For me, the double slit experiment is the most profoundly mind-blowing experiment science has ever undertaken.
It challenges such fundamental questions about reality, that very few humans can understand it, let alone explain the implications of the result it yields.
Essentially, the double slit experiment concludes that the act of observing changes the nature of sub-atomic particles. These sub-atomic particles make up our physical world, yet they act in a non-physical manner (as a wave) until they’re observed.
The double slit experiment gets to the heart of what Quantum Physics is all about and why it’s so weird. It demonstrates that particles act both as waves, as well as material solid objects.
For those of you unfamiliar with the double slit experiment, please watch this short (5 minute) video which gives a simple easy-to-follow explanation.
So the act of observing can influence that which is being observed. When we aren’t looking, things are waves, when we are looking, things become particles. To make an observation, you somehow have to interact with that which you’re observing.
Q. So why does the act of observing change the nature of what is being observed?
A. The truth is Science doesn’t know. This phenomena was first discovered during the first half of the last century and humanity still remains completely baffled by it.
Since this quantum weirdness first showed itself; a pertinent question many have since asked is: Is it the observer that is creating physical reality?
Or to go a step further; Is consciousness creating reality?
Many people who are of a spiritual/new age persuasion tend to conclude that it is.
One surely has the right to ask further philosophical questions, such as – Am I the creator of a simulated Universe? Am I the only conscious being in this (my) Universe? Am I the one creating reality for myself? Are all other humans part of my simulated reality?
Providing one isn’t a narcissist, one tends not to ponder such questions for too long. If physical reality is some sort of simulation, then why would you assume you are the only player in the game? One would surely have to assume that other humans are conscious and thus have a similar modus operandi within reality (virtual or otherwise) as yourself.
Consciousness is an enigma unto itself and whilst it certainly plays a part in determining each individuals reality, it does not appear to be the source of universal reality. The perception of current thinking is that universal reality is independent of one’s own experience. The double slit experiment shows it may not be quite as clear cut as that, but nor does it conclude that reality is based on consciousness, rather it points closer to information being the source.
So what can we conclude from all of this?
Well, I’ve hunted high and low for explanations, and the best one I’ve heard from anybody so far, comes from NASA physicist Tom Campbell.
This video is 54 minutes long and whilst I appreciate that in todays culture of 60 second sound bites this may feel like a very long time; when it comes to something as fundamental as reality, I urge you to make some time to watch it, if you haven’t got time right now, why not bookmark this page for viewing later.
The Heisenberg uncertainty principle is frequently confused with the observer effect, but they aren’t the same thing.
The uncertainty principle describes how precisely we may measure the position and momentum of a particle at the same time. If the precision in measuring one quantity is increased, then we are forced to lose precision in measuring the other. Thus, the uncertainty principle deals with measurement, not observation.
The Uncertainty Principle presents a very difficult problem for science as – Ultimate reality (at the quantum level) won’t reveal itself as it won’t allow itself to be measured.