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B Possible Controversial Quantum Topics

  1. Aug 23, 2016 #1

    I am beginning my senior year at small, private, liberal arts high school. As part of my senior year, I am required to take a class in which I compose a 20 page thesis on any topic of my choosing and present my paper to a panel who will ask questions. I am in the early stages and have yet to choose my topic. I am very interested in quantum mechanics but am nervous to take up an issue in this area for several reasons:

    1) I have been teaching myself quantum physics for about 3 months now and my knowledge on the subject is at best beginner level. I am nervous that there are no topics in this area that will be accessible to someone my age. The highest math course that I have completed is pre-cal. I think that I might be able to wrestle with some topics that are philosophical rather than practical but I don't enjoy the former near as much as the latter.

    2) The paper is only allowed to be 20 pages and must be controversial and understandable to the general adult audience. My initial thought is that I would be unable to unpack a quantum issue in 20 pages and it is even less likely that the average audience would comprehend it.

    3) I want to enjoy the topic! I have to write this paper for two full semesters so I want to choose a topic that really excites me.

    So far the main area that I think I would be able to write on is determinism in quantum mechanics. I understand that this idea might have been completely destroyed by John Bell and it might not be a feasible route to take. Also this is almost strictly philosophical and I would most likely become disinterested in a few weeks.

    As you can probably tell, I'm stuck and in need of some advice. Is it reasonable for someone of my knowledge to compose a paper on quantum physics? Do you have any suggestions for possible topics that I could look into? Any help would be greatly appreciated! I apologize if I posted this thread in the wrong section, I hope it will be overlooked this once :)

    Thanks in advance,
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 23, 2016 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    What books have you been using for QM study?

    Have you considered other areas of physics like Special Relativity, General Relativity or Cosmology?
  4. Aug 23, 2016 #3
  5. Aug 24, 2016 #4

    Ether or is it aether hypothesis

    Celestial spheres - ancient but neat

    The thing about earth as centre of universe.
  6. Aug 24, 2016 #5

    Vanadium 50

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    Do these look like features of a good topic?
  7. Aug 24, 2016 #6
    What books have you been using for QM study?
    Have you considered other areas of physics like Special Relativity, General Relativity or Cosmology?[/QUOTE]

    I began by reading a biography of Einstein by Walter Isaacson which got me interested in the subject. Since then I have read A Brief History of Time by Hawking and The Quantum Age by Clung. I am planning on reading In search of Schrodinger's Cat next. Aside form these, I have mainly been researching on the internet and watching youtube videos. I would definitely be interested in other areas such as relativity and cosmology, I just haven't done as much research yet in those fields. Is there a particular direction you think I should look in?
  8. Aug 24, 2016 #7


    Staff: Mentor

    For Special Relativity you could consider the history of the paradoxes which to this day confuse laypeople trying to understand the topic:
    - twin paradox
    - barn / pole paradox
    - rotating disk paradox (Ehrenfest paradox)
    - luminiferous aether


    I think the math for many relativity topics might be more tractable than for QM until you get into General Relativity and spacetime geometry.

    Be aware that some alternatives to relativity are actually fringe science and aren't discussed here at PF.

    You could also explore the issue of who invented relativity:

  9. Aug 25, 2016 #8


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    I would say that this can be done for entanglement phenomena and Bell inequalities along with short account of some key experiments.
    How much have you read about entanglement? There are some proofs of Bell type inequalities that are short and easy to comprehend.
  10. Aug 25, 2016 #9


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    I agree. A good starting point is the article by N. David Mermin.
  11. Aug 25, 2016 #10
    Evolution is well trodden controversy topic.

    Physics controversy is relatively pedestrian in comparison.
  12. Aug 25, 2016 #11
    I read the article that DrClaude recommended. Is there still any controversy in this area? It seems to me that because of Bell, pretty much all physicists believe in "spooky action at a distance".
  13. Aug 26, 2016 #12


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    "Spooky action at a distance" is a stronger claim, and much less accepted than non locality.

  14. Aug 26, 2016 #13


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    Conclusion from loophole free Bell test experiments is that for entanglement phenomena any scientific physical model would have to involve some FTL (faster than light) phenomena. But that is not consistent with mainstream ideas in Relativity that nothing can move FTL and that all inertial reference frames are equal. In particular say current way of modeling black holes with event horizons and their weird interiors would have to be considered wrong.
    And so this conclusion is not generally acknowledged or at least it is not acknowledged openly among scientists.
  15. Aug 26, 2016 #14

    A. Neumaier

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  16. Aug 26, 2016 #15
  17. Aug 26, 2016 #16


    Staff: Mentor

    Shaking head.

    Utter bollocks.

    Its a theorem - physicists believe in what it says. They also try to fit it in with interpretations, some of which have spooky action at a distance, some none, some are noncommittal, and others are rather difficult to classify.

  18. Aug 26, 2016 #17


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    That's not what relativity says, but the relativity sub-form is the appropriate place to discuss it - not here.

  19. Aug 26, 2016 #18


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    Well, Sean Carroll aside, my question is what's not settled in quantum mechanics? I think there's not one unsettled issue about it today. You can argue about relativistic Q(F)T, which is not strictly well founded in the sense of rigorous mathematics, but it's nevertheless settled as a physical theory in the sense of renormalized perturbation theory.

    Philosophers have there own problems with quantum theory which are, however, completely irrelevant to physics, and a great deal we have to thank Bell that I can make this statement, because he brought some of philosophers quibbles into the objective realm of science that allowed to experimentally settle this issue once and for all: Bell's inequality is with an overwhelming statistical significance violated in precisely the way as predicted by QM, which rules out any deterministic local hidden-variable model that could mimic the statistical behavior predicted by QM. There may be still non-local models of such kind, but so far nobody has found a convincing one that is in accordance with QM.
  20. Aug 30, 2016 #19
    One way to approach this topic is to consider one or more specific controversial ideas or concepts inherent in quantum mechanics. I recently published a short non-technical (less-then-60-page) booklet where I show why concepts such as the uncertainty principle, wave-particle duality, and entanglement need not be "mysteries," as I call them. You could discuss one or each of these, explain why each is controversial, and suggest why the controversy can be explained away. If you wish, I could email key passages of this booklet to you as attachments (MS Word docs; no charge; I don't mind helping you). If you find these helpful, I can show you, if you wish, how you can buy the booklet (in Amazon books). Or you could focus on, for example, quantum teleportation and show that the Star Trek version ("beam me up...") is impossible using quantum mechanics.
  21. Aug 30, 2016 #20
    one idea for a project is the relative speed of a photon. SR implies that the speed of light is constant to all observers irrespective of their relative motion. Suppose that a light source is attached to the nose of a rocket which accelerates to 1/2 c and continues at uniform speed then the light source is switched on. According to SR, a photon from the light source would travel at speed c not 1 and 1/2 c. But what would the speed of the photon be relative to the pilot of the rocket? To make it more interesting, what would it be relative to an external observer? If the rocket had to travel 300 million km from the point the light was switched on, how long would it take a photon to reach the destination relative to the pilot and the external observer. You may need to include the relativity of simultaneity to make it work.
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