Friday, January 07, 2005

Request for Quantum Physics Titles

Did anyone else happen to catch this morning's quantum physics interview with University of New Mexico physics professor on KUNM?

It was FASCINATING. I have to admit I've always been a sucker for quantum physics, but I've missed some exciting discoveries in the past five years that seem to have changed EVERYTHING.

I was particularly interested as they were talking about the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen argument (which has to do with quantum entanglement -- whatever that is!). Einstein's challenge to the completeness of quantum physics was that because quantum reality cannot be proven, it cannot really reflect reality (tautologies aside, I think that was the gist of it).

In my limited understanding, it all boils down to the fact that quantum physics seems to give us some glimpse into a reality that may reflect a different user-interface than the one we can see, touch, and feel that makes up our every day reality. Think of quantum physics as the code that creates the Matrix. Studying the physical reality of the code (it's black and white shapes) does not give you a glimpse of what the Matrix looks like. But looking at how it works CAN give you some insight into how the Matrix will probably work. Schrodinger put it this way: "Another way of expressing the peculiar situation is: the best possible knowledge of a whole does not necessarily include the best possible knowledge of all its parts."

To me, this gives some glimmerings of an answer to the mind-body duality that has plagued philosophy since the early Greeks. We assume that to understand the whole, you have to understand the parts, so scientists went to work taking reality apart piece by piece. The farther down they got, the weirder things got, until literally at the level of sub-atomic particles, they discovered that quantum reality will NEVER yield an explanation for the reality of everyday bodily experience. It can't. It's not just a factor of instrumentation (what we use to measure quantum reality) but one of a whole different set of operating instructions.

And if you think I'm exaggerating, check this out. Quantum entanglement (whatever it is) has been used to perform teleportation. Not kidding!

Teleportation is deconstructing an object or person in one place and generating a perfect replica somewhere else. The idea of teleportation was originally thought of in the 1930's when Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky, and Nathan Rosen wrote a famous paper concerning the scanning process that would be involved during teleportation, this was later known as the EPR effect. Today this effect has actually been accomplished by a group of scientists at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. They have actually teleported photons to a distance of three feet. The distance itself is irrelevant, what is remarkable is the fact that the process was actually completed. (In 1997, although the report came out in scientific journals in 2003.)

It's also being used in quantum encryption and quantum computation. Seriously, the physicists working on this stuff today are the Neo's of our generation. They see the building blocks of our reality that have no physical relation to our physical reality, and what they study is called -- physics. This has to be the height of postmodern absurdity. It's sooooooo 21st century.

Can anyone recommend a good recent book?

(For anyone interested, the beginners books I've read so far and recommend are the Cosmic Code by Heinz Pagels and The Strange Story of the Quantum (1959) by Banesh Hoffman. But they're both relatively old (pardon the pun).)

No comments:

Post a Comment