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  • Writer's pictureRussell F. Hirsch

The Quantum Questions are Rising

As I see it, there is no conflict between science and religion, or at least, between science and spirituality. And stories—especially the sort steeped in myth—can offer us a bridge between the two. The further technology presses into the future, the more it could coordinate with wisdom intuited in ancient times. The more we press outward in our search for knowledge, the more we can potentially rediscover what we have known deeply within all along.

I came across this intriguing article from Second Nexus about the mysterious double-slit experiment in quantum physics a few weeks ago:

Physicists demonstrate how time can seem to run backward, and the future can affect the past

The double-slit experiment is a way of measuring whether very small bits of matter, like photons—or in this case, a helium atom—will pass through a screen like a particle or a wave. Sometimes it behaves one way, sometimes the other. A new experiment by a group of researchers at an Australian university had particles go through the first screen, and then they randomly inserted a second screen for some of the particles to pass through as well. The article describes what researchers found:

Every time the two grates were in place, the helium atom passed through, on many paths in many forms, just like a wave. But whenever the second grate was not present, the atom invariably passed through the first grate like a particle. The fascinating part was, the second grate’s very existence in the path was random. And what’s more, it hadn’t happened yet. In other words, it was as if the helium particle “knew” whether there would be a second grate at the time it passed through the first. The possible future presence of that second grate appeared to be determining the past state of the atom as it passed through grate #1. Whether it continued as a particle or changed into a wave depended on something that might happen in the future. (pg. 3)

Fascinating stuff. And then I was re-reading Susan Cooper’s novel The Dark is Rising and came across this passage, in a conversation between the protagonist, Will, and his mentor Merriman, which brought the quantum physics article back to mind:

“You see, Will,” he said, “we of the Circle are planted only loosely within Time. The doors are a way through it, in any direction we may choose. For all times co-exist, and the future can sometimes affect the past, even though the past is a road that leads to the future…” (pg. 45 in the 1974 edition from Atheneum)

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