|Action from a distance?|
I consider myself highly rational and have no time for loose thinking when it comes to irrational bollocks in all its manifold manifestations. This, of course, is mainly due to my extensive scientific training. Science works; irrational stuff does not. What advances to mankind have been made by religious beliefs or a contemplation of the supernatural? I rest my case.
Science and rational thought describes our world exceedingly well. It provides a self-correcting mechanism which has proved accurate and useful for understanding a highly complex universe. It has wrenched certainty from religious authority and has allowed men to think unfettered by stultifying dogma. We in the West are highly privileged to think this way. To do so came after centuries of struggle with orthodox religious doctrine, and more importantly, religious power. We in the West forget, ensconced in our secular bubble, how powerful and all pervasive the influence of the Catholic religion had on all strands of society just a few centuries ago. The reformation and the burgeoning 'enlightenment' changed all this. The Catholic church is but a shadow of its former self and can only cast a baleful influence on the most primitive and impoverished of its brethren. Not all religions have been ground into the dust, yet. Mohammedism has not changed from its seventh-century credentials. At least, Christianity made an effort and acquired an intellectual gloss. Not so much Islam. We in the West should be justifiably worried.
Anyway, this post is not about religion (perhaps) but quantum physics. As I said, science explains our world very well, but strangely falls down when we ponder the very large and the very small. The universe may well be infinite. How can our minds wrestle with this concept with all its implications? And when we recede to the quantum world, causation starts to unravel, at least from a rational perspective.
It doesn't come weirder than the phenomenon of 'Quantum Entanglement'. Consider a sub-atomic particle which decays into two particles with spin. According to Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, these particles can exist in a variety of states as predicted by a consideration of 'quantum (im)probability'. Once you measure the state of a particle, that quantum state becomes fixed. Therefore, if one of our particles is found to have an 'anti-clockwise spin', then the separated partner will always have the contrary state, in this case, a 'clockwise spin'. It seems that once the particle's quantum state has been determined, by measurement, it somehow communicates this information to the separated partner, which acts accordingly. What is really interesting is that particles can be separated by very large distances and communicate faster than the speed of light, indeed, it happens, 'at once'. When this phenomenon was first observed in the earlier part of the 20th century it caused a great deal of controversy and consternation amongst physicists, for obvious reasons.
Einstein acknowledged, but never liked the phenomenon, as it was contrary to his theory of 'special relativity'. And let's face it, Einstein's relativity theories are strange enough without introducing this kind of madness into our 'reality'. The ultimate maximum speed limit of the universe is the speed of light (C). Nothing can travel faster than this velocity, well at least according to Einstein. As a digression, it is wrong to consider the speed of light as a velocity vector. 'Light speed' is best conceived as a limit to causality, a condition interwoven into the very fabric of the universe. This is why the measurement 'C' crops up in equations which supposedly have nothing to do with velocity. For instance, consider the famous equation of Einstein which equates energy and mass: E=MC2. Anyway, as mentioned above, quantum entanglement implies the transmission of information 'instantaneously' between two entangled particles, irrespective of spatial separation. Experiments have found that this 'transfer' must, at least, exceed the speed of light by several orders of magnitude.
Einstein and colleagues thought that information deciding a quantum state was fixed in the initial particle prior to disassociation, although a coherent mechanism was never proposed. Subsequent experimentation supports the causal connection or quantum entanglement hypothesis; poor Einstein was wrong.
This paradoxical aspect of quantum entanglement is highly perplexing to a rationalist. A scientist trained in the way of causality can only scratch his/her head in wonderment at phenomena which appear to defy the 'rules' of established nature and introduces notions akin to the paranormal. I haven't given up on science just yet. I place 'quantum physics' in a drawer within my head, marked: 'Awaiting further enlightenment'. It is my hope that very clever minds will come up with a plausible explanation. However, there is always the possibility that no explanation is forthcoming. Mayhap our puny intellects are not up to solving this most vexed and impenetrable of questions. If this be the case my 'mind drawer' will gather much dust before disappearing into dust.
Strange, but true. As I was writing this post and as a means of torpid distraction, I quickly checked out my blog. One of my regular readers left a comment about 'Quantum Entanglement'. How spooky is that? Arse.
|I don't think we are there, just yet|