An Introduction To Quantum Mechanics
The word quantum is Latin for "how great" or "how much." In quantum mechanics, it refers to a discrete unit that quantum theory assigns to certain physical quantities, such as the energy of an atom at rest (see Figure 1, at right). The discovery that waves have discrete energy packets (called quanta) that behave in a manner similar to particles led to the branch of physics that deals with atomic and subatomic systems which we today call quantum mechanics. It is the underlying mathematical framework of many fields of physics and chemistry, including condensed matter physics, solid-state physics, atomic physics, molecular physics, computational chemistry, quantum chemistry, particle physics, and nuclear physics. The foundations of quantum mechanics were established during the first half of the twentieth century by Werner Heisenberg, Max Planck, Louis de Broglie, Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Erwin Schrödinger, Max Born, John von Neumann, Paul Dirac, Wolfgang Pauli, David Hilbert, and others. Some fundamental aspects of the theory are still actively studied.
Quantum theory not only specifies new rules for describing the universe but also introduces new ways of thinking about matter and energy. The tiny particles that quantum theory describes do not have defined locations, speeds, and paths like objects described by classical physics. Instead, quantum theory describes positions and other properties of particles in terms of the chances that the property will have a certain value. For example, it allows scientists to calculate how likely it is that a particle will be in a certain position at a certain time.
Quantum description of particles allows scientists to understand how particles combine to form atoms. Quantum description of atoms helps scientists understand the chemical and physical properties of molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles. Quantum theory enabled scientists to understand the conditions of the early universe, how the Sun shines, and how atoms and molecules determine the characteristics of the material that they make up. Without quantum theory, scientists could not have developed nuclear energy or the electric circuits that provide the basis for computers.
Quantum theory describes all of the fundamental forces—except gravitation—that physicists have found in nature. The forces that quantum theory describes are the electrical, the magnetic, the weak, and the strong. Physicists often refer to these forces as interactions, because the forces control the way particles interact with each other. Interactions also affect spontaneous changes in isolated particles.
This might be a rare case about which Einstein was wrong. More than 60 years ago, the great physicist scoffed at the idea that anything could travel faster than light, even though quantum mechanics had suggested such a condition. Now four Swiss researchers have brought the possibility closer to reality. Testing a concept called "spooky action at a distance"--a phrase used by Einstein in criticizing the phenomenon--they have shown that two subatomic particles can communicate nearly instantaneously, even if they are separated by cosmic distances.
Your consciousness affects the behaviour of subatomic particles
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Particles move backwards as well as forwards in time and appear in all possible places at once
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The universe is splitting, every Planck-time (10 E-43 seconds) into billions of parallel universes
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The universe is interconnected with faster-than-light transfers of information
These are the results of the different interpretations of quantum physics. The interpretations all compete with each other. Otherwise respectable physicists can get quite heated about how sensible their pet interpretation is and how crazy all the others are. At the moment, there's about one new interpretation every three months, but most of them fit into these categories.
What is the Quantum?
The quantum is often called “a packet of energy” or “an ‘atom’ of energy.” More accurately, it is a packet or a unit of action.
It was named by Max Planck who discovered that energy is always radiated in whole bundles (“quantum” means bundle). There are no partial quanta. They always come in wholes. Thus, the quantum is the smallest, indivisible, unit of physical reality. It is the root (some would say “source”) of the physical world.
But it is a very strange physical entity. The quantum wonderland is a domain of paradoxes that strain the grasp of reason and imagination. It is a domain where the world of physical things seems to “evaporate” into a dance of surreal events. A world where the relationship between mind and matter becomes blurred.
Quantum theory describes reality as a “field” of superimposed “probability waves” (Schrödinger “wave equations” or “wave functions”). Quantum reality exists in multiple states of “both/and.” All possibilities described by the wave equations exist simultaneously.
Manifest reality happens when one of these possibilities is “selected”—and this happens only when the quantum system is observed. This is called the “collapse of the (Schrödinger ) wave function.” For reality to become “particularized” (for a definite particle to appear from a sea of indefinite wave possibilities), it must first be observed. In other words, the observer is a necessary and integral part of (or participant in) the quantum system.
Quantum as Metaphor for Consciousness
Classical physics could shed no light on the nature of consciousness—because, unlike matter, mind could not fit the criteria and methodology of standard science: measurement, separate-identity, determinism, reductionism, objectivity.
But quantum physics challenges each of these criteria. The quantum possesses many characteristics reminiscent of consciousness. If nothing else, the quantum provides researchers with scientific images or metaphors for consciousness.
Carl Jung’s Quantum Metaphor of Consciousness
Consciousness involves synchronistic events which are “a-causal” manifestations of mind-matter relationships. Along with physicist Wolfgang Pauli, Jung likened synchronicities to the indeterminism of the quantum, and to the mind-matter relationship of the observer’s consciousness involved in the “collapse of the wave function.”
Jung and Pauli also likened the nonspatial nature of psychic archetypes to the nonlocality of quantum events.
Ronald Valle’s Quantum Metaphor of Consciousness
Valle compared the wave-like nature of the stream of consciousness to the wave-nature of quantum events. He compared specific thoughts and actions to the particle-nature of quanta. And he compared the volitional capacity of consciousness to the indeterminate “probability waves” of quantum theory.
Young develops a theory where the photon (or quantum) is inherently purposeful. He points out that the randomness of the quantum is random only from the point of view of the observer. Logically, randomness is indistinguishable from the exercise of choice. Thus, from the point of view of the photon itself, what appears as randomness is actually choice. The photon-quantum, thus, is the source of choice and purpose in the universe.
Photon: Strangest Entity in Physics
Young also points out that the photon is beyond time and space. It is beyond time because the photon always travels at the speed of light, and at that speed time ceases to exist. It is beyond space because a single photon can traverse the entire universe without losing any energy. In other words, it experiences no distance, or space, between the start to end of its journey.
For other reasons, Young says, the photon is the most unusual entity studied by physics. Not only does it transcend time and space, it has no mass. As young describes, it is pure action—creative and purposeful, and completely free in all dimensions. And this, he says, is as good a definition of spirit as science could hope for.
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