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View Diary: Which book next? (97 comments)

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  •  This Einstein bio I'm on (8+ / 0-)

    I have to keep backtracking, going over a sentence more than once.  Particularly the science.  Right now it's talking about the different theories of light and how it operates, whether it is particles or a steady stream...but I've always had trouble with expository stuff.  Unless it's mine, of course. Ha!  

    The world is a false present within the eternal now: None of this is necessary.

    by wewhodream on Sun Jun 28, 2009 at 03:57:01 AM PDT

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    •  I love physics. (8+ / 0-)

      A good accountant should be able to grasp quantum physics - a lot of it is just bookkeeping, keeping track of all the matter and energy.  Actually defining what is matter and what is energy is a bit tricky though.

      Proud member of the Cult of Issues and Substance!

      by Fabian on Sun Jun 28, 2009 at 04:04:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Me, too... (5+ / 0-)

        ...I like your bookkeeping tie-in.  

        The world is a false present within the eternal now: None of this is necessary.

        by wewhodream on Sun Jun 28, 2009 at 04:06:55 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Matter and Energy as bits of information (5+ / 0-)

        This Wikipedia article on Shannon Theory and related topics should appeal to both your accounting and physics.

        •  Problem is not only "what" but "when?" (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ahianne, Fabian, winterbanyan

          And that's where the metaphor between quantum theory and bookkeeping (or information theory) really comes apart, not on what the information is, but when it is.

          A common example concerns the question of which of two paths was taken by stream of photons.  If you don't detect which path, you'll get an interference pattern suggesting they took both.  If try to detect which path, they collapse to one path.

          The key (and non-intuitive) part is that you get the same results no matter where along the path you put the "which path" detector.  This is Wheeler's delayed choice experiment and it's been confirmed by observations, both in the laboratory and ... more mind-blowingly ... by astronomers.

          The confirmation by astronomers is so mind-blowing because the "which path" detectors near earth will collapse the path information for light that has been traveling across the universe for millions of years.  The beam splitter can be a galaxy hundreds of thousands of light years away.

          Put another way, next Tuesday you decide to run one of these astronomical observations, by turning on "which path" detectors on two precisely positioned satellites in orbit:

          1. Until you turn the detectors on, you get an interference pattern on light from a a star a million light-years from earth, split by the gravitational field of a galaxy a half-million light years from earth.
          1. Next Tuesday when you turn the "which path" detectors on, the interference stops; the light has now taken only one path for its entire million-year journey, based on a change of condition you made next week.
          1. If you turn the "which path" detectors off (or the satellites' orbits take them out of alignment with the beam), back to the interference pattern.  Now light was taking both paths for its entire million-year journey, again based on a change of condition next week.

          So when did those photons take all paths or just one path: (a) a million years ago when they left the distant star; or, (b) next Tuesday when you turned the detectors on and then off?

          On the issue of information of matter and energy, quantum theory predicts (and experiments confirm) both "what" problems and "when" problems.  Quantum superposition plays on matter, energy, and time.

      •  Then John Gribbin's In Search of Schrodinger's (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Nova Land, Fabian, plf515

        Cat is a good read.  Even for those who are not particularly interested in accounting or quantum physics.  'Course I read it in '86 and it may be a little dated some twenty years later.

    •  Popular Science books can be tough (8+ / 0-)

      They usually try to cram ten pounds of you know what into a one pound bag and that leaves everyone (even the experts) confused.  

      If you are interested in Einstein, "The Universe and Dr. Einstein" is a good place to go.  It's a very old book, currently available in a nice cheap Dover edition.   Old Albert gave it his personal seal of approval.

      As for particles and waves, the correct answer is probably neither, but that would take a while to go into.  This little box is an especially small bag.

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