It is often said of quantum physics that anyone who says that they understand it needs to go back and have another look, because they clearly don’t.
For instance: there is a wild and wacky world of subatomic particles. If you take two waves in a tank of water and fire them off at the same time when they meet they will interfere with each other, creating further waves. So far so simple.
However if you take a single subatomic particle and fire it at a wall it will, like a 13-year-old boy with a poster of Lady Gaga, interfere with itself (and yes, I’m aware that’s a slightly disturbing analogy).
Subatomic particles also react differently depending on whether you observe them or not.
Now there are those that say that quantum physics has no real-life applications: however, they are wrong… especially when it comes to the subject of socks.
For instance: take a bunch of washing, including a variety of socks in pairs and put them into your washing machine.
No matter how hard you observe them there will be no correlation between the amount of socks you put into the machine and the amount that you take out.
This is known as Argyle’s Uncertainty Principle, which also goes on to talk about the differentiation between the amount of socks taken out of the machine, hung on the clothes line and eventually paired up into socks.
There is currently no theory as to why this number, expressed mathematically as S = ((WM/CL)x(Px2)), again fails to explain why you can never find a pair of socks in the morning.
It is also a little-known fact that Schrödinger’s famous thought experiment initially had a different subject.
As some of you will be aware Schrödinger postulated that if you were to take a cat and put it in a box with a radioactive isotope then there were 3 possible options: 1) you would open the box to a hissing the ball of fur and claws and win a free trip to hospital, 2) you would open the box to find the cat had asphyxiated or 3) you would open the box to find that the cat had died from radiation poisoning – however until such time as you open the box and observed the contents the cat existed in a state of quantum flux where all 3 possibilities existed at the same time.
However what is generally less well-known is that after a visit from the Cat Protection League, where Schrödinger spent a very frustrating 12 hours patiently trying to explain that in fact he didn’t even own a cat (something he couldn’t entirely prove because the mere fact that it wasn’t there wasn’t necessarily evidence he didn’t have one), he initially decided to publish his theory as being about being given socks for Christmas: which went likethis...
A present under the Christmas tree that looks like socks, feels like socks and is from a relative world renowned for always providing you with socks does, in fact, only have the potential to be socks until such time as it has opened – until when it could equally be a packet of Jelly Tots, completely empty or something that was actually intended for different relative entirely.
So when your relatives turn up on Christmas day take a moment before you open your presents to hold one up and say: “I don’t know if you realise it, but I am holding in my hand the essence of quantum physics” – they will either be mightily impressed, or they will run for the hills: which depending on how you feel about your relatives can be considered a win-win solution
Merry Christmas and hope to see you in 2015