Casual Quantum Discussions

I was talking with my wife about random topics during a car ride when she asked me this question:’

“What beliefs do you hold that you can’t justify?”

Being a science fiction nerd, my answer was obviously “the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.” A little taken aback, she admitted that she didn’t really know too much about that subject so I attempted to explain. Have you ever realized how little you knew about a subject only after trying to explain the subject to other people? That was me at that moment. But I struggled through explaining the basic concept but without any of the foundational facts and history that would leave someone satisfied with the explanation... Which kind-of understandable because to explain it fully would be to explain the entirety of modern physics. Not only am I terribly unqualified for that task but we only had a few minutes left in our trip. So the topic went mostly unsettled.

Since then I sent my wife a video basically saying the same things that I said... but with more authority, accuracy and higher quality production values. However, that one video alone wasn’t satisfying either. A week or so goes by and after shopping at a used book store she comes home with a 60 year old physics book titled “The Principles of Quantum Mechanics” by P. A. M. Dirac (third edition). It is a book published in 1947. My wife’s idea was to read the book and get a basic understanding of quantum mechanics and try to determine what has changed between then and now.

And her plan was to do all of this on our next date night. Yes, this is the kind of things we do on dates.

Needless to say, we didn’t come away from that date with a complete understanding of quantum mechanics but we have been introduced to some of the reasoning behind the need for quantum mechanics. The ultraviolet catastrophe, the complete lack of understanding for why things can glow (black body radiation), and more.

TANGENT: By the way “black body radiation” is the dumbest name ever. Every video I’ve ever seen about the subject apologizes for the name. It’s literally describing objects that glow. You know, objects that are NOT black.

Anyway, at the same time that physics was seen as “almost complete” physicists didn’t know how lava lamps worked. Also, the model physicists used for used for describing how things worked also predicted that you’d burn your face off if you opened your oven or stepped outside into the sun. Luckily, quantum mechanics was developed over the 20th century and now we might be able to explain how lava lamps work. Maybe.

So anyway, I love my wife a lot.


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