Thursday, January 22, 2009

Are we idiots?

So I've been learning about quantum mechanics (if you don't know what it is, I think you are better off just not knowing, ignorance is bliss.) Quantum mechanics is sorta like learning a new language, except you don't know any languages yet. Nothing makes sense, but you learn it because you have to. Just like with languages, questions often arise. Why are certain words pronounced certain ways? Why are there only 26 letters in the alphabet? Likewise with quantum mechanics, many more questions arise. Quantum mechanics does not make any logical sense, so when learning it, you must discard all common sense and all logic. Most people won't know about quantum mechanics as it only occurs on quantum scales, but should you choose to delve into it, heres a lil glimpse. Pop quiz, what is an electron, a wave or a particle? If you answered any of those two, then you are incorrect, unless you answered both. It seems that an electron is able to act as both a wave and a particle at the same time. But when you choose to measure it as a particle, then it is a particle. By choosing to see what it is, then you have caused it to act that way. That is a bit of what quantum mechanics incorporates.

So to the purpose of this blog post, why is quantum mechanics so weird? Most of the time in science, experiments are done in order to prove a hypothesis. But sometimes theories are made up in order to prove the results of an experiment. This is how quantum mechanics was invented. Because science had no other answer for weird phenomenon, something weirder had to be the answer. But doing all this quantum stuff makes me wonder if we are right. Often the first ideas are wrong, and then we learn from it. In the past, very absurd ideas were believed because people had nothing else to believe it. The Earth was the center of the universe because what else would be? Now we look back at laugh at all these ridiculous ideas, because we know that they were wrong. That is what I think about quantum mechanics. Perhaps we are wrong now, and in the future, something better will be found to explain everything, and then quantum mechanics will be nothing more than a textbook example of things that were wrong. Or, maybe everything is really this weird ....

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sitting alone in the field

Sitting here amidst the youth, the slow age of maturity sets in as receding tides of childhood wash up, and gradually fade away. Slowly feeling the old age set in as you sit and listen to kids talking, laughing, enjoying. Smiling at the memories brought back, chuckling quietly to yourself. Quietly, you yearn to once again be a child, free of all burdens, just living. Perhaps it is with age that comes the enlightenment of the problems we all face in the world. With age comes an innumerable number of diseases; old age ailments begin to take its toll. As a child you are the King of the World, invincible. The sickness of maturity sets in and you never notice until you out grow your childhood hobbies. But it is within these crucial memories that we remain alive. With age comes less fun, but unless memories are kept vivid, we will lose our childhood. No longer do we have time to sit down and play with toys all day. The television is only a thing of the past; hours spent infront of the tv now changed to sitting infront of a computer. Reminiscing of the past, only then are we aware of how much we miss it.

Our minds develop, childish thoughts become undermined by the seriousness of life. The future scares us. The past keeps us. Childhood shapes us into who we are; age molding us as we grow. The freedom and imagination of a child offer relief from the seriousness of the world, reminding us of where we came from. We must take time to relax, and remember how to be free.
What do I want to do with my life?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Is it real?

The Dragon In My Garage
Carl Sagan

"A fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage"

Suppose (I'm following a group therapy approach by the psychologist Richard Franklin) I seriously make such an assertion to you. Surely you'd want to check it out, see for yourself. There have been innumerable stories of dragons over the centuries, but no real evidence. What an opportunity!

"Show me," you say. I lead you to my garage. You look inside and see a ladder, empty paint cans, an old tricycle--but no dragon.

"Where's the dragon?" you ask.

"Oh, she's right here," I reply, waving vaguely. "I neglected to mention that she's an invisible dragon."

You propose spreading flour on the floor of the garage to capture the dragon's footprints.

"Good idea," I say, "but this dragon floats in the air."

Then you'll use an infrared sensor to detect the invisible fire.

"Good idea, but the invisible fire is also heatless."

You'll spray-paint the dragon and make her visible.

"Good idea, but she's an incorporeal dragon and the paint won't stick."

And so on. I counter every physical test you propose with a special explanation of why it won't work.

Now, what's the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all? If there's no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true. Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder. What I'm asking you to do comes down to believing, in the absence of evidence, on my say-so.

The only thing you've really learned from my insistence that there's a dragon in my garage is that something funny is going on inside my head. You'd wonder, if no physical tests apply, what convinced me. The possibility that it was a dream or a hallucination would certainly enter your mind. But then, why am I taking it so seriously? Maybe I need help. At the least, maybe I've seriously underestimated human fallibility.

Imagine that, despite none of the tests being successful, you wish to be scrupulously open-minded. So you don't outright reject the notion that there's a fire-breathing dragon in my garage. You merely put it on hold. Present evidence is strongly against it, but if a new body of data emerge you're prepared to examine it and see if it convinces you. Surely it's unfair of me to be offended at not being believed; or to criticize you for being stodgy and unimaginative-- merely because you rendered the Scottish verdict of "not proved."

Imagine that things had gone otherwise. The dragon is invisible, all right, but footprints are being made in the flour as you watch. Your infrared detector reads off-scale. The spray paint reveals a jagged crest bobbing in the air before you. No matter how skeptical you might have been about the existence of dragons--to say nothing about invisible ones--you must now acknowledge that there's something here, and that in a preliminary way it's consistent with an invisible, fire-breathing dragon.

Now another scenario: Suppose it's not just me. Suppose that several people of your acquaintance, including people who you're pretty sure don't know each other, all tell you that they have dragons in their garages--but in every case the evidence is maddeningly elusive. All of us admit we're disturbed at being gripped by so odd a conviction so ill-supported by the physical evidence. None of us is a lunatic. We speculate about what it would mean if invisible dragons were really hiding out in garages all over the world, with us humans just catching on. I'd rather it not be true, I tell you. But maybe all those ancient European and Chinese myths about dragons weren't myths at all.

Gratifyingly, some dragon-size footprints in the flour are now reported. But they're never made when a skeptic is looking. An alternative explanation presents itself. On close examination it seems clear that the footprints could have been faked. Another dragon enthusiast shows up with a burnt finger and attributes it to a rare physical manifestation of the dragon's fiery breath. But again, other possibilities exist. We understand that there are other ways to burn fingers besides the breath of invisible dragons. Such "evidence" -- no matter how important the dragon advocates consider it -- is far from compelling. Once again, the only sensible approach is tentatively to reject the dragon hypothesis, to be open to future physical data, and to wonder what the cause might be that so many apparently sane and sober people share the same strange delusion.