Thursday, February 07, 2013

In which I take on a Quantum Physics problem

Let me start by acknowledging that real science is hard. People way smarter than me with advanced degrees and a lifetime of experience toil away at the smallest issues to advance knowledge bit by bit. Amateurs have no part to play - anyone without at least a PhD who claims to have a "Eureka" moment is either deluded or trying to sell something to the gullible.

That said, I've had a "Eureka" moment. Unfortunately I'm not trying to sell anything to the gullible. I wish I were because, frankly, I could do with the money.

Quantum Physics is weird. Lots of stuff happens that doesn't make sense, but it can be demonstrated to be real. However there is one phenomenon which seems weird that I think can be easily explained. Without spending the next thousand words describing it, there are experiments using light which seem to require the light to send information back in time (to itself) do determine how it will later behave. For some background reading check out Wheeler's delayed choice experiment and Delayed choice quantum eraser (in particular the Problems with using retrocausality section).

So to cut a long story short, different results can be obtained, at the time of the experiment, which vary in a way which is only possible if the light changes the way it behaves before the experiment is conducted. It seems that the light reaches the experimentation site and sends a message to itself in the past dictating how it should behave.

Anyone who has studied enough Physics eventually comes to accept that time isn't absolute. The faster you go, the less time passes for you compared with slower dudes (see the Twin Paradox). The closer you get to the speed of light, the slower time goes. Of course it goes the same speed for you, but your Earth bound colleagues will age much more quickly than you. Nothing can travel "at" the speed of light except, well, light (actually that's not strictly true, but to travel at the speed of light requires zero mass - neutrinos may qualify).

The thing is, if you do happen to travel at the speed of light, there is no time. A photon of light is created, travels and is extinguished (converted to another form of energy) in zero time in the photon's frame of reference. Not "really quickly", exactly zero time. Now here's where it gets odd, because from where we stand we see light travelling quickly, but still taking time. Eight or so minutes to get from the Sun to here, four and some years to get from the next nearest star to here. Yet each photon experiences zero time for its journey, no matter how long it takes in our frame of reference.

Here's the Eureka stuff.

At any given instant my body is approximately 183 cm (6 feet) long. I have no problem detecting my feet and my head at the same time. To a photon its entire journey, be it from a torch or a distant star, occurs at the same instant. It happens in varying physical lengths, but zero time. For the photon to send a message from the end of its "life" to nearer the beginning of its life does not require sending a message back in time, because its whole life happens at exactly one instant in time. It requires sending a message from one physical point to another, both of which are experiencing the same time. The end and the beginning are at the same time. We see the photon taking time to reach its destination, but that's only from our frame of reference.

From the point of view of the photon, in Wheeler's experiment, the detector screen isn't being removed "after" the light has passed the double-slits because the whole journey is happening at the same time. The photon at the physical end point of its journey communicates with itself at an earlier physical point (since it is at the same time from its point of view) and behaves accordingly.

Therefore no time travel is required and there is no paradox. It's just one physical location of the photon communicating with another physical location of the photon, both of which exist simultaneously.


Monday, February 04, 2013

Et Tu, Zed? Wow, that sounds stupid (and it is).

Today the ACT Opposition Leader Zed Seselja announced that he would be challenging Senator Gary Humphries in the preselection process for the Liberal Party Senate ticket for this September's Federal election. Of course he is well within his rights to do so in our democracy, but why on Earth would the Liberal Party think that was a good idea?

Let's start by examining their records.

Zed (oh, I should point out to my US friends that "zed" in this part of the world is the 26th letter of the alphabet. I don't think he would appreciate you calling him Zee ;) ) has been the ACT Opposition Leader for the past five years, having been in the Legislative Assembly since 2004. He failed to defeat the sitting Labor Government in 2008 and again failed to defeat the sitting Labor Government in 2012. He has never in fact served in Government. In all seriousness, really, what has he achieved? I'm a Liberal supporter and I'm struggling to think of anything. Of course there was that member of his staff (Tio Faulkner) who it turned out, allegedly (did you see what I did there?) was being paid by the ACT taxpayer to do party political work, but I'm not sure that's what he would like to be remembered by.

Gary was a member of the ACT Legislative Assembly starting at the first self-government election. He held various roles during his time in the Assembly - Deputy Chief Minister, a number of Ministerial portfolios, and of course Chief Minister. Yes, he shares Zed's experience as Opposition Leader, but I'm sure he considers that a very minor part of his overall qualifications. Since leaving the ACT Legislative Assembly to join the Federal sphere as a Senator in 2003, he has been a tireless supporter of the Canberra region, even when that has put him at odds with the Federal Liberal Party machine. Having listened to my share of Parliamentary proceedings I know that even the Labor Party acknowledges that Gary is a reasonable person who on occasion puts the ACT community's interest above his party's posturing. This may well have cost him the chance to "climb the greasy pole" as Yes, Minister put it, but his party still saw it right to reward him with the front bench roles as Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Shadow Attorney-General and Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Materiel.

In summary, I ask ACT Liberal Party members, exactly what does Zed have to offer and why is that better than what Gary has to offer? Or to put it another way, what has Gary done that even makes you consider changing to a perennial loser like Zed?

[I would have like to have left my blog at the last question, but I think I know the answer. The ACT Liberal Party, like a lot of organisations, doesn't care what is best. They are a collection of self-interested individuals who have absolutely no regard to anything other than how they can pursue their own agenda. And lest you think I am biased - the Labor Party is no less guilty of this. In fact with their disgraceful ties with the union movement they are almost certainly more so.]

Frankly, if Zed takes over from Gary it will be a travesty. However it will not be a surprise because under the scum of the Earth that is Tony Abbott, the Liberal Party is not just a shadow of its former self, it has no right to even bear the moniker of its founder or its heritage. It should rename itself the Conservative Party, or more accurately, the Republican Party.