Blog of Veikko M.O.T. Nyfors, Hybrid Quantum ICT consultant

Quantum Mechanics demystified, a try

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Characteristics of physics exploration

Throughout ages human’s have pondered what’s this all about that we perceive around us. Question has been considered from various different perspectives over time.

Perhaps the most primordial approach has been a spiritual one. People were sitting under the starred sky with stomach full, wondering if somebody had created all this. And better yet if there was some purpose in creator’s mind. Various kinds of religions were born from aboriginal dreamtime to christianity. Interest was mainly to understand why everything has come to be, not so much as how this all is functioning. The latter would have already taken too much time, which people were short of being busy to grab their everyday living.

Later on all kinds of inventions took place to make people’s life easier. Not all the time had to be spent running after the rabbit for lunch. People started to get interested also on how this all is working.

At some point of time writing was invented. Enabling documentation of things earlier generations had devised. This sped up the progress of understanding the world hugely as things were not as easily lost as happens in verbal tradition knowledge transfer.

A good sample of essence of available time for progress in nature exploration is ‘Annus Mirabilis’ for Isaac Newton. The couple of years he had retreated to countryside to escape Great Plague in Cambridge. He had all the time to think of how the universe works. And that was what he did. In various areas like philosophy, optics and calculus.
One of important inventions he came up with was his laws of motion and gravity. Which he told he got inspiration for, while watching an apple fall from tree to ground. These laws became the heart of classical physics.

Physics is probably the main field of science in finding out how the universe works. Physics is used in most other areas of science, like chemistry, biology, geology, even in psychology on the physiological area of it. Similarly as mathematics is used in physics.

In what manners does the research in physics work then?
Physicists make observations, gather facts and hints of the surroundings, perform experiments and deduce theories based on the notions by using their intuition. Sometimes they just have to make guesses on theories, based on minimal information. In either case more and more experiments need to be performed with more and more measurements to verify the theory.

Sometimes theories hold for long. As has e.g. Maxwell’s theories on electromagnetics done up to date.
It wasn’t that good with the Newton’s classical mechanics. It turned out that they are almost right if we apply them in human scales of speed, time and others measures. Giving accurate enough results for everyday life. But beyond that, if we reach e.g. near to the speed of light, mass starts to increase, making Newton’s laws go badly wrong.

This is pretty normal sequence in physics’ evolution. A theory is born and looks to be right. Until some new light is shed, putting it under doubt. Theory is seldom, if ever, fully wrong, but requires some enhancement to hold in some new aspect. Just what theories of Relativity together with Quantum Mechanics from 1900 onwards made to Newton’s laws.

In the end, even if we got all the theories fully right eventually (wouldn’t hold my breath), we might know how the world is working.
But we still wouldn’t know why.

Richard Feynman compared forming postulates of physics to learning the game of chess by watching aside.

Somebody unfamiliar with chess game, starts watching two players play. Initially having no clue on chess rules. Little by little, along time, rules start to form up in spectator’s mind. E.g. the rule that bishop is always moving diagonally. Thus a certain bishop must stay on a square of the same color throughout the game. Black or white.
After spectator had lost concentration for a while during a long game, one of the white bishops, originally in white square, had moved to a black square.
How is this possible? Did either of the players cheat? No, chess players do not cheat. It was only that the rules formed in spectator’s mind were just a bit short. In between a white bishop had been captured and later on a pawn crossed for queening got raised to a white bishop on black square.

That was just very much similar to what happened with Newton’s laws. They looked perfect until Specific theory of Relativity turned up. Resulting in an enhanced rule; relativity factor to be taken into account.

If we once would have a theory of everything in place, we would eventually know how the world works!
But even so, we wouldn’t know why it works like it does.
Back to square one!