The Big Think

October 30, 2007

Dualities

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 12:41 am

I’m up in Waco for the annual Pigskin Review. The show rehearsals are going great. Dress rehearsal is tonight and I’m sure there will be much merrymaking since tomorrow is Halloweed (unfortunately, we don’t have a performance on Hallow’s Eve).

Last night in the middle of the night (literally), my host Matt took Scott and I to the science lab to play around with the lasers and do a makeshift dual-slit experiment. If you don’t know what that is, google “Dual Slit Experiement” and spend a few minutes self educating.

Matt had arranged the laser beam so that we were able to see the result of quantum waveform interference, which is weird enough, but then he put a second polarizer in the waveform and something truly wonderful and weird happened. I don’t have the time to describe it here, but it was really stunning. When he turned the polarizer we got to see a fundamental, welll, shift, in how the system reacted. Put plainly, suddenly the system “became aware that it was being measured” and changed the way it was behaving. I’m not doing the experience justice (mostly because it’s 1:30am and I’ve been leading rehearsals solid since 6pm tonight), but it was truly weird to see that between here and here the laser beam reacted in a quantum way and between here and here it reacted classically. There’s no way to describe it and science can’t explain it completely (and Matt would know since he’s a string theorist). I told Matt that I felt like a man who has been living in the desert since birth who suddenly gets to see the ocean. It was really staggering.

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