(Part 2 of Two)
The Copenhagen Interpretation
Following, is an excerpt from my book, The Handyman’s Handbook on Cosmology, A Book to Cure Insomnia:
Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg came away from [the Copenhagen Conference, 1927] with two principles known as the Copenhagen Interpretation.
1) Bohr’s principle of complimentarity: In classical physics, experimental results are not altered by the devices used to study them. In quantum physics, the very act of observing an electron affects the results. An analogy to this is that the presence of news media changes an event being reported because people behave differently when they know they are being observed. Bohr designated particle and wave phenomenon as complementary concepts, i.e., they exclude each other.
2) Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle: This principle states that precise measurements are meaningless in the quantum world. We can only determine a statistical distribution of measurements. That is, it’s impossible to know at the same time the position and velocity of an electron. Measuring one affects the other. Therefore, you can only know the position or velocity, not both at the same time.
With these two quantum principles, quantum physics was firmly established in the world of science side by side with classical physics. Quantum physics reveals no less than a missing link between the macrocosmic and microcosmic worlds!
The Atom is on the border between those two worlds. Anything as large or larger than an atom is in the realm of classical science; anything smaller than an atom (including the particles of an atom’s nucleus or the electrons swarming about an atom) is in the realm of quantum science.
As a whole, classical science makes sense in the macrocosmic realm of reality. Not so in the microcosmic world. Following, is an excerpt from the book I cited above.
When sufficiently magnified, the apparently seamless print on this page is composed of dots. But, we are still in the macro world. We continue on to the molecular level and then deeper into the atomic level. We are still in the macro world. One gigantic step further and we are at the subatomic level of matter, the atom’s nucleus. There, begins a world that is astoundingly incongruous, inconsistent, irrational, and incompatible with the everyday macro world of classical science. Even when we suspend common sense, it [quantum science] makes no sense!
Like the atom, Einstein was also on the border between the macro and micro worlds. More precisely, he straddled both worlds. Basically a classical scientist, Einstein actually used quantum theory when he found it necessary for his work despite his feeling that “God does not play dice with the Universe.” He also said, “God is subtle but he is not malicious.”
To this day, the missing link between the very large (from atoms to galaxies), and the very small (particles) remains unresolved, if indeed there is a resolution.
There are two axioms associated with light: 1) Nothing travels faster than light in vacuum and 2) no matter, energy, or information is transmitted faster than light.
There are a handful of phenomena that seem to violate one or both of those axioms, but actually they do not. Despite that, those phenomena are formerly identified by the term, Faster-Than-Light (FTL). One of those phenomena stands out from the others because it is the weirdest of them all whether it is argued to be or not to be superluminary. To complicate the matter further, ‘breaking the light speed barrier’ implies that Einstein’s Special Relativity physics is incorrect!
In the thirties, while Einstein was still active as a physicist, several quantum physicists refuted his Relativity physics after they conducted quantum particle experiments that seemed to show FTL results. Principal among them was Bohr. He and Einstein argued about the issue for twenty years! Einstein’s retort to his detractors was that the incompleteness of Quantum Mechanics was responsible for false experimental results that showed FTL velocity. (He has since been proved to be incorrect about that retort, but ironically his own spectacular theory of Special Relativity has since provided a loophole out of the seemingly damaging results of quantum-based experimentation.)
On the face of it, entangled particles are weird within the already weird sub-atomic world. They seem to be “in touch” with each other with no detectable link regardless of the distance between them even—-theoretically—- if they might be located at two different ends of the Universe! If you are confused, remember what Bohr said about Quantum Physics (Missing Links, Part 1 of Two, May 22 2014).
From the very beginning of quantum science, the results of microcosmic experiments have been subject to interpretation (the operative word for The Copenhagen Interpretation cited at the beginning of this blog). The theory of Entangled Particles is no exception in a science riddled with paradoxes and loopholes, volatile fuel for debates.
The results of Bohr’s quantum experiment are incontrovertible. They suggest that after a particle has been split into two separate particles, they communicate with each other, i.e., the properties of the two entangled properties instantly mirror each other in opposite states—if the spin of one of the particles is clockwise, the other will be counterclockwise with no detectible link between the two particles. The same mirror phenomenon is true for each particle’s position, momentum, polarization, etc… Laboratory controls are created so that the experiment is conducted as though the particles are in space and at a great distance from each other. Online you will find headlines that leap out of the page, “Light travels 10,000 times faster than Einstein’s light speed limit!”
Well…hold on…not so fast. That interpretation of FTL experiments is an illusion. Like the best of card tricks wherein the “magical” card is surreptitiously set in place while the cards are still being shuffled, entangled particles do not correlate after they are separated: Instead, the correlation had already occurred at the instant the particles were separated. Hence their apparent instant ‘entanglement.’
As in a card trick, the opposite properties of the particles are already in place before they are observed to have ‘instantly’ mirrored each other’s states. The first maxim of light is satisfied because the change only appears to be inexplicably superluminary. That is not the same as the actual speed of light in vacuum associated with classical science.
The second maxim of light is satisfied because there is no information, matter, or energy transmitted between the two particles at the instant that they are separated. There is nothing to transmit. Therefore, Einstein’s maxims of light remain intact. Yet, heated debates continue about pairs (or groups) of entangled particles.
Of this phenomenon, Einstein sarcastically said, “Spooky at a distance.” Apparently, he got into the swing of the casual nomenclature habits of his younger generation of physicists (see A Weird Breed below).
Of course my description of the perceived anomaly of entangled particles is awkward at best. I also feel like a fool rushing in where angels fear to tread.
Loving cosmology doesn’t make me an expert on cosmology. But I’ve ventured into the extremely complex issue of entangled particles because it is implicit to the larger issue that follows.
Astounding technology has exponentially extended our visual and auditory senses. However, the world of science has developed a traffic jam of theories that by definition cannot be proved. In terms of progression, the world of classical science is cumulative; that of the quantum world is mainly transitory. The former is analogous to solid rock, the latter to quicksand. These metaphors are not an attempt to deride quantum science; rather, they are intended to respect it. Despite the colossal paradoxes within the quantum world, quantum science is valid. But it is also terribly cluttered with nonsense.
String theory and its accompanying sub-theories remain unprovable. The conglomerate of Superstring Theories suggests that strings are so tiny that if one of them were to be placed into an imaginary atom as large as the Universe, the string (compared to that hypothetical atom) would be the size of an average tree. Now, that can never be proved no matter how adroitly one may juggle equations in favor of the existence of strings. ‘Stings,’ in themselves, are hypothetical and their very existence can never be proved. Once a very hot topic claiming to be on the tail of a Theory of Everything (TOE)), string theory appears to have stubbed its toe. Contemporary cosmology badly needs a close shave with Occam’s Razor.
If I were given the choice of knowing only the origin of the Universe or only the missing link of modern humans, I would choose knowledge of the Missing Link in a heartbeat.
Unlike all other forms of life, mammals love. What is the missing link that differentiates mammals from insects, reptiles, and fish? In addition to love (as distinct from sex) shared by individual members of a species, there are instances of love shared by members of different species, e.g., love between dogs and humans, and on occasion love between a cat and a rabbit. Yes, we are stardust, but I don’t look to the stars to explain the sudden advent of love in a universe of fire, ice, and rock. Love’s existence is at least as enigmatic as the Big Bang.
Even more enigmatic is the missing link from mammal to rational thinker. Understandably, archeologists painstakingly continue the search for the classic “Missing Link” of human evolution in primordial stones and bones. I don’t think they’ll find it there. But if the missing link occurred in the cranium (which I believe is the case), the link to rational thought will never be known. Brains don’t keep.
A link requires more than bones and stones to illuminate the cause of a gigantic leap from just another mammal to the ‘common man,’ let alone to the architect who designed the Parthenon, the composer who created his ninth symphony, or the discoverer of the fourth dimension.
After billions of years of absolutely instinctive life, rational thought was and remains an exquisite electromagnetic event (related article: Bets, Anyone?, December 7, 2011). Perhaps quantum gravity will eventually link us to how the universe works, but that link alone will not provide us with the answer to the question of why it exists. The answer to that question is most likely linked to electromagnetism, the only natural force that is intimately and extensively associated with life and thought.
Electromagnetism, of which light is a part, is the portal for the self-evident link between consciousness and the Universe. It’s a one-way link, of course, because by definition perception is applicable only to sentient beings: stars simply ‘are’—we know they ‘are’ and much more about them because of our ability to read their electromagnetic spectrum.
In closing, I cautiously avoid an unprovable scientific hypothesis to the effect that electromagnetism is key to a Theory of Everything (TOE). There are too many of those theories on the burner already.
However, with or without potential incremental skulls yet to be discovered, it is evident that in a blink of geologic time, electromagnetism has enabled humankind to attain a major link to the cosmos via rational thought.
Yet, I have a strong prescience that art, ethics, and love were not somewhere within the fireball of the nascent Universe. Perhaps they originated within us, in a dimension of creativity and spirituality.
A Strange Breed
I enjoy the casual terms created by professional nuclear physicists and cosmologists. As you may have noticed, they have dropped the tradition of assigning profound titles to theories and discoveries. You may have missed a few of them that come to mind:
- The ‘Theory of Everything’ is ponderous, so they call it TOE
- Gluons are quantum particles that ‘glue’ quarks together (that one reflects the innocence of a child)
- The “Big Crunch” is assigned to a retrogression of the Universe into a sub-atomic point (a colossal Universal event reduced to the status of a candy bar)
- The word ‘quark’ is from James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake (so named, no doubt, by a poetic scientist)
- Even the well-known term black hole is a simplistic description for an entity that is often referred to as a ‘RIP’ in the universe (Following their example, I’ve come to regard a ‘rip’ as ‘Rest In Peace.’ I think that is apt for a star that has disappeared into a black hole
- And how about GUT for Grand Unified Theory, or WIMPs for Weakly Interacting Massive Particles, or MACHO for Massive Compact Halo Objects.