For this year’s banner project, we were assigned the theme ‘Quantum Theory’. To be honest, I was quite overwhelmed, and after watching the 54-minute documentary in class, I was much more confused and overwhelmed. However, I took to the Internet to find out more and to grasp whatever concepts I could!
So what exactly is Quantum Theory?
Quantum Theory: The theoretical basis of modern physics that explains the nature and behaviour of matter and energy on the atomic and subatomic level.
Quantum Physics / Quantum Mechanics: The nature and behaviour of matter and energy at that level is sometimes referred to as quantum physics and quantum mechanics.
The following post will provide, in detail, the concept of Quantum Theory and some of its more prominent implications.
I. Quantum Mechanics
The first assumptions of Quantum Theory derived from physicist Max Planck in 1900. He had sought to discover the reason that radiation from a glowing body changes in colour from red, to orange, and to blue as its temperature rises.
He found that by making the assumption that energy existed in individual units in the same way that matter does, rather than just as a constant electromagnetic wave – as had been formerly assumed – and was therefore quantifiable, he could find the answer to his question. Planck found that at certain discrete temperature levels, energy from a glowing body will occupy different areas of the colour spectrum. With that, this opened a world of new and fundamental understandings of the laws of nature.
The Copenhagen Interpretation
The Copenhagen Interpretation is one of the two major interpretations of quantum theory’s implications for the nature of reality.
Niels Bohr proposed the Copenhagen Interpretation, which implies that a particle is whatever it is measured to be (for example, a wave or particle), but that it cannot be assumed to have specific properties, or even to exist, until it is measured.
Bohr: Objective reality does not exist.
In other words, it is only when we observe its state that a quantum particle is essentially forced to choose one probability, and that’s the state we observe. Since it may be forced into a different observable state each time, this explains why a quantum particle behaves erratically.
This extends to the Superposition Principle, which will be explained in detail further on.
The Many-Worlds Theory
The Many-Worlds Theory – or Multiverse Theory – holds that as soon as a potential exists for any object to be in any state, the universe of that object transmutes into a series of parallel universes equal to the number of possible states in which that the object can exist, with each universe containing a unique single possible state of that object.
There is also speculated to be a mechanism for interaction between these universes that somehow, permits all states to be accessible in some way and for all possible states to be affected in some manner.
Other interesting paradoxes that have been brought up in Quantum Theory are:
- Remote detection of eavesdropping
- ‘Spooky’ calculation
- Interaction-free measurement
- Life extension of particles
II. Superposition Principle
The Superposition Principle claims that while we do not know what the state of any object is, it is actually in all possible states simultaneously, as long as we don’t look to check, or when we observe an object, the superposition collapses and the object is forced into one of the states of its wave function.
The Superposition Principle is often applied to the Schrodinger’s Cat experiment, where since the Schrodinger equation is linear, any linear combination of solutions will also be a solution.
‘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.’
Of course, Schrödinger claimed, that was ridiculous. Quantum superposition could not work with large objects such as cats, because it is impossible for an organism to be simultaneously alive and dead. Thus, he reasoned that the Copenhagen Interpretation must be inherently flawed.
III. Particles & Waves
Quantum Theory often describes particles as waves, or in states that are starkly different from what we originally perceive them to be.
In a nutshell, in the field of Quantum Theory, particles are sometimes thought of as waves. They exist in different states, can be in different positions, possess different energies, and move at different speeds; they exist across all possible states at the same time. And as a result, they can be in 2 places at once. However, once a measurement of a particle is made (e.g. its energy or position made known), Superposition is lost, and the particle is in one known state.
The Double-Slit Experiment is a demonstration that light and matter can display characteristics of both classically defined waves and particles – displaying the fundamentally probabilistic nature of quantum mechanical phenomena.
Conducted by Thomas Young in 1801, his experiment with light was based on the concept on wave-particle duality. He believed it demonstrated the wave theory of light was correct.
In the most basic level of this experiment, a coherent light source illuminates a plate pierced by two parallel slits, and the light passing through the slits is observed on a screen behind the plate – the wave nature of light causes the light waves passing through the two slits to interfere, producing bright and dark bands on the screen; as a result that would not be expected if light consisted of classical particles. However the light is always found to be absorbed at the screen at discrete points, as individual particles, not waves, the interference pattern appearing via the varying density of these particles hits on the screen.
Therefore, it demonstrates that particles do not form the interference pattern if one detects which slit they pass through. These results demonstrate the principle of wave-particle duality.
IV. Duality & Paradoxical Unity
Returning to the idea of paradoxes (as applied in Schrodinger’s Cat and in the nature of particles), Paradoxical Unity can be found in philosophies and religion, particularly in Taoism.
Tao Te Ching
The Tao Te Ching (Daode Jing) is a Chinese classic text traditionally credited to the 6th-century BC sage Laozi. It, along with the Zhuangzi, is a fundamental text for both philosophical and religious Taoism. It is believed that the Tao Te Ching describes the universe and life existing in a ‘constantly fluctuating state of duality’, where ‘everything has an opposite, and neither opposite stays dominate forever’.
Due to some translation difficulties, many levels of subtext may have been lost on modern translators. Furthermore, many of the words used are deliberately vague and ambiguous.
However, there have been some suggestions on the Taoist secret of embracing paradoxes:
Lao Tzu’s wisdom goes deep to unravel the mysteries of the Tao or ’The Way’
Path that leads the sage within us to fulfilment, abundance, happiness, and an effortless life
Wisdom conveyed through paradoxes or seemingly paradoxical thinking
To transcend beyond the mind and allow insight about the true nature of things and ourselves
The wise (or the sage) embraces the paradoxes / paradoxical nature of reality – by doing so, one goes beyond the trappings of the mind and the illusions of the ego
When we try to read and understand a paradox with our left-brain logical thinking and with our conventional understanding of how the world usually works, we end up at a loss
Fail to grasp the hidden, deeper meaning inside the paradoxical sentence – often meant to help us leap outside this logical and conventional thinking
We live in a world in which we are programmed with a belief system that works with duality and judgement
First transcend beyond the apparent duality and embrace the paradoxical unity of everything
Duality: a mind construct, a default in our programme
Act without effort and nurture things without needing to process them
Seeing beyond the limits of apparent duality – allows us to flow with nature and rise beyond inner conflict
After looking more into Quantum Theory and the whole idea of it online – and watching the 54-minute long documentary – I gained a better understanding of the concepts that surround Quantum Theory. Despite the research, I do still have a little difficulty in understanding some of the concepts and the theories behind prominent experiments, but I did manage to grasp some intriguing ideas from each of the interpretations brought up.
Personally, I was intrigued and inspired by:
- The idea of energy existing in different units
- The Multiverse Theory, where two particles existing in separate planes still have some sort of mechanism that exists between them affecting one another
- The Superposition Principle, where all possibilities are first considered until we determine the specific characteristic of the matter, collapsing its Superposition
- Particles being able to exist as all forms of matter at any given time or space
- Embracing paradoxes in order to achieve enlightenment
With these ideas in mind, I was ready to look further into how I could turn them into visuals or stories fit for the final project.
Keeping the theme of Quantum Theory in mind, I hoped to come up with some ideas that are inspired by and convey the interpretations of Quantum Mechanics. Using familiar imagery or urban legends and myths to represent particles, I hope that the final outcome would be able to construct a story that centres on simple Quantum Theory concepts and unravels interesting characters and relationships.
Concept 1: Particles As Symbiotic
Looking more into the Multiverse Theory where each universe contains a unique single possible state of a certain object, and how there is supposedly, a mechanism that exists and affects them, thereby establishing a system where the actions of one particle affects its counterpart in another universe. This theory reminded me of symbiotic relationships (involving interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association).
Symbiotic relationships can be observed in nature, like those that exist between sea anemones and hermit crabs, or African oxpeckers that feed on large African animals. With that in mind, I wanted to add a layer of storytelling with common motifs or imagery that are familiar to others; this is where I started looking into popular urban legends.
Japanese Folklore: Namazu
In Japanese mythology, the Namazu or Onamazu is a giant catfish that causes earthquakes. He lives in the mud under the islands of Japan, and is guarded by the god Kashima who restrains the catfish with a stone. When Kashima lets his guard fall, Namazu thrashes about, causing violent earthquakes.
Japanese Folklore: Kappa
A kappa is an amphibious Yōkai demon or imp found in traditional Japanese folklore. They are typically depicted as green, human-like beings with webbed hands and feet and a turtle-like carapace on their backs. A depression on its head, called its ‘dish’ retains water, and if this is damaged or its liquid is spilled, the kappa becomes severely weak.
They are known to favour cucumbers and engage in sumo wrestling. They are often accused of assaulting humans in water as well. However, they are not entirely antagonistic; once befriended, they perform any number of tasks for human beings. Sometimes they help farmers irrigate their lands, bring fresh fish, and teaching the art of bone setting.
My first idea therefore, involves blending our world with the fictional world and creating an ecosystem where our society is dependent on these urban legends and vice-versa, thereby establishing a symbiotic relationship.
Please refer to the link for moodboard: LINK
Concept 2: Embracing Paradoxes
Centred on the idea of Paradoxical Unity, I was inspired by the Taoist philosophy and practice of embracing paradoxes, and how life is in a constant fluctuating state of duality, where everything has an opposite and nothing opposite stays dominate forever. It was also particularly interesting in how it described ways in which we should embrace paradoxes in order live a fulfilled and effortless life. Similar to the concept before, I looked into popular and mythical stories that surrounded the idea of paradoxes.
Roman god, Janus
In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus is the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past.
Janus presided over the beginning and ending of conflict, and hence war and peace. As a god of transitions, he had functions pertaining to birth and to journeys and exchange. He was also concerned with travelling, trading and shipping. Furthermore, Janus had a ubiquitous presence in religious ceremonies; he was ritually invoked at the beginning of each ceremony, regardless of the main deity honoured on any particular occasion.
The Aztec Earth Goddess
Tlaltecuhtli is dubbed the ‘Monstrous Aztec Goddess of the Earth’, she represents the surface of the earth but was said to be angry, and was thus, one of the first of the gods to demand the hearts and blood of humans for her unwilling sacrifice. She was also believed to devour the sun every night just to give it back every morning – however, the fear that this cycle could be interrupted (e.g. during eclipses) produced instability among the Aztec population and was often the cause of even more ritual human sacrifices.
According to Aztec mythology, Tlaltecuhtli destroyed everything the gods were creating at the origin of time (the ‘First Sun’). The gods turned themselves into giant serpents and wrapped their bodies around the goddess until they tore Tlaltecuhtli’s body into two pieces – one piece of the body became the earth, mountains, and rivers; her hair became trees and flowers; her eyes the caves and wells. The other piece became the vault of the sky.
Tlaltecuhtli is depicted in codices and stone monuments as a horrific monster, often in a squatting position and in the act of giving birth. She has several mouths over her body filled with sharp teeth, which were often spurting blood. Her elbows and knees are human skulls and in many images she is portrayed with a human being hanging between her legs. In some images she is portrayed as a caiman or alligator.
- Open mouth: Passages to the underworld
- A skirt of crossed bones and skulls with a great star sign border (symbol of her primordial sacrifice)
- Depicted with large teeth, goggle-eyes, and a flint-knife tongue
My second idea therefore, involves using these legends that embody paradoxes and constructing a story around them, within the confines of a modern approach.
Concept 3: TRavelling between Dimensions
Lastly, inspired by the idea of the theoretical symbiotic relationships that exist between particles, where they are able to affect one another despite different positions and states, I wanted to illustrate the journey or the idea of information being transmitted across different planes.
The River Styx
The River Styx separated the world of the living from the world of the dead. When your soul reached the River Styx, a boatman named Charon would give you a ride to the underworld – the ride is not free, if your family had not buried you with a coin, you were stuck. For those souls who received a ride in Charon’s boat or managed to swim across, there was little to do except wait to be reborn into a new body.
My third idea therefore, comprises of using the narrative of the River Styx to form a layout that shows the transmission of information from one plane to another, or showing how objects transcend into another dimension.