Alice in Quantumland


Continuing this morning’s theme about all things weird, there is this article by a lass called Maria Popova, via haiku, himself a mysterious character.

Now our Maria, naturally, in looking at quantum physics, must needs bring the gender issue into a review of Alice in Quantumland, by particle physicist Robert Gilmore of CERN, that organization with the statue of Kali outside.

It’s not so much the particle physics but that he gets a female to discover all this difficult science which Maria is so proud of and sees the need to head the article with. No doubt there should be quotas governing that.

No matter. This from Gilmore:

In the first half of the twentieth century, our understanding in the Universe was turned upside down. The old classical theories of physics were p=replaced by a new way of looking at the world — quantum mechanics.

This is in many ways at variance with the ideas of the older Newtonian mechanics; indeed, in many ways it is at variance with our common sense. Nevertheless, the strangest thing about these theories is their extraordinary success in predicting the observed behavior of physical systems.

However nonsensical quantum mechanics may at times appear to us, that seems to be the way that Nature wants it — and so we have to play along.

And nonsensical is the theme today. From the world of dreams and nightmares [3 a.m. today] through to what the rationalist would call a high priest of rationalism, Robert Gilmore, what is clear is that both the metaphysically amenable and the quantum physicist are aware that there is more governing the mechanics of the world than just the laws of physics or rather, as the book illustrates, physics itself is infinitely more weird than we might have supposed.

This is why I don’t close my mind off to a deity, nor to quantum physics. Somewhere in there is the truth of what is going on and how limited our perception really is. It really does require immense humility on our part to admit we don’t know. Which is why I sigh and look skywards when Mr Categorical comes in and says he doesn’t do all that sky fairy stuff. Wonder if he does UFOs.


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