If you’re feeling a bit confused by all the quantum mechanics talk, don’t worry.
You can take heart in this quote:
For those who are not shocked when they first come across quantum theory cannot possibly have understood it.
That is a quote by Niels Bohr, who ultimately received a Nobel Prize for his pioneering work in the field of quantum mechanics.
And if he thinks shock is the natural response to learning about the quantum realm, then perhaps shock isn’t such a bad thing.
Spooky Action At A Distance
Did you know that ‘physicist’ was only Albert Einstein’s side job?
The rest of the time he was a poet.
It’s true… for only a poet could come up with such an awesome phrase as spooky action at a distance, the one he was fond of using to describe the bizarre implications of quantum mechanics.
So what exactly are these implications? And what is it that makes them so spooky?
To start, here are a few…
If one particle is in New York and another is in Johannesburg, something I do to one of the particles cannot instantaneously influence the other, right?
Quantum mechanics says that it can.
If a cat is placed in a box without you or I or anyone else observing it, and there is a 50% chance of the cat dying over the course of an hour, the cat cannot possibly be both dead and alive, right?
Quantum mechanics says that, at least in principle, it can.
If you knew literally everything there was to know about the dimensions of a billiard table (including the cues, billiard balls, etc.) and also knew literally everything there was to know about the force that I was about to apply to that table with my break, you’d be able to predict the results with certainty, right?
Quantum mechanics says that you could not.
If you then were to take one of those billiard balls and roll it down a hill, and the ball came to a solid wall that it could not go over, under, or around, the billiard ball couldn’t possibly (without any outside interference) end up on the other side, right?
Quantum mechanics says that it could.
If you threw that billiard ball at a Stormtrooper but then waved your fingers and said, “These are not the droids you’re looking for,” you couldn’t possibly get away with it, right?
Quantum mechanics says that you could.
Wait a second…
Are you confused yet?
‘Cause I sure am.
*Photo Credit: JD Hancock (Creative Commons)