Tuesday, June 7, 2011

On Quantum Physics and Being Wrong

"Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes, I just sits."
- Satchel Paige

A friend of mine says this to me often when I comment on his momentary silence in a conversation. Well, the same is true of me. I need time to just sit in silence sometimes, to think...or not. Lately, the topic I keep returning to when I indulge myself in unrestrained thought is that of quantum physics. To be honest, it hurts my head and yet, I keep going back for more. It draws me in with its mind-stretching explanations of the unexplainable. It lures me with tales about unending possibilities and objects being in two places at once. It beckons to me with its promise of a minute, yet vast world so different from the one I know, that I cannot sustain thought of it for more than a moment when I catch a glimpse of its truth. 

I won't pretend to you that I understand quantum physics. In fact, the only science that is a part of my life in any academic sort of way is that of psychology and the science of the human mind. But quantum physics fascinates me and, I think, is an interesting complement to psychology. For how people behave and interpret their world is in part based upon the laws that they understand govern the world they are interpreting. If it turns out that the laws of physics are more comprehensive than we currently understand (and I'm sure they are, by the way...though I could be wrong), once our understanding expands to take in the new knowledge, human perception and behavior will most certainly change. 

We are an arrogant lot. We think we know; we think we understand. I'm pretty sure we don't understand much of anything. I suspect we get about one half of one percent of what there is to know...if that. My opinion is not that we're stupid, but that the body of knowledge to be known is so vast, that it's simply outside of our grasp. But this is not a statement of hopelessness. Quite the opposite in fact! What beauty and hope lie in a universe that offers more than we can ever aspire to realize. 

The practical side to this is, we can't think we know. Our minds must constantly be open to and aware of new potentialities. When we think we know, we're sunk. Don't be the arrogant guy. Don't be the one who digs his heels in the mud during a debate and refuses to entertain the possibility of being wrong. In wrongness lies creation, potential, and growth. Our egos tether us to an opinion and belief. Let go of the ego and soar on a jet stream of possibility. 

Being wrong is a dynamic and open state. Believing you are right all the time is a closed and suffocating state. St. Augustine stated, "Fallor ergo sum," (I err, therefore I am) and defined himself partly in his ability to be wrong. It's great, isn't it? To recognize that you don't know all there is to know and have the hope and belief of possibility? 

Right, back to quantum physics. The thing is, I don't know or understand, but I'm excited about a world where all things are possible. I want to be open to learning in an appropriate and critical manner. I hope you'll share with me in that endeavor, and climb out of the restraint of ego. Enjoy the video below. I hope it tickles your brain as much as it did mine. 


  1. One of the marvellous insights of quantum physics - and like you, I am not an expert, only a fascinated layperson - is the idea implied in the concept of entanglement (as exemplified by Schrödinger's famous feline thought-experiment). The idea that an observer effects the results of an experiment simply by the act of observing is one with all sorts of consequences; particularly for people who claim that they are completely "objective"!

  2. Exactly. By virtue of inserting ourselves into a situation, even as an observer only,we are allowing access to ourselves as a variable of sort. The consequences can be staggering, especially, as you say, for those who don't recognize the ramifications and claim to be wholly objective. Thanks, Francis! :-)

  3. Couldn't resist this...