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Saturday, November 17, 2012
Science ...

Here is a simple and probably dumb thought about quantum physics.

According to Heisenberg uncertainty and the Copenhagen interpretation, at the quantum level, there is an inherent random nature to the behavior of sub-atomic particles. Particles have position, momentum, spin, charge and other measurements that vary for no reason at all (unless there are hidden variables involved, a theory which most physicists reject).

We also now know about quantum entanglement – i.e., a trans-light speed influence between particles that somehow interacted not too long ago. Perhaps this influence is even instantaneous. This “entanglement” between 2 particles cannot convey information, which is limited to the speed of light. But if you look close enough, you will see that in a system of two entangled particles that are moving apart, when one has an interaction that defines one of its characteristics, and you similarly measure the characteristic of the second particle (with a time gap between particle 1 event and particle 2 measurement so small that light cannot travel between the points where the event and measurement take place during that time gap), there will be some sort of detectable correlation between the event and measurement. The problem with this “detectable correlation” is that it takes time to confirm, such that a beam of light could complete the journey between the event and measurement point by the time you could confirm the correlation. So there’s no getting around the light speed barrier to passing on information, even if something in fact did change at higher or infinite speed.

Well then – if entanglement is real, then every quantum particle is entangled in a “web” with every other quantum particle that it has interacted with, at least in the recent past. Perhaps, like gravity, the degree of entanglement influence falls off rapidly with distance; one theory says that the Heisenberg Uncertainty principle limits how far the entanglement effect can stretch. Nonetheless, my point is that few if any sub-atomic particles exist in their own little worlds with no interaction with other particles. Thus, few if any particles are determined purely by local conditions subject to light speed interaction limits. Most are in a web with other particles that exist within perhaps a foot or a yard of itself, and each event happening to each of those particles has some influence on what the state of the base particle will be. With all those changing influences, it’s no wonder that particles appear to randomly jump around in terms of position, momentum, spin, etc. They are continually being “tugged” or otherwise influenced by thousands, millions, maybe billions of particles in their “web of influence”. And in turn they themselves are contributing something to the determination of all those other millions or billions of particles.

So, perhaps a particle’s location within its probability zone is real after all, i.e. a summation of an incredible number of influences each reflecting the instantaneous state of every particle surrounding it, at least up to some distance limit. As such, it sounds as if we have a recursive, chaotic system. And if that is the case, then the randomness that we observe between successive particles passing by, or between successive observations of the same particle, equates with the “quasi-randomness” of chaos theory and complexity — and not the shop-worn bromide from quantum physics that a particle is “not real, just a superposition, a probability wave that is only determined upon an interaction by which it can be measured”. If true, this would counter the philosophical contention of the Copenhagen interpretation that there is “true fundamental randomness” at the most basic level of reality. Quantum randomness and Heisenberg uncertainty would then be the effect of a chaos / recursive / complex system. Such systems are conceptually deterministic but practically unpredictable due to information limits.

Regarding those information limits, at some point a system can become so complex that you would need to convert the entire universe in a computer in order to determine what is going to happen next to the system. If you did that conversion, you would know what would have happened; but it no longer WILL happen, because the Universe no exists as it was prior to becoming a computer. You’ve destroyed the world in order to predict what happens next with it.

I’ve done some search engine research to see if anyone else has written on this idea, perhaps to debunk it. So far I haven’t come up with any discussion one way or another as to whether it might hold water. I will keep looking. But one thing I can say — even if the quantum world is complex but not ultimately blindly random, it is still very weird. Electrons and other particles still exist in states where they can and do flip back and forth between areas of position having no path or tunnel between those areas. E.g., the “quantum leap” between electron orbits around an atom core, without any passage through the space existing between the two orbits. Just blink, instant teleportation from one area to another. Perhaps the idea of entanglement and chaos theory eliminate the purely random nature of whether particle A is in zone B or zone C. But you still have to wrap your head around the fact that A can go from B to C without passing through the buffer zone between B and C.

But then again, if you can accept the instantaneous nature of entanglement influences between quantum particles that interacted not long ago (such interaction causing the “glue” of entanglement) — an instantaneous conquest of time — then perhaps it is not that much weirder to accept the instantaneous conquest of space in a quantum leap. Or maybe some sort of extra dimensions are involved in these situations, causing shortcuts (“wormholes”) across 4 dimensional time-space. I’m just guessing here, this could all be completely wrong. But as the scientists say, sometimes being wrong is a necessary step to eventually being right!

Still, this shows that however sophisticated and math-oriented our understanding of the sub-atomic quantum world is, we still don’t understand most of the fundamentals of the reality stage on which all these crazy quantum things are happening.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 3:08 pm      

  1. Jim, As I read your piece, I can’t say I understood all of it—-or maybe even any of it. It may be that I’m just not mentally equipped to understand anything like quantum physics.

    However, I kept having a recurring tho’t as I read. Something about the whole thing you wrote reminded me of people and their relationships, particularly the paragraph that starts: “Well, then – entanglement is real. . . .” I kept thinking, does the quantum world mimic the world of relationships among people? Or do people mimic the quantum world? I kept substituting relationships among people for “few if any sub-atomic particles exist in their own little worlds with no interaction with other particles . . . “ etc.

    And I must say I really like the idea you came up with in the paragraph that talks about “even if the quantum world is complex but not ultimately blindly random . . . .” And once again, I found myself thinking: Isn’t that what life among humans is like?

    And once again, I find myself wondering are humans finding a quantum world that reminds one (such as I am, I guess I’d have to say) of our own world because they are finding something that is ultimately what they themselves conceive? Or again: Is it vice versa – the quantum world “makes” the human world?

    Then again, I’m out of my element on this one and may be so far from what is being talked about as to be unable to understand what’s being talked about.

    Perhaps I should pose my own question(s): Am I so lacking in understanding of what is being talked about that I am simply showing my own stupidity? Or . . . Should science broaden its way of thinking to absorb what I’m considering?

    And in the end you are right. Perhaps none of us understands any of it at all. (You really didn’t put it that way; I’m taking your idea a little farther than you did.) Nevertheless, I too find myself wondering. . . MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — November 17, 2012 @ 7:48 pm

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