Legacy Name: Gravitas

The Scribble Noktoa
Owner: usagi

Age: 6 years, 7 months

Born: January 8th, 2016

Adopted: 6 years, 7 months ago

Adopted: January 8th, 2016


  • Level: 17
  • Strength: 42
  • Defense: 42
  • Speed: 42
  • Health: 42
  • HP: 39/42
  • Intelligence: 63
  • Books Read: 61
  • Food Eaten: 1
  • Job: Darkmatter Babysitter

(massive WIP, working on content first this time)

Hi, I'm Gravitas, and I'm going to tell you something about string theory. Or actually superstring theory or M-theory. They're all more or less the same thing. Ahem. *clears throat* Get ready. It's going to be a long ride, nope, I lied. It's going to be abbreviated for the sake of your brain cells (or maybe I lied again, maybe this will get obscenely long idk).

. . .

Why learn about string theory?
a. you've heard of it in passing and feel like a complete failure for not knowing what it is
b. people will find you 72%* smarter if you seem to know what string theory is about * heavy analysis pending
c. you're really, really bored and have nothing better to do
d. you want to see what all the fuss is about, seriously, what's the big fuss?
e. you actually don't know, you think you might potentially be a sadist, but you're not entirely sure

some possibly cool stuff you might want to know before we get to the theory:
Physics is all about constructing rules to explain our known universe. It uses an obscene amount of crazy maths and equations to describe and predict. Sadly, there's still not a theory for everything (if you thought that from watching the movie, Eddie Redmayne misled you, okay). There is something called the Standard Model, which comes close, but not quite. It unifies three of the four fundamental forces. Those forces are strong nuclear (the stuff that keeps our atoms together), weak nuclear (the stuff responsible for decay of atoms), and electromagnetism. You might notice I left off the fourth force - gravity - because the Standard Model can't manage to fit gravity into its scheme, which looks basically like an atomic miniature version of the Periodic Table.


And here I thought chemistry was difficult. Oh boy.

Gravity isn't the only thing missing from the Standard Model. It doesn't include dark energy's expansion of the universe nor dark matter or other more obscure things. But it's still considered to come "close." Let's take a look at the crazy particles making up the Model. but but but... you might be thinking why look at something that's missing gravity? I mean what a failure, right? EL OH EL. Just because the Standard Model isn't perfect doesn't mean what's currently on it is flat-out wrong. The stuff, or particles, making up the Standard Model have been observed by scientists in nature. Our reality. Recently and easily most notoriously, the Higgs boson. So even though it doesn't make sense of everything, it makes sense in that the stuff making it up exists. And yeah, we could be observing these tiny things wrong, but right now, it's the closest thing we got. Okay, onward we go. You ready?

At one time, people thought the most basic structures were subatomic particles. You know, protons and neutrons making up the nucleus and the electron circling it in an atom. Turns out there's even smaller particles. But before I talk about them, we're going to have to go on a bit of a detour and talk about quantum physics. Why? Because physics has a problem. Well, many. But this one is big. Physics can explain things that happen on a macro scale like ... what happens when a cat jumps on your face. Things don't really work the same way at a micro aka atomic scale. And the physics explaining the micro part is called quantum physics. An important thing to get in quantum physics is that particles can behave like waves. Say what? Imagine this. You have a beam of electrons. And you fire it at a screen, but wait. There's a barrier between your beam and your screen. This barrier has a slit-shaped hole in it. What happens? Is this a trick question? The electrons will pass through the slit to get to the screen, so the screen will have an accumulation of electrons in that one spot corresponding to where the slit in the barrier is. A single band of electrons. Makes sense, right?

Now I want you to create two slit-shaped holes beside each other and fire the electrons. What happens? Well if there was one slit and they formed one band corresponding to that one slit, there should be two bands now, right? But that's not what happens. There are multiple bands. Multiple. Now you might think bouncing off the sides of the slits would do this, but if this were the case, you'd see multiple bands on the screen with just one slit. So it's not that. This weird behavior is explained by waves. Electrons, and other particles like photons and even larger ones like atoms, behave like waves. Imagine two ripples exiting from each of the slits. What will they do? They will collide with each other at certain points. This interference is what results in many bands on the screen.

But if this were true shouldn't this work with larger stuff? The larger something is, the smaller its wavelength is, so that means you wouldn't be able to try this experiment with tennis balls and have it work. Sorry to break it to you, but this sort of magic works on a micro scale. Now this is where things start to get really interesting. If you set up something to see which individual electron went through what slit (because it's still a particle even though it behaves like a wave), the interference pattern goes away. If you set it up, but don't turn it on, the interference pattern returns. No problem. I will defeat this trolling behavior by setting it up to record in retrospect. Booyah. Except it's like they know they're going to get watched and there's no interference pattern. Creepy. Even weirder is when you send them out one by one... the interference pattern occurs EVEN THOUGH THAT ONE PARTICLE HAD NOTHING TO INTERFERE WITH. What the heck is going on?!

That's a valid question. The particle acts like a wave, because you don't take measurements of the location of each particle as it passes the slit. The moment you do know is when the thing stops acting like a wave, because quantum wavefunction represents the probability of where the particle will be. When you're uncertain about where it is, you see the range of probabilities. The particle itself doesn't break apart and pass through both slits, but because you don't know (or observe) where it went through, the sum of what you see behaves like a wave. This is called the Copenhagen interpretation of the wavefunction.

If this is beginning to sound vaguely familiar, it's because it is. Schrodinger read about this and thought what the heck are you implying? this is crazy talk. So he devised a thought experiment to show the absurdity of it all. One which many more people are familiar with than the double slit experiment: Schrodinger's cat. This poor kitty had the unpleasant fate of being stuck in a box with radioactive material that may or may not decay. But that's not the whole story. This radioactive substance, which has exactly 50% chance of decaying, is sealed away in a box of its own and placed next to a Geiger counter that will detect any radiation were it to be emitted. If there is radiation detected by the Geiger counter, it will break a container filled with poison gas. And remember, there's a cat in the vicinity. All of this takes place within the context of one giant box, which you can't see through. According to the Copenhagen interpretation of the wavefunction, the cat is both dead and alive, because the radioactive material has both decayed and not decayed (state of both probabilities existing). It is only when you "measure" what happened by opening the box does it assume one state or the other.

This is the standard version most people are familiar with and in fact highlights the anthropic principle - it doesn't collapse into one existence of being until we observe it. But you can interpret the thought experiment in different ways. In the many worlds explanation, both states are not only possible but they exist as separate, parallel worlds. The quantum system doesn't collapse in this case - we as observers become a part of it. If you're really looking to impress someone though, there's also the term decoherence, which renders the thought experiment incorrect. With decoherence, the wavefunction collapses when it interacts with something in its environment. The quantum state becomes a "classical" physics state. What this means is there's already an outcome before you open the box, because there are other things in the box. Like the Geiger counter. The counter interacts with the radioactive material regardless of whether you open the box or not.


Here's a thought for your experiment. How about we not argue over what happens me but rescue me instead?

I promise this detour won't last much longer. Quantum mechanics essentially revolves around four things that can't be explained by classical physics: quantization, the uncertainty principle, quantum entanglement, and wave-particle duality (which has been mentioned already with the slit experiments). Quantization is when there's not a gradient of a unit, but discrete chunks, or quanta. Going back to electrons as an example, they jump from one energy level to the next. There is no between. That's like trying to imagine something teleporting. The uncertainty principle says if you measure one parameter more precisely, you lose precision on another parameter that is linked to it. This has been controversial with folks like Einstein arguing against it. For the sake of your aforementioned brain cells, I'll avoid further discussion of it and move onto quantum entanglement, where two things separated in space-time from one another are actually influenced by each other. Einstein called it spooky action at a distance and it has implications on the concepts of causality, locality, time, decoherence, and more, even including philosophy. What's also interesting about this one is it has been observed on a more macro scale, including diamonds.

Lastly, Planck units. Move over, Einstein, Planck got some really cool stuff named after him. Two of these units are Planck time and Planck length. They are the smallest amounts of time and length. Anything smaller and everything is chaotic and confusing. Scientists don't have an idea what happens under these two units. Look up quantum foam if you're interested in learning more about it. Also, the Planck constant is to quantum mechanics as Avogadro's number is to chemistry. Now, don't fall asleep just yet. Because I've finally gotten to the Standard Model where hopefully things are much clearer now that you are aware of how weird particle physics can be.

Brain Quiche

but my brain is already fried

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