Thursday, June 26, 2008

Einstein and His Famous Equation

When most people hear the name Einstein, the next thought is usually his famous equation, E=mc2. Believe it or not, Einstein’s Nobel Prize was not awarded for this revolutionary discovery, but for his lesser known paper on the Photo-Electric Effect also published in the same year. A good deal of the confusion about Relativity Theory is that most folks think it is one theory. It is actually three different ideas submitted in three different papers. The equation showing the relationship of energy to mass can be found in an addendum he submitted three months after publishing the Special Theory of Relativity in 1905. He began work on the General Theory of Relativity in 1907 and finished it in 1915. With it, he added the effects of gravity to his original equations and revolutionized how we view the makeup of the universe. And then there’s the confusion about that light speed squared business. What’s that all about?

Einstein’s first paper was titled “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies.” This eventually became known as the Theory of Special Relativity. It dealt primarily with how space and time were related, showing that they were actually two descriptions of the same phenomenon known as 4D spacetime. (A description of spacetime and how it differs from 3D space with an added element of time can be found in my article titled “Dimensions.”) It also explained the time dilation between objects which were moving near the speed of light and those that were moving very slow compared to the speed of light.

The paper showed time to be relative to its frame of reference. For example, if you and a buddy are standing in the aisle of a moving jet and tossing a ball back and forth, the two of you seem to be still and the ball seems to be moving at a normal, slow rate of speed. But, to an observer on the ground the ball, you, your friend, and the jet are all moving at 200 mph. The plane provides you with a different frame of reference than the one the observer on the ground has. Both Galileo and Newton understood this concept and called it an “inertial frame.” Einstein enlarged the inertial frame by stating that everything including you, the jet and the observer on the ground were all moving at speeds far below that of light. When one of the objects in the scenario gets ramped up to light speed, everything changes.

Because of this, no one observer had a privileged frame of reference. In other words, if an event happened and was observed in two different spatial locations, the event might appear to have happened simultaneously to one observer and as two separate events to another observer. The different perspectives were due to each observer’s motion in relation to the event. Therefore, both observations would be correct to each observer respectively. It would be impossible for either observer to claim they saw the event the “right” way.

Just as Einstein’s first paper showed that space and time were two descriptions of one phenomenon, similarly, the addendum to this paper showed that energy and mass were also two descriptions of one phenomenon. Energy and mass are not equal, as is often misquoted. They are intra-convertible. A very small amount of mass can be exchanged for a very large amount of energy, as demonstrated by experiments in atomic and nuclear physics. It’s considered one of the most elegant formulas in all of physics because a few characters demonstrate the complex concepts found in the original equation which is big enough to fill a blackboard.

Einstein applied this equation to whether or not an object of mass, any mass, could be accelerated to the speed of light. That’s also were the c2 part of the equation comes into play. The whole thing is about speed, not light. Let’s roll a rock to see how that works. It’s a rather large rock, so it takes a good deal of energy to get it rolling. The energy from that initial push is now stored in the rock as kinetic energy, which it dissipates as it rolls. Any additional pushes just store more kinetic energy than the can dissipate and now it has velocity. So, when we want to stop the rock from rolling, we have to absorb the extra energy it contains. The kinetic energy is proportional to the speed squared. So, if you give the rock twice the energy it can disperse, it will take four times as much energy to stop it from rolling (twice the energy squared is four times the energy). In Einstein’s equation, c represents the speed of light, emphasis placed on the word “speed.” His famous equation then, is the ratio of the energy required to move a mass proportional to the speed of light squared.

Some content excerpted from The Sage Age – Blending Science with Intuitive Wisdom
© 2008 MaAnna Stephenson
Content may be used freely with proper credit and a link to

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Non-locality and Entanglement

Einstein called non-locality “spooky action at a distance”. He was concerned that the early founders of quantum mechanics were attributing the effects we see in the manifested, material world to be initiated by non-local causes, meaning that they were not measurable in the physical realm. Einstein’s entire argument against non-local causes involves a condition known as entanglement.

To show that quantum theory was incomplete, he asked two fellow physicists to help devise a thought experiment which later became famously known as the EPR Paradox. In it was theorized that when a particle goes through beta decay, two new particles were produced. Because they have interacted with one another, they are considered to be entangled. Those two particles are sent away from each other in either a straight line or at right angles. When the spin of both are measured, a table of results can be created showing that they are correlated in some direct manner. Einstein suggested that the only way for this to happen was that some force traveled between particle A and B, delivering the necessary information for B to drop into the appropriate state in correlation to the state of A after A had been measured.

Here’s the catch which Einstein pointed out. A force can only travel at the speed of light and can only go so far between each particle. This means that the short range of the force’s furthermost reach can be traversed at the speed of light in what amounts to no time, or instantaneously. If the distance between the particles is increased, no force can travel that far so as to instantaneously affect the other particle.

Here’s another way to think about this concept. A large building contains a very powerful electromagnet. When it is turned on, nearby metallic objects will fly toward it. But, the magnet’s field can only affect objects within a certain distance. It doesn’t affect the cars outside the building in the parking lot. If it could affect the cars at the same time and in the same way as nearby metal objects, some influence outside hidden force or information would have to travel faster than the speed of light out to the parking lot. In quantum theory, this influence is called a “hidden variable”. Einstein wanted to show that no such spooky thing existed.

Later, physicist John Bell developed a matrix, or a table, showing every combination of detection at every combination of angle alignment of the two detectors and compared it to a table showing classically measured results (those with only local causes). The table showed that the quantum theory of hidden variables produced more accurate predictions than did the table of classical measurements. This was experimentally proved in 1982 by physicist Alan Aspect.

Some physicists also interpreted this experiment to mean that faster-than-light travel might also be possible. The type of correlation referred to in Bell’s Theorem was called entanglement in a 1935 paper written by Edwin Schrödinger.

The metaphysical and epistemological implications of this idea are staggering. What is chosen for one system affects all other systems that are entangled with it. Of this, Schrödinger went on to say,

“It is rather discomforting that the theory should allow a system to be steered or piloted into one or the other type of state at the experimenter’s mercy in spite of his having no access to it”.

This leads back to the philosophical implications of free will versus determinism which is often entangled with the human philosophical implications of the same topics. Later, Schrödinger’s original idea of this reality has been expanded to include all experiential reality including that of the mind and soul, which Schrödinger never meant to address. As Heisenberg pointed out, philosophical arguments cannot altogether be avoided and good physics can be spoiled by poor philosophy.

Scientific theories and discoveries such as entanglement don’t actually prove anything. They provide models and frameworks of understanding. They beg us to ask the question, “Do the laws which describe the physical realm also apply to any non-physical realm?” Many intuitives might argue that this is a bogus question to begin with. They might assert that the laws of the non-physical realm are what create and sustain what we perceive as the physical realm. Unfortunately, science needs something to measure to study a thing at all. Since the advent of quantum theory, some physicists have come to the same realization that every mystic has always espoused, which is that the act of measurement is the limit of science, but not the limit of reality.

Do you experience “spooky action at a distance” that seems to imply the transfer of information outside the physical realm? Is there a boundary beyond which science can never measure but some information from it still influences our material realm?

Some content excerpted from The Sage Age – Blending Science with Intuitive Wisdom
© 2008 MaAnna Stephenson
Content may be used freely with proper credit and a link to

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Quantum – What Does it Mean?

Quantum – What Does it Mean?

The investigations that led to the development of quantum mechanics began in the mid 1800s. It started as a simple inquiry as to why heated objects glowed in different colors. This became a field of research investigating “black body” radiation. It centered on the study of light and the final conclusions drawn were that the frequency of the emitted light was temperature dependant and that higher frequency waves carried higher energy. This study eventually branched off into the field of spectroscopy and the analysis of the color spectrum different elements emitted when heated.

From these early inquiries, Newton was able to develop the laws of thermodynamics in the late seventeenth century. By the mid-nineteenth century, physicists knew that heat was produced by the accelerated motion of molecules and at absolute zero temperature, the motion of the molecules became still. Also by this time Michael Faraday had experimentally established the theories of electrodynamics and these were mathematically grounded by James Clerk Maxwell.

The mystery most puzzling physicists of the time was how to tie the theories of thermodynamics (heat), electrodynamics (light) and the new mechanics (matter) together. Johann Jakob Balmer found at least a partial and most intriguing piece of this puzzle when he came up with a formula that worked over a limited range. Later, Max Planck developed a formula that worked over all ranges, but there was a hitch. It only worked if the radiation was discontinuous. In other words, the radiation had to come in tiny, discreet packets which he called quanta. And, there was another problem. At the time, electromagnetic radiation was thought to travel only in waves.

Soon afterward Einstein published a paper on the Photoelectric Effect describing light as traveling in discreet particles, just as Planck had indicated. Each light quanta, or discrete packet, carried a specific amount of energy, known as a quantum. Today we know this as a single photon particle. In essence, Planck showed that energy was emitted in packets and Einstein showed that energy was absorbed the same way. The work of Planck and Einstein established the particle idea of light. Thus began the modern debate over the wave/particle nature of light that continues to this day. Einstein later showed a preference to Schrödinger’s wave mechanics, but most physicists today still favor the particle nature simply because so much applied science can be derived from it.

This initial combination of discoveries also finally tied thermodynamics, electrodynamics and mechanics together. The theories of mechanics deal with ponderable matter, so the new theories of quantum mechanics dealt primarily with how light and matter interacted.

Later, physicist Niels Bohr applied the newest quantum theories and found that the energy in electrons combined with the frequency of their orbits equaled Planck’s constant. From this he surmised that electrons jump from one energy state to another in a discontinuous fashion. In other words, they go from one orbit to another without existing anywhere in between. This became known as a quantum leap.

Today, the word quantum is popularly associated with anything that accesses or pertains to an invisible realm of subatomic particles which acts as a single entity and cooperates with our intentions. Considering the vast difference in the original and popular definitions, it seems that the very word has made a quantum leap in meaning.

Perhaps the word “quantum” has been confused with the actions of special quantum level systems such as a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC). In this instance, a gas is cooled to near absolute zero and the atoms reach their lowest energy state, also known as their lowest quantum state of potential. At that point, the system exhibits quantum effects meaning that the atoms no longer act individually. They begin to act as a single unit.

The empty parts of outer space are at near-zero temperatures. This is commonly referred to as the Zero Point Field in cosmology. In general, the Zero Point Field (ZPF) is the baseline energy of a system when that system is near a temperature of absolute zero. Without this baseline energy, the system could not exist in manifested space. The ZPF must be accounted for when investigating these systems because at the quantum level, energy cannot be completely still.

Physicist David Bohm stated that the quantum realm is not a real place. It is a set of equations that map or describe a process just below the threshold of everyday matter. Some popular references to the quantum realm describe it as if it is a real place or thing even if it is invisible.

What does the word quantum mean for you? Do you think devices that have the word quantum in their name or description really analyze something different than other biofeedback type devices? Do you think quantum has become an overused buzzword just to sell things?

Some content excerpted from The Sage Age – Blending Science with Intuitive Wisdom
© 2008 MaAnna Stephenson
Content may be used freely with proper credit and a link to

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Dimensions – A Word of Many Faces

The word “dimension” is used very differently by the rational sciences than by the intuitive arts communities. In its most basic sense, the term “dimension” means “measured out.” It generally refers to the measure of physical space and that is how mathematics and the rational sciences treat it. In the intuitive arts, dimension usually refers to a realm of existence whether or not it occupies physical space. So, the rational sciences community and the intuitive arts community have a bit of an ontological disagreement about this word. Therefore, the term must be considered in context for its proper meaning to be derived.

The type of geometry most of us studied in high school is called planar because it includes only the two dimensions of a flat surface. A simple x,y grid, known as a Cartesian coordinate system, is enough to describe the location of any point on that plane. But, to describe most objects, we need an extra dimension of height, also known as the z axis. To describe where a jet is while flying through the air, we need an extra dimension of time. So, a flying jet requires four dimensions to be described properly, which are x,y,z and a fourth dimension of time.

This type of measurement is often confused with Einstein’s description of 4D spacetime, which is actually a description of one thing, not four separate elements of description. It is the geometrical fabric of space which can be bent into shapes by the force of gravity. This also bends time at the same rate. So, to clarify the difference, objects in motion can be described with four dimensions, three which reference a point in space and one reference of time. These are four separate descriptive elements. On the other hand, spacetime is one 4D thing. The element of time is intrinsic to the same fabric as are the spatial dimensions.

The word “dimension” as used by intuitive arts practitioners usually refers to realms of existence. The physical domain is one such realm of existence. The other dimensions are not as dense as the one in which we physically exist. The physical dimension is like light which has been slowed down to the point of seeming solid. Beings and objects in the other dimensions are composed entirely of light or pure energy, which is why they can move faster, or at a higher frequency, than can usually be perceived in the physical realm.

Many parallels have been drawn in New Age thought between this idea and those of quantum mechanics, which state that we seem solid, but we are actually composed of bits of energy. The quantum model still falls short of what the intuitives intend, but it suffices for the sake of comparison and as a modeling reference.

Since the words light, frequency and vibration are used by both the rational sciences and the intuitive arts, confusion often arises because of the different applied meanings. For instance, in physics, String Theory requires ten spatial dimensions. M Theory requires eleven dimensions. These are spatial dimensions, not realms of existence. Since physical existence is described by three planes of measure and one of time, we can’t even point to another spatial plane. So, where are these extra dimensions that are required for String Theory? Believe it or not, they are rolled up inside the other dimensions. Just try to imagine another spatial plane rolled up inside length. It’s inconceivable to the mind but perfectly acceptable in theoretical mathematics.

The idea that one physical dimension is rolled up inside another and occupying the same “space” seems, to me, more far-out than a purely energetic being of higher frequency occupying the same physical space that I do. So, in many ways, physicists and intuitives are dealing with the same dilemmas in offering proof of the existence of other dimensions. Most intuitives state that the other dimensions are nearly imperceptible for what they really are and there are extremely few words from our material existence which are an adequate match for the experiences. Physicists lament that they have the same problem. At some point, we simply have to extend our faith around these concepts in order to make progress in the investigation of them until we can develop the hard proof that they exist.

Some content excerpted from The Sage Age – Blending Science with Intuitive Wisdom
© 2008 MaAnna Stephenson
Content may be used freely with proper credit and a link to
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