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Why quantum physics can’t be right but isn’t wrong either

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Quantum physics, in the first place, isn’t even a thing. It’s a theory about how the tiniest bits of possible things jiggle reality into place. Mostly, it’s equations. I don’t know about you, but I can’t live on equations alone.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

By David Stone

Assorted Ideas, Large & Small

Quantum Physics Can’t Be Right or Wrong

Quantum physics instruction
“Because it’s not supposed to make sense. That’s why.” Photo by Max Fischer on Pexels.com

“As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”

― Albert Einstein

In it’s simplest form, quantum physics makes of reality the classic neither here nor there, ambiguous forever, an indefinite thing that only an observer makes real. And like beauty, real is also only in the eye of the beholder. According to modern physics, that is, the wild side after Sir Isaac Newton threw up his arms and walked out, a soup of uncertainty forms the iffy basis of everything.

And that leads to all sorts of other discoveries. My favorite is non-locality, top of the list of WTFs yielded by quantum physics deep dives. Here’s an example.

Let’s get non-local…

Say you’re an electron and your brother Louie is too. Adventurous by nature, you and Lou split off in different directions, and you travel away for a million years. Now, you get a hankering for a beer with your unforgettable brother. Bing! There he is. You and Lou went in different directions for a million years, but the distance vanishes in the wink of an eye. Less than the wink of an eye. More or less, instantaneous.

This sort of thing irritated the hell out of Einstein because it requires haste many times the speed of light, roughly 86,000 miles per second. Everything in the material universe, including me and you and any pair of socks, relies on the speed of light as the absolute max. The whole fabric of reality depends on it.

And yet, there’s Louie lifting a mug in your direction. Sure, you’re just a tiny pair of electrons, but so is, more or less, everything else.

But We’re Still Here

“In the world of the very small, where particle and wave aspects of reality are equally significant, things do not behave in any way that we can understand from our experience of the everyday world…all pictures are false, and there is no physical analogy we can make to understand what goes on inside atoms. Atoms behave like atoms, nothing else.”

― John Gribbin, In Search of Schrödinger’s Cat: Quantum Physics and Reality

Had enough yet?

Zany as the layers of quantum physics may be, jaw-droppingly brilliant as the scientists are, they must be wrong because we’re still here. We’re not quantum leaping across galaxies without touching go, and we’re not zigzagging between real and indefinite. Scratching our heads, we’re thinking, maybe, by afternoon, it’s time to get out of our bathrobes. We’re looking at a bright blue sky and wondering about lunch.

So, these bizarre elements of quantum reality can’t be right. But wait a minute, they can’t be wrong either. Impossible facts, such as non-locality, have been proven true time and again.

How it all jumbles…

But here’s the problem. Truths about how crazy things work in the micro world have never made any sense in a macro world. Like the one where you and I live. In fact, the best of quantum physics theories can’t explain how it all jumbles together into bridges and tunnels, love and life, you and me.

The lesson, though, is that while the equations and theories in quantum physics are true, they’re only tools, not the result. Understanding the tools for building a house doesn’t willy-nilly produce a house. Someone or some thing must use those tools on the available materials to make the house. And honestly, we don’t even know a whole lot about the materials.

So, there’s the big mystery. Who or what is the carpenter nailing one piece of frame against another, assembling a universe in which we find shelter? You also might ask yourself why, too, but that’s the ultimate rabbit hole.

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