Quantum physics IS a hard subject. Only a few people really, really understand it enough to discover new theories and prove them mathematically. To an average joe like you and me, quantum may seem far reached , strenuous, impossible; it is. But like many complicated subject, the fundamentals are easy to understand and are usually fairly useful. In this article I will introduce to you several basic theories of quantum physics and give an example of each. This hopefully will give you a better understanding of our world and the knowledge to show off to your (geek) friends.

First off, what makes quantum so hard? The simple answer is: the quantum level contains the smallest particles man has ever detected. Things in this level of the universe don't follow the proper rules we obey by today (like gravity, velocity, etc), therefore it is so damned hard.

1. Higgs Field
- Everything is wave. Everything talks to higgs.
Everything in this infinite and eternal space are waves. Including you and me, the computer screen in front of you, even that book sitting quietly vibrating (yes, its vibrations are very small; it is made of waves). Some waves are larger, and we can use them to our advantage (radio waves, satellite) , but most are small enough to be classified as gas, liquid, or solid. All these waves communicate with the higgs inside the "Higg's Field", which occupies all space at all time. The Higg will respond to the waves with instructions of where to go, and how to behave. Without the higg's field, matter (or mass) would not exist.

2. The Double Slit Experiment
- Observation has an effect on how quanta behave.
When shooting a stream of electrons through three slits in a wall onto a sheet behind, we would expect to see an interference pattern because electrons are made of waves (like water). Naturally, if we don't observe the electrons as they pass through the slits, an interference pattern occurs. But when we do observe their motion, trying to understand which slit (if any) the electrons go into, three straight lines matching the slits occur on the sheet, just as if the electrons were single objects. Simply by observing, we have changed the way quanta behave. In other words, quanta "know" that they are being watched.

3. Superposition
- Object exists everywhere.
Right now, you are looking at your computer screen. When you close your eyes and muffle your ears, the screen is in superposition with everything else in the room. This means that they can be anywhere; France, Japan, Antarctica, the moon, or even the other side of the universe. The instant you open your eyes, all objects snap back to where they were before. In fact, if there is a water bottle behind you right now and you can't see it, touch it, or hear it, it is in superposition.

4. Entaglement
- All matter are connected. (We are all connected!)
In quantum physics, we say everything is "entangled". Ever heard of the myth about twins where if one twin becomes morose the other suddenly also becomes sad? That might not be true ( I don't really know... ) but quantum suggests that all matter are connected to each other no matter how far they are apart, therefore everything is forever and infinitely entangled. Scientists have also proven superconnectivity, which is similar to entanglement, but different in the sense that an object is "divided" into "halves". For example, we can divide a certain matter into two, bring one to the other side of the universe, and do something something to the half-object at hand, the other half receives the same impact instantly. This theory has given rise to many spiritual practices, such as teleportation (scientists were able to teleport a single photon to a superposition of three photons!)

5. Tunnel Effect
- You can walk through walls.
Yes you can! The chances of it happening is not zero; it is quite close to zero. If you keep driblling a basketball, there is a chance for the ball to fall through the floor. Again, a relatively low chance of it happening, and too bad no one has ever seen it happen. In one of my earlier posts about a the LDC (large hadron collider), each collision has a side effect chance of forming a black hole - the chance is about the same as tunnel effect occurring in real life.

6. Many World Theory
- Parallel universe? There may be more.
Decisions, decisions, decisions. We make them every day. Every time you make a decision, a new universe is made to suit the outcomes of that decision - you are just living one the many possibilities of your life. In a famous (and silly) mental experiment, Schrodinger stuffed his cat into a box of radioactive material. Within an hour, the radioactive material might kill the cat or it might not. When the cat is in the box, it is in superposition, it becomes uncertain and unknowable. Whether the cat lives or dies, a new universe will be created. If we were to have a new universe created every time a decision is made, there would be "Many World"s. It's chilling to know that Hitler is still alive in some other world. It's more scary to understand the concept of Quantum Suicide, where a person keeps trying to suicide with a revolver, but keeps living in the dimension where the round is on blank.

There are many, many other theories. Some more sane than others, but all are a little disturbing. As we approach the quantum age, I hope the general population will gain a better understanding of our world through the quantum perspective.

After reading all that, consider this classic question:

If a tree falls down but nothing is around to hear it, does it make a sound?



  1. Anonymous said...
    I've heard of a few of these before. In Chemistry class we learned about Heisenburg's Uncertainty Principle, which is quite different from what you say it is. According to Chemistry, Heisenburg's Uncertainty Principle states that it is impossible to know both the location and speed of an electron accurately at any point in time. The more accurately you can determine the speed, the less accurate you can know of its position in space, and vice versa. Basically, the principle states that the certainty of knowing an electron's location is inversely related to the certainty you can get of knowing its momentum at any given instant in time.
    Ed said...
    True! That should actually be called the Double Slit Experiment.

    Ahh I thought it was Heisenburg's Uncertainty Principle... because quantum revolves around the uncertainty principle, and the double slit experiment is what started quantum in the first place. I guess I got messed up xD Thanks for correcting me.
    Anonymous said...
    What can I say... it's my job.
    Anonymous said...
    Ha...the general populace understanding the complete randomness of Quantum Physics?
    Like that will EVER happen.
    I guess it'll just be the...
    the ones who have the ability to forget the laws of physics.
    [Quantum Physics doesn't obey the laws of physics.]
    Anonymous said...
    quantum physics ARE laws of physics. Ultimately, all matter and energy should obey the same set of laws. Newtons laws, while true in most cases, were a subcase of the more general theory of relativistic motion. Similarly, quantum physics is most likely consistent with the more general laws of physics, but we are missing the pieces that join them together. String theory claims to have the answer to this problem. In time, I'm sure we'll figure it out.
    ~ a physicist
    Not a Physicist~ said...
    I never really got the uncertainty theory, heres why:

    you can only store info on the length of landa as it directly relates to planks constant and you can't store multiple sets of info on one plank constant, and that when you increase the amount of landa in a wavepacket you inadvertantly increase its energy due to E=hf. So if you reduce the uncertainty in its area, you have to hit it with a very strong wave packet,

    and since you measure directional momentum by detecting an objects position multiple times over a period of time, if you hit it once it bounces of in a random direction and your next detection will be random, by a factor of the momentum of the wavepacket.
    I was confused as to when it was mentioned of random, because why couldn't you just measure the momentum and direction (by analysing the molecular structure of the photon producing atoms) of the photon you hit the particle with, and then calculate how much you had changed its course, and then detract the change in its course from its detected course, yielding its origional direction?

    can someone clear this up for me?
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