QUANTUM PHYSICS

Why am I interested in Quantum Physics? As a kid I asked a lot of questions—believe me—a lot! But one question turned out to be the most magical question of all. “What is this table made out of?” If you think the answer is wood—you’d be right—but you’re sorely mistaken if you think it ends there.

Back then, I never got an answer much beyond wood, but other big questions found answers—like how to accessorize my lawn tractor, or how to get a few extra horsepower out of the garbage disposal, but somehow I returned, in a way, to the unsatisfied seven year old.

The yearning to answer this simple question led me to a lot of reading. Not philosophy exactly. Different stuff. My reading list began with sort of The Celestine Prophecy of Motorcycle Maintenance Embraced by the Light on the Road Less Traveled by the Dancing Wu Li Masters of Hyperspace. It started off as simple interesting night reading, but suddenly I couldn’t stop. I began on a personal quest to resolve big issues. I want the answers to the huge questions.

I came across the book, The Tao of Physics, that says that no matter what well-known laws of physics apply to us and our everyday world, that at a subatomic or quantum level, the rules are, well… different. Apparently, these teeny particles that, incidentally, no one can see, can be in two places at the same time. Also, sometimes they’re particles and sometimes waves, and sometimes both at once—which of course, you all know is impossible, right?

Weirdest of all, quantum physicists say that unless certain conditions are met, these subatomic particles don’t actually exist. At least I think that ’s what they’re saying. These are pretty complicated concepts, and suggest a very different view of things. But here’s my problem: Since, at the most basic level we’re just a bunch of particles, I hope this doesn’t mean what I'm afraid it does—that in some very scary way, I'm not really here.

Now for the bad news: If I'm not really here, neither are you. It’s a lot more complicated, but the bottom line is that if we’re not really here, then nothing we think, say, or do means anything, right? What ’s the point of being good? Why do I spend two hours at the gym every day? What really happened to that delicious steak I ate for dinner? This stuff is enough to keep anyone up at night! So my relentless curiosity and simple need to know is what lead me to my passion for Quantum Physics.

What is Quantum Physics in a nutshell? It’s a fascinating branch of science that describes the nature of the incredibly small. As Niels Bohr once said, “Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it.”

For an introduction into Quantum Physics, check out these sites:

What is Quantum Physics?

ThinkQuest: What is Quantum Physics?

Ever since the dawn of civilization, people have endeavored to learn more about their Universe. The goal is simply to learn but practical benefits often come later. One of the world’s largest scientific laboratories that includes extensive exploration of Quantum Physics is an amazing place called CERN. It is officially the European Organization for Nuclear Research and the world’s largest particle physics center located just outside of Geneva. CERN explores what matter is made of and what forces hold it together. In 1999, I had the fortunate opportunity to visit CERN, talk with scientists and get a look at their accelerators. These accelerators “accelerate” tiny particles to a fraction under the speed of light and detectors make the particles visible in order to ‘provoke’ electrons. And if you don’t think I had fun with that concept in better get to know me better. It was absolutely fascinating and I highly recommend you go there if you ever get the chance. In the meantime, if you at least go visit their site you'll also discover a CERN invention that you are very, very familiar with—none other than The World Wide Web! (Great trivia and perhaps money you can win in a bar bet.)

The Curiosity Expands

So I now have a more satisfying answer as to what that darn table is made out of, but as an altar boy back then, I also asked the other big questions—you know: If God is, in fact, good, what is all this death I see everyday? And if God is gentle, what is all this suffering I see? I still ask those questions—right now, more than ever, so my reading has expanded to the spiritual realm, as well, including theology, philosophy and wisdom.

Check out the IDEA EXCHANGE on this site to post your own thoughts on the above subjects. I’d love to read them.