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It's a Quantum Thing

We don't need to ... quantum ... in order to ... it. Even those who have devoted their lives to thestudy of the universe and its atomic ... admit that many mysterie

We don't need to understand quantum physics
entirely in order to appreciate it. Even
those who have devoted their lives to the
study of the universe and its atomic structure
will admit that many mysteries remain. Well,
I love mysteries, so let's set the scene
for this one...

There's a Big Bang. "Whoosh!" go all the
molecules. Much swirling commences. Fast
forward 12 billion years (give or take a billion)
to present day. People all over the world
watch sci-fi movies, read physics texts, attend
harmonic convergence gatherings, study
nanotechnology, and gaze at the stars.
Our questions: How did we get here? Who are
we? Where is here? Why? What next?

If you’re expecting quantum theory to answer
those questions, you’re going to be disappointed. However, it does give us some heady new ways to
anticipate those answers.

Let’s take a look at some terms. Back in the
fifth century BC, our Greek friend Democritus
had the idea that all matter is ultimately made
up of tiny grains that cannot be divided into
smaller pieces. He called these little pieces
“atoms” for the Greek phrase “a-tomos” which
means “uncuttable”.

Poor Democritus didn’t have the advantage
of sophisticated microscopes, so it’s not
surprising that, centuries later, it was
discovered that atoms are actually cuttable.
In fact, atoms are themselves made up of tiny
particles we’ve dubbed neutrons, protons,
electrons and neutrinos.

But it doesn’t stop there. Now we’re thinking
that leptons, along with quarks, are the tiniest
of particles of all and currently considered
the ultimate building blocks of nature.

Since we keep finding particles inside
particles and adding new names to pieces of
atoms, it’s easier to refer to the smallest
chunks into which something can be divided
as quanta. The German physicist Max Planck
first proposed that energy might come in
little pieces called quanta back in the early
1900s. So when we talk about quantum
theory, we’re just referring to the whole
set of ideas surrounding the microscopic
world of atoms.

Along comes Albert Einstein, who recognizes
that this whole idea of quantum physics
turns classical physics on its head and spins
it around. Here all these scientists had
developed theories and precise formulas for
calculating predictably and consistently the
ways in which bodies move. Now there’s this
idea that little particles actually behave
in ways we can’t predict with certainty.

These tiny quanta are mysterious. They respond
sometimes as particles, and sometimes as waves,
and we can’t always tell which way they’re going
to go. If a particle is traveling from point A
to point B, we can guess its path, but the
tinier the particle, the less sure we are that
that exact path is the one taken. In fact—hold
on to your hat here—we’ve come to understand
that not only do we not know the exact path,
but that the particles may actually be in two
places at once.

Think that’s radical? Back in 1957, a Princeton
graduate student named Hugh Everett proposed
what is called the “Many Worlds” interpretation. According to his dissertation, quantum theory
(the variable behavior of atoms) is true not
just for atoms but for everything—like tables,
flower pots, SUVs, and even people. Everett
was actually stating that these big things
could, like tiny pieces of atoms, be in
many places at once.

It gets wilder. Everett hypothesized that if
you observe a sports utility vehicle (SUV) which
is in two places at once, your mind will also
end up in two states at once—one which perceives
that SUV in one place, and another which
perceives it in another place! So, really, there
would be two versions of you and each one would
perceive a world in which there is a different
version of the SUV. Not only that, but these
two selves and these two SUVs don’t exist in
a vacuum. They actually interact with each other!

This whole concept of multiple realities was a
big boon for science fiction writers. The
truth is that these ideas are generally
considered plausible but not in relation to
the large-scale world. We don’t have a way
of manifesting alternate universes full of
multiple SUVs (thankfully) so we can’t really
test it.

But there is one area of the Big World (that
which we can see without microscopes) that will
be completely revolutionized by quantum theory,
and that’s the development of quantum computers.
In quantum computers, experimenters are taking
advantage of the ability of particles such as
atoms to be in many places at once to do many
calculations simultaneously.

Talk about high-speed connections. Quantum
computers could solve in seconds problems that
would take conventional computers millions of
years to decipher.

We’re talking WAY beyond quickly downloading
your email, obviously. What does this mean
for the world? What will these quantum
computers do? The staggering truth is that a
quantum computer will actually perform in
different realities—it will be engaging huge
numbers of versions of other computers in
alternate universes.

Freaky, huh? But real, and coming soon—or
at least, eventually.

Next time you find yourself daydreaming
about how your life could be different, ramp it up
a notch. Think about quantum physics and the
Many Worlds theory. Consider that your life
might already be different in some other reality!
If it’s possible that it exists exactly as you
dream it, there’s no reason you can’t create it
here. And heckComputer Technology Articles, you only have to do it in
one universe. Piece of cake!

Make that multiple pieces.

Source: Free Articles from


Maya Talisman Frost is a mind masseuse. Her work has inspired thinkers in over 90 countries. This article appeared in the Friday Mind Massage, a free weekly ezine serving up a satisfying blend of clarity, comfort and comic relief. To subscribe, visit

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