A particle off the old block

As we saw last week, quantum physicists can be pretty strange folk – every bit, perhaps, as weird as the models they posit for how the physical world really works. One of them is unshakably convinced of the validity of, essentially, the whole of the science. He declares his faith in this as yet highly speculative, unproven modeling with a remarkable reference to a fascinating feature of it called quantum entanglement.

Briefly, this describes a phenomenon in which two independent particles, separated by anything from a few inches to the breadth of the universe, nevertheless display characteristics that render them describable as nothing less than perfect replicas of each other. If one changes in some way – direction of spin, charge, or the like – the other does as well.

Moreover, it does so not by virtue of some sort of conveyance of synchronizing information between them – that would require a delay of the duplication of their identity at least as slow as the speed of light. However, these changes occur instantaneously – there, simply, is no time required to effect the change. It isn’t even really immediate in the way we ordinarily understand that term. That is, one doesn’t change to correspond with the other. They both change. They may be separate in space, but they are nevertheless somehow a single physical entity.

Now, this has created a lot of excitement about the potential for things like Star Trek-style “beaming” of objects to various points across space. And that brings us back to our faithful physicist.

He states that if we could somehow cause the particles in an object to become entangled with others elsewhere in space, we would be replicating that object in that other location – not a copy of it, but rather the actual object. He goes further to argue that the same would be true if we did that with humans.

For example, if the particles in his body were quantumly entangled with others in, say, Istanbul, then he would exist in Istanbul as well as wherever he is now. Not a copy of him. Not a sterile blank form that resembles him. Him.

He believes that our entire beings – our thoughts, memories, likes and dislikes, emotions, beliefs, all of it – are but the sundry manifestations of the fantastically complex array of physical particles and their characteristics of which we are made. Moreover, their composition and status are the inevitable consequence of all that has gone before in our lives – that is, our previous actions, thoughts, hopes, and struggles inhere in the way our protons, electrons, and the like have organized themselves, and in the charges, spins, and other characteristics they have taken on, in any particular moment.

That is why the quantumly-entangled physicist we caused to materialize in Istanbul, he believes, must actually be him, and not just a copy of him. Or, at least, a him that is perhaps both confused at how he came to be in Istanbul and delighted to have managed it (since these beings are quantumly entangled, they are supposed to continue to instantaneously reflect each others’ current condition, so this last thought raises a lot of questions, but they are just some among the many begged by this aspect of the theory).

I promised last week to explain what all of this has to do with management. Of course, I also promised to begin doing that last Monday. Host provider problems have hindered that, but hopefully we will be able to wrap this up next week before the Thanksgiving Weekend in the United States.

I hope you stay with me, and that you’ll enjoy the discussion. In the meanwhile, have a great weekend!

Today’s tips: Speaking of the weaknesses of mathematically-based modeling that resists evidence of the actual physical world, please see this piece about exaggerated reports of species risk, from the BBC.

Of course, it’s not just quantum physicists that seem a little off-center to so many of us. What they do is try to predict phenomenon from theory. In our daily lives we run across many people who quote ideas to us that seem just as bizarre, but it may be worth our while to try to picture the theoretical framework in which these ideas make sense to our informants. Please see Michael Wade for more on why and how.

And as long as we’re being creative about how to understand both each other and the reality we all so variously perceive, please be sure to see this excellent piece by Fred H. Schlegel about how to do that; you’ll be glad you did.

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