
Quantum physics
If you like Star Trek but have not read any lay books on quantum physicists
or know very much about quantum physics, then you are unaware that many
of the weird things that they do in Star Trek are based on interpretations
of real quantum math. Of course like everything in Hollywood, the facts
are stretched a bit to make a good story.
Where I am not a physicist and I can't do quantum math, I have read
a number of lay books on quantum physics and would love to share a "nut
shell" worth of what I've learned. They say that truth is stranger
than fiction and nothing could be truer for quantum physics. Trying
to understand quantum physics is partly responsible for my paradigm
shift away from the machinist at age 50.
100 year ago, at the end of the last century, physics was in a terrible
state. Most of the scientists of the day were sitting around moaning
about the fact that they would all be out of a job soon. This is because
it was believed that all of the physical laws of the universe had been
discovered and as soon as two little "irritations" were cleared
up there would be nothing left to discover.
One of there little irritations was the fact that physics math could
not predict the color of metal heated to different temperatures. For
example if you took the temperature of metal that was heated to a cherryred
color the metal would be about 1300 degrees F. But then if you tried
to using physics math to predict this, the math would say that metal
at 1300 degrees should be blue. But it's not! This meant that something
was wrong with the math. If the math cannot predict everything then
the math is not complete. Something was wrong with the math.
In 1900 Max Planck, a newly graduated physicist, was playing around
with this problem and found that if he added a constant into the math
he could make the math predict the color of metal. Albert Einstein then
took Planck's constant and showed that it proved that light was broken
up into little pieces or quantum's of light called photons and could
predict the behavior of light very well.
To make a long story short this was the birth of quantum physics and
Planck's little constant turned out to be a measurement of the smallest
size anything can be.
The weird thing about quantum math is that things are always opposite
the way we see them in our day to day mechanical world. For example
if we throw a baseball we can measure it's speed with a radar gun and
know it's speed. We can at the same time take high speed videos and
have a picture of it at any point of its travel. i.e. we can measure
and know the speed and position of the base ball at all times. Not so
in the quantum world. If you measure the speed of a photon then the
laws of quantum nature prevents us from measuring it's position (it
no longer exists), and vice versa. If you measure it's position, it's
speed then ceases to exist. There is no way to understand how the speed
or position could not exist, you just have to accept that it happens.
The standard physics interpretation of quantum math is called the Copenhagen
Interpretation. It goes like this, what we are look at, at any given
moment, is the only thing that exists. If you look at the moon then
the car behind you no longer exists, and when we turn around to look
at the car the "fields collapse" and the car comes back into
existence and the moon goes back to some state we do not understand.
Albert Einstein, who was one of the important developers of quantum
math and none of his math has ever be shown to be wrong, personally
refused to accept that quantum math was real. He believed that all this
weirdness was caused because our understanding of quantum math was incomplete.
Sadly (maybe sad is not a good word) Einstein seems to have been wrong.
Recent experiments in Paris have shown that the world really may be
this weird, and if true then the seemingly mechanical world we live
in is just a mirage.
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