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The Magic of Being Quantum


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What if we are not alone (Part 2)?

magichandwhatif.gifThe week prior to writing this article I no idea what subject I would choose for my ‘What If’ for this edition. Then I watched two programmes on TV that made me realise that more and more information is finding it’s way into our mainstream communication channels than ever before, about subjects that have more science and less supposition that they had before.

That said, even our most eminent scientists such as Professor Stephen Hawking are still looking for answers to their questions, which is kind of reassuring and worrying at the same time. It’s reassuring in that there are still many things that we do not quite understand, and worrying in that when I was taught science at school, it was very much a given, this is how things behave because the scientists say so, a little like our religious teachings.

The first programme was about Stephen Hawking and his life of scientific discovery. I had previously read his more accessible works, the all-time best seller 'A Brief History of Time', and more recently the book that is still topping charts all over the world 'The Universe in a Nutshell'. The thing that stood out for me was that he is still looking, still on a quest for answers, and happy to admit that he may not find them in his lifetime.

The main thrust of his work has been to find a connection between the very large (Galactic) and the very small (Quantum). I’ll not try to explain it here, as it would take too long and I can only just keep it in my head for a short while before it goes again, let alone explain it to someone else. I would recommend reading the Universe in a Nutshell to find out more.

One thing that really amazed me was an example was given by one of the contributors on the program of how much space there is in ‘solid’ things. He took a small sphere out of his pocket and placed it on a table in the Oxford University library, he then took a hair from his head and explained that the sphere represented the nucleus of an atom, that the diameter of his hair would be the relative size of an electron. He then asked how far away did we think the hair would have to be from the sphere to represent the space between an electron and the nucleus of an atom.

He walked to the door of the long library, then out of the door into the corridor, out of the building and then would have to go a further two miles to the outskirts of Oxford to show how much space there was between them. These are inside our regular solid world, so much space it would look like our galaxy(s) if it were on a larger scale. It was the fact that this quantum world did not behave much like our galaxy (or did it?), because it was difficult to pin down exactly what was going on, particles would appear and disappear frequently, often in different places each time, yet these were the fabric of our world, our solid physical world. Perhaps our thoughts really do have an influence on our reality, even our scientists are daring to suggest it.

So how does this link to the question, what if we are not alone?

Well the second program that I saw this week was called ‘Are we alone in the Universe’, and the introduction suggested that the search for alien life is 50 years old, but there's been a break through, a planet has been discovered that could support life.

The program started with the following question ‘ Why do we humans have such a connection to the night sky, the twinkling light that seems like an oasis out there, and yet we are not sure, are there habitable worlds out there?’.

The narrator went on ‘Around the world there are a group of highly intelligent, highly trained scientists who share a surprising belief’.

‘There are a hundred billion stars just in our galaxy, and at least half of them have planets, so that’s a hundred billion planetary systems. How many planets in each system, well we’ve got 8 in ours so lets say 5, so that’s 500 billion planets out there, and bear in mind there are a hundred billion more galaxies’. (thats kind of mind blowing to start with – Colin)

‘For these scientists the vastness of our universe can mean just one thing, the existence of life’.

‘I think you’ve got to be really audacious to think that the Earth is the only place where something interesting is happening, but proving it has not been quite so simple’.

All this just goes to show the obvious for me, if there is infinite space, there must be an infinite number of planets, and therefore an infinite chance of there being other life out there. Our powerful radio telescopes and sophisticated computers are now able to detect these new planets, but as yet we can only surmise that there may be life out there.

I’m absolutely sure there is, but short of taking you to visit them, I think we may just have to go with the latest scientific proof, which is still at the ‘we think there probably is’ stage. That in itself is one step in the right direction though, for how many people are still locked into the thought that we are the only ones here, the only ones with intelligence to be able to think, I wonder?

What if we just open up to the idea we are not alone and see what happens?

With Love,