What is Quantum Physics?
Quantum physics is a branch of science that deals with discrete, indivisible units of energy called quanta as described by the Quantum Theory. There are five main ideas represented in Quantum Theory:
- Energy is not continuous, but comes in small but discrete units.
- The elementary particles behave both like particles and like waves.
- The movement of these particles is inherently random.
- It is physically impossible to know both the position and the momentum of a particle at the same time. The more precisely one is known, the less precise the measurement of the other is
- The atomic world is nothing like the world we live in.
While at a glance this may seem like just another strange theory, it contains many clues as to the fundamental nature of the universe and is more important then even relativity in the grand scheme of things (if any one thing at that level could be said to be more important then anything else). Furthermore, it describes the nature of the universe as being much different then the world we see. As Niels Bohr said, “Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it.”
The Atom and Its Quantum Mirror Image: Physicists Experimentally Produces Quantum-Superpositions, Simply Using a Mirror (click thru for ScienceDaily article)
"This uncertainty about the state of the atom does not mean that the measurement lacks precision," Jörg Schmiedmayer (TU Vienna) emphasizes. "It is a fundamental property of quantum physics: The particle is in both of the two possible states simultaneousely, it is in a superposition." In the experiment the two motional states of the atom — one moving towards the mirror and the other moving away from the mirror — are then combined using Bragg diffraction from a grating made of laser light. Observing interference it can be directly shown that the atom has indeed been traveling both paths at once…"
Update/correction/further explanation via the exquisite hyggehaven:
I’m assuming you’re referring to the uncertainty principle? No, it does not suggest the ability of prayer or intent to effect outcome of physical reality. That’s bordering on Deepak Chopra pseudo-logic, considering the reality that there have been a billion times a billion+ prayers and positive thoughts generated by human minds over the past 200,000 years, yielding no results or outcomes which would suggest any sort of mental capacity effecting anyone or anything in this way. I mean I’m no expert or particle/quantum or theoretical physicist, but would you be as inclined to discuss this thought with someone who has been praying over their cancer-ridden wife or daughter? Then again…
Just FYI, sagansense (quantum physics note): the uncertainty principle is distinct from the observer effect, though the two are commonly confused. They are both expressions of the difficulty of trying to understand a quantum reality by isolating fixed variables in space-time, when the physicist or observer is herself embedded in the same infinitely complex system.
- "Historically, the uncertainty principle has been confused with a somewhat similar effect in physics, called the observer effect, which notes that measurements of certain systems cannot be made without affecting the systems. Heisenberg offered such an observer effect at the quantum level (see below) as a physical “explanation” of quantum uncertainty. It has since become clear, however, that the uncertainty principle is inherent in the properties of all wave-like systems, and that it arises in quantum mechanics simply due to the matter wave nature of all quantum objects. Thus, the uncertainty principle actually states a fundamental property of quantum systems, and is not a statement about the observational success of current technology. It must be emphasized that measurement does not mean only a process in which a physicist-observer takes part, but rather any interaction between classical and quantum objects regardless of any observer.”
[Uncertainty Principle wiki]
- "In science, the term observer effect refers to changes that the act of observation will make on a phenomenon being observed. This is often the result of instruments that, by necessity, alter the state of what they measure in some manner. A commonplace example is checking the pressure in an automobile tire; this is difficult to do without letting out some of the air, thus changing the pressure. This effect can be observed in many domains of physics. The observer effect on a physical process can often be reduced to insignificance by using better instruments or observation techniques. Historically, the observer effect has been confused with the uncertainty principle.”
[Observer Effect wiki]
There is a difference between making an observation or measurement (passive intent) and trying to channel a specific need or a wish (active intent) — that would be my answer to zardellis; the observer effect is not a consequence of active intent - the observer effect on the particle cannot be changed with mere active intent (without energy transfer, more on that later), it just is altered, as a consequence of observation, or interaction with observational instruments. Also, as stated above, the observer effect is more properly a property of quantum systems, not an action.
I would recommend reading about causality to answer these sorts of questions, as most classical physics (ie. the current, best theories about the universe, that have provided humans with the language and ability to understand and manipulate their reality) operates on certain assumptions in that realm.
Basically according to causality: you’d be better off doing something instead of praying for something. Prayer hasn’t yet been observed to be a causal force in any system: at most, strength of will or altering thought processes can translate into unconscious or conscious changes to real-world actions.
If anything, however, prayer is likely effect (and not cause) because it is a reaction to real-world circumstances. In order for something to change state, energy is required. Prayer has no proven energy output. Further, if prayer is understood as an exchange of information, or active intent, with an all-powerful divine entity, there is as of yet no proof that information is actually being sent or received, anywhere on the electromagnetic spectrum (ie. if a person were actually transmitting information to god, this communication would be detectable, like radio signals). All science points to the likelihood that these divine conversations are both beginning and ending in your head, and exert no exchange of information or energy outside of the head.
Watch Tim Minchin’s humorous take on this, called “Thank you God," for a hardline atheist perspective on this issue.
I should note I am not a physicist either; I’m just a person who likes reading about physics.
I’m also in the hospital waiting to find out if I have a brain tumour. Please don’t pray for me: go to medical school or something useful. Prayer isn’t going the get this thing out of my head: doctors will, by doing the messy, physical work of manipulating my matter with their energy, and utilising sophisticated man-made instruments (inserted through my nose, and entering under the brain) thanks for that, science!
THANK YOU. I definitely could have responded better to this question and I’m more than happy it was met with a correction as thorough as this. Quantum mechanics is extremely sophisticated business and as I delve into more of it via varieties of explanations and perspectives, I continually gain more knowledge not just on the subject/s themselves, but how to properly convey/communicate them to others. I get a lot of religious-oriented asks and see so much fundamentalist/supernatural pseudoscience that it’s difficult to not turn down my passive-aggressive switch sometimes. Apologies to all for that. I’m embedded into a family I cannot even discuss any of this with due to their abhorrent pride in blind faith and Christian fundamentalism. It’s lonely over here. Thank you again for keeping me humble and contributing to good science. In hyggehaven’s unfortunate condition, heed her words. Do not pray. Keep sharing good science and promoting science literacy. A well-informed society is an affective, singular organism.