Friday, December 4, 2015

In the world of quantum physics, there is a well-known theory that states that particle’s behavior tends to change depending on whether or not there is an observer.  It pretty much suggests that this reality is a kind of illusion that only exists when we are looking at it.  There have been a numerous different quantum experiments that have been conducted in the past that also showed that this may indeed be the case.

Physicists at the Australian national University have now been able to find even more evidence for the illusory nature of our reality.  They went on to create an experiment called the John Wheeler’s delayed-choice, and with the findings of this experiment the physicists were able to determine that our reality really doesn’t exist until it is measured, at least on the atomic scale of things.

Some electron and photon particles can actually behave both as particles and waves.  Yet that tends to raise the question of what exactly makes an electron or a photon act as either a wave or a particle?  That is the question asked that brought about the Wheeler’s experiment.

The Austrailian scientists’ results, which were published by the journal Nature Physics, showed evidence that the choice is highly determined by the way the object is measured, which goes side by side in accordance with what quantum theory predicts.

In a press release, the lead researcher Dr. Andew Truscott said,

“It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it.”

What exactly was the experiment?       

In the original version of John Wheeler’s experiment that was proposed back in 1978 involved different light beams that were bounced by mirrors.  It was a difficult experiment to implement and get any conclusive results due to the level of technology that the scientists had access to back then.  Now with our new technology, it has become highly possible to successfully recreate this experiment by the use of helium atoms that have been scattered by laser light.

Dr. Truscott and his team were able to force a hundred different helium atoms into a state of matter that they called Bose-Einstein condensate.  Once they were able to get to this stage, they then ejected all of the atoms until there was, but one left.

The researchers were then able to use a pair of laser beams to create a type of grating pattern, which would then scatter an atom that passed through the beam exactly how a solid grating scatters light.  With this, the atom would either act as a way that would then pass through both lasers or act as a particle and pass through one beam.

A second grating, thanks to a random number generator was then randomly added in order to be able to recombine the paths.  Yet this could only be done after the atom had already passed the first gate.

As a result of this experiment and the addition of the second grating, caused an interference in the measurement, showing that the atom had then traveled down both paths, thus it behaved like a wave.  The same experiment, which did not include the second grating, produced results that there was no interference and the atom simply appeared to have traveled only one path.

What do these results mean?

Well when the second grating was added into the experiment only after the atom add passed through the first gate, it would have been reasonable to suggest that the atom had not yet ‘decided’ whether it was going to be a wave or particle before the second measurement was taken.

According to the work of Dr. Truscott, there may be two possible interpretations of these new results.  Either the atom has ‘decided’ how to behave based on the measurement or a future measurement affected the photon’s past.  He went on to say that,

“The atoms did not travel from A to B. It was only when they were measured at the end of the journey that their wave-like or particle-like behavior was brought into existence.”

“If quantum mechanics hasn’t profoundly shocked you, you haven’t understood it yet.”

~Niels Bohr

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