Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Wonderful World Of Quantum Physics

I read an interesting book this week, The Black Order by James Rollins. It's a good read, dealing with an elite US unit composed of scientist/soldiers. They basically run amok all over the globe, having adventures, irresponsible sex, gunfights, etc. All the stuff that makes for interesting spy fiction.

At any rate, there was some discussion of Heisenberg's Principle of Uncertainty, and a discussion of the hypothetical paradox of Schrodinger's Cat. The meat of the discussion can be found at pages 285-290 of Rollins' book.

Heisenberg's Principle of Uncertainty states that nothing is certain until it is observed. Schrodinger's Cat is an example of it. To summarize, a cat is in an opaque box with a poison contraption that can kill the cat at any given moment. If the box is closed, the cat is both dead and alive. It's in limbo. Only when the box is opened is one state or the other determined.

Subatomic particles apparently behave differently if observed. Observation apparently makes for reality. Electrons are both wave and a particle, until they are observed and measured. At the point of measurement; an electron becomes what it is, forced into its state by the physical act of observation.

So electrons are held in a form of existence where they are both particle and wave. They have the potential to be one or the other, until forced to be something else. In fact, they are both up until the moment something tries to measure it.

If all this is true, is reality determined only by its observation? Does the method of observation determine what reality is? We measure with our yardsticks. But is there something out there measuring the same things, but with better measuring tools than what we have? Does its measuring determine a different reality than ours? Or does this outside thing beyond our understanding actually determine our reality?

Kick that one around awhile. It's making my head hurt.

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