October 25, 2015
(DISCLAIMER: The following can be extremely boring and/or extremely angering respectively to two sets of people. One, if you do not know the basics of physics you will think – ‘why has she wasted our time like this?’. Two, if you do know the intricacies of physics intimately, you might be slightly angered. I am not responsible. You shouldn’t have read further after reading this disclaimer.)
I feel angry today. I actually shouldn’t be.
*BACK TO FLASHBACK*
Life was a lot simpler back then. I am referring to those days when I was in secondary school (high school) where poor light used to travel in straight lines, he never found the need to bend around things or transfer energy to matter or any of that. The biggest mathematical problems we used to face were based on one varying quantity, not a multitude of interdependent, slowly varying, sometimes tending to a particular constant- VariableS. In those days, an atom had protons, neutrons and electrons; and they were represented extremely easily by concentric circles. Nobody bothered about energy levels, characteristic spectra, quantum physics or probabilities.
*BACK TO THE PRESENT*
As an ideal and persistent student of Science of 12 and running years, I probably should not be housing so much frustration.
Trust me, I don’t. I have enjoyed finding out, little by little, one concept at a time, that say, light behaves both like a wave and a particle. It is fascinating to know that velocities and accelerations needn’t be calculated only when you use the three formulae of 1-D Kinematics. Calculus does that job beautifully, for any curve too, for that matter. It has been much more awe-striking to realize that Newtonian mechanics is much too idealized for the sub-atomic world. You need Quantum Mechanics for all of that.
It truly has been an amazing scientific journey so far. So why this resentment and bottled-up frustration you ask?
Its not that I am shying away from the complexity, thank you very much. The problem is that the general convention of everything dictates that as you delve deeper into things they must become much more easier to understand. Generally, Clarity must follow Complexity.
But that convention has been thrown out the window by the sheer unpredictability and erratic nature of radiation and matter from phenomenon to phenomenon. The Uncertainty principle has also made it very clear to us that Determinism is Dead. You can never pinpoint exactly where the electron is and simultaneously calculate its momentum. You can only determine an abstract region in space where the probability of finding the electron is relatively high at any given time.
And then, you have the Copenhagen Interpretation, that says that just by observing the system, we are altering its outcome. So, this effectively means that whatever data we have collected from so many experiments are a result of our observation and they came out the way they did because we observed it. If we had not studied it, the result of the experiment could have been anything else, for all we know. And then, you also have the famous (because of TBBT) ‘Schrodinger’s Cat’ experiment that tries to deny everything said by the Copenhagen Interpretation by saying that a cat placed in a hypothetical killer box cannot be in a state of limbo between life and death until and unless you observe it you can never really know what has happened to the cat. Even more bizarre is the Many-Worlds Hypothesis that says that every probable scenario in the probability cloud discussed by the CI each gives rise to a different universe altogether.
I am sure Quantum Mechanics has come much further and become complex than the few theories I have discussed now, but this is as far as I have gotten in this mega-complicated world of the mega-complicated Quantum Theory.
And after coming this far, I am lost. Who or what do I believe? When will that mega awesome theory be postulated which will give me a better and less-woolly view of things? When will I be able to understand the universe exactly like how it is, without having to worry that when I look at the universe, I am changing it?
And that is why this student of Science for 12 years and running houses so much of frustration. That is why I am asking myself today -‘Should I know or not know?’. This woolly unpredictability is what is so frustrating. It seems like the further we go, we miss clarity by miles. It is tough to accept that science is actually heading towards the abstract.
But, quantum physics is like that addiction that is really hard to shake off. However bewildering it might be, I know that I am going to go back- frustration or no frustration. I know that I will love it more than I do today, tomorrow. This woolliness will just pull me back in because if there is one thing I have learnt from these 12+ years, it is that the beauty of Science is in its complexity. It is in the unraveling of those mysteries that one will always find a high.
So, if I ask myself ‘To know or not to know’ once again, I now know the answer. Whether I am frustrated or not, the amazing lure of Science will make sure I am pulled back. So, I will ‘know’ anyway; and though I will be angered from time to time, I will also love it more anyway. *BIG SMILE 🙂 *