First a little background justification rambling.
I’ve been learning about physics and the turn of the (previous) century science pioneers who developed our current understanding, and the 1970s 'completion of the Standard Model of Physics, along with later verifications, and today’s handwringing.
Meaning I have about as decent an understanding as a “lay-person” can hope for. Taking it to the next level requires higher math skills and specialized education and brains enough to absorb it all, none of which I possess.
So I’ve grown up understanding the basic fundamentals and they made plenty of sense to me. And I never could understand all the mystical, metaphysical, and psychological stories that transpose quantum weirdness on our macroscopic world and even human behavior.
Now I recognize that though I know roughly what quantum and quantum mechanics are,
“A quantum is the smallest discrete unit of a phenomenon. For example, a quantum of light is a photon, and a quantum of electricity is an electron. Quantum comes from Latin, meaning “an amount” or “how much?” If something is quantifiable, then it can be measured.” (Source)
It was enough to know Quantum Mechanics and randomness happen at the lowest simplest rungs of the physical matter ladder. A grain of sand contains around a billion atoms, mostly compact arrangements of different types of atoms bound up in tightly bound molecular bundles.
Compounding all that randomness (happening down at the individual atom scale), a billion and more, adds up to our macroscopic scale and has produced our world, a decidedly non-random material world reality. It seems pretty straightforward.
Segue because I find the solar system atomic model very irritating and it ties into the same sort of sexy, but misleading, spin philosophers and others inject into their presentations, and that I’m complaining about. (Here’s where I see the humanistic aspect step in: that is our relationship with the knowledge we possess.)
The esteemed Max Tegmark starts his talks/book by plying the story of how the atom is nearly all empty space nothingness - but physical scientists tell me atoms consists of covalence shells with inconceivable energies binding those shell together into a coherent atom. Electrons spin so fast they are smeared out, there are no tiny electrons spinning around in vastness of emptinesses!
I ask, what is intellectually profitable or constructive about telling modern people atoms are pretty near nothing? That the rock in front of you can be imagined as nothing for argument sake.
For what argument sake?
What’s the point they are trying get across with that long recognized canard? Regardless of once being starling breakthrough. Guess I’m basically insisting it has out lasted it’s value as a metaphor, and creates more mischief than pragmatic thinking and I can’t understand why it’s still popular.
“A Quantum effect is an effect that is not properly predicted by classical mechanics but are properly predicted by quantum mechanics.”
Interesting and valuable to know, still, not quite there.
Eureka - had to go through a lot of chaff, but I did find this little gem of an article in a subsection of a blog - [Scientific Questions] by [Dr. Christopher S. Baird] at West Texas A&M university (About this Website | Science Questions with Surprising Answers) did a very nice job of clearing explaining.
“A situation is described as quantum when its quantum behavior becomes obvious, even though it is really always quantum.”
“While quantum effects are not strictly confined to the atomic scale, they certainly are more common at the atomic scale. Why is this? Let’s look at matter. To be a quantum effect, we have to get matter to act like waves. To be a macroscopic quantum effect, we have to get many bits of matter to act like waves in an organized fashion. If all the bits of matter are acting like waves in a random, disjointed manner, then their waves interfere and average away to zero on the macroscopic scale. In physics, we refer to an organized wave-like behavior as “coherence”. …
Note that laser light is often mentioned as a macroscopic quantum effect. However, coherent light such as laser light is successfully explained by the classical Maxwell equations and therefore is not a quantum effect. However, the way laser light is produced; through stimulated emission and a transition between discrete energy levels; is a quantum effect. But, stimulated emission in lasers is an atomic-scale effect and therefore does not make our list of macroscopic quantum effects. Similarly, there are many atomic-scale quantum effects that lead to results that are observable on the macroscopic scale, like the quantum effects that make modern computers possible. These effects are not really happening on the macroscopic scale. Rather, the effects happen on an atomic scale, and then the results of the effect are amplified to a macroscopic level.
Which still leaves me with the question of why in public facing (not science facing) talks Quantum Effect is so often treated as such a mystery. It’s the way atoms interact, get over it. We’ve had a century to absorb it. What am I missing?
In another little segue, it occurs to me that given Baird’s article, and coming from a esoteric philosophical place, it might not be incorrect to suggest that at a fundamental level the line between the quantum world and our Newtonian world is little more than a measuring artifact, since it’s really a continuum of increasing complexity.