Einstein's Unfinished Revolution book coverTo understand the enigma that is quantum physics, it’s best to start with the relatively easier problems of classical physics.

Classical physics was invented by Galileo, Kepler, and Newton to deal with everyday macroscopic objects that you can see with the naked eye or with the assistance of telescopes. Classical physics—equipped with calculus and its associated equations—can describe the precise location, speed, direction, and trajectory of any visible object, from airplanes and cannonballs to stars and planets.

If you were to take a snapshot of the solar system at this moment in time, you could measure, using the equations of classical physics, the position and velocity of each planet and could predict the precise location of any one planet at any future time (within a small margin of error up to a limited but significant amount of time). The mechanics of the equations are complex, but the problems are fully soluble.

As Lee Smolin explains in his new book, Einstein’s Unfinished Revolution, this turns out to not be the case at the smallest of scales. When you start asking what matter is made of—atoms, protons, electrons, photons, quarks, etc.—a new type of physics is required, quantum physics. Quantum mechanics was invented in the early twentieth century to explain quantum physics, and seeks to describe how quantum particles behave and interact with each other.

Continue reading “Philosophy Meets Physics: The Competing Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics”

The Order of Time Carlo RovelliIn The Order of Time, Carlo Rovelli sticks to the theme that reality is not what it seems, in this case focusing entirely on the concept of time.

In a sense, the history of science can be described as an uncompromising assault on intuition and common sense. The Earth appears flat and stationary, but in reality spins and soars through space at 67,000 miles per hour. Humans appear to be a species of their own special creation, but in reality are simply naturally evolved primates.

These ideas are familiar by now, but they were revolutionary at the time of their discovery. What Rovelli is pointing out is that science may not be done with us yet—the next assault on our common sense might be the revelation of a world without time.

Continue reading “Why Time is a Psychological Construct and Not a Fundamental Part of the Universe”