Quantum Mechanics Reflection
In keeping with the precedent of the Relativity response, I will respond to our discussion on quantum mechanics by raising, and attempting to answer, questions based on this discussion, and on the issues contained within it. I mentioned before that relativity was clearly the strangest thing that we had studied thus far; I think I can safely say that it holds this distinction no longer. Quantum mechanics, in my opinion, is far stranger; relativity was really only a slight modification of Newtonian physics, albeit one that had very broad implications; quantum mechanics, in comparison, is based on probability, and in the idea that nothing is real until observed, or that everything is real until observed, and that the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. In short, quantum mechanics is weird because it defies our very notion of reality.
Quantum mechanics is also based greatly on the idea that observation directly influences the outcome of an event. This raises the question, What is ‘observation’, and how can it influence reality in the way that it does? We seemed to assume for the in-class discussion that an ‘observation’ is something that enables us to determine dynamically what is actually occurring in a system (as opposed to knowing after the fact, or not knowing for certain, at all). From my understanding of quantum mechanics, I would give a more specific definition: I would call an ‘observation’ anything that directly influences some object. I use this definition, in part, to provide an argument against claims that I have occasionally seen, that objects exist in one state simply because we observe them. I agree, at least now (although I am a recent convert), that things can exist or not exist based on observation, but to say that we, humans, are the only things that can observe just doesn’t seem right to me, and for lack of more scientific evidence in this area, that’s all I have to go on. Almost any simple particle can interact with almost any other particle, so that widens the scope of ‘observation’ a fair bit.
The next question is, what does it really mean for space to be distorted? Given the picture shown in The Elegant Universe, one would think that objects would get caught in the convoluted entanglements of space, giving space itself an inherent friction (and a friction of a fairly high coefficient, as well). But this is clearly not the case; as best as we can tell, or at least, to the best of my knowledge, a true vacuum is frictionless. But that picture was an attempt to ‘flatten’ the four (or more) – dimensional contortions of real space into two dimensions; the most likely solution to this confusion would probably therefore be a better understanding of higher-dimensional geometry. Or maybe that would just confuse the issue; I don’t know, but it would be very interesting to find out.
Quantum mechanics, as was stated before, is truly a genuinely odd thing. It embodies many entirely counter-intuitive, seemingly illogical ideas. But at the same time, it seems to be true. This is, perhaps, why quantum mechanics is the most tested, and the most proven, of all scientific theories; no one is quite willing to believe that its bizarre notion of reality could possibly be true, yet no one is quite capable of finding fault in it, either.