Quantum Theory and Reality
Dr. Ibrahim B. Syed
Professor of Medicine
University of Louisville School of Medicine
Louisville, KY 40292
President, Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc
7102 W. Shefford Lane
Louisville, KY 40242-6462
" The Reality!
What is the Reality?
Ah, what will convey unto thee what the reality is!
……..Al-Qur'an, Surah Al-Haqqah, (The
Reality), 69: 1-3
thousands of years man has been trying to understand the nature of physical
reality, consciousness, the purpose of life, the reality of nature and many,
many, mysteries of the life and the universe.
last 100 years we have seen the introduction of quantum theory, quantum
mechanics and quantum physics that have focused on quantum computation to
consciousness, parallel universes and the very nature of physical reality. We
are not aware of the extraordinary range of scientific and practical
applications that quantum mechanics strengthened: almost 30 percent of the
United States GNP (gross national product) is based on the inventions made
possible by quantum mechanics, such as semiconductors in computer chips to
lasers, CD (compact-disc) players, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) in medical
centers. Quantum mechanics was instrumental in predicting positrons
(antimatter), understanding radioactivity that lead to nuclear power, explaining
superconductivity, and describing interactions such as those between light and
matter that lead to the invention of the laser and of radiowaves and nuclei that
lead to MRI.
Mechanics is a branch of physics, which deals with the behavior of matter and
light on the atomic and subatomic scale. Its concept frequently conflicts with
common sense notions. The business of Quantum Mechanics is to describe and
account for the world-on the small scale-actually and not as we imagine it or
would like it to be. The world of Quantum Mechanics is strange, fascinating,
mysterious and very intellectual. On the other hand the word "Quantum Mechanics"
is repelling, boring, uninteresting and very dull. Most of us shy away from the
word Quantum Mechanics, whenever it is mentioned.
example the “classical” atom, i.e. the solar system model of the atom as
introduced by Rutherford in 1911. The basic flaw with this “classical” atom is
that as the orbiting electron circles the nucleus, it should emit
electromagnetic waves of an intensity increasing rapidly to infinity in a tiny
fraction of a second, as it spirals inwards and plunges into the nucleus.
However, nothing like this is observed. Thus our observation contradicts our
“classical” physics theory. This is why Quantum theory, which certainly was not
wished upon by scientists, was forced upon them despite their great reluctance.
They found themselves driven into this strange, and in many ways,
philosophically unsatisfying view of the world.
God the real world is neither entirely classical nor quantum. On the “large”
scale, the world seems to behave rationally according to the classical theory.
However as you go “smaller”, it starts to act in a strange, peculiar way to save
itself from extinction.
if we were living in an entirely classical (non-quantum) world?
answer is simple. There would be no world, classical or other, to live in. In a
purely classical world, the atoms would not exist, as the electrons would be
sucked into the nucleus, transforming the world into a concentrated, dense
material, in a fraction of a second.
might say that since this awkward quantum theory deals with the very “tiny”, who
Wrong. As a matter of fact the very existence of solid bodies, the strength and
physical properties of materials, the nature of chemistry, the colors of
substances, the phenomena of freezing and boiling, the reliability of
inheritance, these, and many familiar properties, require the quantum theory for
World without the knowledge of Quantum Mechanics
other hand, quantum theory has been an outstanding successful theory and
underlies nearly all of modern science and technology. It governs the behavior
of transistors and integrated circuits, which are the essential components of
electronics devices such as television and computers, as mentioned earlier, and
is also the basis of modern chemistry and biology. In short, it is almost
impossible to imagine the modern world without the contributions of quantum
theory. Quantum theory as we know it today arouse out of two independent later
schemes which were innovated by a pair of young remarkable physicists: a 24 year
old German, Werner Heisenberg, and an Austrian, Erwin Schrodinger. Heisenberg's
uncertainty principle proves that nature does not allow us to measure the
position and velocity of a single particle (let alone the whole universe) with
perfection, no matter how precise our measuring instruments. Schrodinger
developed what is known as Schrodinger equation. This equation states that there
is a wave associated with any particle (like the electron), and it is called the
wavefunction and it is spread out to fill the whole universe. The wavefunction
is stronger in one region, which corresponds to the position of the particle and
gets weaker farther away from this region but still exists even far away from
the "position" of the particle. Schrodinger equation is very good at predicting
how particles like electrons behave under different circumstances.
subatomic units of matter are very abstract entities, which have a dual aspect.
Depending on how we look at them, they appear sometimes as particles, sometimes
as waves; and this dual nature is also exhibited by light which can take the
form of electromagnetic waves or of particles. It seems impossible to accept
that something can be, at the same time, a particle-i.e., an entity confined to
a very small volume-and a wave, which is spread out over a large region of
space. This contradiction gave rise to the formulation of the quantum theory.
Max Planck discovered that the energy of heat radiation is not emitted
continuously, but appears in the form of "energy packets." Einstein called these
energy packets "quanta" (quantum is singular) and recognized them as a
fundamental aspect of nature. The light quanta are called photons, which are
massless and always travel with the speed of light.
Kursi, we read "….His throne includeth the heavens and the earth…"
( Qur'an, 2: 255).
this verse the Muslims understand that Allah (SWT) is present everywhere in the
Again we read
in Surah Qaaf "… We are nearer to him than his jugular vein."(
Qur'an, 50: 16).
verse the Muslims understand that Allah (SWT) is closer to us than our jugular
is the Reality? Apparently, there seems to be some contradiction for those who
have no knowledge of Duality.
AT TWO PLACES AT THE SAME TIME
assume that we are studying the position of a light photon traveling in space.
It has been shown that this photon has a wavefunction as introduced by
Schrodinger equation. The wavefunction peaks at the position of the photon. Now
if this photon encounters a half-silvered mirror, tilted at 45° to the light
beam (a half-silvered mirror is a mirror, which reflects exactly half of the
light, which impinges upon it, while the remaining half is transmitted directly
through the mirror), the photon's wavefunction splits into two, with one part
reflected off to the side and the other part continuing in the same direction in
which the photon started. The wavefunction is said to be "doubly peaked." Since
each "part" of the wavefunction is describing a position that may be light-years
away from the other position given by the other "part" of the wavefunction, we
can conclude that the photon has found itself to be in two places at once, more
than a light-year distant from one another!
Someone might say that this previous assessment is not real. What is happening
really is that the photon has a 50 percent probability that it is in one of the
places and a 50 percent probability that it is in the other? No, that's simply
not true! No matter for how long it has traveled, there is always the
possibility that the two parts of the photons' beam may be reflected back so
that they encounter one another, for a much awaited "reunion". If it was a
simple matter of probability, the photon would be either on one position "OR"
the other, and there would not be any need for "reunion" with the other
So as long as there is any possibility that the wavefunction will be reduced to
one peak again (as it was before the photon hit the half-silvered mirror); the
photon in question shall behave as one photon in two places at the same time!
experiment presented here, a light beam encounters a half-silvered mirror angled
45° to the light beam, splitting the beam into two. The two parts of this light
beam is brought back again to the same point (where a second half-silvered
mirror is placed) by using a pair of fully-silvered mirrors .Two photocells (A &
B) are placed in the direct line of the two beams in order to find the where
about of the examined photon. What do we find? If it were merely the case that
there were a 50 % chance that the photon followed one route and a 50 % chance
that it followed the other, then we should find a 50 % probability that one of
the detectors registers the photon and a 50 % probability that the other one
does. However, that is not what happens. If the two possible routes are exactly
equal in length, then it turns out that there is a 100 % probability that the
photon reaches the detector A, lying in the direction of the photon's initial
motion and a 0 % probability that it reaches the other detector B (the photon is
certain to strike detector A).
does this tell us about the reality of the photon's state of existence between
its first and last encounter with a half-reflecting mirror? It seems inescapable
that the photon must, in some sense have actually traveled both routes at once!
For if an absorbing screen is placed in the way of either of the two routes,
then it becomes equally probable that A or B is reached; but when both routes
are open (and of equal length) only A can be reached. Blocking off one of the
routes actually allows B to be reached! With both routes open, the photon
somehow "knows" that it is not permitted to reach B, so it must have actually
felt out both routes. What is the Reality ? (Qur'an, 69: 1-3)
and non- locality
You are spending the
summer in Europe. Your mother calls you from California to tell you that you
have inherited a large amount of money from your billionaire grandpa. A whole 70
million dollars. You are flying from happiness.
What happened in San Francisco - where your mother lives - influenced you
seven thousand miles away. Your mum's voice - the cause of your pleasure - had
to travel seven thousand miles, and although it took only a tiny fraction of a
second to reach your ears, yet it consumed "some" time. So the cause of your
pleasure had to travel through space for some time till it influences you. This
is called "locality".
On the other hand non-locality means that an event at one place shall affect
another event, far away
from it, instantly. Although this is against
special relativity -which prohibits any signal to travel faster than light - it
was proved true in quantum mechanics. What is the Reality ? (Qur'an , 69:1-3)
The EPR (Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen) Paradox introduces a class of
experiments, which turn out to involve some of the strangest consequences of
quantum mechanics. This experiment involves a pair of particles, or physical
systems, which interact and then move apart. Quantum theory shows that the
results of measurements on one particle enable us to predict the results of
corresponding measurements on the other particle.
That is because both particles were "one" physical system. Now if we perform a
measurement on one particle, the wavefunction shall jump to assume the value of
the measurement on this particle. But what about the second particle, since this
system was "one" system, this means that a measurement (or jumping) at particle
1 implies an instantaneous measurement (or jumping) at particle 2.
the experiment involves some advanced physical properties of particles (spin,
polarization…), we designed an analogous experiment using colors so the concept
of non-locality can be understood easily. (This experiment is not real.)
that we have a white particle. This particle was then split into two particles:
particle and a magenta
particle. Now imagine that the two particles
moved in opposite directions at the speed of light for 10 years, so that they
eventually were 20 light years apart. Now according to quantum mechanics, any
measurement (trying to determine the color of a particle) on particle 1 shall
determine the outcome of measurement on particle 2.
So if we examined the color of particle 1 and found it to be
then the other particle is automatically magenta.
suppose you decided to inspect or measure the color of particle 1 in a red light
chamber, and found it yellow (green
According to quantum mechanics, at the exact same time, the second particle has
turned blue, so that the sum of the colors of the two particles remains white.
Now how did particle 2 "know" about particle 1 measurement and how come it
was affected by it?
What is the Reality? (Qur'an, 69:1-3)
happens if we designed an experiment where a quantum event would have a direct
impact on a large object like…a cat!
sealed container, so perfectly constructed that no physical influence can pass
either inwards or outwards across its walls. With the cat inside the container,
there is also a device that can be triggered by some quantum event. The quantum
event is the triggering of a photocell by a photon, where the photon had been
emitted by some light source, and then reflected off a half-silvered mirror. The
reflection at the mirror splits the photon quantum state (wave function) into
two separate parts; one of which is reflected and the other is transmitted
through the mirror. The reflected part of the photon wave function is focused on
the photocell, so if the photons are registered by the photocell, it has been
reflected .In that case, the cyanide is released and the cat is killed. If the
photocell doesn't register, the photon was transmitted through the half-silvered
mirror to the wall behind, and the cat is safe.
Now, let us take the viewpoint of the physicist outside the container. According
to the outside observer, no "measurement" has actually taken place, so the
quantum state of the entire system is nothing but a linear superposition between
alternatives right up to the scale of the cat (Schrödinger equation). Both
alternatives must be present in the state. So, according to the outside
observer, the cat is in a linear superposition of being dead and alive at the
same time! What is the Reality? (Qur'an, 69:1-3)
B. Syed is the foremost exponent in the world to interpret the Qur'an Al-Kareem,
in the light of modern knowledge-Editor)