Right now I am reading a book called The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav, a book on quantum mechanics for the lay person. While reading, I’ve come across some fascinating concepts that I know I will want to use, but it feels too soon for me to finalize and articulate the significance of what I’m learning at the moment. Here is one passage and one response I had:
“Suppose that a technician, not knowing that our experiment is automatic, enters the room to see which detector has recorded a photon. When he looks at the observing system (the detectors), there are two things he can see. The first possibility is that detector one has recorded a photon, and the second possibility is that detector two has recorded a photon. The wave function of the observing system (which is now the technician), therefore, has two humps in it, one for each possibility.
“Until the technician looks at the detectors, quantum mechanically speaking, both situations in some way exist. As soon as he sees that detector two has fired, however, the possibility that detector one has fired vanishes. That part of the wave function of the measuring system collapses, and the reality of the technician is that detector two has recorded a photon.”
Reality is not happening chronologically, or in the past. The moment the photon passes through detector two is not a singular absolute moment. The precise moment is dependent on the observing system we choose, or whom/whatever’s perspective we are measuring from. Determining a definition of “NOW” or the past moments seems arbitrary and reality can change discontinuously and abruptly when one’s consciousness is changed. Once you see the result, all other possibilities and probabilities are negated, the wave function collapses, but until you see the result, all other results are possible. The moment this happens is determined by the moment you perceive it.
The abrupt collapse of the wave function (representing multiple possibilities) reminded me of a moment of sudden awareness that alters one’s reality, past and present together. Here is a cushy example: Say I like a boy, but I don’t know if he likes me back. He knows whether or not he likes me the whole time, but for me it is a guessing game of speculation, until I find out: yes or no. In the reality according to me (the observing system), both possibilities (he loves me, he loves me not) are a possible reality until I see the results. I can visualize the wave function collapsing into a single bump as the singular option actualizes. The example in the book’s quotation is an extremely simple example in a world of endless unknowns, and thinking this way can become overwhelming.
Anyhow, I’m still reading this book so there is a lot more reflecting on lay-person’s quantum physics to come. Meanwhile, just for fun I’ve started doodling pictures of animals quoting the passages I pull from the book, so here is one.