Archive for July, 2010

Of Quantum Leaps and Paradigm Shifts

Monday, July 26th, 2010

The place of Tibetan singing bowls in 21st century physics.


We all know what a Quantum Leap is.  It’s a major step, a big burst of energy – isn’t it?
No, actually, it’s not.  A quantum leap spans virtually the smallest distance imaginable, using the smallest possible measure of energy.

The remarkable thing about a quantum leap is that it involves a particle transferring from one place to another without ever being at any point in between – or so it’s generally believed.

A slightly different light is shed on this, though, by two practical demonstrations. One is a simple experiment first conducted over 100 years ago and repeated countless times since then. The other is a ‘technology’ that’s been around for thousands of years.

It’s clear from these two closely-linked case studies that the transition is continuous, not the step change that’s described in science texts.

It’s also clear that, far from being made of solid durable ‘particles’, every material object in the universe is formed from constantly-moving ever-changing energy flows.  The very nature of material particles is as ephemeral as clouds in the sky.

Conclusion from the post below:
“Until we can shift that fixed mindset and see things as they really are, a whole lot of scientific doors won’t be closed to us – they’ll be wide open, but we won’t even see them.  One could be the door to a very different future from what we see facing us now.”

To learn more about the reality of the quantum leap, and to find out where Tibetan singing bowls come into it, read on …

‘Quantum Leap’ must be the most common scientific phrase  in popular use today. The term is synonymous with a massive stride, a great burst of energy.

In fact a true quantum leap is neither of those things.  It’s the movement of an electron from one atomic orbit to another – just a fraction of the width of that atom.  In making that move the electron will absorb or release a single photon, or ‘packet’ of energy, typically in the form of light – and there’s no smaller amount of energy than a single photon.

The simple act of viewing a flower or a butterfly (or anything else) involves countless quantum leaps in your eye!

No, the thing that makes a quantum leap so special is the idea that that electron disappears from one orbit and reappears in the other without having apparently been anywhere in between in the meantime: now I’m here, now I’m there.

Ok, so the distance is pretty small.  But it’s still a neat trick, to be here one instant and somewhere else the next without having to travel across the gap.  So how’s it done – and more to the point, is it done?

Light Waves and Brighton Pier

First a brief intro to a simple scientific experiment.  Don’t go away, it’s pretty easy to follow and the conclusion is quite astounding.

Light from a single source passes through two slits in a card to land on a screen on the other side of the card.  The resulting pattern of light and dark bars on the screen tells us that every photon of light passes through both slits at the same time.

This effect is down to the wave-like nature of light.  Just as a wave in the sea can go both sides of the posts supporting Brighton (or Cleethorpes) Pier, a light wave can go both sides of the strip of card between those two slits.

Both parts of the wave spread out once they’re through the slits. Like waves on the sea, at some places where they meet again we get an extra high peak and at other places they cancel each other out. This gives alternate bright and dark stripes on the screen.

Oh, Those Two-Timing Photons !

So what does this tell us about the quantum leap? Basically it tells us it’s a process, not a step.

In the lab a photon ‘hit’ is registered by an electron shifting orbit in a detector on the screen. If the waves cancel each other at some point on that screen, it’s because one’s a peak and one’s a trough – they’ve travelled slightly different distances. So they’ll get there at two slightly different times.

The second wave to arrive clearly interrupts an orbital-shift process that’s already underway with the first wave and cancels that process. Has to be that way – otherwise what’s that first wave doing in the meantime?? If there’s no second wave, or if that wave’s in sync, the process completes, no problem.

So how does that work … ?

The Tibetan Connection

A useful clue comes from, of all places, the Tibetan singing bowl.

The orbits of electrons around atoms follow patterns known as Spherical Harmonics – exactly the same patterns as those for the notes produced by Tibetan singing bowls. Electrons have a number of possible harmonics, a good singing bowl has at least three producing three different tones.

To get a note from a singing bowl you run a wooden baton around the rim of the bowl until it starts sounding its lowest tone. Continue with the baton, and after a time a new note of higher pitch will be heard in the background.  Gradually that new note will get stronger and the first note will fade, until eventually only that higher-pitch note can be heard, clear and resonant.

Now back to the quantum leap (noting on the way that what we don’t get from a singing bowl is a sudden leap from one spherical harmonic to another).

Crossing the Great Divide

So where is that electron between the times that each of the two waves hit that screen?  To grasp the answer to this, we have to let go of the idea of an electron being a particle and see it instead as an energy pattern wrapping around the atom.  The lower orbit is one closed energy loop, the higher orbit is another.

To change orbit the electron energy flow must give up its closed-loop ‘particle’ status temporarily and follow an open  spiral path from one orbit to the other, boosted by that first wave.  [Just like the singing bowl moving up from one frequency to another - the baton is the 'wave'.]

In this ‘limbo’ state its situation is unstable; if the wave  helping it along this spiral is cancelled by an out-of-sync second wave, it’ll fall back to its former lower-energy orbit.  But if the follow-up wave is in sync it’ll reinforce that upward spiral, making that orbit-shift even more certain.

Future Science

The take-home message from this scenario is both simple and world-changing.  The only realistic option is that electrons can exist in a state that isn’t a particle – and are doing so all the time, since the quantum leap is by far the most frequent event in the whole universe.  Our world of solid objects gives way to one of constantly-flowing energies that come together from time to time to give an illusion of material structures.

Visionary physicist David Bohm, Nobel nominee and originator of the Holographic Universe concept, observed that our object-based language limits our ability even to think in terms of flowing dynamic processes.  But the universe is a flowing dynamic process.  Until we can shift that fixed mindset and see things as they really are, a whole lot of scientific doors won’t be closed to us – they’ll be wide open, but we won’t even see them.  One could be the door to a very different future from what we see facing us now.


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