|Jerry Don Bauer
Joined: Nov. 2012
Quantum theory seemed to come together in the late 1920s when Heisenberg's uncertainty principle began to be accepted and debated by the greats of science. The uncertainty principle states, 'the more precisely the position of a particle is determined, the less precisely the momentum is known in this instant, and vice versa.'
This is sometimes stated a bit differently as the momentum of a particle is the product of its mass and velocity, however, its meaning doesn't change: the action of measuring one quality of a particle, be it its velocity, its mass, or its position, causes the other qualities to blur into something unknowable.
With a casual glance at this concept one might draw the conclusion this is due to lack of technology in precise particle measurement, but this is not the case. The blurring of these properties is a fundamental property of nature.
As Heisenberg's work began to be diffused throughout the scientific community, many scientists were left scratching their heads. Some seemed to feel that maybe the entire field of quantum mechanics had
somehow "missed the point." Albert Einstein was one of those and being Einstein, he was not shy about routinely pointing out his opinions; "God does not play dice with the universe." He once stated to Niels Bohr. Bohr shot back, "Don't tell God what to do." Bohr meant by this that the universe we live in abides by quantum laws and inherent uncertainty, whether Einstein liked it or not!
Werner Heisenberg began collaborating with Niels Bohr on this strange, new concept in Copenhagen, Denmark around 1927 and came up with other underlying theories, one of which was termed the Copenhagen Interpretation named after Bohr's place of birth. Bohr and Heisenberg took the uncertainty principle and extended the probabilistic interpretation of the wave-function, proposed earlier by Max Born.
The Copenhagen Interpretation was their attempt to answer some perplexing questions which arose as a result of the wave-particle duality in quantum mechanics and how the role of an observer in that process seemed to change what could, and could not be accurately measured considering particles and the waves they produce.
Heisenberg had written in his original paper: "I believe that the existence of the classical 'path' [of a particle] can be pregnantly formulated as follows: The 'path' comes into existence only when we observe it." Interesting. But was it true?[insertion mine]
English scientist Thomas Young in the 1800s had attempted to resolve the question of whether light was really particles (the "corpuscular" theory), or was comprised of 'waves traveling through some ether,' much as sound waves travel in air. Interference patterns that were observed in the original experiment questioned the corpuscular theory; and the wave theory of light dominated well into the early 20th century, when evidence began to emerge which seemed instead to support the particle theory of light.
Young's famous double-slit experiment became a classic gedanken experiment (thought experiment) for its efficiency in articulating some of the many conundrums of quantum mechanics. But is was not until the 20th century that the double slit experiment was performed on individual particles and once it was, particle physicists began to catch a glimpse into a strange quantum world where particles themselves seem to interact with information and Heisenberg's observer hypothesis came to the surface.
Could it be true that particles may know when we are and when we are not, looking at them? Can particles exhibit the intelligence to know that we're going to look at them before the event actually occurs? In other words can particles look into the future and prophesy what will happen before it does? There are documented experiments conducted by prestigious universities that actually imply this.
Energy and matter are so closely related that many times we can view energy either as a wave or a particle and in fact it is both. Some examples are light waves which can be viewed as either waves of light or flowing photons and electricity can be measured by the frequency of the wave or by flowing electrons. Feynman pointed out, one of the strangest things about quantum-mechanical description of an object is its duality: quantum objects are neither particles nor waves. They are neither, yet they are both? Kind of, and if you think you hear the weirdness siren sounding right now, you are correct but this is cool enough to put up with for a bit.
The double-slit experiment consists of letting light diffract through two slits in a box producing patterns on a monitor, plate or a piece of film. When the light hits the film, it leaves a spot, so we can actually see where distinct photons hit the back of the box. One can view the image and see the basic concept .
Watch a video of the double slit experiments here:
Our light source is going to be a gun that shoots light through the opening of the box. If we turn the light gun on high, where it is shooting a great deal of light at once, and shine it toward the opening, we will see an interference pattern on the monitor, patterns of light and dark showing where light waves interfere with each other to the point that certain parts of the waves (where crests meets crests) work to enhance both waves and where other parts of the waves (where crests meets troughs) serve to cancel one another out.
Let's turn our light-gun down to the point we are only shooting one photon at a time with each pull of the trigger. I'm going to cover one of the two slits with opaque tape that photons cannot penetrate and shoot a burst of photons into the opening. We will discover the film will record a clump of individual particles in a pattern much like bullets would make when shooting a bull's eye target and it will record them behind the open slit as we would expect. If we remove the tape from that slit and place it over the other one, the same thing happens. This pattern would be fully expected, since we are shooting individual particles, not waves of light.
Let's try it a different way. I will shoot one photon at a time into the box when both slits are open and the results are quite astounding. Now the photons begin to build up the interference pattern identical to the scenario that was recorded when we imported massive photons, as in a bright light.
If I cover one slit and shoot again, this interference pattern disappears. What is happening here? The same photon seems to be going through both slits at the same time. This is confusing me because I don't understand how a single photon can interfere with itself, or for that matter, how an individual particle can go through two holes at the same time.
Next I place a detector at each slit to determine which slit the photon passes through on its way to the film so I can understand what is happening. But when the experiment is arranged in this way, the interference pattern disappears -- for reasons still not well understood, when the photon is not being observed, it acts as a wave but when detectors are placed at each slit to observe the photon, the wave function collapses and it acts only as a single particle!
Thus, how the particle behaves seems to depend on whether that particle is being observed or not. How do particles know when they are, or are not being observed?
Theoretical physicist John Wheeler of Princeton took the double slit experiment a step further. His version is called the 'delayed choice experiment.' In the above experiment, the physicist's choice whether to observe the particle or not seems to cause the photon to choose between acting like a wave or a particle. What would happen, Wheeler mused, if the researcher could devise a system where the photon was observed only after it had passed the two slits but before it hit the monitor at the back of the box?
If one uses common sense to reason Wheeler's question through (if there is such a thing as common sense in quantum mechanics), it would seem that if the physicist doesn't observe the particle before it goes through the slits, the particle will not know it is being observed and will act like a wave, go through both the slits at once and cause the interference.
Nope. According to independent experiments carried out by the University of Maryland and the University of Munich the photon acts like a single particle and goes through only one slit as if it had known that it was going to be observed at some point in the future. Of course, once the detector is removed from the system, the particle then 'decides' to go through both slits again, interferes with itself, and the monitor shows the interference pattern.
These experiments pose many questions about the quantum aspect of our universe. How could 'dumb' particles know that observers will be watching them in the future? Or better yet, do the observers actually alter the behavior of the particles in the past by observing them in the present? As it must be to some readers, this is quite maddening to scientists who have had enough trouble understanding the quantum world without having to deal with mysterious, intelligent and even prophesying particles.
With the passage of time the Copenhagen Interpretation has been more specifically refined with this concept known as the collapse of the wave-function. The Copenhagen Interpretation draws distinction between the observer and what is observed; when there is no observer in a system, the system seems to evolve deterministically according to wave equations, but when an observer is present, the wave-function in the system "collapses" to the observed state.
Of course, just as ID makes no attempt to discern a designer, the Copenhagen Interpretation states the observer has special status in that a system must be observed in order to exist as individual particles but it cannot explain or identify the observer itself, nor does it attempt to.
John Gribbons writes: "They say, according to the standard interpretation (the Copenhagen interpretation), that nothing is real unless you look at it, that an electron (say) exists only as a wave of probability, called a wave function, which collapses into reality when it is measured, and promptly dissolves into unreality when you stop looking at it."
Perhaps the most difficult dilemma to explain is the fact that individual particles such as photons, electrons and neutrinos are a very real part of our universe and yet to also understand that if photons are to be particles rather than waves as they sometimes are, it requires a conscious observer to collapse the wave-function--to make the reality of our universe, real indeed. It seems that for our universe to exist as it does at all, the universe must be observed by a supreme, conscious observer. Of course, waves also exist in our universe but if this is truly a conscious observer, then it requires little imagination to understand this observer could choose to observe, or not to observe a particular system in order to achieve a desired result. But who/what might this observer be?
Enter chairman of the Mathematical Physics Department at Tulane University, world renowned cosmologist and avid atheist, Frank Tipler. Actually, I must clarify that although Tipler was once a confessed atheist, through his research in physics he has shown mathematical evidence for this supreme observer to exist and today seems very much the ardent (and one of my favorite) ID theorists. Tipler shows this supreme observer to be quantum mechanics acting within the universe. He writes: "I have been forced into these conclusions by the inexorable logic of my own special branch of physics."
Tipler mathematically constructs a single pocket of increasingly higher level organization evolving to the ultimate Omega Point which he implies to be a god of quantum mechanics that acts as an intelligent observer from the future backward to the past. Tipler's advanced math and physics are well beyond the scope of this paper, however, I would encourage the interested reader to research this further as it is quite fascinating.
My point with introducing the work of Young, Heisenberg, Bohr, Tipler, Feynman, Wheeler and others is that the more temporal humans learn scientifically about the universe around us, the easier it becomes for any free-thinking person, regardless of religious beliefs, to accept and fully embrace intelligent design. And once realizing that intelligent design is not based on religious beliefs then metaphysics become a moot point and we can look directly at science to discover a Supreme Observer as explained in the post above.
This Supreme Observer can be Christ to me, Yahweh to the Jews, Allah to the Moslems, Krishna to the Hindus, nothing more than quantum mechanics to the atheist and the agnostics still just may not know WHAT the heck it is.
Heisenberg, in uncertainty principle paper, 1927
Q is for quantum : an encyclopedia of particle physics. John Gribbin ; edited by Mary Gribbin ; illustrations by Jonathan Gribbin ; timelines by Benjamin Gribbin. New York, NY : Free Press, c1998. Call Number: QC793.2 .G747 1998.
Richard Feynman, The Character of Physical Law, M.I.T. Press, 1965.
John Gribbin, In Search of Schrodingerís Cat, Bantam New Age Books, 1984.
Frank Tipler's The Physics of Immortality, (1994: ISBN 0-385-46798-2)