Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Another oversimplified quantum physics metaphor

A simple web search of any keywords involving quantum physics, spirituality and god reveals articles that are a dime a dozen. Given any layman's rather limited understanding of what quantum physics is all about, not to mention most physicists not reaching any consensus on how to explain quantum physics in layman terms, means that I can add a few more intellectual sounding buzzwords to this quantum soup and get away with sounding pretty (and!) intelligent.

A concept of quantum physics that has always fascinated me is that the very act of measuring or observation changes the experiment. It forces the phenomenon being observed into a state that it wasn't in prior to the act of observation. In other words it affects the experiment. And hence another quantum physics metaphor that I would like to add to the growing list of "quantum physics explains everything".

Consider the concept of memory and recall. Say you have to commit to memory a long list of complicated calculus theorems (I don't know why you would...maybe to impress your equally dorky significant other), or a grocery shopping list for the next day (what happened to the smartphone or the old school post-it...just go along with me, will you?). Time = t0, You first look at the list and repeat it to your self. I poll you at time t1 and t2 to check how much of the list you remember. Time t3 is showtime. Now, imagine I didn't poll you at time t1 and t2 and you directly move to time t3 = showtime. You know where this is going. There is a much higher likelihood that you will remember more of your list when I polled you, than when I didn't. The very act of forcing you to recall reinforces the memory of the shopping list. The act of observation (is the shopping list in your memory?) changes the physical state of the memory by reinforcing it.

I feel very intellectual.

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