A dummies guide to quantum physics

QUANTUM PHYSICS: An introduction …

I RECENTLY began a love affair with quantum physics. The field is at the cutting edge of science; the height of evolutionary thought, and is truly fascinating to wrap your head around. It has also become clear to me that people’s desire to answer the bigger questions in life (where do we come from? Why are we here? etc.) stems from understanding the smaller things, specifically the sub-atomic world.

It’s an astonishing thought that 99.9% of what an atom is, is nothing. In other words, one of the smallest units that collectively make up solid matter is almost entirely a vacuum or empty space. Ergo, we are mostly nothing, and the universe is mostly nothing. If all this empty space were to be removed from a person, they would be the size of a grain of salt (which would still weigh the same as the person did before being deflated). This radical realisation leads physicists to thinking of atoms as tendencies rather than as things.

To illustrate, if we were to liken the dense nucleus of an atom to a pin-head, the electrons that orbit the nucleus would be roughly a kilometer away. Another comparison is that of a fly buzzing in an empty cathedral.

What’s more is that the electrons and nuclei of atoms seem to pop in and out of existence all the time. This gives credence to the idea that thoughts can have some sort of physical effect on the world, that reality is not necessarily what we perceive it to be, and that ideas of alternative universes or spiritual plains are highly possible.

Reality and the Observer

More exciting from a quantum physics perspective is the realisation that will live in a universe of infinite possibilities. Every conscious being is one of those instances and possess the power to make desirable possibilities a reality. In other words, human beings especially, have the power to change their external world from within.

What’s frustrating is that the tendency is to believe that the world already exists “out there” – independent of our experience. According to quantum physics, this is not the case at all. Rather, everything is a possibility of consciousness that requires our input to manifest into experience. In other words, the observer, or rather consciousness itself, must play a significant part in creating reality.

The most esteemed quantum physicists readily admit that they know what an observer does, but have no idea what it is. Yet we all have a shared experience of being an observer. Scientists have scrupulously searched all regions of the brain for something they can confidently call an observer, and have found nothing. As a result the observer is often referred to as “the ghost in the machine”.

The story of Columbus’ ships and collective meditation

What I find most appealing about theories of quantum physics is how they spill over into other fields of thought and practice. Biology, psychology, history, chemistry and even several self-help ideas are all integrated. A good example to illustrate this is the idea that we are only able to see what we believe in, or what we believe is possible.

For example, it is believed that when Columbus first reached the Caribbean islands the native peoples were unable to see his ships on the horizon. The tribal chief was only able to see ripples on the water and assumed that something must be causing them. After days of observation the ships eventually took form in the minds-eye of the chief, who was then able to describe them to others also once blind to the ships’ presence. Urban legend or not, we are all subject to the same limitations, which may suggest why we are unable to see UFOs if they appear in a form unfamiliar to us.

In 1993 an experiment which may also be hard to believe, was undertaken in Washington DC to reduce violent crime. Four thousand people from a hundred different countries were brought together to collectively meditate for extended periods of time to prove the theory that thoughts have substance and effect. Several prior studies had already been undertaken on smaller scales, but it is reported that this particular exercise yielded a drop in crime (as defined by the FBI) of 25%.

There is a further fascinating experiment which shows the effects that thoughts or blessings can have on water molecules, but that will have to wait until next time…

  • If this has spurred an interest into quantum physics a great introductory documentary that explains all the above is What the Bleep do we Know? The short film is also where you’ll find the references to the Washington experiment and the Columbus story. Another great BBC series I would recommend is The Atom.

Main Theories of Quantum Physics

At the moment there is about one new interpretation of quantum physics every three months, but most of them fit into one of the following categories (taken from www.higgo.com):

  • Your consciousness affects the behaviour of subatomic particles
  • The universe is interconnected with faster-than-light transfers of information
  • Particles move backwards as well as forwards in time and appear in all possible places at once
  • The universe is splitting, every Planck-time (10 E-43 seconds) into billions of parallel universes
  • Beef or chicken

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Galen (name), meaning: "Curious One". A lover of language, human ingenuity and the forces of the universe. Hugely drawn towards the mysterious and unknown. Regular laughter and escapism essential.

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3 Responses

  1. Gareth says:

    I like it. I am a big fan of “what the bleep do we know”, but recently came across this youtube video debunking most of the things said on there (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlPiXNlhKFo). So now i really don’t know what to believe. I need to research this more. But for now, I’ll just carry on with life as usual :-)

  2. Galen says:

    Thanks for sharing that video Gareth. One always needs to watch such ‘documentaries’ with a skeptical eye as they almost always have an agenda of their own. I looked up the water experiments and found an american scientist who put this to the test and concluded it was largely bogus! Will be publishing that next week…

  3. Galen says:

    Since writing this article I have since discovered that there might be something sinister afoot here. Firstly, “Dr” Emoto is not a doctor or scientist but rather an author. Visiting his website will reveal that he uses his unreliable research to try and sell products.

    Like thousands of others, I too was taken with “What the Bleep do we know?” and watched the film about three times over. Then Gareth above directed me to that video which debunks the film. I also found someone who tested Emoto’s theory for himself and found very different results. The Columbus story is also bullshit, sadly. Someone made the point that throughout human history there have always been many things that we had never seen before but were still able to SEE them.

    People who create films such as What the Bleep and The Secret (both of which have some of the same people in them) are the worst types of human beings. They try to take our side and fight the machine and explain the forces behind our emotions, but then try and sell us a product. I have watched a lot of proper documentaries on quantum physics by real quantum physicists since watching What the Bleep and actually cringe when I look back at this article I wrote and see how I too was suckered in by it…

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