Struggling with Meaninglessness

searching meaning in meaninglessness

Quantum Mechanics : The absurdness of Quantum Physics

with 3 comments

It all started out when physicists were puzzled by atoms which acted both as particles and wave. Later on, this mystery were uncovered by physicists in various experiments –  the electron is in fact taking its form in particle while accompanied by a wave around it. Edwin Schrodinger called it wave function. And this perfectly explains the duality nature of atoms.

So, what is this wave function is all about? First, we need to know that all energy occurs in discrete packets called quanta. For instance, the quantum of light is called photon and the quantum for gravity is called graviton. Secondly, matter is represented by point particles (atoms) but the probability of finding the particle is given by a wave surrounding it. The wave, in turn, obeys a specific wave equation (eg. Shrodinger’s wave equation) An example of matter is human body which is made up of billions of atoms.

Bohr and Heisenberg assumed that after an act of observing by observer, the wave function of electron will collapse, and the electron falls into a definite state. Before an observation is made, an object exists in all possible states simultaneously. But in order to determine which state the object is in, an observation need to be made on the object to collapse its wave function and make it go into a definite state. Apparently, the act of observing the object will ‘kill off’ the wave function and the object will assume a definite reality.  (In Heisenberg’s principle of uncertainty, Heisenberg mentioned that when we observe an atom, there will be an energy interchange between the observer and atom. This energy will create ‘disturbance’ and caused wave function to collapse. )

For instance – trees. Before an observation is made, nobody will know whether the tree is fallen or not. In fact, the tree exists in all possible states simultaneously. It might be burnt, fallen, firewood,  or may mightily standing strong. Once an observation is made, then the tree will spring into definite state, and we see that it has fallen, for instance.

That means, theoretically in quantum physics, it allows the possibility of an elephant which has yet been observed by any entity before, walking around your house when you are not looking or listening. However, once you turn your back, the wave function of the entire elephant collapses, and it will vanish the moment you try to observe it. The elephant will then emerge in its definite state perhaps in some jungle in Africa.  (Don’t forget atoms appear in multiple places at  the same time).

Edwin Shrondinger highlighted this scenario in his famous thought-experiment paradox Shrodinger’s cat. Put it simply, a cat is placed in the box with some uranium around it. Since uranium is extremely unstable, it may decay in any seconds. Let’s say there is a 50/50 chances the uranium will go decay in the next second, and if the uranium decays, it will kill the cat. So, before opening box, it is impossible to tell whether the cat is dead or alive. To find that out from quantum mechanics point of view, Schrodinger had to to add the wave function of the live cat and the dead cat – that means the cat is 50 percent alive and 50 percent dead. It is alive yet it is dead! But once we look in to the box, an observation is made and the wave function collapse, and we will see the cat in a definite state of EITHER being dead OR alive.

To Schrodinger, this was absurd. How can a cat be both dead and alive at the same time, just because he hasn’t look inside the box? Does the cat suddenly spring into existence as soon as we observe it? Albert Einstein, who persistently refused to accept the existing quantum theory, famously said something similar – “Look at the moon. Does the moon suddenly spring into existence when a mouse looks at it?”

Quantum Mechanics is so absurd to our common sense that i’m having some tough time accepting what i’m reading. However, it seems this is indeed how atoms work. And so i wondered if the whole nature is absurd too.


Written by elan85

February 4, 2008 at 8:11 pm

Posted in Quantum Physics

3 Responses

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  1. Theres no easy way to explain or understand this stuff.If we could view time as one long ribbon maybe that might help?


    February 8, 2008 at 1:39 am

  2. Hie scalarman. Thanks for the comment.

    If time is a long ribbon, this means time will keep looping. There is no beginning and end in time. And that raises another question – if time move along the ribbon in a fixed path, does that mean our life is already destined where we have no free will?

    For instance, perhaps it is already
    destined that on February the 8th, you will visit my blog and leave a comment here. And perhaps after hundred billion of years later, you will ‘loop back’ and comment on my blog again on February the 8th after the time has travel one full circle.

    (Correct me if i’m wrong but i assume this is what you mean by time as a long ribbon. :P)

    I do not rule out the possibility that time is indeed a long ribbon. But i suppose it is a scary thought for most people that we do not have any free will and we can’t choose our own paths. That’s the reason why many people can’t accept such idea. (I’m ok with it though)

    This is why quantum mechanics offers a very interesting perspective of the possibility of time, where life is all about chances, probabilities and purely random. But yet again, many people have hard time accepting such idea because human can’t live in uncertainties and dislike randomness.

    Well .. interesting stuffs …

    Ronn Yeo

    February 11, 2008 at 5:19 pm

  3. My mother was put in a box two years ago dead. If I open the box now could she be alive!


    December 1, 2008 at 8:38 am

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