## 8 Space, Time, and Eternity

My proposal is that formless energy underwent a phase change, comparable to the many assumed to follow the Big Bang. And as occurs in these other changes, there is a condensation out of the prior phase of the smallest possible elements of a new phase of existence. When dew or rain condense out of the air, the enormous freedom that vapor water molecules have to drift apart and occupy any volume of space is gone. In their new phase, they move in a strictly limited space: a drop of water. Similarly, when ice condenses out of liquid water the molecules become rigidly trapped in tiny solid crystals and can no longer move freely.

In these phase changes, the newly emerging elements appear as the smallest possible size in the new phase. This is what happened after the Big Bang. Following the phase changes yielding the four forces of the universe, a further phase change produces the elementary particles of radiation and matter, such as photons electrons, muons, neutrinos, and quarks. When we try to measure the size of elementary particles, we find we can only specify that they are smaller than the limit of our instrument’s resolution. On this basis, the quarks happen to be the smallest particles we have measured, using the Large Hadron Collider. In a later phase change, they combine to form the measurable particles in the nucleus of an atom.

In a similar way, a phase change in formless energy that yields spacetime will start with the appearance of the smallest elements of spacetime. Some idea of how small these spacetime quanta are is gained by finding the smallest interval in spacetime from which we can theoretically gain information. We do this by asking the quantum laws of elementary particles and the relativistic laws of gravity, if they can agree on the size of such a minimum interval. If so, we can estimate its dimensions.

On this basis, the smallest particle is found within a length of 1.61 x 10^{-35}
meter. This is about a hundred million trillion times smaller than a proton.
Light travels this length in 5.39x 10^{-44} second. This length and time are the
natural units for space and time proposed by Max Planck. They are special
because they can be calculated from constants expressing the universal
properties of spacetime.