed the many-worlds interpretation (MWI) of quantum physics, which he called his “relative state” formulation. He switched thesis advisors to John Wheeler some time in 1955, wrote a couple of short papers on quantum theory and completed his long paper, Wave Mechanics Without Probability in April 1956[2] later retitled as The Theory of the Universal Wave Function, and eventually defended his thesis after some delay in the spring of 1957. A short article, which was a compromise between Everett and Wheeler about how to present the concept and almost identical to the final version of his thesis, appeared in Reviews of Modern Physics Vol 29 #3 454-462, (July 1957), accompanied by a supportive review by Wheeler. The physics world took little note.

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4 Responses to “theory of stuff”

  1. "Natural Lefty" Says:

    Maybe it’s just my take on the topic, but this one seems more about spirituality than the previous one, although both posts are relevant. You did mention church in this one, though. I think that there are other realities outside of the observable universe, which probably account for the “dark matter” and “dark energy.” Actually, my take on the energy/matter issue is that really everything (which you call “stuff” in this post) is actually a variety of different forms of energy, which is sometimes unrestrained and may move at the speed of light (although never in a completely linear direction), and sometimes restrained by its relation to other energy fields. I think that is pretty much consistent with string theory when you break it down and interpret it.

    Thus, the spiritual “stuff” is indeed made of the same energy that pervades the rest of the universe, in my view. The higher cognitive powers that we have probably depend upon some sort of interaction among energies within and around us, which connect us with our surroundings and the larger universal energies. There is nothing separate, or “supernatural” (outside of nature) about it, but rather, it is part of our nature. The best way to understand our higher powers and those of nature are to study it scientifically and to understand reality. This is also consistent with animism, pantheism, and even Bhuddism, I think, as well as my own views on this matter/energy.

    • Poor Richard Says:

      Thanks for the comments, NL. I agree with pretty much all of that. The issue is not natural vs supernatural, but science (scientific method) vs superstition (making shit up).

  2. "Natural Lefty" Says:

    Exactly — superstition is pretty much making things up, and people who promote religions based on superstition just try to popularize strategically convenient superstitions for their own edification.

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