Humor menu
Recipes menu
Poems menu
Bits and Pieces menu
Science and Spitit Menu
Science Menu
Health Menu
Other Authors menu
Story's by O.Frank

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 cherry-red 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.

Return to top


copyright 2005 O.Frank