Small Science, Big Rationale
By Michael Wicks | 7/2/2015
Be All You Can Be
What would you say if I told you that you weren’t really yourself right now? That instead of being who you are now, you are actually the person your future-self dictated. Sound crazy? Well not if you are a sub-atomic particle, the building blocks of nature, ourselves and everything we know. Quantum Physics is the name of the game, and if you have ever read about the paradoxical nature of the matter, maybe it’s not as wild as it sounds.
It's A Photon Thing, You Wouldn't Understand
The Australian National University recently performed a reversal on John Wheeler’s delayed-choice thought experiment, with interesting results. John Wheeler’s experiment, in brief, deals with photons and the precise nature of their measurement. Photons can act like a wave and particle, but not both at the same time, and when it is detected, it is in the throes of its own demise. So by measuring and interpreting these photons by use of a double-slit experiment, researchers conclude that when there are two slits, the photon will act as a wave, causing an interference pattern. The photon will then act as a particle if only one slit is available. This choice of reality, being decided upon as it is being emitted*, basically, the future road traveled determines what state of matter the photon will exist in.
Is There A Diagram Or Something?
Now this is where it gets interesting in Straya, these scientists (Professor Andrew Truscott and Ph.D. student Roman Khakimov) trapped a collection of helium atoms in a suspended state known as a Bose-Einstein condensate, and then ejected them until there was only a single atom left. The atom that was left was then dropped through a pair of counter-propagating laser beams, which formed a grating pattern that acted as crossroads in the same way solid grating would scatter light. A second light grating to recombine the paths was randomly added, which led to constructive or destructive interference as if the atom had travelled both paths. When the second light grating was not added, no interference was observed, as if the atom chose only one path.** Truscott was quoted as saying, “The atoms did not travel from A to B. It was only when they were measured at the end of the journey that their wave-like or particle-like behavior was brought into existence."
Before You Get All Existential...
Before you get too existential on the matter and think to yourself, “does this affect me, am I really here or is my future-self guiding me?” Realize that existence is relative to the individual, yes we are made up of similar particles, and yes there is mostly space between those particles, but that doesn’t make us less human, or any more likely to slip through the spaces between the atoms. The beauty of nanoscopic science is that it gives us a look at how things can, and theoretically, will occur under certain conditions. Some people think that understanding this information will lead to perverse knowledge on how to manipulate things and be a bane to people as a whole, which is far from the truth. People are animals, and our world is constant, there are things that will happen that people in our lifetime will never understand, and there are things in our lifetime that people 100 years ago could never comprehend. Regardless of anything, these things remain constant, whether it be due to our atmosphere or our planets chemical make-up, actions and reactions will occur. Which is why this is such an exciting experiment, bringing us one step closer into understanding how things, no matter how small, will act in our world.
Let's End With...
Let’s end with the thought experiment concerning Schrodinger’s cat. There is a cat in a box, also inside the box is a vial of poison and a radioactive element. Now if the internal radiation monitor detects a single atom decaying the vial will shatter killing the cat. What you have in front of you at your kitchen table is said box. Without opening the box, answer, is the cat alive or dead? The experiment deals with quantum superposition, meaning it’s linked to a random subatomic event that might not even occur. If you think you have the right answer, feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
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