When studied deeply, down at the subatomic level of particle physics, the material world we live in appears to be nothing more substantial than wisps of smoke. There’s hardly anything there! Everything that seems solid and hard to the touch consists mostly of space. The vast open spaces between particles is startling. Even the particles that are there can not be pinned down in spacetime; their location, speed and direction are all known only as probabilities, not actualities. And what’s more, the space between is not pure empty vacuum… at the quantum scale it is a molten froth of activity where particles are momentarily popping into existence, exchanging energies with other particles, and them vanishing moments later.

In this BBC production, The Illusion of Reality,” narrator and theoretical physics professor Jim Al Khalili presents the pioneering discoveries in particle physics in the early 1900s, and describes how the unifying theories that arose from the work of Marie Curie, Ernest Rutherford, Niels Bohr, Paul Dirac and Albert Einstein, have dramatically changed our view of reality, cosmology, and the physical world around us.

Thanks to Jesse Miller’s “Mystic Mind Podcast” for introducing me to this BBC documentary some time this past December 2009, as I was out shoveling snow.

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