Friday, February 1, 2013

Can you walk through walls?

Contrary to common perception, there is not one - but two observable realities. Think about this. We are not talking hypotheticals here. And no one is dreaming this up either. These are realities which can actually be observed.

In other words, we can 'see' both of them in action. One reality is more commonly known to us and we are more familiar with it. It is the only one we seem to pay much attention to. But the other reality is just as real and we can observe it with great precision in a laboratory. In fact scientists have been doing that for decades.

The familiar reality is the one of the bigger objects. These are objects that include everything from human beings to galaxies. For most people all reality ends there.

But what about this other reality?

Well, this is the reality of the smallest particles and the study of such sub-atomic particles is called Quantum Mechanics. And the two realities could not be more different and yet they exist simultaneously.

What happens at the particle level is a 'reality' that most of us would not even recognize. Frankly, we would be hard pressed to simply believe it. And yet it is real. It is observable. And its effects are not anomalies but are repeatable in experiment after experiment. If it were not actually true, this reality could well be the fictional stuff of Harry Potter novels, witches and magic potions.

For example, in this sub-atomic reality you can be at two places at the same time. In fact it is a relatively common occurrence. Particles are seen to be in multiple places simultaneously. Back in 1996, Dr. Christopher Monroe and his colleagues at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colo., described how they had divided a single beryllium atom into two distinct states of existence.(

In this world, a particle can be a 'wave' (creating imprints like water slapping gently on a beach) and in the next instance, it can morph into a 'point' (and create impacts like pin pricks). The particle can literally choose to be one state or the other. In fact, the simple act of ‘watching’ the particle can trigger such a transition as if by magic.

These smallest particles also exhibit something we now call 'entanglement' and which is clearly observable. This is the curious phenomenon where two particles behave as if they are actually one. And what makes this even more absurd and bizarre is that the two particles could be billions of light years apart. And yet they seem somehow connected! They act in unison in strange and unexplainable ways. No less then Einstein called this "spooky". And it is. But it is also real.

In the quantum world, communication appears to defy the laws of nature. Even the sacrosanct tenant which limits the speed of light – is not spared. Particles seem to “know” what the other is doing instantly, even when they are separated by inter-galactic distances. How? No one knows.

In the phenomenon known as ‘tunneling’ – matter at the quantum level seems to be able to literally go through and appear on the other side of barriers when all the known laws say that it should not.

Friedrich Hund was the first to take notice of tunneling in 1927 – almost eighty-six years ago! After all these many decades, we are no closer to resolving some of the mysteries of tunneling in the quantum world.

We, human beings, are also made up of billions of these quantum particles. The 'reality’ of quantum mechanics therefore also applies to us. It must. After all, we are made up of such sub-atomic pieces. Unbeknownst to us, many of these weird and seemingly impossible manifestations may well be occurring within us.

I cannot walk through a wall. But the quantum particles of which I am made up, sure can. So, when I stop at the wall, does a part of me go through it anyway?

This is the world from where the next big revelations of our time are awaited.

We don’t know much about this world. But this much we do know: it exists within each of us. We are manifestations of two realities at the same time.