Friday, January 2, 2015

Lets Just Observe, Let It Be!

This post is inspired by the famous double slit experiment of electrons, the experiment responsible for the origin of quantum mechanics. For those unfamiliar with it, I would explain it briefly. In the double slit experiment with electrons, when electrons are fired through a single slit (keeping the other closed), they behave like a particle and pass through it producing a strip of spots in line with the slit on the projector screen (as shown in the middle plane). But when they are made to pass through two slits created in a single plane, they behave like a wave and provide an interference pattern (in the third plane from left). The biggest twist comes when a detector is placed near the slits to determine the slit through which a particular electron passes. What happens then is that the electrons start behaving like a particle again and we see only two strips of spots corresponding to each slit. So, without looking at them they behave as wave but as soon as we start looking at them they start behaving as particles. Why? Why does this happen? Lets talk about that a bit later.

This last part of the suspense strikes an interesting analogy with the nature of human mind. Like electrons, as long as you don't put an observer on the mind, it spreads everywhere like a wave. It lights up (like the bright spots on the screen) whenever it interferes with a pleasurable past or a hopeful future. It darkens down when interfered with a sad memory or a depressing thought. But as soon as you put an external observer on your mind, which can be anything from social norms to your own inferiority it loses its true nature. It becomes a constraint on the mind, which limits its reach and makes it consciously answerable to the external situation rather than to enjoying its own existential self.
Now let’s come back to the original phenomenon and discuss the physics behind it. First question is what is a detector? How does it detect the electrons? A detector can be anything which interacts with the electrons and produces a perceptible signal. It can be a light source which lights up the electrons; it can be a magnetic field which recognizes its interaction with the charge of electrons. But whatever it may be, it has to interact with the electrons to produce any detectable effect. And it’s this interaction, this disturbance, which spoils the free spirit of electrons. Even light with its tiny photons disturbs the quantum/true nature of electrons.
To see the true nature of things, real beauty of nature, we don’t need to interfere with it, just let it be and the beauty will reveal itself in recognizable patterns. But as soon as we try to control it, try to limit it, the beauty itself is lost.