Ghina Zand Alhadid

Student of Biochemistry, molecular biology and psychology, Participatory Culture Foundation

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Using Technology to Understand Quantum Physics

I got very little knowledge of quantum physics; so I need your help to understand to what extent my thinking is realistic.

I have been wondering if the mystery of photon's dual behavior can be understood by tracking photons' movement in real time.

I do realize that one of the obstacles would be the extremely high speed of photons. But technology is advancing and researches at M.I.T. could develop a camera that can capture images at the speed of light.

So can we redo the classical double-slit experiment now while using technology to track the path of photons while moving?

Thank you!

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    Feb 24 2013: In order to track a photon in real time (not a slow mo simulation) you have another photon because anything faster than that is not known. If you use any detector to sense the presence or absence of a photon at a given place in a given time, you cannot have a measurement without interacting with the photon. In short, you can never 'watch' a photon in classical sense of meaning without interfering with it.
    It appears that you believe that the wave particle duality or the quantum indeterminacy of finding a photon in a given slit is on account of our limitations of experimental capabilities. Fact is: that limitation is fundamental and intrinsic to very small particles moving with speeds close to that of light. The double slit experiment carried out with streams of electrons moving at ultra high speed will produce similar interference pattern.
    Časlav Brukner and Anton Zeilinger have succinctly expressed this limitation as follows:

    The observer can decide whether or not to put detectors into the interfering path. That way, by deciding whether or not to determine the path through the two-slit experiment, s/he can decide which property can become reality. If s/he chooses not to put the detectors there, then the interference pattern will become reality; if s/he does put the detectors there, then the beam path will become reality. Yet, most importantly, the observer has no influence on the specific element of the world that becomes reality. Specifically, if s/he chooses to determine the path, then s/he has no influence whatsoever over which of the two paths, the left one or the right one, nature will tell h/er/im is the one in which the particle is found. Likewise, if s/he chooses to observe the interference pattern, then s/he has no influence whatsoever over where in the observation plane he/she will observe a specific particle. Both outcomes are completely random. [Ref. Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double-slit_experiment]
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    Gail .

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    Feb 23 2013: Such a camera already exists. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snSIRJ2brEk )

    I would love to see it used in the Twin Slit experiment, just as a curiosity. But we already know that when we try to detect which slit the photon goes through (when individually pulsed), what physicists call "the interference pattern" goes away. It only appears when we are not looking.

    From that point on, physicists theorize, and understanding varies. It was initially thought that the interference pattern was caused by what Einstein called "spooky at a distance": unseen photons interfering with themselves causing the interference pattern. But I personally believe that the bands that are created (when we are not looking/measuring) are potential or probable futures - each existing with its own legitimacy and each comprising the whole of the superpositioned (all parts are entangled though appearing separate) reality. (This is the multi-worlds theory proposed by Everett - though I had already theorized this before I heard of Everett. It's the only one that makes complete sense to me.)

    This link will take you to a very easy understanding of the Twin Slit experiment showing how the bands disappear in the presence of observation, though, as I said, I don't believe in the Copenhagen interpretation that the video suggests as the answer to the question of what it calls, "the interference pattern".

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfPeprQ7oGc&list=FL23ULzV7ik5lQQo51yOnJ0g&index=24
    • Feb 24 2013: Hi TED Lover.
      This stuff is way over my head but can you explain something to me?
      It may be idiotic but hope you don't mind.
      When you say, "It only appears when we are not looking" doesn't that "we" refer to a sentient being?
      I think that is what Lawrence Krauss expressed in one of his talks that concerned the photon; that the three quarks inside each photon are virtual particles that are bursting in an out of existence/reality, depending upon the observance of a sentient being.
      So my question is, how is a camera like a sentient being? It isn't, so why does this seem to change just because a camera is watching?
      This almost implies to me that the photon "knows" something is watching.

      Also, if these things are traveling so fast, and light is traveling throughout all the universe, doesn't this produce "drag" that influences objects around, pulling or pushing them, with the same effects being caused by the objects being pulled or pushed, thus everything becomes connected by this "force" (which is or becomes dark matter), so as things "clump", they become entangled, both pushing, pulling and being pulled and pushed?
      I find this kind of thing immensely interesting and entertaining but don't have the brains to really grasp it.
      thanX
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        Gail .

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        Feb 24 2013: The first thing that you have to ask yourself is what a sentient being is. Our culture is quick to say that humans are sentient, and they question whether or not animals are sentient, and they do not believe that plants are sentient, let alone rocks, atoms, electrons, molecules, cameras, and super-positioned observers

        But have you read “The Secret Life of Plants: A Fascinating Account of the Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Relations Between Plants and Man”? Written in the 1970s, it is the basis of many experiments that have evolved since. Plants do qualify as sentient. We don’t have such stark evidence regarding photons, but the evidence certainly does “suggest” that the photon is sentient, as is the super-positioned (unseen) observer. So this is not going “over your head”. It just sounds alien.

        When you say “bursting in and out of reality”, you would understand it better if you were to say “moving in and out of our perceivable reality”. It never really becomes unreal. It just becomes imperceptible to our physical bodies whose eyes can only perceive three dimensions or specific frequencies of light waves. The quarks would still exist (as other dimensions are theorized to) whether or not you can see them or even detect them with current equipment.

        Recently a C60 molecule was also put to the twin-slit test, with the same results. The molecule appeared to be aware and making choices, the same way as the photon did. Proof? No. Evidence? Yes.

        Condensed summation:

        If you go back to the theorized beginning, and grant the singularity sentience, and base your understanding in the "fact" that when a sub-atomic particle is split into parts, the parts are "entangled", (that merely means that they appear to exist as independent entities, but they are really united aspects of a greater whole with independent existences and the ability to intra-communicate), then you can suddenly see a whole different view of reality.

        (continued)
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        Gail .

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        Feb 24 2013: In that way: We are one. Only beliefs interfere with understanding that – whether beliefs deny it or make it difficult to grasp. Therefore, beliefs form the fabric of our perceived realities. They control our behaviors. Behaviors determine outcomes (consequences). When our beliefs change, our behaviors change accordingly, so by choosing beliefs wisely, we can reconnect with an immense power that comes to us through the power of choice (or intent if you prefer).

        If the “multi-worlds” theory is correct, as I believe that it is in large part, then we do choose which metaphorical slits we go through as we go through life. In this context, though I often say that I create my own reality, which is true, it might be more accurate to say that when I choose an outcome, I direct my path through the metaphorical slits until I arrive at the dimension in which my chosen outcome is physically perceivable.

        Time is not a river. Time is not one-dimensional any more than you are. Time is VERY different from what you have been taught or observed about it, whether my theory is true or not.

        As to entanglement: Smushing things together doesn’t entangle them. They are mutually dependent, to be sure. But entanglement is a more than 3D concept.

        As to Dark Matter (and Dark Energy): These are largely unknown things, though I have my own suspicions. I think that dark energy is potential energy created through thought processes. I understand that dark matter exists, and unless that dark matter is virtual matter (perhaps kinetic energy), I don’t understand it well enough to speak of it. How close we are, but there is more to know.

        You would probably enjoy Paul Davies books. He speaks to the lay person and has written many. I have only read one, so I can’t point you to the best.

        You, of all people, DO have the ability to grasp it. Just let go of the idea of a mechanical universe and think of it as being more organic -- ALIVE -- sentient.
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          Feb 24 2013: Thank you for the great comment, it has certainly shed the light on new related topics to be looked into. I just wonder if physics is a science anymore that is independent from metaphysics and that can be taught objectively at schools with the new topics related to quantum physics and the dark matter and energy.
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        Gail .

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        Feb 24 2013: .
        Ghina: Your concern is very valid. None-the-less, there are efforts to quantify the here-to-fore unquantifiable.

        Most recently, D. Bern (Cornell) found some ways to verify psychic abilities. First - he put volunteer students in front of a computer and hooked them up to EEG machines. Then the computer randomly showed photos, some of which were erotic (good for the college age student, but other shocking scenes - such as violent ones - work with those not so hormonally driven). When the shocking photo is shown, the EEG shows a reaction. It doesn't take many photos before the EEG starts reacting wildly BEFORE the next shocking photo is chosen by the computer. As this is a repeatable experiment, it qualifies as science.

        Another of his experiments had students in front of a computer that produced random words in pre-determined time frames. The students were to remember as many as possible. The computer then tested them on their memory. THEN - after the test - the computer assigned certain words from the tests - to be practiced (typed repeatedly). It turns out that those who call themselves "risk-takers" scored so far above the fear-based students that the probability of this happening made it statistically improbable.

        There are other efforts under way to study the properties of mind. MUM in IL has been running studies on the ability of group meditation to improve life-quality in an area. Again, repeatable, though it can't apparently negate crime & violence completely. They take hospital admissions, psychiatric admissions, police records, fire calls, and other problems and chart out a reasonably long-term set of probabilities. Then meditators come in to meditate together. There is a correlation between the number of meditators and the decrease of the studied problems - that lasts until the meditators go away. Not highly respected study by those who are offended, but repeatable, and results are results.

        It's a START - infancy. But progress.
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          Feb 25 2013: Another question has popped into my mind, if anything in this world can be a sentient, including the none living, wouldn't bacteria and microscopic creatures be sentient too? When the double- slit experiment is performed, is it performed under aseptic techniques?

          Also, I would like to know if these is a materialistic proof that even cameras can interfere with the behavior or the photon/ electron.

          Thank you!
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        Gail .

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        Feb 25 2013: When you say the non-living, what do you mean by that? "IF" my theory is valid, then IF it exists, it is sentient - be it atom, bacteria, solar system, galaxy, or superpositioned observer.

        The Twin Slit Experiment, because of what it suggests, has been the subject of MUCH scrutiny, though you could conduct one yourself in your own home using a post card and a razor blade to make slits. YouTube will show you how.

        Yes, there is actual, physical proof that the presence of a detector attempting to observe which slit a photon goes through changes the results. This is not a new phenomenon. (It's not "new" science.) But don't read into this that I think that the detector itself was the sentient cause of the disappearance of the bands (wave pattern). I didn't and don't want to suggest that.

        When you observe a photon, it is a particle, and particles behave like tiny marbles. If you use a camera, you are following a particle. Cameras don't (yet) record waves. When of if they do, then a camera would be an exciting addition and would add a lot to our knowledge.

        If you are curious, you really should look into this science. There are good books written by professionals for non-scientists and non-mathematicians. (Paul Davies being only one) There are homework boards that can address most of your questions, and physics boards for when you are more knowledgeable.

        TheGreatCourses.com offers affordable in-depth courses at affordable prices, if you buy when your desired course is on-sale - which is about every 3 month or so. But be careful to read the reviews. Just because a course says for non-scientists doesn't mean that is means non-mathematicians.

        Good luck.
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    Feb 22 2013: Make sure also to ask your question at a site like Physics Forums that has large numbers of physics specialists (in addition to the generally physics-interested) or at the American Physical Society website. Actual scientists will sometimes have different insights than physics-interested people without rigorous professional training and understanding in this area.

    Good luck in your studies!
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      Feb 24 2013: Thank you for the recommendation. Quantum physics is indeed of no simple topic to be grasped easily and requires so much background to be discussed correctly.

      I am just wondering, out of curiosity, nothing more or less.
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        Feb 24 2013: I understand, Ghina. I offered my advice on this as a sort of caveat lector. That is, I think sometimes people think that on the TED site explanations about science will tend to be by actual scientists. This is definitely true in TED talks, but in Conversations, the responses you get will tend not be from professional sources. As there are significant misconceptions within the lay public about what quantum mechanics shows, thanks in part to some very popular mystical movements, you have to keep this in mind when you read popular accounts.

        Good luck in all your studies.
  • Feb 24 2013: Well, when you observe the photons they behave as particles, not waves. That's the mystery. Photons act as particles in the double slit experiment when observed. That's actually the entire mystery is why only when they are being watched? When not being observed, they carry out all of the possibilities of collision with each other, making a wave.
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      Feb 24 2013: I thought that the measuring tools that were used in the past have introduced new variables that altered the photon's nature. And that now with advanced technology, alteration would not occur.
      • Feb 24 2013: no it's like that when we observe things have to make physical sense. It's Schrodinger's Cat. Unless we are observing all possibilities happen simultaneously, and we see the result of it.
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    Mar 1 2013: Thank you everyone for enriching this post! It was a true pleasure reading what you had to say!
    I shall look more into this interesting topic.

    Wish you the best of luck with your plans!
  • Feb 24 2013: Fritzie Maybe I am no help, but she has the skill set to do other jobs. Also, someone who is not comfortable in a top 15 department might thrive elsewhere. I remember telling a classmate in a graduate class in Mathematics - a class meant for physics types - he had failed his qualifier twice so he couldn't get a masters in physics- If you want to stay here at Madison, why not work on becoming a graduate student in mathematics or something else. Note that there are jobs for statisticians and they can teach in B school where the students are. See Taleb.
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      Feb 25 2013: My daughter is doing great and loves it. I was saying only that teaching is often not a priority at major universities. It sounded like that was your experience at Madison.
  • Feb 24 2013: Thanks Ghina - That was in the early '70's - I became a lawyer - that got messed up later in this state and country. Always at some point be sure you can get a job. Hopefully they are plentiful in Kuwait.
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      Feb 25 2013: I don't blame you, When it comes to morality and actualizing justice among people, it is a very hard task. My uncle studied law but never worked as a lawyer because of the challenges this job has.

      Unfortunately, I am growing up to realize that getting a job in my domain, which is related to biochemistry and molecular biology sciences, in Kuwait is not an easy thing and that I might end up doing an unrelated job. That is because the attention given to the education and research sector here is little compared to the attention given in the developed countries.

      However, I don't think I will mind it as long as I am interested in the science and in contributing to it. Even if I could not get a job in my arena, I can always find a way to develop myself independently.
  • Feb 23 2013: I decided to do something else after classes as a graduate student in physics - Learn wait and see. There are many casualties in graduate study.
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      Feb 24 2013: Thank you for your advice.

      I believe that people who go for a graduate degree in physics are of superior intelligence and of a high level of hard work. Wish you the best of luck with whatever you have decided to do!

      I don't think physics is for me! Even though it is extremely interesting.
  • Feb 23 2013: In Grad school as a physics graduate student
    I had difficultry in understanding an advanced class in q
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      Feb 23 2013: What was your physics specialty, George?
      • Feb 24 2013: It was only almost two semesters at University of Wisconsin. I did not receive my masters. It happens all the time. That's why i suggested wait and see what happens.
        I did worse on my written exam than when
        I first came there. Then I moved on.
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      Feb 24 2013: My daughter is a grad student, also at a major school for physics. Teaching seems not the priority there, as it seems it wasn't where you were when you were. Fortunately she is truly adept at figuring things out at a high level herself and is sufficiently passionate about the field to do it. Quantum mechanics is her subject, it seems, and particle physics.