Saturday, November 26, 2011

Quantum Weirdness

From time to time we've mentioned how quantum physics presents a serious obstacle to those who want to argue that the universe and everything in it, including us, is merely a physical machine subject to the inexorable laws of Newtonian mechanics. We've speculated that, to the contrary, quantum mechanics suggests that the most fundamental characteristic of the universe may be mind and that matter and physicality may simply be illusions created by mind.

Be that as it may, whatever the ontological implications of the quantum world are it's agreed by all that it's a very strange place.

This PBS Nova video featuring Brian Greene takes the viewer on a jaunt through some of the more fascinating aspects of quantum weirdness. In it Greene discusses things like superposition - the property of very tiny particles to be in more than one place at a time; wave-particle duality - the paradoxical notion that everything is really both a wave and a particle simultaneously; the observer effect - the idea that the existence of things is in some way dependent upon their being observed, and quantum entanglement - the truly bizarre notion that an observation made of a particle here instantaneously effects particles on the other side of the universe.

The video is about 45 minutes long, but it's well-worth watching if you wish to gain a better familiarity with these phenomena. One thing to keep in mind is that though the video will help acquaint you with the phenomena, it probably won't help you understand them. Nobody really understands them.


Watch The Fabric of the Cosmos: Quantum Leap on PBS. See more from NOVA.

Thanks to Uncommon Descent for the tip.