Tuesday, September 29, 2009

In-Flight Quantum Mechanics

One area of science for which I’ve always held much mystique is quantum mechanics. So much of the quantum world seems unnatural to us macro-size bipedal eukaryotes. Even the simple “double slit” experiment that demonstrates the wave-particle duality of light can drive one batty. The theory even confounded Einstein with his “God does not play dice with the universe” exclamation because so much of quantum theory centers on probabilities.

I spent a good six months studying the subject and the mathematics behind it, read: Schrodinger’s equation and all its glory. I recall the time one autumn during my quantum education when I went to visit my sister who was living in Casper, Wyoming at the time. The whole trip, aside from visiting my big sis, was devoted to intense study of quantum mechanics.

Armed with a great textbook Introduction to Quantum Mechanics by David J. Griffiths, used for the undergrad course for physics majors at UCLA, I started reading during the plane ride from Los Angeles to Denver, and the puddle jumper flight from Denver to Casper. The latter segment was particularly memorable because I was flying in a small 14-seat turboprop through a snow storm with quite a bit of turbulence as we traversed the Wyoming countryside. But as I was bouncing along, clinging for dear life, it was quantum mechanics that kept me sane. At one point during the flight, we quickly lost some altitude just as I was trying to solve a particularly thorny wave function problem. I didn’t mind though because I realized that in some parallel universe (that is if you believe in multiverse theory) I would be in an alternative timeline with no turbulence whatsoever!

Once on the ground, I enjoyed a week of peace and tranquility studying quantum mechanics while regularly enjoying a hot pot of tea on the dining table of my sister’s house which overlooked a snow capped Casper Mountain. For some reason, I believe that hard core science and pristine nature go hand in hand. It doesn’t get better than that!

1 comment:

  1. Hardcore science and pristine natural beauty do go hand-in-hand.

    You should check beautyintheuniverse on youtube, fantastic videos! The user, also runs thunderf00t.

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