The first time I truly encountered Quantum Mechanics was when I signed up for a class at university entitled "The Philosophical Problems of Quantum Physics". The professor was a voracious chain-smoker who commuted every day from Cambridge, Mass., around seventy-five miles away. He also said "okay" an average of five times a minute. I know because I timed him.
Now, how is this of any use to you? What does this have to do with anything? Well, in the world we live our lives and perform our daily tasks in, this information is absolutely useless unless you're collecting anecdotes of my college years, which I doubt you are. On a quantum level, however, what I just shared is as relevant to you and who you are as your very own heart-beat is. You see, as we divide our world down to the smallest of orts - as we go beyond the reaches of even the most powerful of microscopes - as we enter "the quantum world" one fact grows louder and clearer with every step. Everything in the entire universe is connected. There is no finite clearly defined separation between any two things. Even when electrons split away from each other and travel to opposite ends of the galaxy, they still communicate with one other instantly, something which pissed Einstein off to no end. He called it "spooky action at a distance", a polite way of saying "I think it's a load of bull s%#t", but... it's true. The entire physical world is absolutely, inextricably, unconditionally connected, something Taoist monks and Persian mystics have been saying for eons, and finally, in the early years of the 20th century, something modern science was beginning to prove.
The only other shining gem you really need to know about the Quantum World is the one that top experts in the field have all iterated in some form or another, and that is that absolutely no one truly understands Quantum Mechanics, and those who claim they do, understand it the least. Which should lift any worries you may have if you care to dive further into this subject because, at the very worst, if you're totally confused and nothing makes any sense, then you're right on track. Sort of fool-proof, isn't it?
Before you jump down this rabbit hole, however, it is vital to put things into perspective. For starters, even though Quantum Mechanics has turned Newtonian Physics and Euclidean Geometry on their heads, it has not replaced them, as many people want to claim. As grand and earth-shattering as the discoveries have been in this new-found discipline, it has almost exclusively been a revolution of the microscopic. When it comes to such big picture concepts like time, gravity and objects as huge as planets and stars, Quantum Theory is no where to be found. That world is ruled by the Theories of Special Relativity and General Relativity. This does not mean Quantum Mechanics is a petty science. Quite the contrary. Quantum Mechanics is the Fred Astaire to Relativity's Ginger Rogers. It is the infinity you find between zero and one. Just like the journey of a million miles must always start with one small step. Our universe, as massive as it is, would never be fully understood without the attention Quantum Theory has placed on the smallest of the small; not to mention, everything else you may have heard or read about - String Theory, M-Theory, Holographic Theory - all of these are mere hybrid proposals built on the shoulders of Quantum Mechanics and Relativity. There have been valiant attempts to fuse these two behemoths of scientific thought into one single concept. Even though Quantum Mechanics cannot explain everything, it can arguably be said that it's the key to understanding "half of everything". Plus, it's a wild and crazy world down there, a place where you can be dead and alive at the same time, where you can travel through walls, and even change the past.
Written by Harry Haller, first published in South Shore and Cape Cod Metaphysics April 2013 edition.
Born in Malta to the son of a diplomat, Harry spent his life traveling from one side of the world to the other. After attending Brown University and Oxford where his studies primarily focused on philosophy with a slight bend towards science, Harry lived in Geneva working as a researcher then an assistant professor and later as an advisor to the U.N. Although Harry's primary job for the past few years is as an Attaché at D.N.T.'s Asian branch, he spends a lot of his time consulting for fiction writers on Marxism, Existentialism, and post-Newtonian physics. Harry now divides his time between Asia and his family home on Cape Cod.