Sunday, October 16, 2005

Ahh… Quantum Mechanics.

Quantum Mechanics is not like regular mechanics on the macro level. Nope. See when you go through your life it wouldn’t be right if when you went to work, your boss suddenly appeared both in front of you and behind you at the same time berating you for being late and early at the same time (Or being in the office in three places at once while simultaneously drinking coffee, flirting with the secretary and surfing the net.) Of course there’s always the chance that you could show up at work and complete all your work in one day for all time but then there is the other probability that your workload quadrupled too. But that’s the thing, you couldn’t know what was really happening since everything is only a possibility of happening and nothing at all really ever happened except virtually. It also wouldn’t help to have two Mother-In-laws now would it, both on the phone and in your living room. How would it feel if you went out your door everyday and you stepped into a new neighborhood every time? Or if your drive to work were not a linear event but you had to travel every conceivable combinations of your route all at the same time even one that took you around the nearest galaxy and back. Even if that did happen you’d still end up in the same place. Don’t Panic (as the guide says) because quantum physics doesn’t affect the macro level, the relative largeness that we live in. Really, we have no idea how or why we don’t act like quantum particles since they are what we are made of. Imagine how cute electrons are. Aren’t they cute? Little fuzzy particles of probability. Just like my dog they can’t stay still for very long. That’s because quantum theory demands that we cannot know both the position and the velocity of an electron. We can measure the position fine but the velocity is never accurate, It’s a probability curve. It can be going this speed or that speed or some speed in between. We just don’t know. Or if we can measure its speed the position is a fuzzy probability. It is measured at a certain rate of speed but the darn thing could be here, there or on Uranus (which would be quite embarrassing to say the least!)

Things get weirder. Remember in my last post when I spoke about the churning of empty space? No. OK well empty space churns. Got it? That means that even in a vacuum, where there is conceivable nothing there, there really is something. Confused? Me too. Remember that people who study Quantum Physics, really smart people, still don’t really understand Quantum Physics either. Richard Feynman said, “Do not keep saying to yourself, if you can possibly avoid it, ‘But how can it be like that?’ because you will get ‘down the drain,’ into a blind alley from which nobody has yet escaped. Nobody knows how it can be like that.”

(To be continued)



Kyle Stemen said...

"Really, we have no idea how or why we don’t act like quantum particles since they are what we are made of."

I heard that when you work out the quantum equations (I've never seen the equations, and I'm happier that way) for large groups of particles, they start to show the same kind of physics we see on the macro level.

ObilonKenobi said...

It's probably true that when you work out the equations for large groups of particles they start to look like something we can be familiar with. Perhaps that is because the probablilities start to even out. That's only my guess though.

I also read an article about Roger Pemrose and how he thinks gravity stabilizes the quantum effects. Essentially ont he macro level we can see the same behavior as quantum particles except for gravity. So gravity, while an almost nonexistance effect on the quantum level starts to even out the quantum affect as things get larger.

The Phoenix said...

I want to relate this post with your previous nostalgic television.

So this is the basis for the show Quantum Leap? Sam Beckett was able to travel back in time and right what was once wrong. He was able to change the future by changing the past. He led that certain event into an "alternative" present and future by creating a different course...just finding a different combination.

ObilonKenobi said...

“The microscopic point particle makes it’s way from (one point to another) not by a unique history, but by pursuing every conceivable history with democratically equal amplitudes.” – Wheeler.

The Sum Over Histories theory says that a quantum particle like a photon will take every possible path from one point to another. It’s history of traveling from here to there is formula calculating the probability of going not in straight lines but in circular paths, curly cues and pinball paths around stars, galaxies and planets to end up in the point we’d expect it to be. Since on a macro level we know that photons travel in straight lines and do not come to us from everywhere there must be a way to resolve this.

Richard Feynman’s said that to calculate the probability of a particle to change from A to B, we must add the probabilities of every possible history. In the Macro/Classical level that we exist the contribution of previous histories cancel out all other probable outcomes except the classically predicted one. This is described in detail, along with many other quantum cosmological theories at

As for Quantum Leap, the TV show, the basis for the show's plots may be linked to this quantum theory. If on the quantum level all histories are explored then perhaps there are classical histories that branch off from the one we exist in. Sam Beckett “jumped” back into his history but from that moment on he was branched off into an alternate unexplored history (at least to him in his linear timeline.) There may be and infinity of every conceivable history existing in tandem, side-by-side. Histories where man evolved into fish, Napoleon was born in Japan or I am the king of the known world and live to be 300 years old. Sam Beckett jumped back but restarted another alternate history, one that the future computers found satisfying to the sum-over-histories. There was always a point where the computers calculated a percentage of probability that his actions would or would not pan out. They could have been calculating a probability range of the sum-over-histories based on specific pre-programmed parameters.

melly said...

Nice way of explaining (our limited understanding of) quantum mechanics.
I hope to come tomorrow to read part two.
(I just have hardly any internet time and that has to be divided...)

ObilonKenobi said...

Melly, Thank you for visiting. If you come back in another day or two you will find a post that is familiar to your site...