Hi again. Well, I’ve been canning huge quantities of pasta sauce and pickles and applesauce and chutney and hot salsa, and taking plenty of time away from my &%$#@ computer, an iMac now running on their latest system, El Capitan, which works pretty well but also frequently entertains me with its spinning Beachball of Doom. Risking calamity, I’m back at it with (once again) —
More physics – can I keep it simple?
I do enjoy exploring some of the weirdness of physics, especially quantum theory, but there’s a point at which I just throw up my hands and walk away – like when I encounter something like this –
But let’s ignore those squiggles and try to make some sense of quantum entanglement. Physicists in the 1930s theorized that quantum behavior was non-local – that is, a particle here on Earth affected a particle in a distant galaxy instantaneously. Einstein hated this, calling it “spooky action at a distance,” because he’d established the universal speed limit to be the speed of light, at 186,000 miles per second. And yet, here were so many of his colleagues saying otherwise: stuff was happening immediately across vast distances.
In the early 1980s it was proven experimentally for the first time that particles act on each other instantaneously. Researchers arranged to send two “paired” photons in opposite directions to detectors some ten yards apart.* One photon would pass through a device that would alter its polarity. The other one would sail on its merry way straight to the detector. Of course, each photon was traveling at the speed of light, so in fact they were going away from each other at twice the speed of light.
Well, the device reversed the polarity of the first photon, and, yes indeed, the second photon arrived at its detector with its polarity also reversed. Somehow, the photons had “talked” to each other at twice the speed of light. Well, not really “talked”, but the experiment proved that physics was (is) not totally a local, cause-and-effect bowl of beans. Particles are entangled with each other across enormous distances. When one of them changes its properties (somehow) a gazillion miles away, its “twin” here on Earth does the same thing. Faster than FedEx.
Further experiments used whole atoms and even Buckyball molecules, shooting apart at nearly the speed of light, with the same result: little things just ain’t local. They’re entangled. (I need to add that entanglement and nonlocality are not interchangeable concepts. There are some differences, but for the purposes of this post they’re essentially the same).
Entanglement throws open the doors to notions of “the holographic universe,” David Bohm’s “implicate order,” and much more – including a heartening convergence with Buddhism, Taoism, pantheism, other isms and New Agey concepts we haven’t even thought of yet. Imagine if the universe were infinite – fortunately it’s not – and if so there would be an infinite number of identical Earths and yous and mes roaming about on them, sometimes behaving identically, sometimes not. One of “me,” is enough, I’ve thought, especially at a dinner party. Entanglement in such a universe would be beyond any comprehension. But entanglement in the finite universe we have is exciting stuff.
Entanglement seems perfectly happy to reside in the tiniest places, but it’s easy to believe it elevates to the “classical” level (meaning: this macro 3D world around us), where its effects would be massively broad but exceedingly subtle. Everything is in everything else – that’s one way to look at it – but deeply encoded, obscure, and largely inaccessible. And now, the Maine connection…
If you’ve followed this blog, you know I’ve lived in too may places – the Northeast, South Florida (3 years), northern New Mexico (7), Olympia, Washington (2), the Atlanta area (10), Connecticut (5), Vermont (for a paltry six months), and now the Midcoast (4 1/2 years). In none of these places did I have a sense of implicit connection to the people who lived there. Yes, to some of them, but never to the extent of “hey, we’re all entangled, don’t you get it?” No, they didn’t. Or at least I didn’t sense it (though Vermont came close).
Maine is its own fully entangled place. It’s secretly, I’ve fantasized, the southernmost Maritime province of Canada. I’ve met just two or three people who’ve hankered to live somewhere else. Everyone else seems pretty content here, proud even. They sense something of a connection between themselves and animals, birds, creatures, and even vegetable matter (we have a chipmunk named King who lives in our woodpile, some fifteen feet from our porch. Our conversations are extremely limited, but I feel protective of King, which is endlessly annoying to our cat, who has nothing else in her head but to chew him to smithereens). Mutual respect. Forbearance. We have neighbors and friends to whom we unload home-canned goods and frozen soups, bags of corncobs and husks for a small herd of Belted Galloways three doors away from us, wine and cheese and vases of wildflowers. The give-and-take here is vigorous, enthusiastic and widespread, and no one’s keeping score. Shopping, social or cultural events, just meeting on the street – I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s not just that people are friendly and thoughtful here, it’s as though they know, deep down, that science has linked us physically together – at the tiniest scale but translatable upward into our whole beings. We, like, photons and electrons, are nonlocal. Implicate. Entangled.
This is not the newest idea in the world, but sometimes you just have to remind yourself what a special place we live in.
• I’ve read about the Aspect experiment several times, but can’t for the life of me find the exact dimensions of the experiment. I say “ten yards” but it may have been a bit more or less. It was done indoors in a lab, so it couldn’t have been too great a distance).
There you have it.
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