06 November 2009

For the Love of Science!

Caution: this may be the most random, crazy post so far. Continue at your own risk. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Do you know anything about quantum mechanics? Well, that's good, because I don't really either. I once heard a quote by Richard Feynman: "If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics" (insert dramatic pause for effect, followed by laughter).  Actually, I know some of the basics of quantum mechanics, but being able to recite something, is a far cry from actually understanding it.

In quantum mechanics, there is an interpretation of the mathematical formulas, which seems to indicate that the observer of anything, affects the object. You can do a little research on Schrödinger's cat to get a little better understanding. Basically, the way his thought experiment worked, the only way to observe whether the cat is alive or dead, would kill the cat. Now I've been thinking about this for a couple of years now and I am just beginning to be able to wrap my brain around it (albeit not very tightly). So if you don't get it on the first go around, don't sweat it. Keep thinking about it. If you don't accept this basic tenet of quantum mechanics, stop reading now, because what follows is based on your acceptance of a theory which has some experimental evidence. To understand that evidence, you'll need to have a basic understanding of Young's double-slit experiment.

I know! What's the point? Right? Actually, I do have one and it goes something like this: if observing the Universe changes the condition of the Universe, how in the world do we know the condition of anything? Most of this thought applies to quantum mechanics, but we could also apply it to, say, a classroom. How many teachers have asked a principal to come observe a particularly rowdy class, only to find when the principal enters the classroom, the students act in a completely different manner? Okay, I know its a stretch, but that's why they are called analogies.

I'm asking these questions, not because I want you to do some thinking, although that is part of my purpose. I'm asking these questions because I really want to know some answers.  I'm not sure what the answer to the question is. The problem with even asking the questions is that humanity is intrinsically connected to the very thing which they are trying to understand. Its kind of like walking by a mirror and thinking, "That's not really what I look like! Is it?" Based on Snell's, you are seeing an exact representation of yourself being reflected back from the mirror. For many of us, we have picture in our heads of what we look like. This is our reality, but once we actually observe our reality, we change it. (I can almost hear the crickets from my vantage point.)

As usual, I always understand things better after I process them through writing. Even though I didn't talk specifically about quantum entanglement, I think I understand it better than I used to.

Any thoughts? As always, thanks for reading.

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