I will start this by saying I have very little knowledge of quantum mechanics/physics. Then again, that’s hardly the point of this – I’m no professor. If I were more intelligent in that way, then I’d love to be. It’s just one of those things in life that isn’t going to happen, no matter what. So, if any of you happen to be a physicist, I’m sorry for butchering your religion.
Anyway, I’m getting carried away…
I just finished reading Blake Crouch’s new book ‘Dark Matter.’ I was surprised because it was one of the best books I’ve read in quite a while; and that’s saying something, because whilst there are many books that I like, there are a depressingly small amount that I love. Dark Matter scored itself a place on that pile that’s hardly a pile.
I can’t really describe the plot, how it unfolds, what happens, because that would ruin the surprise for any of you wanting to read it, to unfold the mystery that lingers on every page. But I do want to talk about some of the things it explores, if for no other reason, simply because they greatly interest me.
What is Reality?
I’ve always spent a lot of time wondering what is real, more so as I have gotten older. Maybe it is something that has been sped
up by numerous bouts of derealisation, (thankfully, recently they have subsided) or maybe it is something so intrinsic to me that I feel no other option than to question it. Either way, it doesn’t really matter. I find it almost too interesting, if that is possible.
I wonder about the construct of reality, how it is nothing more than a matter of perception. The only thing interpreting the world around us is our own brain. No one can say for certain that rabbit you saw running across the road existed in the physical world – even if others did see it. Because what is physical, what determines it? Is it merely observing it that determines how we see what is real. Que, Schrödinger’s Cat, the most famous thought experiment on quantum mechanics. Here’s a brief explanation from IFLScience:
“Schrödinger wanted people to imagine that a cat, poison, a Geiger counter, radioactive material, and a hammer were inside of a sealed container. The amount of radioactive material was minuscule enough that it only had a 50/50 shot of being detected over the course of an hour. If the geiger counter detected radiation, the hammer would smash the poison, killing the cat. Until someone opened the container and observed the system, it was impossible to predict if the cat’s outcome. Thus, until the system collapsed into one configuration, the cat would exist in some superposition zombie state of being both alive and dead.”
So, yes, you understand right…. well, maybe not completely, but we get the idea. Until someone actually observes the cat, it exists being both alive and dead. It is the act of observing that determines it. The idea is, that ‘somewhere’ there’s a reality in which the cat exists in the opposite state as it was observed in our reality. This hints at a hypothetical set of universes called the Multiverse, in which exist an infinite number of possible outcomes. For example a place in which bombs were never dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or when the Third Reich won World War Two – think, Man in The High castle. That kind of thing. For every action we take, it is theorised a universe exists in where we took the opposite one, thus diverging from our reality at that point. There could be worlds out there in which Yellowstone supervolcano has erupted, wiping out most life on earth. Or worlds where we flattened the land with nuclear war. Think of any situation, and it has the possibility to exist somewhere, at some time.
I suppose it is a complicated concept to wrap our human heads around, especially those of us who aren’t too scientifically minded. Though, I like to look at it from a philosophical stand point – what it means to us, rather than why and how.
I’m an individual, right? We all are. Each one of us unique in some way, different to those that stand beside us. It’s an intrinsic part of our identities, knowing we are this way, knowing that there may be similiar things/people like us out there – but there is nothing that meets the exact criteria for being us. Except… what if there is – an infinite number of people who look, act, talk, think, like I do. What if that is a reality? How would it change the way we look at the world if it could be proven? If we realised we are nothing more than a needle-point amidst a number of infinity? If we realised we are nothing special at all, just a singular outcome of countless actions?
There are so many questions about the universe that we don’t have the knowledge nor the technological means to answer, and there are many more that we haven’t even realised to ask. I can’t help but wonder what all those other ‘mes’ are like. How they might be different. What it would be like to talk to one of them…
Image: Olena Shmahalo