Science and Tech

REALITY IS IN YOUR HEAD: THE SCIENCE OF QUANTUM WEIRDNESS part 1

Titus Daudi
Written by titus Daudi
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Science is more intense than politics. Too much work goes into writing papers, calculating, cross checking references and criticism. So when papers positing that reality may not be what we think it is, but it continues gaining more and more followers, you’ve got to ask- what’s reality and is science or metaphysics qualified to study it?

 

Well the problem with Reality began way back even before Descartes created the famous Mind Body Dualism problem. Before there was science, there was Philosophy. In fact, the term scientist as is used today didn’t appear anywhere before 1834. It was invented by Cambridge Historian, William Whewell to replace terms such as Natural Philosophers or Cultivators of Science.

 

Indian Philosophers and the writers of the Vedas postulated on the nature of reality way before Metaphysics asked the hard questions. The founder of classical ontology (a branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of existence), Parmenides postulated that because nothing comes from nothing then existence was eternal and that therefore changing realities and experiences such as death were illusory constructs.

Descartes further extended the argument by asking: ‘how do we know that we know or that what we know is real?’ How did belief intersect with existence? So in his Meditations of First Philosophy, Descartes decided to ignore whatever he’d learnt was false, that his memories did not exist and his senses were faulty and that an evil demon has been lying to him all along. During that moment, the single greatest line in all philosophy, the starting point of Western philosophy was born.

Descartes argued that for an evil being to lie to him that he must exist. He further explained that he doubted therefore he thought and because he thought, he existed. There was born the famous statement: ‘cogito ergo sum’ which is Latin for ‘I think therefore I am’.

Fast forward to the 20th century and all hell was breaking loose in the scientific community. The war created a prime land for scientific studies and Otto Hahn showed man how to split the atom. He published his paper in 1939 but won the Nobel prize in 1944. Later on Albert Einstein, Leo Szilard and a fellow scientist would write to President Roosevelt arguing that the Germans could create an atomic bomb as they had already smashed the atom which agreed with his famous equations e=mc^2. Thus was born the Manhattan project which would cause the Public to evaluate the limits of Science and it’s possible application after the Hiroshima-Nagasaki incidents.

 

But at that time, that was not the most depressing thought that peered into the hearts of scientists. They were observing weird stuff going on at the microscopic level that defied the logic that had been built over the years.

Superposition for example was a problem because it was thought that any particle in existence should exist entirely in one state but scientists we’re finding microscopic particles existing in more than two states. There was also the problem of Wavefunction collapse propagated through the chaos of the famous double slit experiment. A quantum particle e.g. a photon could exist as either a wave or a particle but upon measurement suddenly it took one side. Earlier Einstein had shown and had won the Nobel prize for his paper on the Photoelectric effect which allowed for such phenomenon thus his contributions were plugged into the widening field of Quantum Mechanics.

 

Later on, Werner Heisenberg discovered the Uncertainty principle that shows that knowing the value of one of certain paired values decreased your likelihood of knowing the other. A good example was the position and velocity of Quantum particles. To know the accurate position of a quantum particle, one must plug-in more wave packets thus decreasing his chances of knowing the accurate velocity.

Soon debates were being held right, left and center between local realists and quantum advocates. One good debate was Einstein vs Bohr in which Einstein discredited quantum Physics use of probabilities as accurate descriptors of reality by arguing that “God does not play dice with the Universe.” But would later tell him to “stop telling God what to do.”

 

The argument would later on result to the Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum Physics which merely stated that: “Physical systems generally do not have properties prior to being measured and that Quantum Mechanics is an approximation of the probabilities.”

To counter and defend the new theory a series of Thought experiments were proposed:

One was the EPR( Einstein Podolsky Rosen) theory in which two particles with opposite spin to the other are entangled…By knowing the state of one, it was suggested that one would know the other almost instantaneously. This could mean that information could break the speed barrier and travel faster than the speed of light, in Special and General Relativity, the consequences of such an event are immense.

 

The other was the Schroedinger’s cat paradox in which you lock a cat in a box with a poison that is connected to a randomly decaying particle. By doing such, the fate of the cat and the microscopic particles would be entangled thus before opening the box, the Cat was both DEAD and ALIVE at once….

 

TO BW CONTINUED

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Titus Daudi

titus Daudi

I write therefore I think, I think therefore I am.

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