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Earth Science Quantum Theory Problems

Quantum Theory Problems

What is the quantum theory? Quantum theory is concerned with the emission and absorption of energy by matter and with the motion of material particles; the quantum theory and the theory of relativity together form the theoretical basis of modern physics. The theory of relativity is important when large speeds are involved, so the quantum theory is necessary for the special situation where very small quantities are involved such as on the scale of molecules, atoms, and elementary particles. Aspects of the quantum theory have provoked vigorous philosophical debates concerning, for example, the uncertainty principle and the statistical nature of all the predictions of the theory. According to the quantum theory, energy is held to be emitted and absorbed in tiny, discrete amounts. An individual bundle or packet of energy, called a quantum, behaves in some situations much like particles of matter and at other times like a wave. (1) Another area that will be discussed in this section which will be necessary in understanding the BB is matter and antimatter.

What is antimatter? In 1930 Paul Dirac formulated a quantum theory for the motion of electrons in electric and magnetic fields. The equations that describe this required the existence of another type of particle, having exactly the same mass as the electron, but with a positive instead of negative electric charge. This particle, which is called the positron, is the antiparticle of the electron, and it was the first example of antimatter. Antimatter has been created in a laboratory, but has not been seen anywhere else.

Every particle comprising matter must have a corresponding antiparticle type. All the properties, such as mass, are identical with the exception that all signs of all charges are reversed. (2) If there were a distant galaxy made out of antimatter, you couldn’t distinguish it from a matter galaxy just by seeing the light from it. What is the problem with the BB theory in regards to quantum theory? Quantum theorists believe that the amount of matter in the universe should be equal to the amount of antimatter. However, observations indicate that there is more matter than antimatter. So, what happened?

Ten billionths of a second after the BB, the entire universe would have fit into your living room. Inside, energy and matter were completely exchangeable – the temperature was billions of degrees. New particles and antiparticles were created and then annihilated back into energy. At this time there should have been equal amounts of matter and antimatter, but somehow the symmetry had been broken and matter won out. Where the antimatter went we don’t know. However, the remaining matter surplus gave rise (according to evolution,) to stars, planets etc. Williams explains this as follows:

This has profound and unwelcome implications for big-bang theory, because our universe is made of ordinary matter, not equal amounts of matter and antimatter. The only known way that matter can form from energy is via quantum pair production, and quantum pair production yields equal amounts of matter and antimatter. Since our universe consists only of matter (as far as we can tell – it is a reasonable conclusion that our universe could not have been produced by quantum pair productions. (3)

Hawking proposed a solution to this problem with his concept of billions of small black holes resulting from the BB. As the matter of the early universe collapsed to form these black holes, he has suggested that, unequal amounts of matter and antimatter were caught in the gravitational clutches of each of them. Unequal amounts of matter and antimatter would then have disappeared into each hole. (4) This is an excellent example of adding theory to theory, or assumptions on top of assumptions. More accurately, cosmologists are adding guesses to guesses. Mentioned earlier was the fact that there are many uncertainties regarding the quantum theory. Einstein himself was reluctant to accept it. (5) Even the philosophy of Niels Bohr, a key figure in the development of quantum theory was there some doubt. His opinion was that there isn’t really a quantum world, virtually all knowledge is provisional, and quantum theory only provides an interim means of describing the behavior of the fundamental particles of nature. (6) Quantum theory seems to have some applications to the micro-universe on Earth, but lacks the crossover ability to transcend into the macro-universe world of space.

More Quantum Theory Problems

Nigel Brush, in his book “The Limitations of Scientific Truth” sheds considerable light on problems with the quantum theory. Following is a selection of his thoughts on this subject. Einstein’s theory of relativity undercut the placid assumption that the world is as we see it. He showed that even such fundamental concepts as length, mass, and time are not absolute – they change under the influence of acceleration or gravity. Because of the relativity of time, there can be no “one moment of time” for the entire universe. Relativity thus imposes severe spatial limitations on what scientists can do or know. Planck’s quantum mechanics gave a very different picture of reality, a reality best described as “quantum weirdness,” where uncertainty, rather than certainty, is the ruling principle. When an electron absorbs a quantum of energy, it doesn’t simply move across the space from one orbit to another orbit. Instead, the electron exists either in one shell or another but is never in transition between two shells. The logic of moving from point A to point B across the intervening space is defied. The basic rules of cause and effect that govern events in the macro-world apparently do not apply in micro-world. Instead, things moved in a disjointed or discontinuous manner. They “jumped” from one place to another, seemingly without effort and without bothering to go between the two places. (7)

Causes of Quantum Uncertainty – The Micro-universe

Electrons sometimes behave in two ways; sometimes as particles and sometimes as waves. When attempting to determine the exact position of an electron, the focus is on the particle aspect of the electron; when attempting to determine its momentum, the focus is on its wave aspect. Consequently, the exact position of the electron can be determined only when it is treated as a particle; the exact momentum of an electron can be determined only when it is treated as a wave. Quantum theory takes away the certainty that scientists cannot hope to discover the “real” world in infinite detail, not because there is any limit to their intellectual ingenuity or technical expertise, nor even because there are laws of physics preventing the attainment of perfect knowledge. The basis of quantum theory is more revolutionary yet: it asserts that perfect objective knowledge of the world cannot be had because there is no objective world. (8)

The Macro-universe

The special-relativity rule that nothing can be accelerated to a velocity greater than that of light does not apply to galaxies in an expanding universe. That rule is true in static space, but expanding cosmic space can carry galaxies away from one another at velocities greater than that of light. (9)

The Hubble radius suggests that there might be a limit to what astronomers can learn about the physical universe. Hubble found that the farther away a galaxy is from the earth, the faster it is receding due to the expansion of space. Some galaxies are moving away from us at speeds representing a significant percentage of the speed of light. If the Hubble constant remains valid, we will reach a point in our observations at which galaxies are so distant that they are receding at the speed of light or even faster. This point will denote the edge of the observable universe. Beyond the Hubble radius, myriad other galaxies may well exist, but astronomers will never be able to see them because they are receding from earth faster than their light is traveling toward earth. If so, scientific knowledge of the universe will forever be limited to the “visible” portion of the universe within the Hubble radius. Thus, in the macro-universe – as in the micro-universe – there are severe spatial limitations to how much scientists can learn about nature. (10) Modern physics therefore is dominated by two theories that arose in the early part of the twentieth century: quantum mechanics and relativity. One theory explains the micro-world of atoms and subatomic particles; the other theory explains the macro-world of stars and galaxies. Obvious questions arise. Why should physicists need two different theories to explain one universe? Why should stars and galaxies be governed by different laws than electrons and atoms?

If physicists try to imagine the universe collapsing back into its initial state at the beginning of the big bang, they run into problems. In a collapsing universe, general relativity predicts that gravity will eventually compress all of the matter in the universe into a singularity. As the universe shrinks we pass a certain point we enter the realm governed by quantum mechanics, not relativity. In order to discuss the beginning of the universe, we need a theory that combines general relativity with quantum mechanics. Attempts to merge the two theories, and the forces involved has been described as trying to mix fire and water. (11) 


2. B4A8809EC588EEDF&sc=I100322
3. Williams et al., p. 146
4. Mitchell, p. 205
5. Ibid., p. 206
6. Ibid., p. 207
7. Brush, Nigel, The Limitations of Scientific Truth, Kregel, 2005, pp. 152-155
8. Ibid., p. 159, 161
9. Ibid., p. 170
10. Ibid., pp. 169-171
11. Ibid., pp. 181-182