19 April, 2012

A-Z Blogging Challenge: Quantum Physics

A black body. Public domain image. SOURCE.
Quantum physics is a branch of physics that deals with quanta (discrete units of energy) as described by quantum theory.

The name quantum comes from the Latin word for "how much". This field was developed because classical (or Newtonian) physics doesn't apply to atomic particles; radiation from black bodies (a black body absorbs and then emits all radiation that reaches it) could not be explained by it, or by electromagnetic theory. In 1900, Max Planck came up with a theory that explained the radiation from observed black bodies, and it proposed that electromagnetic radiation comes in quanta.

There are several important ideas to quantum physics:

1. The Copenhagen Interpretation. Created by Niels Bohr, it states that nothing exists until it is measured.
2. The collapse of the wave function. The wave function--which was created by Erwin Schrodinger--of a particle "collapses" into one of all possibilities when observed.
3. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. Invented by Werner Heisenberg, the principle explains that either the momentum or the position of a particle, but not both, can ever be determined.
4. The EPR Paradox. Named after Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky, and Nathan Rosen, it was an attempt to dismantle the Copenhagen Interpretation; the basic idea is that if a pair of particles have opposite spin and you measure one of the two, the other particle immediately acquires the opposite spin, faster than the speed of light.
5. The infinity problem. This is a mathematical hang-up where in quantum electrodynamics (QED), if you try to solve Schrodinger's aforementioned wave function, you end up with an electron with infinite mass, energy, and charge, a clear impossibility.

But that's not all. Due to problems with the Copenhagen Interpretation, there is another, competing quantum theory. The Many Worlds Theory, presented by Hugh Everett III in 1957, proposes that there are as many universes as there are possibilities; that every time a measurement is taken, the universe splits into one where the measurement occurred, and many more where the measurement resulted with all the other probabilities. In the case of a particle with two possible states, the universe would divide twice.


By Markus Poessel (Mapos), CC-BY-SA-3.0. SOURCE.
Notable Physicist:

Brian Greene


Brian Greene is a professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University who obtained a Ph.D. from Oxford University. He made a series of discoveries in superstring theory (which tries to bring together quantum theory and general relativity into a single unified theory) and topology change (the idea that the fabric of space can split). He is the author of The Elegant Universe, The Fabric of the Cosmos, The Hidden Reality, and Icarus at the Edge of Time. He was the host of the PBS NOVA programs The Elegant Universe and The Fabric of the Cosmos, both based on his books. He also co-founded the annual World Science Festival in 2008.


A short video of Brian Green explaining quantum physics:





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Sources:
http://www.briangreene.org/?page_id=39
http://www.columbia.edu/cu/physics/fac-bios/Greene/faculty.html
http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/mod6.html
http://library.thinkquest.org/3487/qp.html
http://physics.about.com/od/quantumphysics/p/quantumphysics.htm
http://www.quantumintro.com/
http://srikant.org/core/node12.html
http://www.thebigview.com/spacetime/quantumtheory.html
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/quantum+physics
http://www.thekeyboard.org.uk/Quantum%20mechanics.htm

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So, which do you champion: the Copenhagen Interpretation or the Many Worlds Theory? Do you think we'll ever find a definitive answer?


-----The Golden Eagle

38 comments:

Old Kitty said...

The idea of other parallel universes is amazingly mind boggling, my head hurts!! Yay! Take care
x

Simon Kewin said...

Wonderful; I was hoping you'd pick this. No matter how often I read about Quantum Physics it still amazes me. I have a fondness for the Many Worlds Theory - but that may just be the fiction writer in me wanting to think that all these possible universes exist.

If "exist" is the right word ...

Li said...

I have to go with the Many Worlds theory - it would also go a long way toward explaining a lot of "paranormal activity".

Pat Hatt said...

Yeah I think the other world theory is valid. Not sure it will ever be proven or if it should though, we don't need to go messing up other realites.

Cherie Reich said...

I'm all for the many worlds theory. :)

Jack said...

I'm wondering what the other MEs are doing right about now :)

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

I like the Many Worlds theory myself--at least, in THIS universe....

Carole Anne Carr said...

Hope they soon make up their minds! Very confusing when I want to write my children's sci-fi! :0)

Rek said...

Parallel universes would be awesome, the dreamer in me thinks, but is it possible, we may never truly know given the scale of our own.

Naina Gupta said...

The thing that bugs me about Quantum is the incorrect usage of the term. Alot of people seem to think that, because of the subject matter, it is something big.
For example when something is described as a quantum leap. If you take a quantum sized step of anything you wouldn't be moving very far.
*end rant*

S. L. Hennessy said...

Haha, anther quantum post. There are a bunch of us...guess it's a popular science/sci-fi post topic :) I did some research on quantum physics recently. It's a pretty cool field.

Flying high in the sky.... said...

WoWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!! this was coolllllllllll!! loved it!! i am a firm believer of many worlds... though i am a zero in everyting you have explained here... very very very interesting!! loved it!!

Danielle B. said...

Ok, so I know I read your post, but apparently my mind hasn't figured it out yet cause I'm still in a frame of "what did I just read". I will get it, my brain is currently dumbing it down for me at the moment.

M Pax said...

One of my astronomy buddies got to meet Brian. Physics intrigues me.

Joshua said...

This makes me want to watch the Quantum Leap series again. Best show ever. Right up there with Firefly and The West Wing (seasons 1-4).

Rusty Webb said...

Many Worlds - the Copenhagen interpretation is poppycock IMO. Many Worlds has issues too - like we're essentially immortal if you take it to its logical conclusion. I don't like that one either - but between the two it has the fewer new agey implications.

And I know quantum computers don't require either interpretation to be correct - Many Worlds is a much more reasonable explanation of how they operate to me.

Cheryl Klarich said...

So amazing that our little human brains try so hard to figure these things out... could it be that we intrinsically know that we are not the whole story?

Nigel Mitchell said...

Awesome blog. I really think quantum physics is the key to the universe, and I believe in the many worlds theory.

We awarded you the Liebster Blog award. It's normally for blogs under 200 followers, but I got your count wrong. Hope you don't mind if we give it to you, anyway
http://www.thegeektwins.com/2012/04/and-liebster-blog-award-goes-to.html

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Stephen Tremp posted on the same subject so I got an extra dose of learning today!

Donna K. Weaver said...

I should have known this would be your word for Q. Excellent choice. I just read Timeline again that talks about it.

michelle said...

Have you ever looked for something, a simple household object for example, after putting it in a certain spot? It suddenly disappears "right under your nose"...
I know lots of people experience these kinds of strange happenings... but just brush it aside, even though, deep down they are 100% sure of having placed it in a specific spot...

I've often heard people say that things "fall into another dimension" by way of explanation, after searching high and low for an object that has been dropped...

Would the Many Worlds theory come into play here?

Carolyn Abiad said...

Many Worlds for me, but The Copenhagen Interpretation made some pretty good music in Libba Bray's GOING BOVINE. I love that NOVA series, and I'm sure you've seen "What the Bleep Do We Know!?" - there's some good fodder for fiction. ;)

Erin M. Hartshorn said...

I think both Many Worlds and the Copenhagen Interpretation are full of delightful weirdness! Another great post, Golden.

Erin

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

The Many Worlds Theory seems to be popular in the film world but I'm not so sure.
I don't think anyone will figure out the correct answer in my lifetime.

Charles Gramlich said...

Not an easy topic, this one. But fascinating.

Andrew Leon said...

Max Planck!

I don't actually believe in the many worlds idea, but I do -like- it. I wish it was true. The idea of a multiverse is just cool.

Sonia Lal said...

Quantum physics is so so so confusing!


Sonia Lal, A to Z challenge

Yvonne Osborne said...

When I look at the night sky, I know anything is possible.

stuartnager said...

I'd have to go with Quantum Leap (followed by Many Worlds) ;)

The Golden Eagle said...

Old Kitty: It is!

Simon: Thanks. :)

It's an interesting thought, that there are multiple version of ourselves in different universes.

Li: Now that's an eerie idea . . . :)

Pat: I think it's unlikely it would ever be proven, per se. If there are other universe, it seems like they would be necessity be separate from ours.

Jack: LOL. Same here.

Sandra: Who knows what's going on in the other ones . . .

Carole: Yeah, Science Fiction has a habit of making things complicated. :P

Rek: The universe doesn't have an edge, so it would certainly be hard.

Naina: Excellent point! I can understand referring to a sudden jump of an idea as a "quantum leap", but physical dimensions where quanta come into play are beyond minuscule.

S. L.: I can see why it would be!

Flying high: Thank you! I'm glad you liked the post. :)

Danielle: Well, the post will always be here for reference!

M: Really? Wow. I'd love to meet a physicist . . .

Joshua: Knowing how you've spoken of Firefly in the past, it must be a good series. :)

Rusty: Quantum computing--I have trouble conceptualizing it in my head, but it's definitely an interesting subject.

The Golden Eagle said...

Cheryl: Who knows . . . it's possible.

Nigel: Thank you!

Nope, I don't mind. I'll just pass it on after the Challenge to some blogs with under 200 Followers. :)

Alex: I saw that post! It's great to see so many people posting about quanta . . .

Donna: Thank you! :)

Michelle: In a word, no. At least, not as I understand it. The Many-Worlds theory theorizes that the different "universes" are completely separate from each other.

Carolyn: I loved Going Bovine. It's probably my favorite book by Libba Bray. :)

Actually, I haven't . . . but it sounds like an interesting show!

Erin: LOL. That's certainly true.

Thank you!

Susan: Or mine. Maybe once we're traveling in space and have made more discoveries in physics, but not very soon . . .

Charles: Definitely!

Andrew: I'm kind of on the fence about it. Both theories, at least from my perspective, seem to have their merits.

But I do agree that it would be cool to have multiverses. :)

Sonia: It can be . . .

Yvonne: I always get a sense of wonder, looking up at the stars. :)

Stuart: LOL.

The Golden Eagle said...

Cherie: I'm sorry I didn't reply to your comment before! I just found it in the Spam folder, for some odd reason. :/

It does seem to be the most popular one!

Angelina C. Hansen said...

Since I'm currently working on a story that has to do with parallel universes, I'd have to say that's my theory of choice. ^_^

The Golden Eagle said...

Angelina: It sounds like a really cool story. :) I love fiction that explores such stuff!

Christine Rains said...

This is fascinating. I agree with the Many Worlds theory. The fact that something hasn't been measured doesn't mean it doesn't exist. This posts flashes me to episodes of The Big Bang Theory!

The Golden Eagle said...

Christine: Well, that's certainly true. :)

Noushka said...

Yep, he is a great guy and I believe QM theory is just the beginning to understanding much more, including how to travel in space between (or using) dimensions!
I wish you all the success in the world: you've chosen a fascinating line in life that I would certainly follow, could I turn the clock backward.... a lot!!! :)

The Golden Eagle said...

Noushka: That would be an amazing breakthrough. I'd love to travel through space beyond this solar system . . . though I very much doubt it will happen in my lifetime. :P Sigh.

Thank you so much! Same to you. :)