[-empyre-] the first story of deceleration
Akram.Khan at brunel.ac.uk
Mon Oct 31 09:42:40 EST 2011
> How do you drive at top speed on all lanes at once? On all tracks?
> I don’t know. Not even in retrospect.
Not only is it possible for you to be at two different locations simultaneously, but Quantum Mechanics (QM), through its most fundamental quality that leads to the strangest consequences, actually demands your simultaneous existence at infinitely many places, through what is known as the 'Superposition Principle'. Though the resulting effects are most manifest in the subatomic realm for atoms and fundamental particles such as electrons, the whole of reality is governed by this principle; so everything is possible, i.e. we could be here and at the other side of the Universe, simultaneously...
The laws of quantum physics are not some esoteric nicety that we can safely ignore; they affect our everyday lives, being fundamentally operative in a many areas ranging from particle accelerators, the nuclear reactions within the Sun, to the chemical processes that are at the foundations of biology.
When Young carried out his experiments and observed that when a beam of light was projected onto a double slit cut into an opaque barrier and then onto a screen, a series of dark and light stripes were produced; this phenomenon was explained by describing light as like a wave and like waves in a pond it was understood that the pattern observed was as a result of interference between waves coming from the two slits i.e. crest meeting crest to produce a white stripe and crest meeting trough, through cancellation producing darkness.
In the early 20th century, with the advance of QM, physicists understood that light, as well as possessing wave-like qualities also behaved as if it was composed of particles, which they called photons.
They discovered that if you repeated Young’s double slit experiment, but this time firing only single particles of light, the photons, individually, through the same slit but with the other slit open as well, then these photons should go through one slit only and so not yield an interference pattern on the screen, but a distribution of light with the maximum intensity behind the slit through which they’ve been fired, attenuating to darkness on either side of this slit. However, it was found that the pattern expected from the interference of waves emanating from two slits built up over time anyway! The only way this could happen is if the single photon went through both slits at the same time and then interfered with itself.
Since then it has been found that a number of experiments performed using electrons, atoms and bigger particles such as molecules (containing 70 carbon atoms) produce the same weird result, that each particle travels through both slits simultaneously.
To solve this problem physicists evoke the “Copenhagen Interpretation”, developed by Neils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg. This states that we do not see quantum mechanical effects in the everyday world because the very act of observation collapses the infinity of possibilities allowed by QM to the one that is actually observed. It suggests that the universe does not become fully real, fully itself, until someone observes it. Einstein did not like this idea, “I like to think that the moon is there even if I’m not looking at it”
There is another interpretation, first proposed in 1957 by Hugh Everett, that has gained widespread credibility. It interprets the equations of QM as allowing the actual existence of every possible quantum outcome but in worlds parallel to our own. This leads to the terrifyingly sublime implication that all possible alternative histories and futures are real and each is represented by an actual “world” or “universe”.... so when you were born alive you were also born dead!
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