How weird is Reality and why should it matter? Part-2

How weird is Reality and why should it matter? Part-2

Posted on August 4, 2017

In my previous post on this topic, I mentioned how rainbow and blue sky are illusions but the illusion does not stop there and continues with even solids. I referenced Max Tegmark’s quote from his book, “Our Mathematical Universe:” and then I jumped straight into why I liked to know about the weirdness of reality. I think I did not set the stage really well for what aspects of reality I considered as weird. So, I will address that here a little bit more in detail before taking on the second part of “why is matters?”

Weirdness at microscopic levels

Some of you may already know that sub-atomic particles do not behave like regular particles. The odd behavior that the sub-atomic particles exhibit does not follow the laws of classical physics. How weird is this behavior? Let me give an example in my own way.

Let’s say you come to a concrete jungle for the first time in your life with one of your friends. Let’s call you, “The Observer” and your friend, “The Non-Observer”. You look at these tall and beautiful buildings and want to figure out how they are built. You start breaking down one building after another and find out that every building is made of bricks. You then realize that the strength, toughness, structure, and shape – in other words, properties of the brick could be translating into the properties of each and every building.

Let’s assume that you cannot break the brick down further and that this brick is your sub-atomic particle. Now, let’s say you as the Observer, are able to touch that brick, hold that brick and throw that brick against a wall to see how it behaves.  But your friend, the Non-Observer, has a totally different experience. The Non-Observer reports to you that the brick disappears and reappears at different places. When thrown against a wall, it splashes like water. Now, you are confused. When you check the brick, it behaves like a particle but when your friend checks it, it behaves like a wave.

Now, you want to trick that brick to behave like a wave and then catch it in its act. So, you setup an experiment. You stand behind a curtain and ask your friend to throw the brick against a wall and while the brick is in motion you come around the curtain to catch the brick behaving like a wave. When you try this experiment a much weirder thing happens. As soon as you open the curtain to see the brick in motion as a wave,  guess what happens? The brick changes into a particle in mid-air. Now, you are more confused. What the heck, right?

This is my own way of explaining the double-slit experiment and the observer effect. It is pretty weird, isn’t it? For a moment if we think that this happens only at microscopic levels, then it is more surprising to know that the entire universe started out at a microscopic level some 14 billions years ago. In his book, “ASTROPHYSICS for PEOPLE in a HURRY”, the celebrity-scientist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, starts out by saying that “In the beginning, nearly fourteen billions years ago, all the space and all the matter and all the energy of the known universe was contained in a volume less than one-trillionth the size of the period that ends this sentence.”

Weirdness at macroscopic levels

That’s just one example of how reality is/was at the macroscopic level. All the known universe that we can see, the stars, the galaxies, everything constitute only 4% of our universe. 96% of the universe contains dark matter and dark energy. Dark means invisible in this case. Invisible to measure and invisible to even detect.

Putting the 96% aside, even the 4% is huge and gigantic. When I first came across the picture of the pale blue dot which is our earth, it was an extraordinary experience. So, imagine my disbelief on knowing that this vastness came out of practically nothing. It seems space does not need space to grow. It just creates space within itself. In other words, our universe did not need anything outside of it to grow into. It just created space for itself.

To make matters even unbelievable, some scientists are planning to create black holes in a lab and seems like there are instructions to create universes in a lab. You see, when we empty out every particle that we know of and create an absolute vacuum, this so-called vacuum has the potential to create a universe as big as ours. Mind-boggling, right?

Why does it matter?

As confusing as this may all seem, there are many practical applications to both micro and macro levels. At micro levels, quantum mechanics theory and experimentation is leading to quantum computers and communications that can happen securely and quickly with quantum entanglement. At the macro level, all the theory and experimentation in astro physics is leading to potential mining of asteroids for minerals (check out Peter Diamandis’s ideas on this)  and potential inter-planetary travel (check out Elon Musk’s plan to put thousands of people on Mars by 2050).

But that’s not the reason why I wanted to talk about how reality is weird. The purpose was to understand this weirdness at a deeper level so that our core understanding of how things are and how things can be changes. This understanding will definitely help us lead a balanced life. A balanced life so that we can have zero regrets.

In the next blog posts, I will discuss in further detail, why knowing about the weirdness of matter and reality, really matters.

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day!!!

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