The Quantum Conundrum

Mention Quantum Physics to most people and their eyes will glaze over or they’ll just admit to knowing nothing about it – or both! Generally considered as a ‘new’ science, Quantum Theory actually has its roots going back almost two hundred years to the experiments of Michael Faraday. In the 1900s, Max Planck and Albert Einstein made further advances in understanding Quantum Mechanics. Quantum Physics, Quantum Mechanics, Quantum Theory – there’s confusion right off the bat! What the heck are we talking about? For the rest of this article, we’ll use the term Quantum Theory and abbreviate it down to QT (which, for some reason brings forth an image [perhaps a quantum image?] of Quentin Tarantino, but never mind).

QT is often said to be the theory of very small objects, particles much smaller than atoms. This is true for the most part, except that quantum particles don’t always behave like particles. Sometimes they behave like waves. No wonder we can’t get to grips with QT when things in that realm don’t even know what they are themselves!

Probably the most well-known quantum particle is the photon. A photon is a particle of light and, like all quantum particles (quanta), it can also display the properties of a wave. A wave can be refracted or bent while a particle cannot, being limited to transferring energy when coming into contact with matter. There are also many other types of quantum particles such as quarks, neutrinos, leptons and a hatful of others.

One of the things that differentiates quanta from atomic matter (i.e. you and me or that rose bush in the garden) is its ‘spooky’ qualities. Quanta can seemingly appear from nowhere, they can be in two places at once and an effect on one quantum particle can transfer to other, identical quanta that are totally isolated. For instance, a quantum particle can be made to spin in the opposite direction to its normal state and identical particles completely separate will do likewise. This is what has become known as quantum entanglement. It should also be noted that because of the uncertain nature of quanta (as postulated by Werner Heisenberg in his famous Uncertainty Principle), they are not measured in definite terms, but as measures of probability. This also links in with the so-called Observer Effect (although they are separate theories), where the mere act of observing an object affects the nature or actions of the object.

A famous experiment, known as the Double-Slit Experiment, suggested that quanta can exist in two places at once. Two slits were set in a solid plate. When one slit was opened, and photons were fired through only a narrow diffraction pattern was seen.  When both slits were opened and photons passed through, as expected, they created a wider interference pattern on the photographic plate beyond the slits.

Now here comes the spooky bit. When only a single photon was fired towards the slits, an interference pattern was seen on the photographic plate. This means that, somehow, this single photon had to be in two places at the same time to pass through both slits. Further experiments have led to the theory that the single photon must pass through every point in space-time to get to the photographic plate.

Recently, experiments with larger molecules (fullerenes) have resulted in quantum interference patterns when just one molecule has been utilised. Further experiments are to be attempted (or may already have been attempted) with viruses, which are twenty to three hundred times the size of a molecule. This has led to the notion that QT is not just the theory of very, very small things, but it is also a theory of isolated things. Basically, if you could isolate yourself from the rest of the universe, you could appear in two places at the same time. If Dr Richard Feynman’s calculations are correct, you could actually exist in all of space and all of time simultaneously!

Okay, so how does this affect the study of UFOs?

UFOs and the beings that travel inside them have often been reported as winking out and appearing somewhere else almost simultaneously. The so-called Greys and other entities have been reported as appearing out of nowhere in abductees/contactees houses, often passing through seemingly solid objects. Often the passage of time has been interrupted or affected in some way. All of these effects suggest some kind of manipulation of what we call Quantum Theory. More advanced extra-terrestrial (or perhaps extra-dimensional) species may have gone beyond theory and made practical use of the quantum realm. Heck, given that the laws of space-time as we know them appear to have little or no effect in quantum mechanics, could these aliens exist outside of space-time? Are they from everywhere and nowhere? Are they from the past, the present, the future, or do they exist in all times? If so, what effect would this have on us plebs stuck in a linear timeline? Have they affected our history and, if so, would we know about it anyway?

While this all seems pretty far-fetched and fantastic, it is all very possible within the contexts of QT. Will humanity ever be able to adapt quantum theory into our technology? We already do to a certain extent, with many of our electronic devices displaying quantum mechanics in their operation, such as the laser and the magnetic resonance image (MRI) scanner. Can we go further, though?

There are efforts to create quantum computers, which would be able to perform calculations much, much faster than today’s machines, perhaps being able to give an answer to a question, no matter how complex, as soon as it is submitted.

Looking farther ahead, might QT be able to allow us to travel to other planets? This may be possible. If you can isolate a person from the outside universe, it may be possible to transport them to any place in space and any point in time you desire. In a quantum state, the person would exist in all of space-time simultaneously, getting them to appear where they wanted to go may only be a matter of fine-tuning.

I know, I know, this all sounds like the science fiction of Star Trek, but recall the words of Arthur C Clarke: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Or perhaps Einstein got closer to the truth with, “reality is an illusion, albeit a persistent one.”

© Steve Johnson - 2008


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Updated 16th August, 2012