It started about five years ago with a practical chemistry question.
Little did Bill Poirier realize as he delved into the quantum mechanics of complex molecules that he would fall down the rabbit hole to discover evidence of other parallel worlds that might well be poking through into our own, showing up at the quantum level.
The Texas Tech University professor of chemistry and biochemistry said that quantum mechanics is a strange realm of reality. Particles at this atomic and subatomic level can appear to be in two places at once. Because the activity of these particles is so iffy, scientists can only describe what’s happening mathematically by “drawing” the tiny landscape as a wave of probability.
Chemists like Poirier draw these landscapes to better understand chemical reactions. Despite the “uncertainty” of particle location, quantum wave mechanics allows scientists to make precise predictions. The rules for doing so are well established. At least, they were until Poirier’s recent “eureka” moment when he found a completely new way to draw quantum landscapes. Instead of waves, his medium became parallel universes.
Though his theory, called “Many Interacting Worlds,” sounds like science fiction, it holds up mathematically.
Originally published in 2010, it has led to a number of invited presentations, peer-reviewed journal articles and a recent invited commentary in the premier physics journal Physical Review.
“This has gotten a lot of attention in the foundational mechanics community as well as the popular press,” Poirier said. “At a symposium in Vienna in 2013, standing five feet away from a famous Nobel Laureate in physics, I gave my presentation on this work fully expecting criticism. I was surprised when I received none. Also, I was happy to see that I didn’t have anything obviously wrong with my mathematics.”
In his theory, Poirier postulates that small particles from many worlds seep through to interact with our own, and their interaction accounts for the strange phenomena of quantum mechanics. Such phenomena include particles that seem to be in more than one place at a time, or to communicate with each other over great distances without explanations.
There is no fuzziness in his theory. Particles do occupy well-defined positions in any given world. However, these positions vary from world to world, explaining why they appear to be in several places at once. Likewise, quantum communication of faraway particles – something Albert Einstein called “spooky action at a distance” – is actually due to interaction of nearby worlds.
Many Interacting Worlds theory doesn’t prove that the quantum wave does not exist, or that many worlds do exist, Poirier said. The standard wave theory is perfectly fine in most respects, providing agreement with experiment, for example.
“Our theory, though based on different mathematics, makes exactly the same experimental predictions,” he said.
“So what we have done is to open the possibility that the quantum wave may not exist. It now has only as much right to that claim as do many interacting worlds – no more and no less. This may be as definitive a statement as one can hope to make about a subject that has confounded the best minds of physics for a hundred years and still continues to generate controversy.”
At this nanoscopic scale, particles don’t act like larger objects, whose position over time is well defined, such as an airplane or an apple falling from a tree.
Instead, particles sometimes behave as fixed particles, and other times behave more like waves. Even weirder than this: when scientists look at a quantum particle, it behaves like a particle. When they’re not looking, it suddenly starts acting like a wave.
Even Albert Einstein is said to have disagreed with the quantum idea that particles could exist in an approximate possible location or possibly more than one location at a time rather than just one place.
“I like to think the moon is there, even if I am not looking at it,” Einstein famously said on the topic.
Scientists dissect and disagree to this day as to exactly what’s happening on this tiny scale. Although they may not know for sure what’s happening, they do at least know how to predict the wave-like behavior of the quantum particle when it’s not being observed.
For this, they use the Schrödinger Equation, a mathematical description invented in the ’20s that describes how these crazy particles move as a wave over time.
At least, they did until Poirier took another look at the wave and upended established quantum theory.
Some physicists can make much about the philosophy of quantum mechanics, Poirier said. For a chemist such as himself, however, he is less interested in the philosophy and more interested in solving Schrödinger’s quantum wave equation to help him understand chemical reactions.
June 3, 2015 by John Davis
Provided by: Texas Tech University