A lot has been said on the implications of quantum mechanics. A great deal of knowledge has been shared on what we understand about the nature of reality from this new branch of scientific development in the last Century. A great deal of philosophization has emancipated from the unlocking of the strange epithets of nature.


If there is any theory of the physical world, which is astoundingly successful, despite of what a worn-out philosopher would infer, from such implications, it is that these implications are enhanced; by the validity of quantum mechanics on the basis of experiments.


On a related note, I just-now finished reading the 4th chapter of Stephen Hawking’s recent book, The Grand Design, this chapter named, Alternative Histories, describes through a clarity of masterful examples and brilliance, the idea that the world, where it all matters how tiny the objects are, is determined on the basis of laws which directly invalidate all our intuition and contravene all our everyday experience.


The idea of this idea is, such tiny inanimate creatures of which we never heard of and never formed any impression of, because they are so beyond our reach, they all exist in a world which behaves funny.


Have you ever heard of an object called a neutrino or a gluon, or a pentaquark?


This last one, penta-quark, may or may not exist, but scientists have got a hint of such a particle, especially I know a scientist who worked out all the details of a penta-quark candidate*, I used to play tennis with this scientist guy, so believe me you, on everything I tell you about science. If you do not believe me you are still in good self of yours, just don’t over-use it.


*In Particle Physics parlance a candidate is something which is purportedly conjectured to be an actual identified particle, if it satisfies all the imposed conditions of validity of the referred actual particle; here the penta-quark. So if it does not satisfy the conditions of validity, such candidates are to be rescinded back to where they were originally retrieved from, in terms of the data-analysis technique.


Stephen Hawking, in this book of his, gives the example of Bucky-balls instead of objects like neutrinos, which is a large molecule of 60-some atoms in it, which is still essentially a quantum object, that is, this molecule exhibits all the funny scenario of quantum mechanics.


What’s funny?


Imagine Schrödinger’s kitten, extending both left wards and rightwards, on a right turn, at a signal on the highway. Both at the same time? Without splitting into two separate kittens or anything like that, this could be shown in a movie. The real kitten can’t do that, but an electron imagined as a kitten for animistic allegory, can do that kind of gimmick.


The kitten-electron can extend like a wave, in two separate directions. That is, if more than 100 of such funny electrons are in a group and they do this left right trick, the radar of the Schrödinger’s cops will show up half of the electrons on the detector at the left hand shoulder of the highway, irrespective of the signal. And half of the electrons will show up on the detector placed at the right hand side, this without any electron actually turning wholly into one of the sides.


That’s the way these tiny objects behave. If one of the electrons registers half a hit on the left hand side detector and half a hit on the other detector at the same time, it just means the likelihood of the electron hitting on any of the detector is complete, only when there are sufficient numbers of electrons, for us to make any sense of that supposition.


But we can, not question, if it makes sense, how an object can really register half a hit or simultaneously occupy two paths; it makes sense for the tiny objects and not for us because we never have had such facilities to realize such weird phenomenon.


Hawking explains the behaviour through the Davison Germer Experiment and the modern forms of the Young’s Double Slit Experiment, the phenomena of quantum level interference.


Much of it though, reminds me of everything Feynman explained in his famed Feynman Lectures, in the first few chapters, which I had studied in depth at least 3 times, 13 years ago, the first three chapters of volume 3 where all the quantum mechanical drama is explained in the most interesting fashion, ever done by anyone until today.


  • This is a passive statement, not made in any haste though, if you truly believe someone else has done it more masterfully than Feynman please bring it along and elucidate, don’t just stymie my contention saying Ron Krumpos has a better account of Quantum Mechanics Mystery than Feynman.


Only Feynman could have explained drama and increased its fun and pleasure. He was a showman in the attires of a physicist. Let’s not go into who else is like that, it may not bring enough pleasure to some. But Feynman had explained the true gist of the nature of the quantum world.


All of it, he reconstructed into his own thinking and his own ways of explaining it, which is accessible to anyone who can understand verbal, chatty, English. That was the reason why he was so famous and add to that, his colourful ways. If I remind you of any of that, and you do not like it, pardon me.


The other thing that Hawking explained is what, I have observed, he borrowed from Feynman’s Approach; the addition of phases decides which path is to be followed. This is one of the most brilliant aspects of quantum mechanics. I will explain it a little more.


Before that here is what the implications of alternative histories are. Instead of calling it multiple histories, we have tried to keep it as interesting as it could be, in simpler language. Multiple sounds like mathematical jargon. While mathematics gives all the physics its charm, truth be told, physics is all virtual, it’s internal, it’s in our making.


The real charm of physics lies in its intuition and conceptual imagination, of which Feynman was a real master and with which he explained his Physics. Since in classical mechanics, as an example, say, the cricket ball, it travels only one path. Otherwise the umpire has to take a 6, a 4, a 2 and a 1 and add them up and divide by three so the batsman scores 4.33333.

  • I know its 13/4 = 3.25, but just the idea, that the ball goes various ways and each gives some score, is my central idea here.


The umpire’s job is done pretty simple, the way nature adds it all up, before the umpire adds things up in his mind. The umpire may be a math Olympiad winner, but nature prefers pretty simple maths, it just does not leave any clue how this may be worked out, unless someone like Feynman arrives.


So what nature did to save the umpire guy some humiliation is, it added up all the paths the cricket ball could have taken, to reach its (the ball’s) destination. Nature did everything at the level of the quantum though. Nature is a gigantic rule-book (see my other recent article), immensely complex and subtle, but it does things that we get a clue of only when we work at it for decades, the most intelligent ones among us and painstakingly reach only at some of its laws.


What nature did is, it took all the paths the cricket ball could have taken, considering that the cricket ball might even have exploded in the path into 3 pieces, the ball is made of millions of quantum particles and nature is concerned about each one of them, per its own rule book. So the paths of all the tiny components are actually taken into consideration.


Say a little bump, and since all the components are connected to each other and sans the explosion scenario, will traverse only one path, as seen by the person who is watching the cricket show — oh it’s a match but as grand as a show, all the possible paths of this tiny bump adds up to zero, except the one path that we see as its motion.


Isn’t it brilliant?


Now Feynman had explained this and Hawking recounted how this is possible. The nature of quantum mechanics is such that there are always two parameters, which decide a path, the so-called phase and amplitude. Now the phase is an angular variable and the amplitude is like a magnitude for something, say, the speed of the tiny bump.


So every possible path the tiny bump can take is associated with a phase and amplitude. That is, if path A, is taken, then at each point on path A, there is a phase and amplitude, phase; the angular position of the direction of the path, amplitude; speed allowed for the tiny bump, on that path.


When nature takes all the million paths, allowed for the tiny bump or the ball, which includes all the paths in the vicinity of the actuated path — that is, the actual trajectory of the ball, seen on TV, all of them cancel each other out.


If Path A is the actuated path, then its surrounded on both sides by, path A-minor-up and path A-minor-down, A-minor-up has a phase of 30 degree and A-minor-down, minus 30 degree, since nature isn’t going to give any special priority to any of the path but add them up, to see any excess value, it finds that at each instant, only the actuated path, Path A survives, with a non zero value, and all other (paths) do not give any sufficient phase or amplitude, to the actual motion of the ball.


So the ball continues on path A, which is constantly calculated by the conditions of the environment. Now the conditions of the environment are such, for the cricket ball, that it’s hardly influenced by say, moisture content. It will spin a little less or so on and so forth. But moisture may mean something for the bowling team; it may change the conditions on the ground, so it may be inconvenient for the batsman and so on.


But the conditions for a Bucky ball are quite different. Its actuated path is quite impossible to determine in advance (future) and in retrospect (past) as well. Here probability rules play a different game. Here the wave nature of the Bucky ball is prominent as well, so we should expect funny behaviour, here we can easily make the environment turbulent for the Bucky ball and the ball may have an actuated path that may land the ball in the lap of Queen Victoria or ghost-land.


What Queen is going to do with a 60 atom erratic fluke is not much of a choice, she may not even notice this and little turbulence on her lap might land the super atom in further trouble because this time it may get stuck in Madonna’s Silicon Fort.


  • Sorry, a Physicist should not make such jokes, its dangerously, out-wittingly anything that it can be said to be, because it’s not serious, what if I give a serious thing; it may not be understood, or accepted, but it also may be misunderstood and accepted or rejected, all is to the mercy of those who receive the package.


But the nature of quantum mechanics is such that if you apply its rule, by constantly dividing each component of a large object for careful scrutiny, small errors that you think did not matter, may show up to be a hint for a large demise.

No I am not even talking about butter fly effect or error propagation. But ever thought about a sticky thermodynamics problem or a jet simulation problem? They all need to be re-understood, from the perspective of a mathematical formulation, that is respectful of the so called alternative histories or a multiple path formulation.

  • That should be the actual goal of Physics research, to quantify each and every aspect of what we know from classical-mechanics, but it’s probably become a wild-cry in a far-wild.

Well it’s not about detecting the trajectory of an airplane or a fighter jet; it’s about understanding problems like a physicist does. If it makes you laugh to think, an electron can hit the wing of an airplane and the airplane is going to come apart like a shoddy toy, think again, remember the Challenger Episode, where the rubber lost its tenacity at a subzero temperature.


And watch the movie Final Destination to keep you in good humour.


Well I cannot tell you directly, how even quantum mechanics is related here, and neither can you directly or indirectly ask me such a question how quantum mechanics is responsible for thermodynamics. We cannot ask how it is that quantum mechanics rules the roost, when it comes to deciding the laws of nature and its in nature of nature that, the principles of quantum mechanics are over ruling on every other principle we know.


Think about it this way if it bothers you, the world is made up of tiny creatures in millions, the cumulative effect is what we see as an effect of the daily world, when there is a doubt, some new form of quantum mechanics is waiting to happen because we are in direct violations of the rule books of nature of which we have no idea where it is kept, how it is to be read and how it needs to be worked out and interpreted.


When we have celebrated Feynman and his contributions are just a reminder that strikingly difficult problems in physics are always in need of crazy, interesting, off the board thinking, we must continue with hardships of Physics problems, rather than find an easy way out.


One thought

  1. In “The Grand Design” Hawking says that we are somewhat like goldfish in a curved fishbowl. Our perceptions are limited and warped by the kind of lenses we see through, “the interpretive structure of our human brains.” Albert Einstein rejected this subjective approach, common to much of quantum mechanics, but did admit that our view of reality is distorted.

    Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity has the surprising consequences that “the same event, when viewed from inertial systems in motion with respect to each other, will seem to occur at different times, bodies will measure out at different lengths, and clocks will run at different speeds.” Light does travel in a curve, due to the gravity of matter, thereby distorting views from each perspective in this Universe. Similarly, mystics’ experience in divine oneness, which might be considered the same “eternal” event, viewed from various historical, cultural and personal perspectives, have occurred with different frequencies, degrees of realization and durations. This might help to explain the diversity in the expressions or reports of that spiritual awareness. What is seen is the same; it is the “seeing” which differs.

    In some sciences, all existence is described as matter or energy. In some of mysticism, only consciousness exists. Dark matter is 25%, and dark energy about 70%, of the critical density of this Universe. Divine essence, also not visible, emanates and sustains universal matter (mass/energy: visible/dark) and cosmic consciousness (f(x) raised to its greatest power). During suprarational consciousness, and beyond, mystics share in that essence to varying extents. [quoted from my e-book on comparative mysticism]


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