Exploration of the Lovecraftian Universe with the Use of Modern Physics: Matter and Antimatter

The following article is by Fred S. Lubnow, Ph.D.

By Steve Maschuck

By Steve Maschuck

Antimatter was formally conceptualized through some work on theoretical physics by Paul Dirac. More specifically, in 1928 Dirac published a paper on fermions, which are elementary particles such as quarks, leptons and electrons. His work involved the development of relativistic wave equations and their application to particles at high energies and velocities. Essentially, Dirac was one of the first individuals to make a serious effort to combine quantum mechanics and special relativity. One of the major outcomes of these efforts, the development of the Dirac equation, was the prediction of antimatter.

While antimatter was predicted to exist through Dirac’s equations, it was not until 1932 when the first physical evidence of antimatter was obtained. Carl David Anderson noted unusual particle tracks associated with his research on cosmic rays and cloud chamber photographs. These strange particles had the same mass of an electron but the opposite electrical charge (called a positron); the presence of these new strange particles supported Dirac’s theoretical work. Anderson continued to work on this research and his results were validated by others; in 1936 Anderson won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work and discovery of the positron.

While Dirac worked on the theoretical support for antimatter and Anderson discovered physical evidence of this unusual material, it was Arthur Schuster who in 1898 proposed the concept of and coined the term “antimatter.” Schuster imagined a whole world and solar systems composed of antiatoms. He also hypothesized that combining atoms with antiatoms would produce a considerable amount of energy. In spite of all of this hypothesizing and work being conducted on antimatter in the late 19th and early 20th century, I could find no reference to antimatter in any H. P. Lovecraft’s stories or in his Collected Essays. However, I am not sure how much information on antimatter was being reported on in the general media in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Knowing Lovecraft’s ravenous appetite for news on scientific discoveries, if such information was in the general media he more than likely would have at least mentioned it.

While Lovecraft did not directly cite antimatter, he may have indirectly referred to it in describing some of his strange entities. For example, in At the Mountains of Madness, it is stated that , “…both the Cthulhu spawn and the Mi-Go seem to have been composed of matter more widely different from that which we know than was the substance of the Old Ones [here the term Old Ones is being used to refer to the Elder Things or Elder Ones].  They were able to undergo transformations and reintegrations impossible for their adversaries, and seem therefore to have originally come from even remoter gulfs of the cosmic space.”

In “The Call of Cthulhu” a cultist named Castro states, “These Great Old Ones…were not composed altogether of flesh and blood. They had shape…but that shape was not made of matter.” Some evidence to support this was in Johansen’s account of ramming the Alert into Cthulhu, resulting in a popping or bursting of the entity. Yet, Cthulhu did not die, its jelly-like plasma biomass recombined into its original shape.

In “The Whisperer in Darkness,” the Mi-Go were described as an alien species that could travel through interstellar space without the use of technology or some type of mechanical craft. Instead, the Mi-Go would use wings that were adapted for travel through the “aether” of space but were ill-suited, and thus clumsy, in Earth’s atmosphere. Additionally, the Mi-Go were described as being from outside, which referred to somewhere beyond our galaxy or even beyond our known space-time.

Similar to Cthulhu and its associated spawn, the Mi-Go were described as being “…composed of a form of matter totally alien to our part of space – with electrons having a wholly different vibration – rate.” Electrons with a different vibration rate? Is this a possible reference to the fact that electrons have a negative charge and the antimatter form of electrons, called positrons, has a positive charge? This varying vibrational rate of the Mi-Go electrons was used to explain why they could not be photographed with an ordinary camera and that some modification of the films and plates were necessary to record their images. This leads to the hypothesis that the Mi-Go are composed of antimatter.

Antimatter is essentially the opposite of ordinary matter and is very rare in our universe. While current data indicates that early in the universe there were nearly equal amounts of matter and antimatter, it appears there was slightly more matter than antimatter. Since matter and antimatter annihilate each other upon contact, we ended up with a universe composed of the remaining matter, after the rest of the matter and antimatter annihilated each other in a flash of energy. While antimatter is very rare in our universe it has been theoretically identified and its presence has been detected in experiments conducted since the 1920s, as previously described. Thus, how could the Mi-Go be composed of antimatter and not be immediately destroyed once being in contact with “our” matter? Even if they have a way of preventing this annihilation while they are alive, once they die the Mi-Go do not immediately disappear in a flash of energy. The Mi-Go do decompose relatively quickly when they are dead, leaving no trace or residue for study. However, their death is not followed by the typical, violent energy-releasing reaction that occurs when antimatter is in contact with matter.

An alternative hypothesis to the Mi-Go being composed of antimatter can be considered if we review another property of electrons of ordinary matter. As previously stated, electrons have a negative electric charge; however, they are also known to have a “spin” of ½. In quantum mechanics, the spin is an elementary particle’s inherent form of angular momentum, which in turn is the amount of rotation that particle has accounting for its mass and speed. Thus, more than likely, this alternative vibrational rate that Lovecraft was referring to may have been the spin of the Mi-Go’s electrons, making it not composed of antimatter but matter that is still very different from ours. Maybe the Mi-Go, as well as the Cthulhu spawn, are composed of matter from another universe or dimension.

There is one Lovecraftian entity that may be at least partially composed of antimatter and that is one of his more “alien” of species – the Flying Polyps from The Shadow Out of Time. Lovecraft does not actually call them Flying Polyps; he refers to them only as “…a horrible elder race of half-polypous, utterly alien entities which had come through space from immeasurably distant universes and had dominated the earth and three other solar planets about 600 million years ago.”

Lovecraft described the Polyps as being “…only partly material – as we understand matter – and their type of consciousness and media of perception differed widely from those of terrestrial organisms.” The Polyps were known to fly through the air without the aid of any obvious means of aerial locomotion such as wings. They appeared to have the ability to pass through some types of matter, yet at the same time could be imprisoned deep in the earth. These strange abilities of the Polyps may be the result of them being composed of a unique combination of matter and antimatter and potential evidence for this is how they were destroyed by the Great Race.

Based on The Shadow Out of Time, the Great Race would use a relatively simple electrical energy device to battle the Polyps. These energy devices would not only injure or even kill the Polyps; it would completely annihilate them in a flash of energy. Thus, the discharge of electrical energy did not simply electrocute the Polyps it completely destroyed them with no residual tissue or matter left. Based on this high susceptibility to a simple electrical attack, it is hypothesized that the Polyps are composed of an unusual semi-stable arrangement of matter and antimatter. As opposed to being based on a carbon-based, biochemistry such as Terran life, the Polyps may be a sentient form of electromagnetic fields and forces that utilize matter / antimatter attraction to generate the energy they need to keep their quasi-cellular activities going. If this is the case, then the electrical discharge weapons of the Great Race may abruptly disrupt this balance between matter and antimatter, resulting in the observed annihilation of the Flying Polyps.

Of course testing this hypothesis would be extremely difficult. However, if a Polyp could be placed into a high energy particle accelerator, such as the large Hadron Collider, the resulting particle trails and generated particles, and possibly antiparticles, could provide the data needed to test this hypothesis. Obviously, the real trick would be to get a Flying Polyp into a particle accelerator.

Fred Lubnow is the author of the Lovecraftian Science blog.  Check out his current Kickstarter, which will expand on the blog to create Lovecraftian Science, Volume I.

One response to “Exploration of the Lovecraftian Universe with the Use of Modern Physics: Matter and Antimatter

  1. Very interesting article, I’d speculated along simlilar lines regarding Cthulhu and the Mi-Go.
    My fictive position behind ‘the stars not being right’ part of the Mythos was that the major entities did not and could not exist wholly within our ‘universe’ or dimension at the present moment — though eventually conditions will be more favorable. The early universe and later dying universe will be their preferred environments. (Not sure if that matches up well with real cosmology; considering the low entropy of the early universe as opposed to the presumably high entropy end.)

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