About Quantum Weirdness

About Quantum Weirdness 

Quantum Electrodynamics (QED) theory has developed to be the theory that defines almost all of the understanding of our physical universe.    It is the most successful theory of our time to describe the way microscopic, and at least to some extent, macroscopic things work.

Yet there is experimental evidence that all is not right.  Some weird things happen at the photon and atomic level that have yet to be explained.  QED gives the right answers, but does not clear up the strange behavior – some things are simply left hanging on the marvelous words “Quantum Weirdness”.   A few examples of quantum weirdness include the reflection of light from the surface of thick glass by single photons, dependent on the thickness of the glass; the apparent interference of single photons with themselves through two paths in double slit experiments; the reconstruction of a polarized photon in inverted calcite crystals, among others.

My intent is to introduce some ideas that may explain some of the weirdness. 

 I want to introduce the subject in a way that appeals to the non-scientist public, but also introduce some ideas about what is going on, ideas that may explain some of the weirdness and include a few thoughts about the speed of light and relativity that should stimulate thought on the subject.  Hopefully a few physicists will look in and not be too annoyed with my thoughts.   This will not be a mathematical treatment other than some basic equations from Einstein that most of us are already familiar with.   The later chapters will be more theoretical, but easily understood if I do it justice.   I will include some experimental diagrams and discussion of results.

 Photo and illustration credit for the banner above:  me.  The deer is part of a twosome, twins (paradoes) left in front of my front porch (laboratory) one day while their mama went off to do whatever deer mamas do.   It took a while to get the door open (adjust the slit) to take the picture (accumulate the data) because every tiny sound (packet) was picked up by those enormous ears (detectors) and they would instantly stand up (modify the setup).  Then seeing no photons indicating movement, they would lie back down.   Finally I had the data I wanted and you see it in the banner above, modified to highlight the pertinent information and showing the double slit setup.   If you want to see the whole effect go to Oldtimer Speaks Out (another of my blogs) and see the twins together.


7 responses to “About Quantum Weirdness

  1. I’m an EE-ME, not a physicist, but I had an undergrad course in physical optics and a bit of Maxwells eqs. as part of my EE studies.

    I am very interested to know whether Gravity acting at a distance between two objects is instantaneous. I do NOT mean gravity waves which I understand go at the rate of c.

    On your site you have a paragraph headed by “So there you have it – Weird behavior at a distance, maybe across the universe. Or is it a matter of relativity?”

    It seems to me that if we find a way to utilize the G force (ie one of the 4 basic forces strong weak, etc.) in a localized field, we could travel faster than light. As a side effect, we and our spaceship would not be subject to mass-related forces—no squished carcasses!

    But maybe I’m just an engineer dreaming. Any ideas?

    From Oldtimer: See my answer in What’s Up about Gravity – part 2

  2. Hi
    I’m just a student right now but I’m fascinated by physics and the mysteries that remain to be solved. A question that I have not been able to mentally solve is weather space is actually a lattice or a continuum. If it is a continuum and there are an infinite number of points between objects A and B, how could object A move to where object B is if it has to travel through an infinite number of point? Thanks for answering my question.


  3. Hello Michael.

    If you are walking along a path, there are an infinate number of points between each step but you take them all at one time. Same thing for your points in a continuum.

    A continuum by definition has no points unless you assign them to some arbitrary location. I suppose you read that you can subdivide a continuum an infinate number of times. That subdivision does not generate real points. It also does not mean that you have to visit any point in between points A or B because these are arbitrary, not real points. So just move B out ot the way and move A to where it was.

    There are no physical points in a continuum unless you put them there (or it would not be a continuum).


  4. I would like to hear your view on the Sagnac effect….

  5. How does a falling object ever reach the ground? If it always reaches half the remaining distance at a non-zero time t, it would seem never to reach zero distance from the ground.

    • Nor could you step across the threshold to your bathroom with that logic! If your problem had any real meaning you would have to go outside, if you could get to the door. However there is an easy answer to your question.

      There is a limit to the smallest distance you can divide into. In effect it is the Planck length which is equal to 1.616252(81)×10−35 meters. It is incredibly small, even compared to a proton. There is also a limit to the smallest amount of time available for anything to happen. It is called Planck Time. This is the time it would take a photon travelling at the speed of light to cross a distance equal to the Planck length. The Planck time is the smallest measurement of time that has any meaning, and is equal to about 10-43 seconds.

      Keep cutting the distance in half and the time required also cuts in half. This approaches the Planck length and also the Planck time very quickly and once your half-the-time half-the-distance reaches that limit your problem falls apart because it simply can’t be cut in half anymore and so the remaining distance gets crossed over so quickly there is no effect on a falling object, nor on your stepping into your bathroom.

      Thanks for writing.

    • “Sam // December 23, 2009 at 9:15 am | Reply

      How does a falling object ever reach the ground? If it always reaches half the remaining distance at a non-zero time t, it would seem never to reach zero distance from the ground.”

      (This also applies to Michael Merali // December 31, 2007 at 11:09 am)

      Sam, an elementary result in analysis addresses your question. Consult an introductory text such as Calculus by Spivak and learn about convergent series, which is precisely what you’re talking about. You should first have a good understanding of the nature of the real numbers.

      For intuition, consider a square of side 1m. Bisect it with a line. Now bisect one half into two quarters, now bisect one quarter into two eights etc. ad infinitum. Imagine them as individual areas. When added up, they sum to an area of 1m despite the fact that there are infinitely many of them, each smaller than the last.


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