Thursday 23 March 2017

Born to do Math 16 - Photons, Molecules, and Atoms

In-Sight Publishing
Born to do Math 16 - Photons, Molecules, and Atoms
Scott Douglas Jacobsen & Rick Rosner
March 23, 2017

[Beginning of recorded material]

Rick Rosner: One more thing I was thinking about with regard to information in the universe. Inside of a computer, things have definite values and things represent specific. When you think about things going on in a computer, you think about every flip from a 1 to a 0 equals a definite change in some linear and very regimented process, which results in rigid calculations in the computer. But when you look at how we perceive the world, let’s try to perceive an orange as an example.

Light bounces off the orange and hits your eye, and you get enough photons off the orange and you’re able to perceive it as an orange, but it doesn’t particularly matter which molecules in the orange’s skin and which rods or cones, or whatever, in the back of your eye absorb the photons. As long as photons come off the orange and hit enough receptor cells in your eye, you’re going to perceive an orange.

There might be 10^40th different ways to perceive that orange based on which molecules emitted the photons that you saw, and which receptor cells in your eye picked up those photons. So I wonder, “Is the universe a setup where every single interaction—

The inside of the Sun is a mess. The Sun is 100 times the diameter of Earth, and it’s this big superhot swirling hot maelstrom of gazillions of interactions with everything smushed together super tight and exchanging energy all of the time, and is pretty dense for being as hot as it is, and so rich in kinetic chaos and relatively dense that it takes a photon that has been generated at the center of the Sun, where fusion is going on, 170,000 years to bounce its way out to the surface of the Sun.

So it is a giant scramble of chaotic interactions. The question can arise, “Does every single one of those interactions super-signify something?” For every interaction, the 10 to the who knows how many, 30th, 40th, 50th interactions per second, does each one of those interactions trigger a different version of some kind of many worlds thing? Is the universe different based on every little teeny interaction based on the mass of interactions going on all of the time? Or is there a rough or is it a general accumulation of interactions that roughly contains the information that the universe contains?

For instance, to move away from the Sun, you have a flashlight, it sputters out photons at a steady rate. You can imagine individual photons being emitted one second. You don’t know exactly where they’re exactly going. They’re going somewhere in the flashlights beam. They either illuminate something in the beam locally and then move on. But does it matter to the matter in the universe and the information in the universe which specific atom shining the specific flashlight at a screen?

That’s the only thing between the flashlight’s beam and space. The photon hits an atom in the screen, is momentarily absorbed and then emitted. The atom that absorbed and emitted it goes back to the way it was. The photon goes off at a certain angle. The angle might matter, but does it matter as long as the angle is more or less the same. Does it matter that a 100 million atoms in the screen temporarily absorbed and then emitted that photon?

If you have a bunch of photons going off at once, does it matter which out of the 10^30th molecules in that screen – which particular subset of molecules are temporarily being transformed and being returned to the way they were by the stream of photons? Or is it a rough thing where the information is contained in the aggregate impression that is created, which is a beam shining on a screen as opposed to millions of specific interactions?

The same way it doesn’t matter which particular photons and atoms and receptor molecules are involved with you perceiving an orange. It is a general thing. It is a general impression and that’s something we’ll have to figure out. The end of that thing there.

[End of recorded material]

Rick Rosner
American Television Writer
Rick Rosner
Scott Douglas Jacobsen
Editor-in-Chief, In-Sight Publishing
In-Sight Publishing
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