NOVA: "Einstein's Quantum Riddle" -- whaaaat?

Discussion in 'Now Playing - TV Show Talk' started by Mikeguy, Jan 13, 2019.

  1. Mikeguy

    Mikeguy Well-Known Member

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    I just got done watching this week's PBS NOVA episode, "Einstein's Quantum Riddle," and I must say that, even after watching the episode 1-1/2 times and focusing/not multi-tasking, I am as confused by quantum mechanics and quantum entanglement as I am about religion and the creation of life. (Perhaps they're one and the same?)

    Not having studied physics since high school a bunch of decades ago, all my understandings and assumptions of the atomic world, with its neat electron particles and orbits, have been thrown to the wind, with my mind trying to stretch to a different, almost magical context (I thought that this is what science was trying to answer and avoid) of things not being there but indeed being there, and somehow "communicating" and existing across time and universes.

    I guess that I'm in good stead: from the NOVA episode, Einstein couldn't see it, either. I feel like I need to check out a "quantum mechanics for dummies" comic book from the library. o_O

    Time to watch an episode of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel." :)
     
  2. logic88

    logic88 Well-Known Member

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    Quantum entanglement is pretty "spooky" but I assume there's a rational explanation for it but it's just something that we haven't discovered yet.

    The downside is that all of the kooks jump on this mystery to explain whatever snake oil they are peddling.
     
  3. Mikeguy

    Mikeguy Well-Known Member

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    To even be able to begin understanding what was being discussed, I felt like I had to try to enter an imaginary world and think like I was on the Starship Enterprise, and forget what I had learned in 12th-grade honors physics. Really. Including "spooky entanglement."
     
  4. series5orpremier

    series5orpremier Well-Known Member

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    The terminology had me thinking along the lines of an X-Files analogy (spooky Mulder) rather than Star Trek. The truth is out there.
     
  5. Rob Helmerichs

    Rob Helmerichs I am Groot! TCF Club

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    Or down there.

    The problem seems to be that our brains evolved to deal with the stuff we can see and/or experience, but at the sub-atomic level things happen that we have no experience to compare it to, so we're stuck with using math (which works) or metaphors (which eventually break down) to describe things for which we have no frame of reference. People who can handle the math do just fine, but the rest of us are stuck with breaking-down metaphors, so it all seems quite insane to us, since reality (as comprised by the stuff we can see and/or experience) just doesn't break down like that.

    The classic example of quantum weirdness is the double-slit experiment, which seems to prove that light is simultaneously comprised of both waves and particles, but in fact simply proves that it's comprised of something we can't come up with a decent metaphor for; sometimes the metaphor of a particle works, sometimes the metaphor of a wave, and in the double-slit experiment...neither works.

    Or something like that. I assume if we could simply do away with all the quantum metaphors and talk about sub-atomic interactions directly, "entanglement" would make perfect sense. But we can't, so it doesn't.
     
  6. Worf

    Worf Well-Known Member

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    It's quantum mechanics. If you understand it, you don't understand it at all.

    The funny thing with quantum entanglement is that while the property you measured changes instantly, they still obey the speed of causality - sometimes known as the speed of light. You cannot send information faster, so you can't make a "quantum telephone" using entanglement.
     
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  7. dlfl

    dlfl Cranky old novice

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    Or, as the famous physicist Feynman said decades ago, we can't "grok" them.
     
  8. cheesesteak

    cheesesteak Meh. TCF Club

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    Even though I've been fascinated by quantum mechanics for some time, I claim no understanding of it other than the knowledge that the smaller you go the weirder things get. And thank God for it, as my iPhone would be the size of a refrigerator without it.

    I used to have a love-hate relationship wit the show Ancient Aliens. Now I have a hate-hate relationship with the show as I can only watch about five minutes before the urge to punch one of the "ancient alien theorists" in the face forces me to watch something else. To them, aliens are responsible for every landmark achievement in human history. The last segment I watched dealt with Einstein and how the leaps in technological, archeological and scientific knowledge are based on aliens somehow being in communication with scientists. No! It's the result of some really brilliant, dedicated people like Einstein and Nils Bohr who thought outside the box and discovered how to do something that nobody else could. Sorry for the digression.

    I once wrote a song called "Spooky Action At a Distance".
     
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  9. Mikeguy

    Mikeguy Well-Known Member

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    The NOVA episode mostly skipped over the math aspects and history, instead focusing on the disproving (is that the correct word to use?) of the use of Einsteinian methodology to explain quantum entanglement. I still recall one of the scientists in the episode reveling in the explanation of the phenomena as the equivalent of a magic. Perhaps the math side makes it more logical and explained--the observation side seems to make it, it is what it somehow is.
     
  10. Rob Helmerichs

    Rob Helmerichs I am Groot! TCF Club

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    The math, as far as it goes, shows that entanglement happens. That means either that entanglement happens, or something is happening on a deeper level than we currently (or can?) understand which makes the metaphor of entanglement the best (but imperfect) way we can understand what's actually happening.

    As they pointed out in the show, the math came first...entanglement seemed a necessary consequence of our understanding of quantum theory. And then various experiments have shown that it really does seem to occur. Personally, I'm skeptical, but I'm not even in the same area code as experts; we'll see what happens!
     
  11. Mikeguy

    Mikeguy Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps oddly, I can ~follow the observational aspect of it. What I can't follow is, how can that be--to get there, I need to pretend that I'm on the Starship Enterprise 2 centuries from now, observing a mind-bending phenomenon that doesn't fit currently understood science.

    My mind still is grappling with yesterday's viewing of the NOVA episode.
     
  12. Mikeguy

    Mikeguy Well-Known Member

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    I just looked at a "Quantum Physics For Dummies Cheat Sheet" and felt like I needed a Dummies cheat sheet for the Cheat Sheet.
     
  13. ufo4sale

    ufo4sale Well-Known Member

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    It's quite simple. We live in a matrix where all those atoms and Eve's are one's and zeros, programmed by me to do my bidding.:eek::eek::eek::cool:o_O
     
  14. dfreybur

    dfreybur Active Member

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    While I was at Caltech I took two quarters of QM in Chemistry, three quarters in Physics and one quarter in Applied Physics. I may have been able to do the math back then, but I definitely never "got it". Back in that era Richard Feynman even claimed that no one ever "got it" when it comes to QM.

    In general the idea is that Bohr's math works but it leads to conclusions that don't make sense in macro terms. Einstein got incensed about that. Bohr just shrugged and pointed at the match between the experiments so far at that point and the math.

    Einstein has a track record so good people tend to take Einstein's side on any disagreement just because of that.

    There's a joke among physicists that goes like this. A scientist does not like the results of an experiment because it does not match the theory. Do you side with theory or with the universe? You side with the universe and start looking in math for a better match to the data.

    There's a further joke that builds on this. Unless that scientist is Einstein. Then just go with his track record so far.

    Thing is Bohr has as good a track record when you study the history of science.

    I figure that special and general relativity have to come out of the quantum mechanics math somehow, probably as statistical trends in the predicted data. Who knows how to massage the math to get that to happen but if anyone ever figures that out it will be a new Theory Of Everything.

    There's an interesting consequence of my statistical trend claim. General relativity breaks down at black holes. A statistical trend that approximates general relativity will only approximate breaking down. So it may well be that black holes aren't what we think they are but rather an approximation. This gets us back into the realm of I definitely never "got it".
     
  15. Rob Helmerichs

    Rob Helmerichs I am Groot! TCF Club

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    Another joke I like: A physics professor is trying to explain quantum theory to his student. He explains, and explains, and explains. Finally, he asks, "Do you understand?" "Why, yes," the student says. "Yes, I think I do."

    "Damn," says the professor. "Let me try again."
     
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  16. warrenn

    warrenn Active Member

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    I was disappointed in that they didn't seem to address the *instantaneous* nature of the entanglement. I don't think it's remarkable that two particles could affect each other over a distance. We have plenty of examples of action at a distance today in things like electricity, gravity, and magnetism. And I don't think it seems that remarkable that two particles created at the same time could have some linked properties. When they showed the two photons produced from one source moving in different directions, it seems possible that the photons could have linked attributes But the one thing that seems like magic is that the collapse of the wave function of one particle can affect the other instantaneously. It's the instantaneous part that seems like magic. The other examples of action at a distance in our universe seem to be limited by the speed of light. Nova didn't seem to talk about how the instantaneous communication would work. Maybe it was that part at the very end where they talked about 3D space being a holographic representation of quantum space.

    I didn't find the telescope experiment to be all that enlightening at explaining the instantaneous aspect. Even though the two detectors were separated on the mountain top, they didn't seem all that far away compared to how fast light can travel. If the message from one particle to the other traveled at the speed of light, the message would get from one detector to the other pretty quickly. I'm guessing the physicists take that all into account, but Nova didn't mention anything about it.
     
  17. Rob Helmerichs

    Rob Helmerichs I am Groot! TCF Club

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    That's because there's no way it CAN work.

    Yet it seems to. That's the mind-blowing thing about entanglement. It's an impossible thing that happens...unless we're missing something.

    My guess is we're missing something, and it doesn't actually happen.
     
  18. logic88

    logic88 Well-Known Member

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    Quantum wormholes! :D
     
  19. kaszeta

    kaszeta Ceci n'est pas une conserve TCF Club

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    Two terms of graduate level plasma physics was enough to make my head hurt.
     
  20. Tony_T

    Tony_T Well-Known Member

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