“If quantum mechanics hasn’t profoundly shocked you, you haven’t understood it yet.” – Neils Bohr
“I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.” – Richard Feynman
Prepare to have your mind completely blown.
Of all of the developments of human civilization, quantum mechanics can certainly be considered amongst the most mind-bending. The rules of the quantum world are incredibly bizarre: the same object can exist in more than one place at the same time, there are virtual particles which appear out of empty space and then disappear again and the idea that all possibilities exist and it is the observer who determines which possibility becomes reality. Is your head hurting yet?
The important part to remember here is that this is not magic or fanciful thinking, this is hard science, backed by research. And it is telling us that everything in our universe, at the smallest level, is behaving in a way that we can barely wrap our minds around.
All of physics is based on quantum theory. It is the most rigorously tested theory in all of science. And it is also a trillion dollar industry. From the tiny transistors in computers to pulses of light travelling down fiber optic cables which deliver this post to you via the internet, none of this would be possible without what we’ve learned so far about quantum physics.
Ever since scientists stepped into the wacky world of quantum physics, we have been treated to one baffling discovery after another. For example, researchers recently made a tiny piece of metal move and stand still at the same time. No, that is not a typo, scientists showed that a single object could exist in two different states simultaneously, and it was visible. This is called superposition. Is your mind starting to be blown yet?
Prepare to Initiate Mind-Blowing
The quantum world first started to distort our minds back in 1801 when Thomas Young performed the now famous Double-Slit Experiment. You will never need any drugs ever again because after watching this short video your mind will be forever altered.
So, what does this tell us about reality? Does this mean that our consciousness creates reality? Do we, just by observing, call forth one possibility into existence? And, if so, is it in reaction to our thoughts, our expectations, our beliefs?
Or perhaps it isn’t simply observation in the sense of a conscious being simply looking at something. Maybe “interaction” is a more accurate word. Could it be that by interacting with a particle in order to measure it, you influence its behavior? Does that mean that every time we give our attention to anything (even a rock or a blade of grass) we alter it in some way?
In any case, we are an indispensable part of the process of determining what exists. Or so it seems. In quantum physics, we can assume nothing. Many physicists treat the whole theory as a black box, something that provides very good predictions, but that will lead to madness if you try to figure out why it works the way it does.
We All Quite Literally Connected: Entanglement
Another physical phenomenon that is hard to wrap your mind around is the idea of quantum entanglement. Quantum theory tells us that any things that have ever interacted with each other are forever connected, or entangled.
For example, your friend who is travelling on the other side of the planet makes a decision about what to do this evening. His/her decision instantaneously (and randomly) influences what happens to you on the other side of the world. And this happens without any physical force involved. This has now been demonstrated to exist.
On the human-scale, the effect is impossible to detect. It is averaged out by all the other things that happen. But, it is still occurring. Albert Einstein called the phenomenon, “spooky action at a distance.”
To help understand entanglement, watch this one minute video explaining entanglement:
So, are you, right now, affecting everything in the entire universe? Entanglement seems to suggest that you in fact are.
Welcome to Flatland
If your brain can handle some more astonishment, let’s dig a little deeper into the bizarre happenings of our universe on the quantum level.
We live in a three-dimensional world, meaning that we can move in 3 directions: 1) forwards and backwards, 2) left and right and 3) up and down. Whether or not the universe in which we live actually contains more dimensions is something which is being explored and debated by physicists. Some scientists speculate whether or not there are beings in other dimensions which exist alongside us?
But, what would it be like to live in a four or five dimensional world? Perhaps, a human describing life outside water to a fish is a good analogy. Trying to tell a fish what air and land is like would be difficult. And for the fish, it would be totally incomprehensible without actually going up onto the land.
However, the being from the fourth dimensional would have a complete grasp on our world, for his universe would contain all that we have, plus more. In the same way, we can comprehend a two dimensional world, but a two dimensional being would be unable to absorb what we told it about our universe.
To complete our 1-2-3 mind-blowing knowckout, let’s watch this last short clip which takes us to the universe of Flatland, a 2D world.
Putting a Blown Mind Back Together Again
There is one last point which should be mentioned. All of this quantum strangeness is not necessarily hard to understand, but it is almost impossible to believe. If a physicist walked up to you and said that you exist in an infinite number of locations and states all at once and that your decisions instantly effect everything in existence you would look at him like he’s nuts.
However, this is what the experiments are showing us. And they have been tested again and again.
The real challenge is to suspend, for a moment, what you assume to be true and have an open mind. It is only then that our minds can be properly blown. Once it’s been blown you can then start to piece it back together with the new vision of reality that’s been revealed to you.
So, what does it all mean? Nobody yet knows for sure; it is one of the great (if not the great) mysteries of our time. But you can look at the mind-blowing facts and ponder them for yourself.
If history has taught us anything, it’s that what we all knew to be fact, might not actually not be.