Category: Scientists

The Case For Multiverses

The Case for Multiverses

The  case for multiverses co-existing with our own is gathering more belief, indeed recently  The presenter, author and physicist Brian Cox says he supports the idea that many universes can exist at the same time.

The idea may sound far-fetched but the “many worlds” concept is the subject of serious debate among physicists.

It is a particular interpretation of quantum mechanics – which describes the often counter-intuitive behaviour of energy and matter at small scales.

In a famous thought experiment devised by the Austrian physicist Erwin Schrodinger, a cat sealed inside a box can be both alive and dead at the same time. Or any combination of different probabilities of being both dead and alive.

This is at odds with most common perceptions of the way the world is. And Schrodinger’s experiment was designed to illustrate the problems presented by one version of quantum mechanics known as the Copenhagen interpretation.

This proposes that when we observe a system, we force it to make a choice. So, for example, when you open the box with Schrodinger’s cat inside, it emerges dead or alive, not both.

But Prof Cox says the many worlds idea offers a sensible alternative.

“That there’s an infinite number of universes sounds more complicated than there being one,” Prof Cox told the programme.

“But actually, it’s a simpler version of quantum mechanics. It’s quantum mechanics without wave function collapse… the idea that by observing something you force a system to make a choice.”

Accepting the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics means also having to accept that things can exist in several states a the same time.

But this leads to a another question: Why do we perceive only one world, not many?

Schrodinger's cat - illustrationSchrodinger’s thought experiment was designed to illustrate problems with one interpretation of quantum physics

A single digital photograph can be made from many different images superimposed on one another. Perhaps the single reality that we perceive is also multi-layered.

The laws of quantum mechanics describe what happens inside the nucleus of every atom, right down at the level of elementary particles such as quarks, gluons. leptons, charm, muon et al with the now discovered Higgs Boson holding them all.

The weird and wonderful world of quantum mechanics reveals that nature is at heart probabilistic. Nothing can be predicted with any certainty.

“Everybody agrees about that” says Prof Cox. But where physicists don’t agree is about how these facts should be interpreted.

For decades, the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, which allows for only one universe, dominated particle physics.

But Brian Cox supports the many worlds interpretation and, he believes, more and more physicists are now subscribing to this view.

Teleporting is Already Happening

Beam Me Up, Coxie
brian cox

Professor Brian Cox recently guested at a morning tv show called “This Morning” at ITV.   Brian Cox, the foppish scientist, was actually a member of a pop group sensation of the early to mid 90s, called D:REAM.  He was the key board player.  This was a part-time interest while he was being a particle physicist at the University of Manchester.

Today, Brian Cox has more or less left the music industry.  He is now well and truly a member of the academia.  He now works at CERN, Geneva.

The high brow Professor Cox has not completely left his pop star image; instead he is now the new face of popular science in Britain.  He is often found fronting documentaries about science particularly things that have something to do with Particle Physics.  I must say he’s got the knack of making high faluting subjects, brain numbing topics, to sound interesting and can be understood by viewers from all walks of life.

During his guest appearance at This Morning, Prof Cox revealed that teleportation is no longer a science fiction.  It is already happening and being applied at this very minute.

He further said that we will be able to teleport ourselves to work or anywhere in the universe just like in Startrek.

I am not sure whether professor Cox has really seen Startrek or knows the science of Startrek.

According to Startrek, teleporting is done by replication.   You go through a pattern buffer in the transporter.  Your original molecules and atoms are stored there but replicated and teleported to wherever you wanted to be.

What if during teleportation, the original does not completely separate from the replicant, you will be left thoeritically with twin entities!  Bizarre.

Apparconfused_facebook_emoticonently “real” teleportation does not do copies.  The real thing is teleported to appear somewhere else.  At the moment scientists are working on teleporting atoms and molecules and this has been a success and the mass being teleported is getting bigger and bigger all the time.




Gravity Power


newtonThe genius of Isaac Newton, who in the 17th  century defined gravity and produced a universal law of gravitation laid down the foundations for scientists, theoretical physicists such as Einstein.

Gravity Power

Gravity is pervasive, it affects and influences us all on our planet, in our solar system  and in our universe.

einstein1Astronomy is a hobby/interest of mine I like to learn all about what happens in the cosmos and how our space probes/telescopes are unlocking secrets preciously hidden to us.   Below Ben Gilliland excellently explains how gravity helps  push back the frontiers of space

WE ARE USED TO THINKING OF SPACE FLIGHT as a struggle against gravity. After all, it takes vast, towering rockets filled with hundreds of tonnes of explosive liquids and gases just to give a light-aircraft-sized vehicle enough thrust to break free of the bonds of Earth’s gravity.

Even if you are lucky enough make it into space, there are still endless gravitational hurdles to overcome. Contrary to what Sir Isaac Newton believed, gravity isn’t caused by two massive objects pulling on one-another. Instead, gravity is a by-product of the dents and distortions made by massive objects in the fabric of the Universe. A truly massive object, like a planet, makes a pretty big dent and, when a less massive object, like a spacecraft, strays too close it finds itself ‘falling’ into that dent – it might look as if the spacecraft is being ‘pulled’ towards the planet, but really it is ‘falling’ towards it.

The Solar System is littered with these gravitational pitfalls – a satellite falls towards the Earth, the Earth falls towards the Sun and, in turn, the Sun falls towards the centre of the Milky Way. The only way to stop this fall from becoming a direct plunge is to move through space fast enough to ensure your momentum keeps you aloft.

You can think of the Sun’s gravity as being a little like a wine glass. If you drop an olive into the glass, it will fall straight to the bottom, but, if you spin the glass, you can give the olive enough momentum to roll around the sides without falling in (like a planet orbiting the Sun). Decrease the momentum and its orbit will fall closer; increase it and its orbit moves further away. If you continue to increase the speed, eventually the olive will move so fast that it will achieve ‘escape velocity’ and fly from the glass.

A spacecraft leaving Earth has been given enough momentum to escape Earth’s gravity wine glass, but, if it wants to travel into deep space, it has to find enough momentum to escape the Sun’s gravitational dent. Using rockets isn’t practical because they’d need so much heavy fuel it would be prohibitively expensive to just leave the Earth –so scientists came up with a clever trick called a ‘gravity assist’ manoeuvre,

Also known as the ‘slingshot’ manoeuvre, the technique was first used successfully 40 years ago this week, by Nasa’s Mariner 10 Mercury probe. Instead of struggling against the gravitational pull of the planets, during a gravity assist, a spacecraft uses a planet’s gravity (or a series of planets) to give it a speed boost. By falling towards a planet that is falling towards the Sun, a spacecraft can ‘steal’ enough momentum to travel against the Sun’s gravitational pull.

So you could say that spaceflight isn’t flying at all: it’s just falling, with style.



A spacecraft leaving Earth has been given enough momentum to escape Earth’s gravity wine glass, but, if it wants to travel into deep space, it has to find enough momentum to escape the Sun’s gravitational dent. Using rockets isn’t practical because they’d need so much heavy fuel it would be prohibitively expensive to just leave the Earth –so scientists came up with a clever trick called a ‘gravity assist’ manoeuvre,

Also known as the ‘slingshot’ manoeuvre, the technique was first used successfully 40 years ago this week, by Nasa’s Mariner 10 Mercury probe. Instead of struggling against the gravitational pull of the planets, during a gravity assist, a spacecraft uses a planet’s gravity (or a series of planets) to give it a speed boost. By falling towards a planet that is falling towards the Sun, a spacecraft can ‘steal’ enough momentum to travel against the Sun’s gravitational pull.

So you could say that spaceflight isn’t flying at all: it’s just falling, with style.

Carlos Juan Finlay

I am now a confirmed Google Doodle fan.  I love their homage to various celebrities and timely events.

They are very useful especially in the case of this particular guy.  Carlos Juan Finlay contributed a very important findings which saved and continue to save millions more from yellow fever and yet I have never heard his name mentioned before.

To Carlos Juan Finlay,  happy 180th birthday!!!





Carlos Juan Finlay celebrated in Google doodle

Cuban physician and scientist, who would have been 180 today, developed theory that yellow fever was spread by mosquitoes,

Carlos Finlay

Carlos Finlay’s Google doodle on December 3.
Photograph: Google

Google’s latest doodle celebrates the birthday of Carlos Finlay, the Cuban physician and scientist who theorised that yellow fever was spread by mosquitoes.

Of French and Scottish descent, Finlay was born in 1833 in Puerto Príncipe, now the Cuban city of Camagüey, and studied at Jefferson medical college in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He finished his studies in Havana and Paris before settling in Cuba to open a medical practice.

Finlay was appointed by the Cuban government in 1879 to work with a North American commission studying the causes of yellow fever, and two years later was sent as the Cuban delegate to the fifth International Sanitary Conference in Washington DC.

At the conference, he urged the study of yellow fever vectors and later stated that the carrier was the mosquito Culex fasciatus, now known as Aedes aegypti.

When a US army’s Yellow Fever Board arrived in Cuba in 1900, he sought to persuade it of his mosquito-vector theory.

Finlay’s hypothesis and exhaustive proofs were confirmed by the board’s head, the US army doctor Walter Reed, paving the way for the eradication of yellow fever and saving generations of lives throughout South America, the Caribbean, Africa and the southern US.

As General Leonard Wood, a physician and military governor of Cuba, put it: “The confirmation of Dr Finlay’s doctrine is the greatest step forward made in medical science since Jenner’s discovery of the vaccination.”

Finlay died in August 2015 from a stroke caused by severe brain seizures in his home in Havana.

Peter Higgs and Francois Englert win Nobel physics prize

There you go Peter, your namesake has finally been awarded the Nobel Physics prize for the Higgs Boson.

My Peter has been asking me why Peter Higgs has not been Nobel prized yet. They’ve found the particle, what else would they want?!!! LOL He asked me this question almost every other day. We do talk a lot about science! 😉

Anyway, one scientist – a really great one, will probably feel a little bit miffed with the Nobel Prize received by Peter Higgs. Yes I am talking about you, Stephen Hawking, you said they’ll never find this God Particle! Not to worry, Stephen, your non-faith does not diminish your genius. After all didn’t good old Albert Einstein also said that Quantum Mechanics was a mumbo jumbo?!!!



Peter Higgs and Francois Englert win Nobel physics prize for Higgs boson research

By Tuesday 8 Oct 2013 12:27 pm

Higgs wins Nobel prize for 'God particle'
British physicist Peter Higgs, creator of the Higgs boson, has won the Nobel prize in physics (Picture: EPA)

Professor Peter Higgs has been awarded the Nobel prize in physics for predicting the existence of the Higgs boson or ‘God particle’.

The British scientist shared the award with Belgium’s Francois Englert for their theoretical work about the particle that is fundamental to explaining why elementary matter has mass.

‘I am overwhelmed to receive this award and thank the Royal Swedish Academy,’ said Prof Higgs said in a statement released by the University of Edinburgh.

‘I would also like to congratulate all those who have contributed to the discovery of this new particle and to thank my family, friends and colleagues for their support.

‘I hope this recognition of fundamental science will help raise awareness of the value of blue-sky research.’

epa03901813 (FILES) Belgian physicist Francois Englert (L) and British physicist Peter Higgs (R), answer journalist's question about the scientific seminar to deliver the latest update in the search for the Higgs boson at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Meyrin near Geneva, Switzerland, 04 July 2012. The two scientists have won the Nobel prize in physics for their work on the theory of the Higgs boson, it was announced 08 October 2013. Peter Higgs, from the UK, and Francois Englert from Belgium, shared the prize. EPA/MARTIAL TREZZINI
Belgian physicist Francois Englert (L) and British physicist Peter Higgs (R) shared the Nobel prize (Picture: EPA)

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in a statement: ‘The awarded theory is a central part of the Standard Model of particle physics that describes how the world is constructed.

‘According to the Standard Model, everything, from flowers and people to stars and planets, consists of just a few building blocks: matter particles.’

The two scientists had been favourites to share the $1.25million (£780,000) prize after the elementary particle’s existence was confirmed at the European nuclear research facility in Geneva, Switzerland, last year.

(FILES) -- A file photo taken on July 19, 2013 shows a worker riding his bicycle in a tunnel of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) Large Hadron Collider (LHC), during maintenance works in Meyrin, near Geneva. Francois Englert of Belgium and Peter Higgs of Britain won the Nobel Physics Prize on October 8, 2013 for the discovery of the "God particle", the Higgs Boson that explains why mass exists, the jury said. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINIFABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images


The existence of the ‘God particle’ was confirmed in Geneva last year (Picture: AFP / Geyyy)

Prime minister David Cameron tweeted saying: ‘Congratulations to Britain’s Professor Peter Higgs, who is sharing this year’s #NobelPrize for Physics.’

Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond also congratulated Prof Higgs.

He said: ‘Today, the Higgs boson, which carries his name, is a scientific discovery which is renowned the world over.

‘This richly deserved honour not only highlights the quality of research carried out in Scotland, but also how science inspires us to look for answers to fundamental questions about life and the universe.’

Scientists had searched for the elusive ‘God particle’ for decades when its existence was finally confirmed.

Nobel prizes tend to go to ideas that stand the test of time and last year’s breakthrough was too recent to be considered for the 2012 award.

Englert and Higgs both theorised about the existence of the particle in the 1960s although Englert was reportedly first.


The Amazing Story of British Science

The British have a remarkable talent for keeping calm, even when there is no crisis.

– Franklin F. Jones


From the 1700s Britain, this small group of islands was and still is a leader in science and engineering. Surely Sir Isaac Newton must be regarded as the greatest scientist that ever lived. He formulated the laws or motion and gravity, proved that sun light was not pure white but made up of colour and corpuscular(tiny particles of matter)when he produced a spectrum via two prisms and isolated one colour. He invented the reflecting telescope and for mathematics he invented calculus still a valuable mathematic tool today. His discoveries about energy gravity and motion laid the ground for Einstein.

Below is an article about an excellent new BBC TV series charting the successes and discoveries made by British scientists and engineers.

The Amazing Story of British Science

Sir Isaac Newton, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Pictures via Getty

Britons Sir Isaac Newton, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Sir Tim Berners-Lee all changed the world through their discoveries and inventions

Science Britannica 
Professor Brian Cox
Scientist and presenter

The British Isles are home to just one percent of the world’s population and yet our small collection of rocks poking out of the north Atlantic has thrown up world beaters in virtually every field of human endeavour.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in science and engineering. Edward Jenner came up with vaccines, Sir Frank Whittle ushered in the jet age and Sir Tim Berners-Lee laid the foundations of the world wide web for the Internet. Sir Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, Charles Darwin, Michael Faraday, George Stephenson, James Watt, Isambard Kingdom Brunel (engineer), Francis Crick ( co discoverer of DNA)… the list is gloriously long.  We can now add Peter Higgs,who proposed the so called ‘God particle’ Higgs Bosun a field that holds particles together, which if if did not exist , sub atomic particles would never had formed into atoms and ultilmately us! The Higgs Bosun has been tentatively discovered by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC)

What is it about Britain that allowed so many great minds to emerge and flourish?

This is a very important question to ask, because science and engineering are not only part of our past – the future of our economy depends to an ever-increasing extent on our continued excellence in scientific discovery and high-tech manufacturing and engineering.

The roots of our success can be traced back many centuries. Oxford and Cambridge Universities were formed over 800 years ago.

They paved the way for the world’s oldest scientific institution, The Royal Society, formed in 1660 by a group including Sir Christopher Wren, professor of astronomy and architect of St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Science Heroes

 Robert Boyle Boyle 1627 – 1691 is one of  founders of modern chemistry and one of the pioneers of modern experimental scientific method which Britain gave to the world.  He is best known for Boyles Law  which describes the inversely proportional relationship between the absolute pressure and volume of a gas, if the temperature is kept constant within a closed sytem.

Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) was a brilliant physicist and mathematician who is considered a founding father of science.

Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882) was a naturalist and geologist who came up with the world-changing theory of evolution.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859) was an inventor and engineer who designed some of the UK’s most famous tunnels, bridges, railway lines and ships

Sir Frank Whittle (1907 – 1996) was a daredevil test pilot who is credited with inventing the turbo jet engine

Sir Tim Berners-Lee (1955 – ) is the inventor of the world wide web

Scientist Rosalind Franklin’s photograph’s of X Ray diffraction of DNA confirmed it’s double helix structure

Any theory or idea about the world should be tested and if it disagrees with observations, then it is wrong.

Even today, that’s radical, because it means that the opinions of important and powerful people are worthless if they conflict with reality. So central is this idea to science that it is enshrined in The Royal Society’s motto: “Take nobody’s word for it”.

Shortly after The Royal Society was formed, Sir Isaac Newton deployed this approach in his great work The Principia, which contains his law of gravity and the foundations of what we now call classical mechanics – the tools you need to work out the forces on bridges and buildings, calculate paths of artillery shells and the stresses on aircraft wings. This was arguably the first work of modern physics.

This has become known as the scientific method, and its power can be seen in some unexpected places. During the filming of Science Britannica, I met Capt Jerry Roberts who worked at Bletchley Park during the Second World War.

Bletchley intercepted enemy messages and the captain and his colleagues were given the job of decoding them. He told me the story of his colleague, Bill Tutte, who worked on the ‘Tunny” code used by the Nazi high command to send orders to generals in the field.

Bill spent most of his time staring into space, but after just a few months, with awesome mathematical acumen he cracked the code.

In an age before computers, he did it using mathematics, logic and pencil and paper, aided by a single mistake by a German telegraph operator who sent a message twice. In the opinion of many, Tutte’s achievement was the greatest single intellectual achievement of the 20th Century, shortening the war by years and saving millions of lives on both sides.

This is what happens when genius is aided by the careful, scientific approach pioneered by Newton and others at The Royal Society. Capt Roberts and his colleagues at Bletchley are, in my view, heroes in every sense of the word.

 Bletchley Park was Britain’s main decryption establishment during World War II.

The Buckinghamshire compound is famous as the place where wartime codebreakers cracked the German Enigma code
Codebreaking machines Colossus and Bombe were the forerunners of modern computers. Mathematician Alan Turing helped create the Bombe
Historians estimate that breakthroughs at Bletchley shortened the war by two years
Bletchley Park’s computing  was so innovative
Alan Turing’s work built the foundations of computer science,programming etc. He is regarded as a true genius and founder of modern computing.

Another such genius was Nobel Prize winning phycisist Paul Dirac He was regarded by his friends and colleagues as unusual in character. Albert Einstein said of him “This balancing on the dizzying path between genius and madness is awful”  Among other discoveries, he formulated the Dirac Equation, which  predicted the existence of antimatter.

Despite its tremendous success, scientists have occasionally had a difficult relationship with the wider public. Frankenstein – the ultimate ‘scientist out of control’, has become a short-hand for things we fear.

A particularly colourful example can be found in the grim tale of George Forster, convicted of the double murder of his wife and daughter in 1803 and duly hanged.

This being the 19th Century, nobody was concerned about the hanging itself but rather illogically, the fate of Forster’s corpse caused a public outcry. It was taken directly to a nearby lecture theatre and used to demonstrate the effect of electricity on the human body.

The corpse twitched and jerked and even ‘opened an eye’ as an electric current was applied. There were reports of fainting and a particularly sensitive audience member died of shock – a wonderfully Georgian thing to do. The scientist – a visiting Italian called Giovanni Aldini – was forced to leave the country, when in fact his motives were absolutely sound. He was trying to resuscitate people using electricity.

Far from being a dangerous lunatic, he was ahead of his time. Nowadays thousands of lives are saved as hearts are regularly re-started using electrical pulses delivered by defibrillators.

Aldini’s controversial experiments were performed for a particular purpose, but not all science is carried out with a goal in mind.

Mary Shelley soon after wrote the classic gothic story Frankenstein, a cautionary tale of science out of control.

In the 19th Century, John Tyndall decided to work out why the vivid red and purple colours appeared when the sun is low, and why, for the rest of the time, the sky is blue.

He concluded that the colours of the sky are produced because light bounces off dust and water particles in the air. Blue light is more likely to bounce around than red, and so it is only when the sun is low and the light travels through more of the dust-filled air that the red light is bounced around to produce a sunset.

Tyndall was half right – we now know that it is mainly the air molecules themselves that scatter the light – but this didn’t really matter. Tyndall’s romantic curiosity led to a far more important discovery.

He decided to produce “pure” air with no particles in it, to see if the colours vanished, and he discovered that samples of meat didn’t rot in it. Here was evidence that infection and decay are caused by germs in the air – which Tyndall had inadvertently removed during his purification process. The discovery ultimately transformed the way that doctors dealt with infection and contamination.

Countless millions of lives were saved, because one curious scientist wanted to find out why the sky is blue. Today, the curiosity driven exploration of nature is still known as “blue skies research”.

Science has truly revolutionised our world. It is the basis of our economy and the foundation of our future. We must value our great heritage and continue to invest in education and science to ensure that we never lose our position as the best place in the world to do science.

Back to the Past?

I’ve heard it before from renowned scientists, on their days off prattling on about quantum physics, quantum theory, quantum mechanics, quantum teleportation, quantum information in some of the thousands of documentaries that Peter made me watch. LOL

images (23)If something can’t be explained, they seem to add “quantum” to it and people, like me, who do not have a clue what is all about have to accept it as a gospel.

Anyway I can remember vividly that you can travel into the future but there is no way you can travel back into the past. It has something to do with Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

So make sure you enjoy and do things right in your present because you can’t redo or make it right when they pass. What is past is past!


Building a time machine “is possible” claims Professor Brian Cox

Time machines similar to Doctor Who’s Tardis are possible, Professor Brian Cox said in a speech at the British Science Festival.

Yahoo! NewsBy Rob Waugh | Yahoo! News – 20 hours ago
The TARDIS at Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport in London as part of a summer promotion with Doctor Who and BBC Worldwide.

Press Association Images – The TARDIS at Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport in London as part of a summer promotion with Doctor Who and BBC Worldwide.

TV’s Professor Brian CoxTime machines similar to Dr Who’s Tardis are possible, Professor Brian Cox said in a speech at the British Science Festival.

“Can you build a time machine?” said Professor Cox. “The answer is yes.”

There’s just one, tiny problem, Professor Cox says – if you can build a machine capable of time-travel, you can only travel into the future. You can’t come back.

Professor Cox also suggested that research at the LHC might uncover extra dimensions – thus, perhaps finally explaining how the Tardis is bigger on the inside.

Professor Cox , a Dr Who fan, is to deliver a 60-minute speech on Dr Who to be screened by the BBC on November 23 – tackling questions such as extraterrestrial life, travelling to other dimensions and time travel.

Professor Cox says that time travel is possible, and has already been done – albeit at a very small scale. The technology to accelerate something as big as a police box to near light speed does not yet exist.

Professor Cox says that, armed with such technology, “You can go into the future; you’ve got almost total freedom of movement in the future.”

To “travel” forward in time, you simply need to accelerate to speeds close to the speed of light, Cox says – as you get close to that speed, time slows down, but only for you, according to Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity.

“If you go fast, your clock runs slow relative to people who are still. As you approach the speed of light, your clock runs so slow you could come back 10,000 years in the future,” said Professor Cox.

Cox said previously on Conan O’Brien’s chat show that travel into the past was “impossible”, saying, “You can travel into the future as fast as you like. You can’t travel into the past.”

But in his speech in Birmingham, the physicist went into more detail – suggesting that “wormholes” often used in science fiction as portals through time may not offer a simple way to travel into the past.

“In General Relativity, you can do it in principle. It’s to do with building these things called wormholes; shortcuts through space and time. But most physicists doubt it. Hawking came up with the ‘chronology protection conjecture’ – physics we don’t yet understand that means wormholes are not stable.”

Travelling between different dimensions, though, might be easier – a relief for the Doctor, for whom “transdimensional engineering” was a key part of the Tardis.

Cox says, “We look for extra dimensions at the LHC (Large Hadron Collider). You can imagine extra dimensions in space, and that we are living on a sheet of higher dimensional space.”

Whether this explains how the interior of the Tardis is “dimensionally transcendental” –  bigger on the inside – will perhaps be revealed in Cox’s speech on the 23rd.

The certainty of uncertainty


Quantum Physics is  both a fascinating and frustrating branch of science. With ever evolving sub-atomic  particle research technology like the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) probing deep into the mysterious and almost magical realm of fundamental matter that makes up the universe and us, below is an excellent hopefully easier to us lay people a  guide  behind a famous though experiment:

WHEN IT COMES TO its ability to formulate accurate explanations and make testable predictions, the science of quantum mechanics is one of the most successful theories of all time. Despite its astonishing successes, quantum mechanics has an unfortunate side effect – it can induce the cerebral equivalent of dropping a jellyfish into a blender and transform the human brain into a quivering mess of gelatinous denial.

Quantum mechanics is the theoretical construct that allows scientists to describe how matter behaves at the subatomic level. To say that it is weird is an understatement of galactic proportions and perhaps the weirdest of all its predictions is something called ‘Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle’.

Thought up by genius physicist Werner Heisenberg in 1927, the uncertainty principle states that, in the quantum world, it is impossible to simultaneously know where a particle is and where it is going – you can know its position, or you can know its momentum, but you can’t know both.

Ok, so perhaps that doesn’t sound so very strange, but the reason why you can’t know both quantities is very strange indeed.

If you were asked to describe a particle, chances are you would imagine it to be a discrete, spherical lump of matter (like a teeny tiny ball bearing), but you’d be wrong. In quantum mechanics a particle is more of a wavy smudge of spread out potential – a cloud of possibility where the particle exists in multiple states and in multiple positions.

The uncertainty principle allows you to only determine one of those possibilities by saying that as you zero in on a particle’s position, so your ability to measure its momentum slips away. It’s a bit like rolling a dice – as it scoots along the tabletop you can see where its going but the numbers are a blur (it could stop on anyone of them), only by stopping the dice can you ‘force’ it to choose a number.

This indeterminate nature of the stuff makes up the world around us didn’t well with scientists – after all, who wants to believe that the particles you are made of exist in state of quantum flux? Even the physicists that created the science of quantum mechanics were uncomfortable with the predictions it made (which led Erwin Schrödinger to create his famous dead-and-alive cat in a box mind experiment).

For decades, some scientists have expected (and hoped) that uncertainly would one day be proved false and that predictability would be returned to the Universe. But it seems that their hopes might have been dashed by physicists at the University of York who believe they have proof that the limits imposed by uncertainty are just as Heisenberg described them.

By constructing a theoretical experiment in which measurements of particles with known values were compared with those of particles whose states were unknown, they found that the errors in their measurements matched with Heinsenberg’s original predictions.

Ok, so it was a lot more complicated than that, but their conclusion could prove to be a boon for quantum cryptography – messages encoded in such a fashion would in theory be unbreakable because any attempt to ‘see’ the message would force the multiple-state quantum bits that make it up to ‘collapse’ to a single state (thus ruining the message).

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