October 18, 2015
I have only recently renewed my interest, in Quantum Theory.
If you read past that sentence, I gather, you have some interest as well.
My curiosity was doubly peaked, in things Scientific and Mysterious, by recent news about Mars, and a faraway star.
The stuff about Mars, was the recent discovery of salt water.
Many scientists believe where there is water, there is Life. Not WAS Life, as in sometime before, but as in
So perhaps very soon, and during our lifetime, we will all have another Celestial Discovery, for the Homo sapiens trophy case.
The other story was about a faraway star, the specifics are contained in the link below.
I thought the Kepler story was epic, due to the implication we may have early evidence of an advanced species, in a different Solar System.
There is much more work to be done on this one, but we are apparently pointing a very powerful version of the Whisper 2000, in THAT technologically superior species’ general direction.
Hopefully we have the microphone turned the correct way, or the element of surprise may be lost. Although, if we end up discovering them, and they are already ahead of us, it is safe to say that they already knew about us, for awhile.
Anyhoo, I thought I should take a stab at a miniseries on this Quantum stuff, starting with some basic concepts, gradually easing into some of the more problematic questions.
So what follows will be the basic concepts of Quantum Theory, which already sounds like an oxymoron. And the word ‘moron’, seems ironic, if not intentionally placed, by the language Gods; as this series is likely a Fool’s Errand.
Mostly, because I am not a Mathematician, nor did I take much Quantum Theory (or even calculus, for that matter), past 1st year University. And since I was in University for 16 years, I clearly had ample opportunity to pursue these courses of study.
The fact that I did not, demonstrates my historical ignorance about these areas, and weakness, relative to my other strengths.
But that is human nature, to obsessively repeat past triumphs, instead of revealing new weaknesses.
Which leads me to this attempt to explain, the parts of Quantum Theory I think I understand. It is also my hope that I do it in a way that makes it easier for you too.
Luckily, anyone who knows a thing or two about this area, paradoxically, understands that ‘NOBODY really knows ANYTHING’ about this field.
But let’s begin anyways, with my latest metaphor, comparing Quantum Physics, to your Family.
The rules of the Universe depend upon the scale you are dealing with, just like the rules of your family, depend upon the scale of the individuals in this intimate human group.
The different sizes of things, in the known Universe, may be divided into very tiny things, and things that are bigger than these very tiny things.
The bigger things, are sometimes called ‘Newtonian’ bodies, because they follow the rules of reality that you and I are currently experiencing. These mathematical Laws include Gravity, Conservation of Energy, and all that Force equals Mass times Acceleration stuff, you and I can barely remember.
How people in a family behave, is related to their scale, or relative positions (Trepel Entendre!), in the family order itself.
Bigger objects, sometimes referred to as Parents, have fairly rigid rules governing their behavior. They aren’t allowed to hit or bite other people, steal things, or go to the bathroom in their own pants, especially on purpose.
This is eerily similar to how those aforementioned larger particles, are bound in a rigid physical-sensory “Newtonian” reality. Large things become predictable in their habits, and less flexible with added pressure.
The smaller particles zipping around in many families, sometimes referred to as ‘Children’, are like the Subatomic Particles in our Universe.
They are composed of the very same Stardust, but are not quite fully together, or ready to be independent satellites.
Kids in our society, are the developmentally intoxicated version of the Adult.
They can behave in so many unpredictable, outlandish, dramatic, incredible, and awe-inspiring ways.
The same is true, at the Subatomic level, where the smallest bits of our reality, roughhouse and cavort, in mysterious and wondrous ways, and bend all the rules.
And the metaphor gets a little deeper.
When us Adults watch these subatomic particles, just like Children, they behave and follow the Newtonian rules that we have come to expect. If we beckon them from across the room, asking them to grab the remote control for us, they do so, taking a fairly straight line.
What is interesting, is what happens when the Adults stop observing the ‘Children’, both on our Newtonian scale, and in the Subatomic world.
When we aren’t watching, Children and Subatomic particles, have a lot in common.
Unobserved, these smaller beings cease to follow the conventional rules that we have agreed upon. Normal movements become faster and chaotic, random events happen: things disappearing, others bouncing off the walls, and still others becoming glued together.
Straight lines and simple choices become chaotic travels, with too many degrees of freedom, and movements hanging by a String.
Their worlds are similar yet again, in the fantastic and unpredictable things that make up each moment. These tiny clowns mock the rules that have been agreed upon. The possibilities that exist for these smaller entities feels infinite, compared to the potential for us larger Newtonian burnouts.
Rules that were learned and practiced become forgotten as milk unspills itself, and time can itself move in both ways, not in any way illustrated, by the following palindrome.
A man, a plan, a canal: Panama.
This idea, that children are the subatomic particles, actually has some basis in Mathematical Fact.
The physical Real World that you live in, is composed of tiny particles creating Atoms.
When you are not observing a specific Electron, travelling in your Real World, it changes its behavior from a particle, into a wave.
That scenario does not at first glance, seem plausible, however, it has been proven to be accurate, by the Double Slit Experiment.
That same electron, frolicking in the space of infinite and impossible choices, snaps back to attention, and compliantly adopts the Newtonian rules, just like when a Parent walks in the room, and terminates a Pillow Fight, when the kids were supposed to be sleeping.
For more information on that one, please see my blog; ‘Can I Have Your Attention‘.
The next stop in our Series, will be Quantum Primer1, where we will discuss the concepts of:
Heisenberg, a cat, Entanglement, and Superposition.
By then, perhaps we will be ready to tackle some tougher questions, which hopefully will include:
‘Even if the Big Bang is true, how did the Big Bang occur, if there was nothing there in the first place?’
‘Galaxies have been shown to be travelling away from us at faster than the speed of light, how is that possible, if you can’t go faster than the speed of light?’
‘If something is travelling faster than the speed of light away from you, how does the light ever reach you?’
That one I will attempt to pick off right now. The light that leaves an object travelling at faster than the speed of light away from you does reach you. We have direct evidence by being able to visualize the light from the very galaxies we are measuring to be travelling, at that speed, away from us. So clearly, it reaches us.
How it reaches us is complicated, but any way you slice it, it apparently both takes longer, and the light becomes increasingly stretched, as the distance away increases.
Specific explanations have focused on the current Expansion of the Universe (ACTUAL EXPANSION OF SPACE ITSELF), as well as possibly being due to the initial INFLATIONARY PERIOD, leftover from the Big Bang.
Another question we may tackle would be:
‘What are the implications of an expanding universe, as related to colonizing another star?’
And I will probably need your help, in feedback form, if you don’t think my ideas, or math, or lack of math, passes your BS meter.
Simon Trepel, MD
Simon Trepel, MD FRCPC, is a practicing Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, in Winnipeg, Canada. He is an Assistant Professor, at the University Of Manitoba, in the Faculty of Medicine, and the Co-founder of the GDAAY Clinic. He is, more importantly, the proud Father of 2 beautiful Daughters. He writes in his spare time about things he knows something about, and occasionally about things he doesn’t; like Yoga, and Italian flavored coffees. As well as Quantum Physics.
Check out his Blog, called Simon Says Psych Stuff, at