Wednesday, 29 June 2016

It's the Real World

What On Earth . . . .?

Quantum physics has captivated not just physicists, but laymen.  Why?  Because it's so weird.  No-one can explain it.  

Playwright Tom Stoppard provides this description of what appears to be happening in the world of electrons and sub-atomic particles.
The particle world is the dream world of the intelligence officer.  An electron can be here or there at the same moment.  You can choose.  It can go from here to there without going in between; it can pass through two doors at the same time, or from one door to another by a path which is there for all to see, until someone looks, and then the act of looking has made it take a different path.

Its movements cannot be anticipated because it has no reasons.  It defeats surveillance because when you know what it is doing you can't be certain where it is, and when you know where it is you can't be certain what it's doing: Heisenberg's uncertainty principle; and this is not because you're not looking carefully enough, it is because there is no such thing as an electron with a definite position and definite momentum; you fix one, you lose the other, and it's all done without tricks, it's the real world, it is awake.  [Cited in Jeremy Bernstein, Quantum Leaps (Cambridge, Mass: Belknap/Harvard University Press, 2009), p. 85f.]
Matter appears to have a life of its own--hence Stoppard's description of it being "awake".
 The amazing regularity of matter, its precision: (apparently) absolute natural laws are built upon--on top of--"irrationalisms".  Electrons are "aware" of one another, and the information is communicated somehow, and the communication is faster than the speed of light, which Einstein told us was impossible.

Quantum physicist, Niels Bohr said,
Those who are not shocked when they first come across quantum theory cannot possibly have understood it.
And Richard Feynman added:
Might I say immediately . . . we always had a great deal of difficulty in understanding the worldview that quantum mechanics represents. . . .  I cannot define the real problem, therefore I suspect there's not a real problem, but I am nor sure there's no real problem.
Irreducible complexity indeed.

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