How physics makes "spirits" impossible

Note, keep in mind these are my own thoughts here. I’m not quoting from any scientific studies or anything. Though I do have a pretty good grasp of physics (at least, I think I do), some (or all) of this may not be entirely accurate. My understanding of physics and energy may be flawed, though to the best of my knowledge and understanding, this is all accurate.

I’m sure we’ve all seen the ghost hunting shows or been in the forums where they throw out ideas about a mysterious “energy” that they might be made of. And we’ve seen the science fiction shows where some being evolves beyond the need for a body. While that may be possible in alternate universes and different dimensions, in our universe physics makes that completely impossible.

First, a note on “energy”. Energy isn’t some big mystery as people tend to think it is. There are essentially 2 types of energy. There is physical energy, matter in motion, and there is electromagnetic energy, essentially fields. Using matter, you can convert between the two. You can turn the crank on a generator, putting the electromagnetic fields of magnets in motion, acting on electrons to get them moving, send those electrons to an incandescent light bulb which is converted back into electromagnetic energy in the light and heat radiated. While many things exhibit traits of being both matter and an electromagnetic wave (see “double slit test” for photons and electrons), for the purpose of this discussion light and radio waves are electromagnetic energy while all other forms of energy are physical energy, explained below.

Physical energy must have a physical component made of matter while electromagnetic energy exists independently of matter. There is one very significant aspect of these two things which definitively differentiates them and that is speed. The speed at which electromagnetic energy travels is always the speed of light while the speed of the processes involved in physical energy is always less than the speed of light. For physical energy that speed can be zero, making it “potential energy”. No potential energy is possible for electromagnetic energy as it is always traveling at the speed of light.

So with this knowledge it becomes impossible for an energy based entity to exist in our universe. Electromagnetic energy always travels in a straight line at the speed of light. The entity not only could not “sit still” and interact with us, its various energy components could not interact with each other. Since they’re all traveling in the same direction at the same speed there could be no cross interaction allowing for thought or reaction. Also, no time would pass for such an entity since it is moving at the speed of light. This means that an entity would require matter and physical energy, what we refer to as a “body”, the exact opposite of a spirit. To illustrate this point, imagine shining a blue beam of light through a red beam of light. If you put a piece of paper at the intersection you get purple light. But if you put your paper past the intersection you get red light at one point and blue light at the other point. No interaction between the two beams happens without matter causing an interaction.

What’s more, this understanding does not allow for the existence of a soul even contained within our bodies, even while we are alive. Remember, the electromagnetic energy always travels in a straight line at the speed of light, though it can be converted back and forth to and from physical energy. This means that no changes in the electromagnetic energy within us (there is some) is possible without interaction with the matter of the body. The electromagnetic energy on its own cannot “do” or “think” or “be” anything. It is our physical bodies which direct the processes of thought, mostly using chemical energy, physical energy produced out of chemical reactions. While the electromagnetic energy within us, produced by those chemical reactions, can, in turn, affect other chemical reactions within us and may be an integral part of “us”, on it’s own this electromagnetic energy is useless, unable to interact with itself. Matter is absolutely required for interactions between electromagnetic energies.

The conclusion we must draw is that there is no mysterious “energy” which could account for spirits, nor is there enough mystery about the nature of energy to allow for such an as yet undiscovered form of energy to exist. Instead the word is used like the word “toxins” in holistic quackery. It is a completely undefined term used to make the claim sound smarter than it is by hiding the fact that the claimant has no idea what this “energy” or these “toxins” might be.

Nicely done. I usually stick to the simpler questions, like, if they pass through a wall, why are they standing on the floor? It would be nice to just have some taxonomy, like are there are more and less powerful ghosts? How can you tell? Why are they limited to a single building? If a ghost detector gadget detects EMF’s, why? What EMF activity is it detecting that doesn’t have a different cause? How does it know? How does the EMF hold the ghost together?

And can an EMP kill a ghost? Or can it make a ghost super powerful? Can you generate a field which would “empower” the ghost, making it more detectable? And my favorite, if your EVP is really detecting voices you can’t here, why don’t you near them when you’re recording? And how is adding white noise to the mix anything but purposely contaminating your collected data?

Good thinking Widdershins.


There’s always a way around it, of course. You simply have to invoke some mystery which hasn’t been specifically addressed, like dark matter, dark energy and multiple dimensions. But I can make dark matter and dark energy boring too, and multiple dimensions have not been observed, they’re the result of incredibly complex mathematical formulas in quantum theories. The only evidence we have for them is what the math says. The most accepted theory says that there are 11 dimensions, though there is a less accepted theory which says that there are 7. But it’s all just mathematical models, not a fundamental “truth” of the universe. Not that it can’t be true, just that it’s little more than a guess right now.

I agree and moreover, who says that multiple dimensions allow for non-physical but observational existence

Our reality consists of three dimension which allow us to form a 3D image. If I take only 1 dimension don’t get an image at all, 2 dimensions and I get a plane, a flat image.

If I add dimensions can any of these extra dimensions form non-substantial apparitions? How would that work?

More than likely any extra dimensions over and above our 3 dimensisons are outside of human observation altogether. We already know time is such an extra dimension which does not have any measurable properties of its own. Why should 7 or 11 dimensions add any physical properties other than viewing 3D objects from various perspectives, which is basically covered in Laws of Relativity anyway?

Interesting observations. I used to think about dimensions a lot when I was younger. I was a fan of Buackarroo Bonzai. And then I realized what traveling to the 5th dimension. Imagine a 2 dimensional man on a piece of paper. For him to “work” you can’t just draw him like you’re making a doodle. Food can’t get around solid lines to go through his digestive system. This means that we, the third dimensional observer, would see a complete path from his mouth, which would be on one side of his head (and he could never turn around) straight through to the other end. You would see all of his guts.

Now, what happens when you pull him off that paper into the third dimension? All those pieces fall apart. Not only do his guts have two new openings to fall out of which didn’t exist before, in the third dimension, that straight-through path means that his two halves are no longer connected. The same would happen to us. If we found a way to traverse another dimension then we would immediately find ourselves completely open on two sides we didn’t have before. Things which were before a single, continuous piece would become two or more pieces not connected by anything. We would fall into a pile of goo immediately.

All this dimensional stuff is entirely theoretical, of course. It is entirely possible that traveling through the 5th dimension would remove us from the first and second and we would keep our 3 dimensional form, just go a couple floors up, as it were. So what would happen in that case? What if I were to “move up” a dimension? What would it look like to the observer in our reality? The logical answer is that you would see a “slice” of me as I moved through the 2 dimensions we still shared. But that slice would be infinitely thin. I would be imperceptible from the side. And I think people underestimate the importance of exactly what it means for something to be infinitely thin in a 3 dimensional universe. It means it doesn’t exist.

All matter in our 3D universe must have height, width and depth. If one of those is missing it’s easy to imagine that you wouldn’t see it looking straight at the missing dimension. But you wouldn’t see it from any other angle anyway, nor be able to detect it by any means. To have a thickness of “infinitely thin” is to have a thickness of “zero”. How much light can a material with a thickness of zero block? How much can it reflect? How could it project 3D photons? Volume is LengthWidthHeight. If any one of those dimensions is zero then the whole answer is zero. Mass is Density*Volume. No mass either.

So yeah, in my humble musings you are exactly right. Any object not sharing all 3 of the same dimensions that we share would be completely imperceptible, at least by my musings, which are not exactly “science”. More speculation. If it did share all 3 of our dimensions plus another one or more, then we would be able to perceive it and interact with it. But then it would also be solid. At least the parts we could perceive would be. Who knows what the Nth dimensional parts would be.


Bosons. Things made of bosons. Virtual particles. Electrons and photons “popping” into existence. Elementary particles transforming into other things. Anything seems possible with science. Are we there yet? Not quite yet.

Things are made of quarks, not bosons. And not just “anything” is possible. Just because we don’t understand some things doesn’t mean we don’t understand anything, including what is not possible.

Mathematically an object which did not share all three of the same dimensions we occupy would essentially not exist to us. One dimension would be “0” and all the math, such as volume and mass, is multiplication. Multiply anything by 0 and you get 0. So, mathematically anyway, even if an object crossed through our universe if it did not have all 3 of the dimensions we are aware of, and those exact dimensions, it would not exist. It would have no volume, no mass, no edge, no surface, no matter. It would emit, absorb and reflect no energy. It would be “0” everything. Again, mathematically speaking.

And this is essentially the idea of parallel universes. In the infinite universes theory each universe is offset by a little from each other universe. But that theory is flawed in a couple of ways. What is to keep the universes from moving within that dimension, causing universes to collide? What evidence is there that a dimension we haven’t even detected goes on for an infinity in either direction, the only thing that would allow for infinite universes? How are these universes so neatly ordered that the creation of a new one never overlaps an existing universe? We can know that no two universes have EVER collided with great certainty because we still exist. If two universes were to collide it would sent debris off in every direction, whizzing into and out of existence in our universe. Entire suns, planets, asteroids, black holes would simply pop into existence for a moment, then pop out of existence again. It would be unlikely to be all single, inconsequential partials. There would essentially be a chain reaction similar to nuclear fission, destroying all universes.

Multiple dimensions would also be possible in this case, though the number of universes would be limited by the number of actual dimensions there were. I don’t know the math and don’t want to sit here and figure it out, but essentially a universe could be any number of dimensions, but could not share all the dimensions of any other universe. So, for example, there could be no single dimensional universes unless a given single dimensional universe were the only universe to be in that dimension. Assuming 11 dimensions, there could be no 11 dimensional universe because our 3 dimensions would be all shared by it, so we would overlap it. There could be up to 3 10 dimensional universes, each one not sharing exactly one of “our” 3 dimensions. It’s crazy speculative, but it’s possible. But there’s no reason to believe this is true, so I’m bored of speculating on it.

Oh, there are many invisible objects, like quarks and neutrinos, but that is not due to being in another dimension except the dimension of size. These particles are simply too small for human observation and live in the atomic world were all matter is mostly empty space and those type of particles are cruising comfortably through the empty spaces between and within the atoms of what present to us as solids.

They are just too small for any detector, they’d go right through the detector without any physical interaction. It’s really hard to wrap your head around those aspects of reality.

Actually a recent article, perhaps posted here somewhere, suggested that neutrinos do not exist. A paper was released revising the nature of time or something. I can’t remember for sure, but it was fascinating. The takeaway, neutrinos don’t exist, time isn’t what you think it is. Essentially. I think. If I remember correctly, of the small portion I remember.

I believe spirits and gods live inside your head if you allow them to. Not in a physical realm outside your head governed by physics.

I agree that the words “spirit” and “soul” are convenience terms for what people often believe to be something that doesn’t exist the way they think it does. However, with that in mind, they’re sometimes useful as shorthand for concepts such as persons e.g. “An airplane went down with 250 souls aboard.” or personality e.g. “She is a kind soul.” I’m not really offended by them in those contexts. It’s when they become equated with concepts like afterlives, which are impossible, that things get fuzzy.

Humanists refer to spirits and souls in the vernacular as in Phenomena’s example. The words have religious meaning to brand-name-religions but are totally dismissed by humanists as are brand-name-religions, those without evidence of existence of their spiritual world or influence of human souls.

However, with that in mind, they’re sometimes useful as shorthand for concepts such as persons e.g. “An airplane went down with 250 souls aboard.” or personality e.g. “She is a kind soul.”
I wouldn't say that is in any way "useful", nor is it significantly "shorter" than person, people or lady. Not to nitpick or anything. I just think it's less a thing of convenience and more a thing of variety. It's the same reason words like "he" and "his" exist. You don't want to say, "Steve put Steve's cat in Steve's house", preferring instead to say, "Steve put his cat in the house". We just prefer to use the second version. In fact I've never heard anyone use the first version.

But really all of this is beside the point. My post wasn’t referring to any alternate uses of the words spirit or soul, only the literal belief in a non-physical part of human beings which continues to exist as a separate entity after the death of the physical body.

Philosopher Graham Oppy had an interesting take on these kinds of questions. He asks, for example, if a full grown tiger were to instantaneously materialize where my table now stands, then what happened to the table?