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Researchers from two different disciplines came up with two very interesting new discoveries about holes this week. In Switzerland, agricultural scientists discovered the possible cause of holes in Swiss cheese. Past research has suggested it was due to bacteria, but new data suggest that it’s actually due to tiny bits of hay that are in the buckets used to collect the milk. The microscopic bits cause holes that grow as the cheese matures. This hypothesis explains why Swiss cheese holes have been getting rarer in the past decade, thanks to increased hygenic controls on farms.
In related news, physicists in Australia have demonstrated that reality doesn’t exist unless you’re looking at it. So basically, who gives a shit about your cheese holes. What’s the point of anything?
The physicists performed a variation on the famous double slit experiment – imagine a particle of light, which can travel either as a single atom or as a wave. If you fire it at a wall with two holes in it, the particle would go through either one hole or the other, while a wave would go through both holes and create new patterns of interference. The researchers added a second wall with a hole that would show the pattern of interference that proves the particle traveled as a wave. When they added the second wall, they saw the interference that indicated a wave. When they didn’t add the wall, they saw that the particle had traveled as a single atom, going through one hole or the other singly.
What’s crazy is that they didn’t decide whether or not to add the second wall until after the particle had passed through the first wall. In other words, when the particle went through the first wall, it was neither a single atom or a wave. Or it was both. Or, perhaps even weirder, it was only exactly the thing it needed to be, which means that the future choice of the scientists affected the past configuration of the model.
This was done with a single helium atom and a few laser beams, so remember that we’re talking about very very small things. The Swiss cheese in your refrigerator isn’t necessarily both moldy and not moldy until you look at it. When quantum physicists talk about these things, they’re often using metaphorical language to explain really complicated and hard to visualize mathematical ideas. As Richard Feynman is claimed to have once said, “”If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.” Or, if you prefer your quotations to be more accurately sourced, as Neils Bohr once said, “Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it.”
But don’t let metaphor get in the way of Deepak Chopra, who will surely be using this fascinating study to sell another book about visualizing your future in order to change your past. I’m picturing myself with a billion dollars, so I’m sure at some point 18-year old me will drop out of college and invest that grant money in Google. Any minute now.