Discussion #7 – Quantum mechanics, black holes and branes

[Today’s discussion sponsored by The Copenhagen Interpretation remix of R Kelly’s Ignition– the Gentlemen Scientists suggest that you play it as a soundtrack]

The Gentlemen Scientists are joined tonight by guest Nick Raphael, a friend and ex-colleague who is also a graduate in Physics from the University of Manchester. It provides us with an excellent excuse to indulge our interest in Quantum Mechanics, a subject that we love speculating about but one that is often a mystery to us (but as Feynman said, no one really understands quantum physics anyway).

20140515_004654A Gentleman Scientist’s speculative (and possibly incorrect) rendering of space around a black hole leading to another isolated “universe”

We love Quantum Physics, but is it a house of cards? It has had spectacular successes, but it lacks elegance, requires “fine-tuning” of assumptions and the field is a soup of competing theories. And just why is it so counter-intuitive?

We cover a number of the open questions in physics, both quantum and relativity, and then consider some deeper questions about the nature of our scientific method and the essential “knowability” of the universe. Are our current theories simply beautifully tuned approximate models that bears no relation to ‘reality’?


Download as MP3

1The Copenhagen Interpretation is the most widely used interpretation of quantum mechanics.

2Richard Feynman’s quote about quantum physics – “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics”

3Young’s double slit experiment is explained quite nicely in Wikipedia.

4What Einstein meant when he said God does not play dice.

5The book i am reading is The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene – http://www.amazon.com/The-Fabric-Cosmos-Texture-Reality/dp/0375727205

6Stanford online has this explanation of Quantum Field Theory (QFT)

7We still don’t completely understand ‘virtual particles’. There is an attempted explanation online here.

8Brian refers to this Youtube video about special relativity and electro-magnetism.

9Everett’s Many World Theory is explained here. Nick refers to the ‘multiverse’ as a different idea that posits multiple universes existing in space and time (Wikipedia).

10Two articles in Scientific American about open questions in physics:
http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2013/10/25/physics-biggest-unanswered-questions/
http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/the-curious-wavefunction/2013/11/04/five-other-mysteries-that-should-keep-physicists-awake-at-night/

11Quantum Chemistry? It does exist and there is an International Conference of Quantum Chemistry coming up.

12The double-slit experiment is a watershed in quantum mechanics

13A crazy, detailed speculation on ‘Quantum Consciousness’ from Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff

14A primer on Brane Theory can be found at this page.

15The book ‘The Elegant Universe’ by Brian Greene talks about the Planck Length being the smallest indivisible size of space.

16Brian Cox is a famous English physicist (Wikipedia)

17The Pioneer Anomaly

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