Monday, November 30, 2009

Questions about relativity and quantum thingummies

Einstein's formulae predict correctly how things will seem from different viewpoints (frames of reference). You can state what is measured from one point of view then feed in variables and calculate how the same event would seem from a different point of view. The idea that reality depended on point of view was and remains shocking but it is true, i.e. it works and accords with observable reality and has been proven by experiment. Although it describes a sort of mutability it is in its own way absolute in that it predicts exactly how events will be perceived.

Einstein's thoughts mainly had to do with things on a grand scale - light, time, planets, people and everyday objects but when it comes to the very tiny world of atoms and electrons, it seems that there is no such predictability. There is a finding called Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle that says you cannot properly know about an atomic particle because by observing it you change it. There was a famous conference of the top physicists and theorists at which Einstein presented a thought experiment (an imagined experiment) that appeared to prove you could find out the mass of a particle at the same time as finding out its position, using a specially designed machine. However, on the next day of the conference another great scientist - Bohr? - pointed out a loophole that invalidated Einstein's thought experiment.

This troubled Einstein - he didn't accept it - and he spent most of his life trying to work out a way to reconcile his theory of Relativity and the apparently anomalous experimental evidence and conclusions of quantum (smallest possible scale) science. He said "God does not play dice." At other times he confirmed that he was an atheist, but he believed in a universe that follows set laws, rules that could be discovered and documented. He was trying to produce a new theory that would hold true at both the large scale and the quantum scale. Such a theory, one that would comprise a consistent set of rules that hold for all realms of science, is known as a Grand Unification Theory and is still being sought.

It was previously thought that electrons were particles that orbited around the nuclei of atoms but it is now known that they behave as if they are simultaneously all around the atom - smeared. Yet if "observed" or put into use, they will behave as particles. An electron is at the same time a wave and a particle, they say.

It seems to me that there is something in common between these two scientific theories, the conclusion that "different snapshots of the same thing" seem to comprise different realities. On the one hand it seems that X is the case but on the other hand it seems that Y is the case. For example in relativity on the one hand it seems that 20,000 years have gone by; on the other hand (for a space traveller travelling near the speed of light) it seems that only a few years have gone by. In quantum mechanics on the one hand it appears that a photon has gone through one slit in the apparatus, on the other it appears that it has gone through the other slit in the apparatus (in a device that tries to see which route a photon takes, which produces an inconclusive result).

In relativity an event in effect is more than one thing. To viewer A it is something but to viewer B it is something else. Yet there is only one event. In quantum mechanics a photon "is more than one thing". From a pattern seen on the surface of a detector it appears that the photon has gone through both slit A and slit B.

An electron is not in one location in orbit around a nucleus. But what does being in one location consist of for something that is moving - is it ever in one location? No, because it is moving - never in one location. So let us not be surprised that we cannot discover its location, especially as it is travelling at the speed of light - a speed at which time stands still. It is making its way from place to place but in no time. Therefore there is no time interval between it being in one place and the other, which in our terms comprises being in two places (N places) at the same time.

These particles participate in the very weft and warp of what reality is. It should not surprise us, therefore, that they appear miraculous since this whole dream of life is some sort of miracle. That there are elements that are in more than one place at the same time is no more amazing than any everyday event in life - all are equally miraculous. I doubt that anything people discover or describe will ever make life any less miraculous or mysterious.

The point I want to make is that this uncertainty of position is like relativity, it is a form of certainty, in that we know that these particles will be in more than one place at once. The whole question of where the electron is is an analogy of relativity's multiple viewpoints for the same event, where the electron is the event and the multiple locations are the multiple viewpoints.

Since this electron moves at the speed of light time stands still for it. "To the electron" no time passes, yet it moves from one location around the atom to another and therefore is in both places at once, since there is no time interval, there cannot be at the speed of light - when time "stands still". To the electron it is in more than one place at the same time. We cannot participate in this, so by trying to observe and detect this we disrupt it, effectively crash the electron. All we can see is a blur, which is the blur of a particle that is in the process of simultaneously being in more than one place at the same time.

Turning back to the idea that the multiple locations might be thought of as multiple observers of the electron, imagining that at several locations around the nucleus tiny observers could be placed who would have their impressions of where the electron was, they would all receive the same impression, that it was at their location all the time. What I want to ask is this: for these tiny imaginary observers observing the electron moving at the speed of light, and setting the speed of the observed object equal to the speed of light, will we not find that the laws and formulae of relativity do indeed apply and produce the same result for every tiny observer?

Whether or not the existing formulae apply, is it not the case that a set of formulae could be worked out that would correlate the multiple location impression, i.e. quantum uncertainty, with the "definite uncertainty" of relativity where what different observers will perceive can be calculated exactly? In effect is this not just a change to the variables whereby the event is moving at the speed of light and the observers are located in an orbital path of the event such that they all receive the same impression, despite their different locations. Can this quantum scenario not be derived by some transformation of Einstein's equations? (Where T=0?)

(Later: But T=0 is specifically excluded in the text, as the equations "break down". I don't know what that means, and probably shouldn't bother fannying around like this.)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Radio Éireann anseo agaibh

My grandfather Peter Moran was a radio and music hall singer at one time. He subsequently lost most of his eyesight and was registered blind. He worked most of his life as a basketmaker. The picture shows a newspaper clipping of the schedule for Radio Éireann on Saturday, June 25th 1938, the day of the installation of Douglas Hyde as the first president of Ireland. I will transcribe some it.

12.40-1.30—Ceremony of Installation of the President. Commentary from St. Patrick's Hall, Dublin Castle, and from the G.P.O., Dublin.

1.30-3.0—Gramophone concert.

5.30—Kathleen Burke's Trio in Light Music, and Peter Moran (baritone).

Trio—Merrie England (German) (Chapell).
Peter Moran—Ireland, I love you Acushla Machree; My Fairest Child; Because (d'Hardelot).
Trio—Elfin Reigin [etc.]
Peter Moran—The stars that light my garden (Russell); Beautiful Isle of somewhere (Fearis).
Trio— [etc.]

You can see the rest of the schedule by clicking on the image. It returns to the installation of Douglas Hyde from 9.10 pm to 9.30 pm with a "Commentary from the state reception in St. Patrick's Hall" and closes with the national anthem at 11 pm.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

All My Trials

a painfully good video. i thought pauly was a bit o.t.t. at first but fair do's - having listened a few times - he's bang on.

Friday, November 06, 2009

dog songs #13

this was going to be another session but mercifully the battery ran out. (edited lowlights. cold sober, my kind of gloom makes Leonard Cohen sound like Chas & Dave.)