12 posts tagged Reality
The strange, beautiful behavior of tiny liquid droplets may be related to the seemingly nonsensical laws governing nature at the smallest scales, physicists say.
A paper published online Aug. 13 in the journal Physics of Fluids presents equations for how liquid droplets can bounce and “walk” over pools of the same fluid without falling in. Physicists say the droplets are guided by waves they themselves make in the pool—a situation reminiscent of a theory devised long ago to explain the baffling behaviors of subatomic particles.
Known as pilot-wave theory, it fell out of favor, but never went away. “This walking droplet system represents the first realization of a pilot-wave system,” said John Bush, a mathematician at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But unlike the case with the tiny realms that pilot-wave theory was devised to explain, the droplets are “plainly visible,” he added. “It gives us the first opportunity to view pilot-wave dynamics in action.” The new work is an outgrowth of research a few years ago by Yves Couder, a physicist at Université Paris Diderot, who first reported the behavior of the roughly millimeter-sized droplets. Couder’s findings fed into an old debate. In the early 1900s, physicists contested how to explain subatomic particles’ strange behavior, such as their tendency to behave both as particles and waves. This is perplexing because waves are not traditionally considered physical objects—they’re oscillations. And particles acting like waves defies common sense. For instance, waves interfere with each other: if you drop two stones in a pond, their outward-moving waves will alter each other’s appearance as they meet. Individual objects can’t “interfere” with each other like that, one would think. But subatomic particles, such as photons, or particles of light, do—and they don’t even have to be moving at the same time. Their mutual “interference” can be seen in the patterns they form when they strike a surface and the landing locations are marked. Pilot-wave theory, proposed by Louis de Broglie in the 1920s, reconciled these problems by proposing that moving particles are borne along on some sort of wave, like driftwood on the tide. But no one ever quite explained what that wave was. The theory ultimately gave way to the so-called Copenhagen interpretation on quantum mechanics, which prevails today. It gets rid of the carrier wave—but with it the common-sense notion that a particle travels a definite path. It holds that tiny particles have no definite location or trajectory until a measurement take place, an idea that, if not terribly satisfying, at least solves the problems at hand mathematically.
If there’s only one video you watch and share this week on the Tumblr machine, may I recommend this one? If Voltaire were alive today, he’d approve. One of the best laughs I’ve had in a while.
MinusIQ | The pill to lower your IQ permanently (by SleepthinkerFilms)
The concept of parallel universes and the possibility of multiple ‘yous’ is the latest in a long line of insults to the human ego
Science has a knack for dealing blows to human dignity. In less enlightened times we were the chosen ones: the masters of a planet at the centre of the universe. Not any more. Copernicus delivered the first heavy strike, demoting Earth to just another planet circling a humdrum star. Then came Darwin, who declared us descendants of ancient primates, and each living species the pinnacle of evolution in its particular niche. The upheavals of science thrust humility upon us. Our response to revolution is recalibration. We find other props to soothe our egos, to keep us on our lofty perch. So the Earth orbits the sun? Our planet is still special. We’re the cousins of apes? Big deal. Aren’t we also the most intelligent species in the known universe? However we argue our special place in nature, the revolution Copernicus set in train is not done with us yet. Neither he nor Darwin set out to dethrone humanity. They simply followed the science, no matter where it led. In the same vein, Brian Greene pursues modern physics wherever it might take us. And that is to some very strange places indeed. Copernicus and Darwin sent convulsions through pious society with their radical statements on Earth and mankind. But these are minor tremors to the shock Greene describes. The universe once meant all there is. But ours may be one of many universes. Weirder still, there may be copies of you out there: some a little shorter, others a little fatter. Some may understand all this. Which brings us to the essential problem. Human evolution did not equip us to see the world for what it is: a seething blur of particles and energy. Through our senses, our brains construct a picture in much broader brush strokes. Had our ancestors tried to make sense of particles rushing their way, instead of thinking “Fuck, lion, run!”, we would not be here.
It used to be that we called upon the tribal shamans to converse with their spirits, to ask favors, for our ills, for our happiness and sometimes to see that which is far. In the age before geography was a science, we travelled via the shaman’s spirit technology to places of wonder and imagination. Not very accurate, and probably not very connected to any reality we could appreciate, we left the shamans behind, and developed our own technologies to perform the same magic. Maybe not the same exactly, since modern technology allows us a glimpse of the remote to a level of description and visualization rivaling ‘being there’. If in fact our new ‘remote viewing’ technologies are truly experiences of that which we have not experienced in the flesh with our bare feet, are we not becoming techno-shamans? Though still in its embryonic stages, technologies of virtual sightseeing are already with us to a degree that is both surprising and thrilling. No need for passports, no need to move from our desk or comfy armchair, the world in all its strangeness now comes to us. I have never traveled to the Amazon, and it probably will take a while, if ever before I set foot in this green magical place. But now we can save on the travel cost, hassle and inconveniency, with the new Amazon Google street view,
an excellent and necessary read..