I’ve noticed that everything vibrates is quite a popular idea among alternative medicine gurus and holistic healers and so on. As most of the scientific ideas that pseudoscientists borrow, there’s a grain of truth to it. So in just which way is it true that everything vibrates? That’s what we’ll talk about today.
Today’s video was inspired by these two lovely ladies.
We don't have the vibrational frequency to
host that virus.
- And I taught her that.
- So if you don't have that vibrational frequency
right here you're not going to get it.
- We don't have the vibrational frequency to
Do you know that everything in this universe
vibrates. And is alive. There is life with
That's what I'm talking about.
I don't put life into COVID. I'm not going
to wear a mask.
- I'm not going to wear a mask
either. I never wear a mask. Ever.
Now. There’s so much wrong with that, it’s hard to decide where to even begin. I guess the first thing to talk about is what we mean by vibration. As we’ve already seen a few times, definitions in science aren’t remotely as clear-cut as you might think, but roughly what we mean by vibration is a periodic deformation in a medium.
The typical example is a gong. So, some kind of metal that can slightly deform but has a restoring force. If you hit it, it’ll vibrate until air resistance damps the motion. Another example is that the sound waves created by the gong will make your eardrum vibrate. The earth itself also vibrates, because it’s not perfectly rigid and small earthquakes constantly make it ring. Indeed, the earth has what’s called a “breathing mode”, that’s an isotropic expansion and contraction. So the radius of earth expands and shrinks regularly with a period of about twenty point five minutes.
But. We also use the word vibration for a number of more general periodic motions, for example the vibration of your phone that’s caused by a small electric motor, or vibrations in vehicles that are caused by resonance.
What all these vibrations have in common is that they are also oscillations, where an oscillation is just any kind of periodic behavior. If you ask the internet, “vibrations” are a specific type of “mechanic” oscillation. But that doesn’t make sense because material properties, like those of the gong, are consequences of atomic energy levels of electrons, so, that’s electromagnetism and quantum mechanics, not mechanics. And we also talk of vibrational modes of molecules. Just where to draw the line between vibration and oscillation is somewhat unclear. You wouldn’t say electromagnetic waves vibrate, you’d say they oscillate, but just why I don’t know.
For this reason, I think it’s better to talk about oscillations than vibrations, because it’s clearer what it means. An oscillation is a regularly recurring change. In a water-wave for example, the height of the water oscillates around a mean value. Swings oscillate. Hormone levels oscillate. Traffic flow oscillates, and humans, yeah, humans can also oscillate.
With this hopefully transparent shift from the vague term vibration to oscillation, I’ll now try to convince you that everything oscillates. The reason is that everything is made of particles, and according to quantum mechanics, particles are also waves, and waves, well, oscillate.
Indeed, every massive particle has a wave-length, to so-called Compton wave-length, that’s inversely proportional to the mass of the particle. So here, lambda is the Compton wave-length, h is Planck’s constant, and c is the speed of light. The frequency of this oscillation is the speed of light divided by the wave-length. But just what is it that oscillates? Well, it’s this thing that we call the wave-function of the particle, usually denoted Psi. I have talked about psi a lot in my earlier videos. The brief summary is that physicists don’t agree on what it it, but they agree that Psi gives us the probability to observe the particle in one place or another, or with one velocity or another, or with spin or another, and so on.
For an electron, the wave-function oscillates about ten to the twenty times per second. This means, the particle carries its own internal clock with it. And all particles do this. The heavier ones, like protons or atoms, oscillate even faster than electrons because the frequency is proportional to the mass.
Neutrinos, which are lighter than electrons, don’t just oscillate by themselves, they actually oscillate into each other. This is called neutrino-mixing. There are three different types of neutrinos, and as they travel, the fraction between them periodically changes. If you start out with neutrinos of one particular type, after some while you have all three types of them. This can only happen if neutrinos have masses, so the neutrino oscillations tell us neutrinos are not massless, and a Nobel Prize was awarded for this discovery in 2015.
Photons, the particles that make up light, are, for all we know massless. This means they do not have an internal clock, but they also oscillate, it’s just that their oscillation frequency depends on the energy.
Okay, so we have seen that all particles oscillate constantly, thanks to quantum mechanics. But, you may say, particles alone don’t make up the universe, what about space and time. Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock you probably know that space-time can wiggle, that’s the so-called gravitational waves, which were first detected in twenty fifteen by the LIGO gravitational wave interferometer.
The gravitational waves that we can presently measure come from events in which space-time gets particularly strongly bent and curved, for example black holes colliding or a black hole eating up a neutron stars or something like that. But it’s not that this is the only thing that makes space-time wiggle. It’s just that normally the wiggles are way, way too small to measure. Strictly speaking though, every time you move, you make gravitational waves. Tiny ripples of space-time. So, yes, space-time also vibrates. Really, everything vibrates, kind of, all the time. It’s actually correct. But it doesn’t help against COVID.