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Quantum Trickery - Einstein's Strangest Theory

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the fun-with-physics dept.

Editorial 531

breckinshire writes "The New York Times is running an interesting story on Einstein's strangest theory. The theory was brought to light this past fall when 'scientists announced that they had put a half dozen beryllium atoms into a "cat state." [...] These atoms were each spinning clockwise and counterclockwise at the same time.' It is an interesting writeup for even the uninitiated and also concentrates on Einsteins role as a 'founder and critic of quantum theory.'"

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Founder? (3, Funny)

benna (614220) | more than 8 years ago | (#14350920)

I suppose that is why Planck's Constant is named after him.

Re:Founder? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14350930)

Einstein was a founder of quantum theory, along with Planck, Heisenberg, Pauli, Dirac, Schrodinger and many many more. There was no single founder.

Don't forget Schrödinger, Heisenberg, and Dir (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14350932)

They had something to do with it.

Re:Founder? (2, Informative)

krazikamikaze (888506) | more than 8 years ago | (#14350934)

Sure, it's called Plank's constant because Plank was the first to assume energy was quantized, but it was just seen as a mathematical trick (to make the correct prediction for black body radiation) until Einstein used it to explain the photoelectric effect.

Re:Founder? (5, Informative)

Beolach (518512) | more than 8 years ago | (#14350952)

It says "a founder", not "the founder". Einstein and Planck can both be considered joint founders of quantum theory, along with Bohr, Heisenberg, Schrödinger, and others.

Re:Founder? (1)

Deanalator (806515) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351091)

But didnt Einstein spend most of his later life trying to prove that quantum mechanics was just new age hippie physics? From what I understand he only came up with the whole EPR thing because he wanted to make quantum physics look bad, because it conflicted with his base of "nothing can go faster than light"

Re:Founder? (4, Informative)

Edward Kmett (123105) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351161)

The EPR (Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen) states WERE originally proposed as an attack on quantum mechanics, but the argument swung the other way.

Strangely enough, almost all of the power of quantum computing derives from the strange consequences of this would-be counter-example.

Quantum teleportation and basically all of other quantum computation tricks use qubits in EPR states, but even 'teleportation' doesn't really allow sending information faster than light, since you have to send conventional bits of information about the observations in order to reconstruct the quantum state on the other end.

So in one sense, the original Einstein concern about information traveling faster than the speed of light is valid. It just takes a different form to fit into quantum mechanics.

Re:Founder? (4, Informative)

Beolach (518512) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351196)

Yes and no. There were several aspects of the some of the emerging quantum theories that Einstein argued against, but that's actually a significant part of how he contributed to the development of quantum mechanics; and really all of the founders of quantum mechanics did the same thing: when Bohr, Heisenberg and Pauli first proposed the Copenhagen interpretation (as of 1997 the most widely-accepted interpretation of quantum mechanics), Einstein didn't approve of it - but neither did Planck or Schrödinger. And there were several theories that form the basis of quantum mechanics that Einstein developed. So just because he argued against aspects of quantum theory that are now generally accepted, does not mean that he wasn't a significant contributor to its development.

Support one of the non-registration required sites (5, Informative)

Saven Marek (739395) | more than 8 years ago | (#14350925)

Support one of the sites giving this story for free. Google news link [google.com.au]

Re:Support one of the non-registration required si (2, Funny)

MoogMan (442253) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351027)

Support them... by slashdotting their site! Awesome :-p

Re:Support one of the non-registration required si (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14351250)

hahah google you got slashdotted

:P

Correction: (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14350931)

"To a physicist, a "cat state" is the condition of being two diametrically opposed conditions at once, like black and white, up and down, or dead and alive."

Actually, this term was coined by Nikola Tesla and refered to his observations of the violent sub-molecular reaction created when a cat with a cheese pizza tied to its back is dropped onto expensive carpeting. What, you didn't think that his silly "death ray" is what caused the Tunguska event, did you?

Non-registration article text (5, Informative)

User 956 (568564) | more than 8 years ago | (#14350935)

Einstein said there would be days like this.

This fall scientists announced that they had put a half-dozen beryllium atoms into a "cat state."

No, they were not sprawled along a sunny windowsill. To a physicist, a "cat state" is the condition of being in two diametrically opposed conditions at once, such as black and white, up and down, or dead and alive.

These atoms were each spinning clockwise and counterclockwise at the same time. Moreover, like miniature Rockettes, they were all doing whatever it was they were doing together, in perfect synchrony. Should one of them realize, like the cartoon character who runs off a cliff and doesn't fall until he looks down, that it is in a metaphysically untenable situation and decide to spin only one way, the rest would instantly fall in line, whether they were across a test tube or across the galaxy.

The idea that measuring the properties of one particle could instantaneously change the properties of another one (or a whole bunch) far away is strange to say the least -- almost as strange as the notion of particles spinning in two directions at once. The team that pulled off the beryllium feat, led by Dietrich Leibfried at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, in Boulder, Colo., hailed it as another step toward computers that would use quan- tum magic to perform calculations.

But it also served as another demonstration of how weird the world really is according to the rules known as quantum mechanics.

The joke is on Albert Einstein, who, back in 1935, dreamed up this trick of synchronized atoms -- "spooky action at a distance," as he called it -- as an example of the absurdity of quantum mechanics.

"No reasonable definition of reality could be expected to permit this," he, Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen wrote in a paper in 1935.

Today, that paper, written when Einstein was a relatively ancient 56 years old, is the most cited of Einstein's papers. But far from demolishing quantum theory, that paper wound up as the cornerstone for the new field of quantum information.

Nary a week goes by that does not bring news of another feat of quantum trickery once only dreamed of in thought experiments: particles (or at least all their properties) being teleported across the room in a microscopic version of "Star Trek" beaming; electrical "cat" currents that circle a loop in opposite directions at the same time; more and more particles farther and farther apart bound together in Einstein's spooky embrace now known as "entanglement." At the University of California, Santa Barbara, researchers are planning an experiment in which a small mirror will be in two places at once.

Niels Bohr, the Danish philosopher king of quantum theory, dismissed any attempts to lift the quantum veil as meaningless, saying that science is about the results of experiments, not ultimate reality.

But now that quantum weirdness is not confined to thought experiments, physicists have begun arguing again about what this weirdness means, whether the theory needs changing, and whether in fact there is any problem.

This fall, two Nobel laureates, Anthony Leggett of the University of Illinois and Norman Ramsay of Harvard University, argued in front of several hundred scientists at a conference in Berkeley about whether, in effect, physicists are justified trying to change quantum theory, the most successful theory in the history of science. Leggett said yes; Ramsay said no.

It has been, as Max Tegmark, a cosmologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, noted, "a 75-year war." It is typical in reporting on this subject to bounce from one expert to another, each one shaking his or her head about how the other one just doesn't get it.

"It's a kind of funny situation," N. David Mermin of Cornell University, who has called Einstein's spooky action "the closest thing we have to magic," said, referring to the recent results. "These are extremely difficult experiments that confirm elementary features of quantum mechanics." It would be more spectacular news, he said, if they had come out wrong.

Anton Zeilinger of the University of Vienna in Austria said he thought "the world is not as real as we think."

"My personal opinion is that the world is even weirder than what quantum physics tells us," he added.

The discussion is bringing renewed attention to Einstein's role as a founder and critic of quantum theory, an "underground history," that has largely been overlooked amid the celebrations of relativity in the past Einstein year, according to David Z. Albert, a professor of philosophy and physics at Columbia.

Regarding the 1935 paper, Albert said, "We know something about Einstein's genius we didn't know before."

The silly theory

From the day 100 years ago that he breathed life into quantum theory by deducing that light behaved like a particle as well as like a wave, Einstein never stopped warning that it was dangerous to the age-old dream of an orderly universe.

"The more success the quantum theory has, the sillier it seems," he once wrote to friend.

The full extent of its silliness came in the 1920s, when quantum theory became quantum mechanics.

In this new view of the world, as encapsulated in a famous equation by the Austrian Erwin Schroedinger, objects are represented by waves that extend throughout space, containing all the possible outcomes of an observation -- here, there, up or down, dead or alive. The amplitude of this wave is a measure of the probability that the object will actually be found to be in one state or another, a suggestion that led Einstein to grumble famously that God doesn't throw dice.

Worst of all from Einstein's point of view was the uncertainty principle, enunciated by Werner Heisenberg in 1927.

Certain types of knowledge, of a particle's position and velocity, for example, are incompatible: The more precisely you measure one property, the blurrier and more uncertain the other becomes.

In the 1935 paper, Einstein and his colleagues Podolsky and Rosen (usually referred to as EPR) argued that the uncertainty principle could not be the final word about nature. There must be a deeper theory that looked behind the quantum veil.

Imagine that a pair of electrons are shot out from the disintegration of some other particle, like fragments from an explosion. By law certain properties of these two fragments should be correlated. If one goes left, the other goes right; if one spins clockwise, the other spins counterclockwise.

That means, Einstein said, that by measuring the velocity of, say, the left-hand electron, we would know the velocity of the right-hand electron without ever touching it.

Conversely, by measuring the position of the left electron, we would know the position of the right-hand one.

Since neither of these operations would have involved touching or disturbing the right-hand electron in any way, Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen argued that the right-hand electron must have had those properties of both velocity and position all along. That left only two possibilities, they concluded. Either quantum mechanics was "incomplete," or measuring the left-hand particle somehow disturbed the right-hand one.

But the latter alternative violated common sense. Such an influence, or disturbance, would have to travel faster than the speed of light. "My physical instincts bristle at that suggestion," Einstein later wrote.

Bohr responded with a six-page essay in Physical Review that contained but one simple equation, Heisenberg's uncertainty relation. In essence, he said, it all depends on what you mean by "reality."

Enjoy the magic

Most physicists agreed with Bohr, and they went off to use quantum mechanics to build atomic bombs and reinvent the world.

The consensus was that Einstein was a stubborn old man who "didn't get" quantum physics.

All this began to change in 1964 when John S. Bell, a particle physicist at the European Center for Nuclear Research near Geneva, who had his own doubts about quantum theory, took up the 1935 EPR argument. Somewhat to his dismay, Bell, who died in 1990, wound up proving that no deeper theory could reproduce the predictions of quantum mechanics. Bell went on to outline a simple set of experiments that could settle the argument and decide who was right, Einstein or Bohr.

When the experiments were finally performed in 1982, by Alain Aspect and his colleagues at the University of Orsay in France, they agreed with quantum mechanics and not reality as Einstein had always presumed it should be.

Apparently a particle in one place could be affected by what you do somewhere else.

Physicists and philosophers are still fighting about what this means. Many of those who care to think about these issues (and many prefer not to) have concluded that Einstein's presumption of locality -- the idea that physically separated objects are really separate -- is wrong.

Albert said, "The experiments show locality is false, end of story." But for others, it is the notion of realism, that things exist independent of being perceived, that must be scuttled. In fact, physicists don't even seem to agree on the definitions of things like "locality" and "realism."

What everybody does seem to agree on is that the use of this effect is limited. You can't use it to send a message, for example. Leonard Susskind, a Stanford theoretical physicist, who called these entanglement experiments "beautiful and surprising," said the term "spooky action at a distance" is misleading because it implies the instantaneous sending of signals. "No competent physicist thinks that entanglement allows this kind of nonlocality."

Indeed the effects of spooky action, or "entanglement," as Schroedinger called it, only show up in retrospect when the two participants in a Bell-type experiment compare notes. Beforehand, neither has seen any violation of business as usual; each sees the results of his measurements of, say, whether a spinning particle is pointing up or down, as random.

In short, as Brian Greene, a Columbia theorist, wrote in "The Fabric of the Cosmos," Einstein's special relativity, which sets the speed of light as the cosmic speed limit, "survives by the skin of its teeth."

In an essay in 1985, Mermin said "if there is spooky action at a distance, then, like other spooks, it is absolutely useless except for its effect, benign or otherwise, on our state of mind."

He added, "The EPR experiment is as close to magic as any physical phenomenon I know of, and magic should be enjoyed." Recently, he said he still stood by the latter part of that statement. But while spooky action remained useless for sending a direct message, it had turned out to have potential uses, he admitted, in cryptography and quantum computing.

Nine ways of killing a cat

Another debate, closely related to the issues of entanglement and reality, concerns what happens at the magic moment when a particle is measured or observed.

Before a measurement is made, so the traditional story goes, the electron exists in a superposition of all possible answers, which can combine, adding and interfering with one another.

Then, upon measurement, the wave function "collapses" to one particular value. Schroedinger himself thought this was so absurd that he dreamed up a counterexample. What is true for electrons, he said, should be true as well for cats.

In his famous thought experiment, a cat is locked in a box where the decay of a radioactive particle will cause the release of poison that will kill it. If the particle has a 50-50 chance of decaying, then according to quantum mechanics the cat is both alive and dead before we look in the box, something the cat itself, not to mention cat lovers, might take issue with.

But cats are always dead or alive, as Leggett of Illinois said in his Berkeley talk. "The problem with quantum mechanics," he said in an interview, "is how it explains definite outcomes to experiments."

If quantum mechanics is only about information and a way of predicting the results of measurements, these questions don't matter, most quantum physicists say.

"But," Leggett said, "if you take the view that the formalism is reflecting something out there in real world, it matters immensely." As a result, theorists have come up with a menu of alternative interpretations and explanations. According to one popular notion, known as decoherence, quantum waves are very fragile and collapse from bumping into the environment. Another theory, by the late David Bohm, restores determinism by postulating a "pilot wave" that acts behind the scenes to guide particles.

In yet another theory, called "many worlds," the universe continually branches so that every possibility is realized: the Red Sox win and lose and it rains; Schroedinger's cat lives, dies, has kittens and scratches her master when he tries to put her into the box.

Recently, as Leggett pointed out, some physicists have tinkered with Schroedinger's equation, the source of much of the misery, itself.

A modification proposed by the Italian physicists Giancarlo Ghirardi and Tullio Weber, both of the University of Trieste, and Alberto Rimini of the University of Pavia, makes the wave function unstable so that it will collapse in a time depending on how big a system it represents. In his standoff with Ramsay of Harvard last fall, Leggett suggested that his colleagues should consider the merits of the latter theory.

"Why should we think of an electron as being in two states at once but not a cat, when the theory is ostensibly the same in both cases?" Leggett asked.

Ramsay said Leggett had missed the point. How the wave function mutates is not what you calculate. "What you calculate is the prediction of a measurement," he said.

"If it's a cat, I can guarantee you will get that it's alive or dead," Ramsay said.

David Gross, a recent Nobel Prize winner and director of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara, leapt into the free-for-all, saying that 80 years had not been enough time for the new concepts to sink in. "We're just too young. We should wait until 2200, when quantum mechanics is taught in kindergarten."

The joy of randomness

One of the most extreme points of view belongs to Zeilinger of Vienna, a bearded, avuncular physicist whose laboratory regularly hosts every sort of quantum weirdness.

In an essay recently in Nature, Zeilinger sought to find meaning in the very randomness that plagued Einstein.

"The discovery that individual events are irreducibly random is probably one of the most significant findings of the 20th century," Zeilinger wrote.

Zeilinger suggested that reality and information are, in a deep sense, indistinguishable, a concept that Wheeler, the Princeton physicist, called "it from bit."

In information, the basic unit is the bit, but one bit, he says, is not enough to specify both the spin and the trajectory of a particle. So one quality remains unknown, irreducibly random.

As a result of the finiteness of information, he explained, the universe is fundamentally unpredictable.

"I suggest that this randomness of the individual event is the strongest indication we have of a reality 'out there' existing independently of us," Zeilinger wrote in Nature.

He added, "Maybe Einstein would have liked this idea after all."

Re:Non-registration article text (3, Insightful)

chriseyre2000 (603088) | more than 8 years ago | (#14350980)

I am reminded of one of the statements in an "Introduction To Quantum Mechanics" course: If anyone says they understand quantum mechanics they are probably lying.

Re:Non-registration article text (1)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351022)

... apart of Mr. Feynman [wikipedia.org] !

Ah ha (5, Funny)

Auckerman (223266) | more than 8 years ago | (#14350937)

This is just further proof that we are living in the Matrix. With each and every absurd observation, man is getting closer to the truth that we are the cat in the box.

Re:Ah ha (0, Redundant)

Troed (102527) | more than 8 years ago | (#14350986)

http://www.simulation-argument.com/ [simulation-argument.com]

This paper argues that at least one of the following propositions is true:


(1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a posthuman stage;

(2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof);

(3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation.


It follows that the belief that there is a significant chance that we will one day become posthumans who run ancestor-simulations is false, unless we are currently living in a simulation.


Re:Ah ha (1)

moro_666 (414422) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351172)

fta:


Anton Zeilinger of the University of Vienna said that he thought, "The world is not as real as we think."


Yep, time to put our tinfoil hats on now and swallow the red pill.


There's no spoon

Re:Ah ha (1)

CortoMaltese (828267) | more than 8 years ago | (#14350996)

With each and every absurd observation, man is getting closer to the truth that we are the cat in the box.

Yeah, I know, the dead and not dead at the same time feeling really sucks. Somebody open the box!

The Red Pill (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14351003)

If you have the opportunity, go to Bali, Indonesia and get one of the locals to find you a bag of liquified mushrooms. Go to your hotel room and drink it. I kid you not, this is the red pill. You will not be dissapointed.

Yes, you are living in something very similar to the Matrix and there are signposts and clever little games designed in that will allow you to take a breather from the simulation and poke your head through to the other side. The primary rule of thumb is that the closer you get to the truth, the more confusing the alternate explanations start becoming. You do not have to be a zombie here, there are ways of finding the truth...

Think I'm kidding?

Re:The Red Pill (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14351142)

indeed?

could you recommend a book perhaps? i'm afraid indonesia is a bit out of my budget

Re:The Red Pill (1)

TallMatthew (919136) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351228)

Isn't it more likely that your brain is trying to create a continuity where one doesn't exist or that your perception is inadequate of conceiving? That these signposts and clever games are entertainment for the self, based on the ideal that we are capable of understanding everything that's going on around us, that all the forces that act upon our subjectivity during a particular moment are clearly labelled and explicable to our monkey brains?

Our brains are designed to fill in what we don't see or understand. Our blind spot, where the sheath of nerves carry visual signals to the brain, is a classic example: http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/blindspot1.html [brynmawr.edu] . Logic is no exception. Witness religion. We like to fill in the holes. We don't like it when our rules collapse. It's more likely we're inferior beings than the universe is of inferior quality.

Then again, maybe you're Neo. What the fuck do I know? Keep eating shrooms and help me find a way out.

Re:Ah ha (1)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351029)

Chances there are that we are the box.

wouldn't that be... (3, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 8 years ago | (#14350940)

"The New York Times is running an interesting story on Einstein's strangest theory. The theory was brought to light this past fall when 'scientists announced that they had put a half dozen beryllium atoms into a "cat state."

Wouldn't that be Schroedinger's strangest theory?

Re:wouldn't that be... (2, Interesting)

CortoMaltese (828267) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351006)

Moreover, I thought Einstein was referring to the uncertainties of the quantum theory (i.e. Schrödinger's cat) when he said, "God does not play dice", meaning that he didn't accept it. Anyone care to enlighten me?

chuck norris facts? (1)

rmallico (831443) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351048)

my gawd i needed that laugh... had me howling at the chuck norris facts website... thx

They forgot one: (5, Funny)

Phariom (941580) | more than 8 years ago | (#14350942)

"To a physicist, a "cat state" is the condition of being two diametrically opposed conditions at once, like black and white, up and down, or dead and alive."

Or something happy to have its tummy rubbed only to bite you seconds later.

NYTimes server in catatonic state (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 8 years ago | (#14350943)

its a bit shit expecting to give your firstborn away just to read an article.

I found an alternative link [insidebayarea.com] .

I'm still not convinced by all this quantum connectivity business, but then again you look at a wall of clocks with their pendulums all in sync (because of vibrations in the wall) and you think hmmmm maybe its possible.

Re:NYTimes server in catatonic state (1)

kermitthefrog917 (903403) | more than 8 years ago | (#14350950)

Two words: BugMeNot

Re:NYTimes server in catatonic state (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14351063)

you stole the article and posted it on your spamsite, so what?

REDUNDANT!

I'm a smart man... (1)

matr0x_x (919985) | more than 8 years ago | (#14350945)

but even I am confused by this. Clockwise and counterclockwise - YIKES ;)

Don't expect to understand. (3, Funny)

Yirimyah (884895) | more than 8 years ago | (#14350953)

Don't expect to understand. We evolved to run around on a plain and throw spears at antelopes, so we shouldn't be suprised when we don't understand complex things.

Re:Don't expect to understand. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14350983)

Complex things we don't understand? You kids and your crazy "science," we all know the truth is that it must be God.

Re:Don't expect to understand. (1)

Yirimyah (884895) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351096)

PLEASE be sarcasm.

Re:Don't expect to understand. (1)

Lord Bitman (95493) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351180)

PLEASE be sarcasm.
.

Re:Don't expect to understand. (0, Flamebait)

User 956 (568564) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351001)

It has been, as Max Tegmark, a cosmologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, noted, "a 75-year war." It is typical in reporting on this subject to bounce from one expert to another, each one shaking his or her head about how the other one just doesn't get it.

Exactly. No wonder the christian-creationist assholes are able to drive in their "intelligent design" wedge in the high-school curriculum. Science is all about intelligent discourse, but the masses need a coherent explanation in the mean.

Re:Don't expect to understand. (1, Informative)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351082)

More anthropologists these days are leaning towards the idea that humans evolved next to riversides and on beaches. (Bipedalism came about because of wading, it explains the lack of hair, webbed fingers, ability to hold our breath, the direction of the hairs on our body, the shape of our noses, etc, etc.) The same point you made still applies, but I just thought I'd point out that the savannah theory of human evolution is going the way of the theory of Newtonian mechanics at a subatomic level.

Re:Don't expect to understand. (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351136)

We evolved to run around on a plain and throw spears at antelopes, so we shouldn't be suprised when we don't understand complex things.

Well, if that's the problem, then perhaps we should start doing advanced theoretical physics research in Kansas?

Re:Don't expect to understand. (1)

TallMatthew (919136) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351159)

I'm on a plain. I can't complain.

Entangled atoms for FTL comm? (2, Interesting)

klingens (147173) | more than 8 years ago | (#14350956)

Should one of them realize, like the cartoon character who runs off a cliff and doesn't fall until he looks down, that it is in a metaphysically untenable situation and decide to spin only one way, the rest would instantly fall in line, whether they were across a test tube or across the galaxy.


Do I read that right and they created entangled atoms, giving us possible faster than light communications? Or is this just the usual journalists misreporting of scientific facts?

Re:Entangled atoms for FTL comm? - No (4, Informative)

RedLaggedTeut (216304) | more than 8 years ago | (#14350978)

Strange that you bring up that entangled atoms allow faster than light communication.

The known problem with this is that no information actually is transferred as far as we know; it is is only acquired at both ends at the same time (that is, you can't decide what you read).

Entangled atoms allow safe FTL cryptography though, because uncovering and reading the state of the atom creates a bit of a key that is shared at both ends.

Re:Entangled atoms for FTL comm? (1)

bhima (46039) | more than 8 years ago | (#14350982)

No, you may have not read that right. Entanglement (AKA spooky action at a distance) is all about faster than light communication (between the particles) but it can not be used for communications like a walkie-talkie. I didn't RTF(NewYork Times)A, but I read one I found with news.google and that one made that point pretty clear.

Re:Entangled atoms for FTL comm? (4, Informative)

judmarc (649183) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351141)

If I remember some of the stuff I've read correctly, it's a bit more complicated than the article's summary made it seem, and no, it doesn't make FTL communication possible.

What the experiments have shown is that if A and B are "entangled," then whatever state A is observed to be in, B will be in that state also, regardless of whether A and B are too far apart at the time the observation is made to have any communication with each other. This can be thought of as Einstein characterized it, as "spooky action at a distance," i.e., the observation of A somehow affects B (which is what makes the action spooky, since there is no known way for any information to be communicated between the two). However, it can also be thought of in other ways - for instance, that A and B were in the same state when they were entangled (though there's no way to determine that for sure, since the states aren't observed at that time), and the observations of A and B are just showing the states they've "always" been in. In the latter way of thinking, the spooky part is that these randomly selected particles always turn out to have the same state when observed. It's like sticking your hand into your sock drawer 100 times at random and always coming up with matched pairs.

Quantum theory means the world may be a simulation (4, Interesting)

RedLaggedTeut (216304) | more than 8 years ago | (#14350958)

I believe the existance of a working quantum theory means that the universe can be considered as a simulation insofar as there might exist a universe without quantum physics and just particle physics.

Now assume someone with insufficient knowledge about such a universe who tries to model a simulation to get predictions, much like having for of war in a strategy game - when a unit disappears into fog of war (since x turns ago), it would be essentially in all places that in could reach in x turns at once.

An interesting question then might be, is then human knowledge and usage of quantum theory a desired property of the simulation, or an artifact that invalidates the simulation results?

Re:Quantum theory means the world may be a simulat (2, Interesting)

Troed (102527) | more than 8 years ago | (#14350990)

As in: The granularity (bits) of the computer would be the Planck scale, and the top speed of the computer's operations would be the speed of light.

Re:Quantum theory means the world may be a simulat (1)

RedLaggedTeut (216304) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351010)

As in: The granularity (bits) of the computer would be the Planck scale, and the top speed of the computer's operations would be the speed of light.

Well yes and no. That is a completely different angle. The "real" universe I was talking about might have quantums and planck squales as well.
But I can add something to your point of view:
  • gravity might equal clustering of processors with similar tasks
  • a black hole would be a cluster that was so busy that it would be almost unable to communicate with the rest of the world with the exception of FTL quantum transfer.

Re:Quantum theory means the world may be a simulat (1)

rich_r (655226) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351081)

and the top speed of the computer's operations would be the speed of light. But it still wouldn't be able run Duke Nukem Forever...

Re:Quantum theory means the world may be a simulat (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14351137)

It may well be, literally. Try DMT (hard to get, but well worth it). People experienced with it says it lifts them out of "the matrix" and into a different reality. Most people experience that reality uniformly and say it's as real as this one.

One theory advanced to explain the whole thing is that the brain is more of a receiver than a creator of content, and that certain hallucinogens might "change the channel" so to speak.

Btw, would you mind slashdotting my google ads? That'd really help me out financially "post-christmas".. ;) http://binaural.tk/ [binaural.tk]

Re:Quantum theory means the world may be a simulat (4, Insightful)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351153)

Now assume someone with insufficient knowledge about such a universe who tries to model a simulation to get predictions, much like having for of war in a strategy game - when a unit disappears into fog of war (since x turns ago), it would be essentially in all places that in could reach in x turns at once.

Not quite. That would be what's called a hidden variables [wolfram.com] system: the unit still does have a real location, which is tracked by the program, even if it's inaccessible to an observer within the system. However, that doesn't appear to be the way our universe works; the Bell inequalities [wolfram.com] show that hidden variables are incompatible with locality.

Wolfram says .. (1)

RedLaggedTeut (216304) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351181)

Quoting from Wolfram:

However, at present there are no "clean" experiments unambiguously verifying the inequalities.

In addition to that, I am not stating that the program does have hidden variables, but that the program uses quantum logic to treat unknown states. Of course these would collapse somewhere, but not necessarily at the time of the measurement from our human POV; That is, if it is not necessary for a measurement to know a hidden variable it will not be determined.

This matches in some respect the strong anthroposophic principle, or would be called lazy evaluation in a programming language.

Re:Quantum theory means the world may be a simulat (1)

Decaff (42676) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351157)

I believe the existance of a working quantum theory means that the universe can be considered as a simulation insofar as there might exist a universe without quantum physics and just particle physics.

This is extremely doubtful, as it is hard to see how there could even be particles without quantum physics. What would these particles be? Infinitesimal points? If so, how could they react?

Re:Quantum theory means the world is a simulation (0)

RedLaggedTeut (216304) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351217)

Particles without quantum physics would basically react like billard, basically relying on the pauli principle and exchange of values that maintain the sums. I can see what your reply will be: That billard physics has been disproved in favor of quantum physics.

I am not disputing that, I am stating that there might exist a point of view outside our universe from which our universe can be considered a simulation. This is more of a thought experiment in respect to physics inside our universe than actual physics (although it might shed some light on which models for our physics are "neat").

How would infinitesimal points react(in the POV from that hypothetical meta-"real" universe)? Well, it would look much like a fractal state engine(like these flowers), similar to how you would store the interactions of particles in a collider.

Physicists Don't Seem too Philosophical (4, Interesting)

putko (753330) | more than 8 years ago | (#14350960)

One thing I got from the article is that physicists don't really care that the Quantum mechanics doesn't make sense at the macro level, nor that there isn't a clear boundary between big systems and quantum systems.

That's the whole point of the cat-in-a-box: if an electron can be superposed, why not a whole cat? And what does that say about reality, if the quantum theory makes no sense? E.g. our sense of reality says the cat is either alive or dead, not both. Hence, shouldn't an electron be one or the other? Q.T. says no.

That "why" issue is the sort of thing that troubled a philosopher-type like Einstiein --- someone who wonders "why?" compulsively is likely to keep on digging. The physicists seem happy to crunch the numbers, do an experiment and see if it agrees with the numbers.

Which is in keeping with my observations of physicists: they are essentially applied mathematicians. Mathematicians (like Einstein) are a different sort.

Re:Physicists Don't Seem too Philosophical (5, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351060)

As Richard Feynman pointed out, "why" is a question of philosophy, not science. The question why has no end. Why do electrons repel each other? That no one knows, they just do. I might go so far as to say it can't be known. Most people stop asking why when they get an answer they're familiar with. Science deals with questions of how. How do electrons repel each other? Well, current theory says that photons travel from one electron to another and push them apart.

Re:Physicists Don't Seem too Philosophical (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14351089)

I see the relationship between math and physics as completly opposite of what you said. It's a problem of what came first. The thing that came first was the need to model reality (the physics). To solve these problems, they needed a set of tools (the math). Without the physics, the need for math wouldn't exist. The mathematicians are really there to support the physicists. (sorry mathematicians)

Clockwise=Counter-Clockwise (3, Insightful)

theheff (894014) | more than 8 years ago | (#14350974)

If you were to look at a clock backwards, the hands would be moving counter-clockwise from your perspective. It's all relative. So in theory, both could be happenning at the same time.

Re:Clockwise=Counter-Clockwise (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14351007)

what if you were to look at a clock from it's (the clock) perspective. would the hands be moving clockwise or counter-clockwise?

Re:Clockwise=Counter-Clockwise (5, Informative)

kirinyaga (652081) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351102)

In fact, the spin stay the same from any perspective. I.e. the particle is "spinning" exactly the same way whatever the angle you look at it : you watch it from the top, from the left, from behind, you always see it spinning clockwise, a bit like if it turns to face you. It's call the "spin" because its property _looks_ like it was spinning, but the particle doesn't really move or turn. Actually, a particle doesn't have a form, it isn't a sphere. Form is like temperature : temperature being the average speed of individual atoms inside a set of atoms, temperature only exist at a macro level, that is for a large set of atom. For a single atom, temperature doesn't exist. It's the same for form, thus for "spinning". Those are called _emergent_ properties (i.e. properties of a whole that cannot be predicted from properties of the parts), and they are meaningless for particles. In the case of this weird instant remote "action", the two linked particles are in fact a _single_ entity. There is no sending of information since the two are only one "thing" : the two don't have the same property, the particle pair have a property. Indeed, for the same reason particles doesn't have a form, their _identity_ is not what you may think. If two particles have exactly the same property, they, err, _it_, is the same particle. And, since it is a property of the pair, you cannot choose it, thus sending information, the particle pair just has it. Of course you can select particle pairs with the property you want before sending them apart, but then they have to travel at the speed of light, no instant communication is possible. And whatever you do by acting on one won't do anything to the other, they just share the same property. Thus, what is troubling is not this but the fact that before you "look" at a particle property, the particle has all the values this property can take at once (e.g. clockwise AND counterclockwise). When you "look" at it, when you try to measure the property, one of this value is then selected. The paradox is while the previous experiment seems to tell us this value is chosen from the beginning (particles seems to share an initial property, revealed once you look at them), the quantum mechanics proves the actual value you observe is randomly selected at the time you observe it and not before. What is tranported by the particles from the time they are emitted is not the value of the property but the very property itself. Another reason why a particle properties define this particle identity : particles doesn't have a "soul", an inner hidden self thing, they only are what they appear to be.

Re:Clockwise=Counter-Clockwise (1)

XchristX (839963) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351253)

Quote:

the particle is "spinning" exactly the same way whatever the angle you look at it : you watch it from the top, from the left, from behind, you always see it spinning clockwise, a bit like if it turns to face you. It's call the "spin" because its property _looks_ like it was spinning, but the particle doesn't really move or turn. Actually, a particle doesn't have a form, it isn't a sphere. Form is like temperature : temperature being the average speed of individual atoms inside a set of atoms, temperature only exist at a macro level, that is for a large set of atom. For a single atom, temperature doesn't exist. It's the same for form, thus for "spinning". Those are called _emergent_ properties (i.e. properties of a whole that cannot be predicted from properties of the parts), and they are meaningless for particles. In the case of this weird instant remote "action", the two linked particles are in fact a _single_ entity.

/Quote

A more concise way to put it is thus:

A "particle" in quantum theory is a complete set of symmetries (commuting observables). Spin is one of those symmetries that define an elementary particle. The "clockwise" "counterclockwise" thing is an analogy borrowed from the fact that spin, like angular momentum, forms the generator group of rotations i.e the group of all possible vector spins generates the group of all possible rotations, much like angular momentum (which is what causes actual dynamical 'spinning'). By the fundamental postulates of quantum mechanics, an arbitrarily precise measurement of a physical quantity collapses a system to the eigenstate corresponding to that quantity and KEEPS it there, modulo a phase ( a generic measurement will give a probability distribution, according to the superposition principle and all that stuff). So, if you've determined the spin of a particle to an arbitrarily small degree of precision, then it stays the same no matter when or how you look at it. BTW this is also true of regular angular momentun in quantum theory. Once it's measured at j(j+1)hbar, it stays at j(j+1)hbar.

Maybe they observed wrong? (1)

Der Huhn Teufel (688813) | more than 8 years ago | (#14350979)

Isn't it possible that they just observed individual electrons within the cloud giving the illusion of spinning in opposite directions? It would mean that they were able to "focus" the elctrons so to speak instead of having them fly around haphazardly, still a big break, but that sounds extremely...well. I don't know what it sounds like. It sounds confusing.

Re:Maybe they observed wrong? (1)

Der Huhn Teufel (688813) | more than 8 years ago | (#14350995)

Of course "observing" any of this would be extremely difficult.

Re:Maybe they observed wrong? (1)

DarkIye (875062) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351016)

Of course, you should never forget that old tenet of - well, not just quantum physics, but any experiment at all: observing the experiment will possibly (and with something as delicate as quantum physics, very likely) change a critical aspect of the experiment in a way that will alter the outcome.

I'm sure these people have been extremely careful not to do that, though. With a field of science as well-observed and criticised as that of quantum physics, any slip-up will definitely be noticed by another scientist.

Re:Maybe they observed wrong? (1)

Der Huhn Teufel (688813) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351184)

Of course, hence why everything is tested and tested and tested. But how would you tell something like this without directly observing it?

Re:Maybe they observed wrong? (3, Funny)

cammoblammo (774120) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351185)

any slip-up will definitely be noticed by another scientist.

Yes, but wouldn't the act of observing the slip up change it's state?

Easily done (0, Redundant)

tintub (733763) | more than 8 years ago | (#14350999)

spin a top on a glass coffee table. It will be spinning clockwise and anti-clockwise at the same time, depending on the position of the observer (below or above). WOW!

wrong... (1)

drewxhawaii (922388) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351221)

...because said observer can only have one position (below or above) at any given point in time.

Re:wrong... (1)

tintub (733763) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351248)

use mirrors under the coffee table then.

Super Super position. (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14351041)

All of reality consists of just 1 partical.
This partical takes all of its possible positions at once thought out all of time.
This can be called the supersuper position.

The reason we experience time and all the superpostions of the one particle can be analog to some form of measurement.

If the one particle and all its positions define space and time these attributes can also exist in one point. So they do. This means that observing any state of the particle at any time or position can change the superposition or the supersuperposition directly at any other point/time.
Therefor nothing is predetermined and faster then light travel is slow by any standard.

There, the known multiverse explained by an Anonymous coward.

Say it with me : We are all the same particle, all the time.

(I'm so good at this BS ! )

Retep Vosnul

Basics of atomic states... (1)

SMTBby (941804) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351042)

I was under the impression that you could either only know the location of a particle, or its direction of motion, for to watch one was capable of having an effect on the other. SO if this is true, how could they know the location of these particles, and their states at the same time?

Re:Basics of atomic states... (1)

Efrat Regev (935278) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351207)

Well, in this case, the scientists were able to perfectly tell both the location and motion of the particles, but as a consequence, they lost any sense where they themselves were + they kept bumping into each other all over the lab.

Einstein didn't think Quantum Mechanics was real (0, Troll)

killeena (794394) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351046)

OMG, what a dumbass! Dumb old Einstein.

The Copenhagen Interpretation (3, Informative)

broothal (186066) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351051)

Bohr and Heisenberg made a popular interpretation of the duality paradox called The Copenhagen Interpretation [wikipedia.org] . Needless to say, Einstein disagreed with this interpretation.

Re:The Copenhagen Interpretation (1)

De_Boswachter (905895) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351133)

The Copenhagen Interpretation is only true when you prove it experimentally. During the timecourse it is not proven, it remains uncertain.

creators' unlimited newclear power no trick (1)

already_gone (848753) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351065)

it's more like the only way out/up for us.

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So if you shoot a box with a cat in it??? (0, Offtopic)

Zantetsuken (935350) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351067)

So if you put a cat in a box that you can't see in, take a gun, and shoot the box, is the cat dead? What proof can you provide me the cat might still actually be alive? (you know the saying "there's more than one way to skin a cat..." ask this physics question to the judge trying you with animal cruelty, and you're sure to get off the hook - it can't be proven right or wrong...)

Here's to the atom bomb (5, Funny)

ultracool (883965) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351077)

"Most physicists agreed with Bohr, and they went off to use quantum mechanics to build atomic bombs and reinvent the world."

Why do they always have to use the atomic bomb as an example of the applications of quantum mechanics? It really gives it a bad name.

Einstein was right, these guys are still on crack! (4, Interesting)

minkwe (222331) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351079)

The core of this issue is one of epistemiology. Bohr and his followers want to transfer a property of the mind (knowledge) to a property of nature (reality).

It's like saying, something happens in reality only the very moment you know it. Turn on CNN, and all what they are reporting on, just happened at that very moment you learnt of it, and if you did not hear it or know it, then it did not happen! Crack!

An electron has a specific velocity, whether any person knows it or not. The probability distribution of the electron's velocity (wavefunction) is not a property of nature as Heisenberg states, but a property of our minds (lack of complete information). When that value is finally measured, we have a single value rather than a wavefunction (complete information). It is our minds that have changed, not reality. Therefore it is crack to say the electron has many velocities (wavefunction) before measurement but as soon as it is measured, it collapses (wavefunction collapse) into a single value.

The strangest part of this is that this blatant confusion has not totally incapacitated the usefulness of quantum mechanics. Imagine what will happen if more physicists could get their ducks in line and properly understand why Quantum mechanics works. Einstein was on track. Others have followed him and been able to do great things, although clearly disagreeing with the "spooky action at a distance" "copenhagen" interpretation. Such as Schrödinger, Edward Thomson Jaynes, the father of "maximum entropy".

ET Jaynes wrote about the possibility of doing a thesis under Oppenheimer:

After some months of correspondence I first met J. R. Oppenheimer in September 1946, when I arrived at Berkeley as a beginning graduate student, to learn quantum theory from him -- the result of Bill Hansen having recommended us strongly to each other. When in the Summer of 1947 Oppy moved to Princeton to take over the Institute for Advanced Study, I was one of four students that he took along. The plan was that we would enroll as graduate students at Princeton University, finish our theses under Oppy although he was not officially a Princeton University faculty member; and turn them in to Princeton (which had agreed to this somewhat unusual arrangement in view of the somewhat unusual circumstances). My thesis was to be on Quantum Electrodynamics. ...
But, as this writer learned from attending a year of Oppy's lectures (1946-47) at Berkeley, and eagerly studying his printed and spoken words for several years thereafter, Oppy would never countenance any retreat from the Copenhagen position, of the kind advocated by Schrödinger and Einstein. He derived some great emotional satisfaction from just those elements of mysticism that Schrödinger and Einstein had deplored, and always wanted to make the world still more mystical, and less rational. ...
If this meant standing in contradiction with the Copenhagen interpretation, so be it; I would be delighted to see it gone anyway, for the same reason that Einstein and Schrödinger would. But I sensed that Oppy would never tolerate a grain of this; he would crush me like an eggshell if I dared to express a word of such subversive ideas. I could do a thesis with Oppy only if it was his thesis, not mine.

http://bayes.wustl.edu/etj/etj.html [wustl.edu]
Oppy is Oppenheimer.

Quantum mechanics works, there is no question about it. The question is why does it work. IMHO, the majority of physicists today are backing up the wrong tree -- the copenhagen interpretation. Further progress is, thus being hindered.

Re:Einstein was right, these guys are still on cra (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14351108)

I'm afraid you have misunderstood the EPR paradox.

look up Bell's inequality. You will see that *no amount* of extra information 'hidden' from us but carried by the particles can explain the observed phenomena of both EPR entangled particles and the distribution of states observed at one end.

QM in that sense is not shown to be incomplete by EPR. it is truly non-local. Or there are many universes. It is not at all the case that an electron 'has a velocity' and we don't know it. It really does only have a velocity when we know it. This *is* very difficult to accept, and is why people dream up things like many universes to get round it, but they just shift the apparent absurdity elsewhere. Or they just grumble that they can't accept it and it must be wrong, like Einstein did.

Re:Einstein was right, these guys are still on cra (1)

minkwe (222331) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351144)

Electrons don't carry information. Information is a property of the mind not reality. And that's the part you don't get.

I just dropped a coin on my floor. Tell me what I got, Heads or Tails. Or tell me that I got 50% heads and 50% tails, and the moment I finally tell you the TRUE results, what I got automatically changes.

You see, there is a difference between TRUTH and KNOWLEDGE(information). What you know about my coin is just that, information, not reality.

BTW my post was not about the EPR paradox. But you see the EPR paradox used as a validation of the "copenhagen interpretation" simply gives you the presuppositions you put into it, which is no validation.

Re:Einstein was right, these guys are still on cra (1)

minkwe (222331) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351158)

And if an electron does not have a velocity before measurement, then what are you trying to measure?

Re:Einstein was right, these guys are still on cra (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14351186)

a quantum 'measurement' is not like an ordinary measurement. a better term to use is observation. one observable is momentum, but observables are all linked together by uncertainty principles.

the state of an electron before an observation of its momentum is one in which it doesn't have a distinct momentum. no known theory which tries to give it one (a 'hidden variable' theory) matches the results from experiment - except the many-worlds interpretation, which is probably the 2nd most popular interpretation for essentially that reason. but that's a bit inefficient, we've now got not just a hidden variable but a vast number of hidden universes. but it does work and rescues determinism and locality albeit at some cost.

Re:Einstein was right, these guys are still on cra (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14351129)

QM works, as you say. but that's all there is. QM was created as one turn in the centuries-long game of building a mathematical model, comparing it to reality and then tweaking it or creating a whole new model whenever the two differ.

now you're changing the game. you're introducing a new rule, that the mathematics must be comprehensible, must be philosophically appealing. it's not surprising that eventually a theory crops up that doesn't meet these requirements since the blueprint for creating the theory didn't have them - they weren't part of the original spec, if you like.

So the Question is in fact a meta Question - does your question matter? does it matter which interpretation you choose - after all they are only alternative interpretations not theories - i.e we can never objectively decide between them.

Re:Einstein was right, these guys are still on cra (1)

minkwe (222331) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351152)

In Science, we are trying to understand reality. Classical mechanics worked but it was not accurate. Without questioning the present theories, there'll be no progress.

The rules have never changed. A theory is a theory. It only becomes a problem when some think their theory IS reality.

Re:Einstein was right, these guys are still on cra (1)

TallMatthew (919136) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351177)

It's like saying, something happens in reality only the very moment you know it. Turn on CNN, and all what they are reporting on, just happened at that very moment you learnt of it, and if you did not hear it or know it, then it did not happen! Crack!

Firstly, just because they say something on CNN doesn't mean it actually happened. But that's got nothing to do with this discussion.

Secondly, you're inferring too far. You can't discount perspective from measurement, perspective being a point in space and time (space-time). If you do, then you might as well go flip burgers, because everything has happened already from the null point of view, the universe should eventually collapse back into a single point at which point all these laws will be defunct and all time will be irrelevant, so what's the point of observation anyway? The argument is not that something didn't exist because it's not observed, it's that it isn't relevant because it wasn't observed.

If a tree falls in the woods and no one's there to hear it, does it make a sound? The correct answer is: Who gives a shit?

Re:Einstein was right, these guys are still on cra (1)

minkwe (222331) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351192)

If a tree falls in the woods and no one's there to hear it, does it make a sound? The correct answer is: Who gives a shit?

The tree does, as far as there are people trying to say the tree is 50% standing, and 50% fallen. Just like the cat being 50% alive and 50% dead.

Now the more reason why you should "give a shit" also is because, your ability to reason correctly depends on how you answer the question.

Do you also believe that an electron does not have a velocity until it is measured? Then don't even bother watching CNN until all those electrons in your TV get measured.

Not sure what the fuss is here (0, Flamebait)

Debiant (254216) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351094)

I mean just look the real world. Two opposite things are all same time true.

Bush: combat is over, but there is still some resistance
Bush: There is no WMD's but I was right anyway
Salesman: even higher quality with even lower prices than before
Politician: lower taxes and higher spending
Employer: lower wages, shorter hours and more motivated employees who do more & better.

Why, just look, obviously quantum mechanics are already at work every day!
Einstein was right, but why do we need the cat to prove it? Who let the cat in?

The Real Question (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14351112)

Sure we understand the beryllium sphere, but! The real question is what does the Omega 13 Device do??

Quantum computing (0, Offtopic)

jurt1235 (834677) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351116)

left spin=0
right spin=1
spin both ways=Microsoft windows is showing a blue screen?

Re:Quantum computing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14351198)

that's spintronics, actually. quantum computing actually uses the fact that it can be multiple states to its advantage.

Queue the crappy philosophy and mysticism... (4, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351130)

Anytime quantum mechanics is brought up among a non-science crowd (sorry, desipte the geekyness of slashdot, the moderation and general comments I see indicate it's a non-science crowd) you wind up getting half-truth mystical garbage like this [imdb.com] and this. [imdb.com] The more hard to understand it is, the more people will come up with their own, wrong interpretations.

Annoying adds on slashdot (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14351139)

Get rid of them now

adblock "http://a.as-us.falkag.net*" in firefox and even the text ads go bye bye!

And it's evolution that's hard to swallow? (5, Interesting)

misanthrope101 (253915) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351165)

This subject is why I always sneer a bit when I hear/read a 'concerned Christian' pontificating on the unscientific nature of evolutionary theory. You find dozens and dozens of pages of closely worded arguments slicing the meaning of words ever so closely, delving deep into semantics and epistemology to show that evolution isn't really science, that methodological naturalism doens't really follow the evidence wherever it may lead, and so on. But the sound and fury are only heard concerning evolution--I have yet to see any of these ur-skeptics pop up with "how can you treat a theory as fact? why are you lying to our children" when the topic is any other branch of science.

The real kicker is that evolutionary theory makes sense on an intuitive level. Random variation + natural selection = genetic change. Genetic change + time = a lot of change. Divergent change = speciation. I'm no scientist--I'm not even that bright. But the ideas are simple and elegant if you make even a token effort to understand. Not so with quantum mechanics. It means what again? If any thse creationists or ID advocates were actually moved by their supposed skepticism about methodologial naturalism, they would be up in arms about quantum mechanics. Instead you hear what from them? Silence. The only branch of science that their profound, deeply conscientious, implacable intellectual integrity can concern itself with is the only one that has implications for a simplistic reading of Genesis. Every time I read "I'm no creationist, but I can't stand by when our children are sold half-baked theories as fact!" I want to crack up laughing. Quantum mechanics is such an easier target because maybe 50 people worldwide really understand it (okay, I'm exaggerating, but by how much?) and high school teachers probably don't make a large percentage. If the issue were just the nature of methodological naturalism, or the limits of human knowledge, or the nature of science, then evolution would never be the easiest target. But as it is, it's the only target.

Perhaps I'm coming late to this realization. Despite my noted cynicism, the very act of debate requires a little respect for the opposing view. But if the opposition is just flat-out lying, not only about their facts, but about their very motivating premises, then what is there to talk about? I guess it had to come to this eventually--if the other side really thinks you are working for the devil, you can't help but call them kooks sooner or later. What else is there?

No, this post o' mine didn't address quantum mechanics. It's just that the sheer inscrutability of the subject (to me) got me to wondering--where are all the gadflies who normally come out of the woodwork with dire warnings about passing off rank theory as fact? Where are the lessons in the scientific theory, the exhortations to "prove" it before we poison the minds of the next generation?

Question about Q-phys (1, Interesting)

Moflamby-2042 (919990) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351175)

I've been curious what is the justification for support of:
  • particles are in multiple simultaneous states until measured causing the distributed probabilities to collapse into a definite known state

over the seemingly more 'classical':
  • the particle has a definite position and momentum, but our measuring devices are too clumsy / interactive to measure one without affecting the other before another measurement can be made. For example if we measure something by zinging it with a photon and remeasuring the (same?) photon after it interacts with it, then it causes it to do something else before we can zing it again.

Why shouldn't they have definite but not simultaneously measurable properties with a clumsy photon? Why can't they just have some chaotic function altering it from one state to the next that we don't know how to predict?

Alternately, if schroedinger's cat is in an alive/dead superposition in the box, then if the cat experiences a sane and straightforward set of experiences yet the outside-of-box observer claims it to be in an alive/dead combo state, then outside the box observer and inside the box observer's consciousness lines must potentially deviate. If the cat experiences no trouble at all, but the observer measures it to be dead then they're already in different 'universes' from one another.

So my last questions: is everybody else around here soulless zombies due to the great improbability that I'd be traveling along the same path as the 'conscious' ones? If not, why the heck are all you people following my conscious line for (or me yours)? That is, if multiple consciousness can occur at the split points, yet any one consciousness experiences a fluid and non-confusing pathway then how do the others experience anything.
Where do they come from, who/what experiences it? Maybe we're all really the same person separated by whatever localized state our matter based brains are configured for, then given all possibilities we experience all of them, one after another after another. brrrrrrrr.. spooky!

Re:Question about Q-phys (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14351241)

your question is a very good one. and it's still current, people are still trying to come up with theories that are at once deterministic, realist, and local - which is what you term 'classical'.

nobody has yet succeeded. this is very recent science, Bell only showed how difficult a 'classical' QM would be in the sixties and his result was only confirmed much later by Alain Aspect.

there are many reasons why 'classical' QM is hard but the EPR paradox and Bell's work show the clearest difficulty. There's a beautiful discussion of Bell's inequality in one of Roger Penrose's books. wikpedia is good on this too, look up EPR paradox. in short any theory which gives the particle a complete state description (which is however unkown but revealed by measurement albeit in a clumsy way which destroys the state) can never reproduce both the particular observations of a single observation of an entangled pair and the statistics of a large number of such observations. Any particular observation can be explained by just saying that's how the system was - in that state until we observed it. The correlations between sets of observations can also be perfectly explained by a complete desciption of the states before observation that becomes revealed as we observe. The problem is, the two descriptions each type of observation requires are logically inconsistent. Thus there is no prior pristine state (a set of 'hidden' variables) that can be a proper description of reality.

Maybe there is another world at sub-photon level. (0)

master_p (608214) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351212)

Maybe there is a whole different world at the sub-photon level that we do not know about. This unseen yet world contains variables that introduce a random element in our quantum experiments. Since we can only hypothesise and can not observe this world (since our best tool is the photon particle), it would take a very brilliant mind to make the correct hypothesis and test it in a lab.

This proves.... (1)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351215)

That if a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it
it makes no sound?

Our perception of reality (3, Interesting)

TarikJax (919148) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351220)

Isn't it possible that the reason we find this so difficult to grasp is because of our perception of reality? We perceive these particles purely in four dimensions but if it was the case that there was only a single particle moving in a dimension that intersected with the four we are capable of perceiving we would see much the same effect. Any action on one "particle" would affect all the others, because they are actually the same particle. Similarly, one particle could exist in two mutually exclusive states (clockwise and anticlockwise) at what appears to us to be the same point in time and space but is in fact two separate points along the higher dimension in which the particle exists.

And here I thought that ... (1)

MrNougat (927651) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351225)

... the strangest theory was spooky action at a distance [wikipedia.org] .

Re:And here I thought that ... (1)

MrNougat (927651) | more than 8 years ago | (#14351232)

Note to self: Read the article before posting.
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