My last blog post was a link to the great podcast interview Anna Farmery did around a few key concepts from Growing @ the Speed of Change. The one area she had not heard of, and especially fascinated her, was the very strange new field of quantum mechanics. I find this topic incredibly intriguing and have been reading numerous books and watching documentaries on it. I am looking forward to watching “The Quantum Activist” DVD featuring Amit Goswami, physics professor (emeritus at the University of Oregon and author of ten books) that I just received last week.
Niels Bohr, a Danish physicist who received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1922 for his pioneering contributions to modern understandings of atomic structure and quantum mechanics, said, “Those who are not shocked when they first come across quantum theory cannot possibly have understood it.” By the late 19th century, what’s now considered old or classical physics had established laws or “facts” of nature which explained quite neatly and seemingly completely how our physical world worked. The “real world” was fixed and known.
But as knowledge advanced and as abilities to observe and measure the physical world improved, bizarre new findings threw the mother of all curve balls at scientists’ views of how things really work. Reality shifted yet again.
Quantum mechanics deals with the behavior of matter and energy at the infinitesimally minute level of atoms and subatomic particles. Here’s a brief sample of the weird and wonderful discoveries that have emerged since the German physicist Max Planck published his paper in 1900. It ushered in the era of “new physics” or quantum mechanics:
• “Quantum entanglement” shows that two particles can be separated by vast distances and somehow are connected; that manipulation of one particle causes a reaction in the other.
• In the quantum world, particles behave so unpredictably that the best scientists can do is make probability guesses as to what might happen.
• Light behaves like both waves of energy and particles of matter.
• Solid matter doesn’t exist. We and everything around us are made up of interacting energy or force-fields.
• Based on calculations of physical mass in the universe, scientists can only find about five percent of the matter needed to hold it all together. A major scientific search is now underway for this “dark matter” and “dark energy,” for instance with the 27-kilometer Large Hadron Collider built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN.)
• Some particles travel backward in time. Some appear out of nowhere and then disappear in completely random patterns.
• “Empty spaces” within and between atoms are so full of energy that an area the size of a marble contains more energy than all the solid matter in the known universe.
• There’s strong evidence to suggest that there are seven or more additional dimensions in the universe beyond the known dimensions of width, length, depth (3D) and time.
• Particles can be in two places at once – sometimes even thousands of places at the same time.
• It’s impossible to objectively measure quantum behavior. The observer’s very presence changes the experiment’s outcome.
Talk about the speed of change! We’re clearly a long, long way from defining any sort of objective or definite “reality.” Reality is a moving target. What’s “real” to us today will be considered naïve and laughable to our great-great-descendants centuries from now.
December 3 Complimentary Webcast
Today’s blog post was adapted from Growing @ the Speed of Change. I’m delivering a no charge webcast on Dec. 3rd at 1:30 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time/GMT -05:00) that will explore key themes found in my new book. We won’t talk about the theories of quantum mechanics. But this high-level overview will give you, your team, and your organization, practical tips and techniques to apply immediately. Click here for more information, including a detailed agenda and registration.