Earl Gray

Earl Gray
"You can argue with me but, in the end, you'll have to face that fact that you're arguing with a squirrel." - Earl Gray

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Quantum Poetry

Part I - Fundamentals

     If you have more than an hour and a half (1:38:43) to learn about the universe, let me recommend "Measure for Measure: Quantum Physics and Reality":

     While I can't name anyone less qualified than I, let me give you a metaphoric distillation of the universe at the subatomic level.

An unretouched photo of Albert Einstein
     We used to assume that particles going in one direction would continue to do so (after accounting for gravity and friction).  In truth, the flight path seems to be more random.  The video above employed the example of two rectangular openings in a solid front wall through which electrons are sent until they hit a back wall.  If we were firing bullets or throwing fastballs we'd expect their straight trajectory to eventually form a pattern concentrated the back wall identical to the aperture:  rectangular. 

     What do we see instead? 

     Stripes across the entire back wall! 

     WTF?  Why the whole wall and what's with the stripes? 

     Hold that thought.

     Let's begin by thinking of knuckleballs rather than fastballs.  The unpredictability of the flight pattern makes the ball hard to catch, let alone hit.  Indeed, one catcher remarked that he needed a pillow, not a glove.  Another quipped that his job was easy;  just walk to the backstop and pick up the ball.  WTP?

     The catch¹ is that while the path may be erratic the destination isn't.  A knuckleball thrower can hit the strike zone with almost the same consistency as a fastball pitcher. 

     Consider Joe Pesci at the drive thru

     It's unlikely that Pesci will get exactly what he ordered but it's a safe bet that it will be fast food², not filet mignon or escargots. 

     This is the Uncertainty Principle.   

Schrödinger's Cat (and some photobomber)
     Commencing in 1926, after consulting with Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schrödinger solved the riddle (with help from his cat, who ended up hogging the spotlight).  Electrons don't travel as individual projectiles like bullets or fastballs.  Rather, they move as waves. 

    "Okay," you might say, "that explains the splattering across the entire back wall but, again, what about the stripes?"
     Imagine dropping two rocks into a pond.  Waves from each landing spot will ripple out and cross each other.  When a trough of one meets the trough of the other we have a low point, which shows up as the blank space between the striations.  When two crests join we have a pinnacle, appearing as a column on the background.  Where high points in one wave encounter lower ones in the other they average out, creating the transitional fuzziness between the blanks and the stripes.

     That is quantum physics in a nutshell--and what else would you expect from a squirrel?³

NextPart II - Poetry Parallels

Jurel the Squirrel


¹ - Please excuse the pun.

² - Assuming "fast food" isn't a oxymoron.

³ - Actually, our greatest scientist, Jurel the Squirrel (1903-1909), came up with a more elegant and comprehensive theory decades before Schrödinger et all.  Unfortunately, it doesn't translate easily into English.  (My best succinct attempt would be "God does not play dice...but She does deal goulies.") 

     Better to leave that for another day.

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