Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Rethinking Photons

Things can't be in two places at once. Right? Well, quantum physicists are saying that on an unbelievably small scale that might not be true. You see...I've been hooked on a fantastic series on the Science Channel called Through the Wormhole narrated by Morgan Freeman. I'd highly recommend setting your DVR to record the show. It will open your eyes and your mind to possibilities that are both amazing and unsettling.

Recently, I watched an episode of Through the Wormhole that described an experiment involving photons. For those of you who are not followers of Stephen Hawking, light is made up of both particles and waves. Photons are individual particles of light. The experiment demonstrated was known as the "double slit experiment." An individual photon was fired at two slits in a screen to see which slit it would "choose" to pass through. Being one particle, it can only go through one slit or the other...right? Not so fast.
Somehow the single photon particle passes through BOTH slits at the SAME TIME! How is this possible? What's even more baffling is that when we attempt to set up monitors to detect how this is stops happening! The photon, when being watched, will behave itself and only go through one slit. This almost reminds one of a mischievous child who does what is expected only when an adult is watching. Wow! Reality is much more mysterious than we can imagine. It almost seems playful, doesn't it?

It is interesting that the double slit experiment demonstrates what I can only describe as the "playfulness" of a particle of light (if I may anthropomorphize a photon). Symbolically, in myth and story, light has always been identified with playfulness and spontaneity. The Swedes referred to a spot of reflected light that seemed to dance across a room as a "sun cat." If you have a cat, as I do, you'll understand how playful the feline species can be! When one watches light reflecting off a pool of water to dance upon the surrounding walls can catch a bit of the photonic joy.

There is a term for this behavior. The word "mercurial" describes someone who is ingenious, playful, unpredictable, or thievish. The word is associated with the god Mercury (the Greek Hermes) and the planet closest to the Sun (light). It is interesting that in the Book of Genesis, the first words attributed to God are "Let there be light." Light is fundamental it seems to creation, to the Cosmos.

Some scientists will probably admit that they feel as if they are being "played with" when conducting the double slit experiment. Matter (a light particle) by itself cannot be described as playful. The term really is only appropriate to describe a personality. This begs the question, who is playing with the scientists?

As I reflect upon what I've learned, I'm encouraged by the idea that at the core of reality, as exhibited by particles of light, there is a playfulness, a joy, a Personality. It's strange, but I see this when I come to a stop light and it seems to take forever to change to green. The moment I take out my "smart" phone to make good use of the down time to check an email or send a text, the light changes almost immediately. I've got to smile. I'm being played. It seems like a sense of humor may exist at the core of all things too...and it's good.

Watch a video about the double slit experiment below!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I absolutely love this. Sometimes it appears were just along for the ride! Thanks for the awesome post my friend.

2:21 PM  
Anonymous YOGYAKARTA said...

wow wow I really like your blog. Good luck friend

1:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fabulous post on fascinating stuff. Reality is not what it seems. There's some terrific science docos out there, isn't there.

I like the sort of stuff you write about. So I'll be back. I'll put a link on my site to here if that's ok.

7:33 PM  

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