Opinion

The simple sophistication of our physical world

This column is about a scientific discovery that has changed the way I view the world, and the way I view myself. To many, quantum physics conjures images of endless equations and tedious formulae, but as the numbers unwind themselves, it becomes clear that the real meaning here transcends the numbers. It revolutionizes the human perception of time, space and reality. What’s more, we are made of the basic particles of all matter that are governed by the laws of quantum theory. Consider what this says about us-this is what it means to me.

I have the thrill-seeking gene. I saturate myself in every experience just to drown in the adrenaline rush-it’s the only thing that makes it worth it for me. I cannot settle for anything less than extraordinary. And of course, I’ve been disappointed so many times by the overwhelming numbness of something I expected to be great. I felt myself becoming cynical, worried that maybe there really wasn’t something extraordinary to be found in every experience. I considered deluding myself into settling for the mediocre. And then, I found my proof of paradise.

Quantum mechanics is the most perfect theory physics has to offer. It is based on a great plunge of faith. It evolved from the evidence of Young’s famous double-slit experiment.

Imagine this: an electron gun on one side of a board with two slits. Think of an electron gun as any kind of gun, the electrons analogous to bullets. When you shoot the electrons at the board (one at a time), some of them go through one slit, and some through the other. On the other side of the board is a photosensitive screen, and when an electron hits the screen, a mark is made. As the electrons are fired through the slits, a pattern forms on the screen-a wave interference pattern, like ripples in a lake when you toss a pebble in.

The problem is, for an interference pattern to be created, the electron has to interfere with something. Remember that the electrons, like bullets, are fired one at a time, going through either one slit or the other. And here’s the rub: the only way that this pattern can be explained is if the electron interferes with itself. Each electron goes through both slits, at the same time.

The electron is a wave and a particle, assuming both these conflicting identities simultaneously and completely. I accept the paradox of quantum mechanics because I realize I am human and mortal. “There are greater things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy” -Hamlet.

And what does this mean to me? The electron is the grain of all matter in the world – the electron, whose behavior declares a fundamental rejection of human logic, intuition and the concept of what is possible, whose very nature is guarded by the divine conspiracy of Heisenberg Uncertainty.

If the fabric of the universe is inherently this supernatural bizarre craziness, then I am allowed to dream. I am allowed to believe that in every experience and every person and every conglomeration of sub-atomic particles, there is an exquisite and ethereal delight waiting to be discovered. I will never settle for anything less than extraordinary, because I know it’s out there. I hold the sophisticated complexity of the universe as testimony.

For far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past ever imagined!

-Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize-winning physicist.

Priyanka Timblo is a junior majoring in economics. She can be contacted at p.timblo@umiami.edu.

September 29, 2006

Reporters

The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

Miami Hurricanes fans might recall their favorite college football players in past years dreaming of ...

The new quarterback is usually the ones fans gush over. For the University of Miami, last season it ...

Debate all you want, but University of Miami football coach Mark Richt made it clearer than ever Wed ...

Last year, when University of Miami tailback Mark Walton attended the Atlantic Coast Conference Foot ...

The Miami Hurricanes will have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball this season, and four play ...

Following the summit between Trump and Putin, reaction from politicians, pundits and former intellig ...

A School of Communication associate professor played an important hand—an artistic one!—in World Cup ...

University of Miami law and political science professors weigh in on Trump’s SCOTUS nominee. ...

Research bioclimatologists with the UM Synoptic Climatology Lab counsel cities on how to manage risi ...

A UM-led study is examining how children’s play behavior at beaches could impact their health. ...

University of Miami junior running back Travis Homer was named a preseason candidate for the Doak Wa ...

Six former Canes competed on NBA Summer League teams, with three averaging at least 10 points per ga ...

Quick Hits gives University of Miami volleyball fans an opportunity to get to know the new student-a ...

The University of Miami's volleyball team earned the American Volleyball Coaches Association (A ...

University of Miami head golf coach Patti Rizzo announced the 2018-19 schedule, featuring nine tourn ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.