16 posts tagged reality
read of the day: Have We Been Interpreting Quantum Mechanics Wrong This Whole Time?
For nearly a century, “reality” has been a murky concept. The laws of quantum physics seem to suggest that particles spend much of their time in a ghostly state, lacking even basic properties such as a definite location and instead existing everywhere and nowhere at once. Only when a particle is measured does it suddenly materialize, appearing to pick its position as if by a roll of the dice.This idea that nature is inherently probabilistic — that particles have no hard properties, only likelihoods, until they are observed — is directly implied by the standard equations of quantum mechanics. But now a set of surprising experiments with fluids has revived old skepticism about that worldview. The bizarre results are fueling interest in an almost forgotten version of quantum mechanics, one that never gave up the idea of a single, concrete reality. The experiments involve an oil droplet that bounces along the surface of a liquid. The droplet gently sloshes the liquid with every bounce. At the same time, ripples from past bounces affect its course. The droplet’s interaction with its own ripples, which form what’s known as a pilot wave, causes it to exhibit behaviors previously thought to be peculiar to elementary particles — including behaviors seen as evidence that these particles are spread through space like waves, without any specific location, until they are measured. Particles at the quantum scale seem to do things that human-scale objects do not do. They can tunnel through barriers, spontaneously arise or annihilate, and occupy discrete energy levels. This new body of research reveals that oil droplets, when guided by pilot waves, also exhibit these quantum-like features.
go read this..
The relationship of language to the world has been central to philosophy for at least a century. But what is the role of metaphor? Is it simply an adornment to everyday description or might it be central to explaining how we conceive of and create reality?The Panel
Political theorist and labour peer Maurice Glasman, language expert and metaphor designer Michael Erard, and post-postmodern Closure theorist Hilary Lawson debate the power of metaphors.
“Yum, these grass and plants are delicious!” Mother cavy thinks as she eats her breakfast. “I will feed some to my baby cavies too!” she says. The baby cavies love to play in the grass! But they’ve gotten all dirty! “Time for your bath,” Mother cavy says. Mother cavy and her babies like to spend the afternoon sunbathing. At night, Mother cavy tucks her babies in to bed in a small cave. “Mom, I’m scared!” says the baby cavy. “Don’t be afraid,” she says. “I’ll listen for noises with my big ears and keep us safe.” Aside from the fact that few (if any) childrens’ story books feature cavies, the non-domesticated versions of guinea pigs, the basic structure of the above story should be familiar to anybody who has ever read a kids’ picture book. Or watched a Disney movie. Childrens’ literature and movies are rife with talking mice and ducks who wear clothes (even if they’re occasionally portrayed without pants) and dogs that range from, well, dogs, to dogs that might as well be people. Stories are one of the main ways that our species understands the natural world. Giving human attributes to animals is by no means a recent phenomenon; ancient gods were often hybridized human-like animals (or animal-like humans). In the classic story illustrated above by Arthur Rackham, three bears sit at a table and eat porridge, like humans. Given how ubiquitous these anthropomorphic animal-people are in our culture, University of Toronto psychologist Patricia A. Ganea wondered how those sorts of representations influence the way that young children think about real animals.
The irony.. :-)
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.