Thursday, August 12, 2010

On the difference between quantum and classical belts.

While I was back in California, I switched my well-worn quantum belt of many years for a new, classical one. When I say "classical" I am not talking about Greco-Roman styles, since I'm pretty sure the belts those guys used were of the quantum variety. Confused? "Quantum" and "classical" refer to two modes of thought in physics, depending on whether or not something comes in discrete units, or is infinitely sub-divisible. We know, by many experiments, that we live in a quantum world. Electrons orbiting the nucleus of an atom cannot have just any energy they like. There are very specific energy levels they must stay at, and they can only jump between them by giving or receiving exactly as much energy is required to make up the difference between the levels they jump. However, in our everyday ordinary affairs, the world doesn't seem at all quantized. On macroscopic levels, we rarely encounter quantum effects (one of the few readily accessible is the laser, which works on quantum principles). We don't experience things moving in quantized jumps, so it is no wonder, then, that early physicists took the world at face value, giving us classical physics based on experience. The non-intuitive quantized description of the microscopic world took a long time to develop and acquire enough evidence to convince the general scientific community (starting around the beginning of the 20th century, and developing throughout the rest of it).

What does this have to do with belts, you ask? Well...most belts are quantized in such a way that you can only adjust them in discrete increments. This is sometimes a problem (especially for me, who always seems to fall somewhere between two holes). The belt I got works by friction, and can be adjusted, for all intents and purposes, to any size I want. Thus, I have passed from a quantum to a classical belt.

Oh, and to deflect attention from my lame physics joke (it sounded better in my head, I promise), I've put up a new poll! I originally intended to have a new poll every week or two, but couldn't think of questions to ask and then kind of forgot about it. I'm just curious how frequently people check in to see if I've written anything new. I know, I've been pretty bad about updating the last few weeks while on vacation, but I'm back now! I'll try to put something fresh up here every couple of days.

1 comment:

  1. What is really interesting is the fact that the Sun is too small for classical thermodynamics to allow strong nuclear binding of hydrogen nuclei, and quantum tunneling is required. A nice, big example of why we depend on a physical theory that makes absolutely no sense.

    As for your poll, I'd say once a week, give or take.


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