20 April, 2011

A-Z Blogging Challenge: Q Stands For: Quantum Mechanics

Ready for another science post, everyone? :)

Quantum mechanics is a branch of physics dealing with wave-particle duality. Wave-particle duality is when matter acts like both a wave (think liquid) and a particle (think atoms). Quantum mechanics describes a physical system through a wavefunction, which predicts the chances of a particle being in a certain state at a certain time. This sort of probability is called probability amplitude.

The thing about the wavefunction is that the more you try to calculate one part of the system, the less accurate your measurements will be with regards to another part of the system. This is called the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.

(Good ol' Heisenberg. SOURCE)

The uncertainty principle brings into question the role of the observer. The Copenhagen Interpretation is the standard interpretation of measurement, the "statistical nature of reality", and the philosophical debate over what effect an observer has over a system. It says that observation causes the wavefunction to collapse; also referred to as consciousness causes collapse. One of the more famous thought-experiments to demonstrate this sort of thing is the Schroedinger's Cat experiment. (In which no live cats were harmed, by the way. Just thought-experiment ones.)

But there are other ideas on how quantum mechanics works. There's the Many Worlds Theory, Consistent Histories, Ensemble Interpretation, de Broglie-Bohm Theory, Relational Quantum Mechanics, Transactional Interpretation, Stochastic Mechanics, Objective Collapse Theories, von Neumann/Wigner Interpretation, Many Minds, Quantum Logic, Modal Interpretations, Time-Symmetric Theories, the list goes on and on.

Obviously, there's a lot of figuring out to do.




No question this time. You have the floor on quantum mechanics!

(Also, I won't be around to your blogs today. I'll do my best to catch up with posts tomorrow, and I'll be sure to swing by anyone who comments here.)

-----The Golden Eagle


the writing pad said...

Only to get to this blog would I ever click on something as daunting as Quantum Mechanics!! Thanks for another great overview of a complex and - to me - hitherto baffling subject. (Which is not to say I'm not still quite baffled ...)
Good Q post :-)

Nate Wilson said...

And that, dear readers, is why I named my cat Schrödinger. (We may not put him in a box, but when we're upstairs I swear he is both clawing the curtains in the living room and knocking over a vase in the kitchen at the exact same time.)

Old Kitty said...

I'm with the cat!! :-)

Take care

AllMyPosts said...

I loved physics back at college!! Thanks for reminding me of it!!! But I wasn't lucky enough to read about quantum mechanics!!

Hey, I am holding a small blog-fest on my blog!! Do visit and participate in it!!

with warm regards
CatchyTips for Writers

Michael Di Gesu said...

Another fine science lesson. I wish I knew a smart girl like you in high school.

Tiger85 said...

Wonderful post as always. I learn so much from your posts. Thanks =)

Poetry, Quotes and Book Reviews.

Empty Nest Insider said...

I really admire how knowledgeable you are! Very impressive. Thanks for following me and I look forward to following you. Maybe some of this will sink in and I'll be able to impress my kids! Julie

Emily Rose said...

I remember studying this briefly for science. It's pretty interesting!

Liz P said...

I think my brain just imploded. Good stuff!

Donna Weaver said...

Fascinating. I feel smarter now.

Susan Kane said...

My husband is a physics teacher, and I read this entire 'Q' blog to him. Loved it. So did I.

Milo James Fowler said...

Great post, but Wikipedia? Argh!

Anonymous said...

I learned so much from this post.

Although, physics is the most challenging scientific area for me. I always found it fascinating. I wish I had a knack for it.

Charles Gramlich said...

The cat is both alive and dead has inspired a lot of great stories, including Schrodinger's Kitten by George Effinger.

The Golden Eagle said...

Karla: LOL. You're welcome! ;)


Nate: Our cat seems to do that, too. They also make quantum leaps right into the kitchen sink and onto the counter . . .

Old Kitty: I kinda feel bad for the cat in the thought experiment--being dead and being alive sounds traumatic. LOL.

Abhishek: You're welcome! You studied physics? Awesome.

Congratulations on 50 Followers! :) I haven't played that many pranks on people, though . . . my post wouldn't be much!

Michael: Thank you!

Tiger86: Thanks!

You're very welcome. :)

Insider: Thanks!

You're welcome for the follow--I really enjoyed looking around your blog when I found it on the A-Z Challenge list! :)

Emily: I love this sort of science!

Liz: LOL. It is good stuff!

Donna: Well, if you ever are in need of knowledge about quantum physics, you've got it!

Susan: He teaches physics and he actually enjoyed this post? :D Wow.

I'm glad you liked it as well!

Milo: Thanks!

What's wrong with Wikipedia? I know it can be edited by anyone . . . but it seems pretty reliable to me.

Medeia: I'm glad you learned something from this post! :)

Charles: Must get my hands on that book! I love anything to do with quantum theory.

Chris K. said...

Okay, here's what I don't understand. Is 'observation' in terms of collapsing a waveform absolute, or subjective? If it's subjective, then presumably the cat can collapse the waveform himself, when the poison gas either comes at him or doesn't.

If observation is subjective, then there's lots of the universe that must be uncollapsed waveforms - potential planets around other stars, for example. As far as we're concerned, those planets exist and don't exist at the same time - until we can observe them.

Does that make sense?

Simon Kewin said...

Such a fascinating area. Wonderful post, thanks.