Wrestling with quantum physics at very basic level. I would appreciate some clarification on my specific questions from people who genuinely understand the topic, in Plain English.
Quantum physics behaves differently, so physicists often use images or metaphors to explain it. We now have all these metaphors and explanations everywhere, but many expressed so badly that they have created a kind of mysticism. Some journalists seem to love the shock value of counter-intuitive, and deliberately play on it with confusing articles (or perhaps some simply have no idea what they are talking about.) There really is a mysticism now picked up by ordinary people who refer to quantum mechanics and conclude that our mind influences reality. Sigh.
Please don’t post -
• Links to articles (I’m tired of reading articles about it. So many bad ones.)
• Mathematics/formulas. (I only speak English, and would proffer that an explanation in Plain English is evidence of your clarity of thought.)
• Your best guess. (If you don’t really understand this, please don’t post your confusion. Sufficient for the day is my confusion thereof.)
• Take the conversation into lots of side topics unless it directly helps these questions. Learning is about grasping basic concepts and standing on them to go further. I need to grasp these basics.
A critical point of confusion: I’ve observed that those who write about quantum theory are often not clear whether they are referring to:
A) ACTUAL - The inherent property or position of a particle;
B) OBSERVER - The observer’s knowledge or ability to know.
This is shoddy communication that muddies the waters, and it’s present in most of what I read. If they actually know which one they are referring to, why can’t they make that distinction and state it clearly? And if it’s just about the B) the observer - well, I really don’t care much if we can’t predict precise location. This is not some super shock or mystery. The inability to predict informs us of its properties and how to comprehend it.
Here is my kindergarten level of conclusion so far. Please affirm or correct:
1. OBSERVATION IS NOT PSYCHIC INTERFERENCE: ‘Observing changes the outcome’ - so people infer that it’s a form of psychic interference, as if it’s our conscious awareness rather than our act of measuring creates the change. Nonsense. It’s the act of measuring. It is also sometimes expressed to refer to our inability to precisely predict.
2. WAVE vs FIELD: I think a wave is a movement within a field? And a particle is a manifestation in either a field or a wave? And that wave and particle can both be influenced by multiple fields.
3. WAVE OR PARTICLE: The particle does not behave like a marble that rolls from here to arrive there in its precise position so we should stop trying to think of it that way. It’s a manifestation of a wave function that we observe as a particle, and so it behaves differently to a marble… Ok. That doesn’t seem very complex.
My own metaphor: Remember those old-fashioned biscuit tins? If the lid became slightly misshapen, a buckle would develop. If you pushed the buckle in it would randomly pop up somewhere else. That’s because the restricted space of the damaged lid forced the compression to manifest as a buckle.
A particle is a manifestation of the field, and it manifests within the field. The field is bigger than the specific space a particle is in. For example an electron. It isn’t like a marble that has to move in a line to be over there - it can pop like the tin lid in another place anywhere within the constraints of the forces acting on it. The field of an electron exists more like a cloud around the atom (arranged in a certain way) and the electron pops like lightning anywhere within that cloud. Nothing difficult to understand there. The whole (area covered by the wave function or field) is greater than the part (particle).
4. SLIT EXPERIMENT:
a) OBSERVER: We can’t predict where the particle will be in the slit experiment. It could be anywhere within the wavelength in the wave function (within certain limits we can model). But it will be somewhere specific at any given time, observed or not.
B) REALITY: The wave function as a whole passes through the slits. It breaks into two waves that interfere with each other. Since the particle is part of a wave function that passes through both slits and forms two waves. It doesn’t matter if it manifests in one slit /wave or the other as it passes through, it will still ‘pop’ somewhere within those waves at different moments.
5. THE CAT REALLY REFERS TO THE OBSERVER’S ABILITY TO PREDICT, NOT THE PARTICLE: At any snap frozen moment the particle is somewhere specific, observed or not. The cat in the box refers to our inability to predict for certain. If I’m correct Schroedinger’s cat is a dreadful metaphor evoking all kinds of mystery to explain a simple idea. We can’t predict precisely where the particle will be at a precise moment in time, but it will be somewhere. Ok… so what? You could put Schroedinger’s Football team game result in a box. He doesn’t know if they won or lost until he opens the box. That tells me about the Schroedinger’s knowledge, not the result. Wow, spooky, not. If so, it’s a patently stupid and misleading illustration, in my view, as evidenced by all the published nonsense surrounding it.
Ok, I’m expecting people to inform me I haven’t even begun to comprehend it.