In the prior article, Particles as Information Packets, the Author claimed that electrons and photons are better characterized as quantized information packets rather than as particles. The Living Algorithm’s information system is also based upon quantized info packets. As such, he is drawing parallels between the subatomic world and the Living Algorithm System. In his treatise on the Mathematics of Living Systems, the Author established the plausibility that the Living Algorithm could be Life’s operating systems. As such, the subatomic world and Life’s information system both consist of information packets. It seems that Life, the Living Algorithm and the subatomic world have info packets in common. Could these mysterious information packets be the link between our mental and physical worlds?
We have further seen that these info packets are best understood through the logic of sound. The mental meaning of sound is contained in discrete info packets, whether syllables or notes. Further, these sounds must be experienced through time to establish a context. Only through context is sound understood. In his Mastery and Experience article the Author, similarly, established that human experience consists of a sequence of information pulses that exist in relationship, hence context, to each other. Now that we have established the context for this discussion let us proceed forth into the mental jungle of subatomic partial reflection.
As mentioned, the Author hypothesizes that electrons and photons are best characterized as info packets rather than as particles. Our common experience of partial reflection provides evidence to support this hypothesis. Most, if not all of us, have seen the partial reflection of light through either a glass pane or the surface of water, whether a simple pool or the grand ocean. We can see through the transparent medium, the glass plane or the surface of the water, to what is on the other side of the glass or perhaps fish swimming in a pond. Simultaneously, we can also see a partial reflection of the moon or the inside of one’s home on the surface of our medium. In fact, the museum curators must take great care to insure that this partial reflection does not impair our ability to see a painting or photograph that is enshrined beneath a transparent piece of glass. We even have some choice as to whether to focus our Attention upon seeing through the transparent medium or seeing the reflection.
The great Isaac Newton pondered some questions regarding this visual phenomenon. Why is only part of the light reflected? Why not all or none? He performed some experiments to investigate these questions. At a direct angle, 4% of the light reflected under normal circumstances. If 4% of the light is reflected for one piece of glass, it makes logical sense that the partial reflection would be 8% for 2 panes of glass (4% for each glass pane). Newton tested this theory.
The prediction held true, but only if the 2 panes of glass were set a specific distance apart. However, if the distance between the panes of glass was varied, the partial reflection could be raised to 16% (doubled) and reduced to 0% (eliminated altogether). Further, this variation from 0% to 8% to 16% back to 0% has a periodic fluctuation. In other words, the pattern repeats itself as the 2 panes of glass are moved farther and farther apart.
These perplexing experimental results stumped Newton. He merely said that this result had nothing to do with irregularities or impurities in the surface. As a lens maker, he knew that polished glass has no breaks in the surface that would yield these peculiar results. But his proposed solution was unsatisfactory. As Alice said, “Curiouser and curiouser.”
As Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman states in his book QED: "For many years after Newton, partial reflection by two surfaces was happily explained by a theory of waves, [footnote 3] ‘This idea made use of the fact that waves can combine or cancel out, and the calculations based on this model matched the results of Newton’s experiments, as well as those done for hundreds of years afterwards. But when instruments were developed that were sensitive enough to detect a single photon, the wave theory predicted that the ‘clicks’ of the photo multiplier would get softer and softer, whereas they stayed a full strength – they just occurred less and less often. No reasonable model could explain this fact. … It is the purpose of these lectures to tell you how this puzzle was finally ‘resolved’.” (QED, p.23)
After uncovering the existence of photons at the beginning of the 20th century, the scientific community began investigating their innate nature. As Feynman reports, experimental evidence contradicted the wave model and instead suggested that photons behaved as particles. But how could ‘particles’ generate the interference patterns of partial reflection? The first speculation was that if photons are ‘particles’, that they might have some type of ‘direction’. This presumed ‘direction’ could provide a plausible explanation as to why only 4% of the photons are reflected. Perhaps 4% of the photons come in at a weird angle and are thereby reflected.
Feynman again: “Another possible theory is that the photons have some kind of internal mechanism – “Wheels” and ”gears” inside that are turning in some way – so that when a photon is ‘aimed’ just right, it goes through the glass, and when it’s not aimed right, it reflects. … The trouble with that theory is, it doesn’t agree with experiment: even after going through many layers of glass, 4% of the photons reaching a given surface reflect off it.” (QED, pp. 18-9)
Elaborate experiments with exotic apparatus were set up to test this hypothesis. They did everything in their power to assure that all photons were pointed in the same direction. The results were clear to everyone’s satisfaction. A photon’s shape or direction has nothing to do with partial reflection. No matter how they manipulated these photons, the results were the same – 4% partial reflection. The scientific community was baffled.
If these photons don’t have an edge or direction that throws them one way or another, what mechanism determines whether they are to be reflected or pass through? As Feynman says, “How does the photon ‘make up its mind’ whether it should go to A or B?” (QED, p.18). We flip a coin or roll a pair of dice. The edges of the coin or dice determine which side turns up. If the photon has no physical edge, what is the determining factor?
Feynman skipped the question altogether and went straight to the answer. Instead of attempting to understand the ‘whys’ behind partial reflection, he derived an ingenious mathematical method for exactly describing ‘what’ happens. The actual reasons are presumably beyond human understanding.
As Feynman reports: “Some of you who haven’t heard the other two lectures will find this incomprehensible. Those of you who have heard the other two lectures will also find this lecture incomprehensible, but you know that’s all right: as I explained in the first lecture, the way we have to describe nature is generally incomprehensible to us.” (QED p. 77)
Without a motive to investigate, how did Feynman come up with a solution? The same way that Galileo and many others have uncovered universal mysteries. He saw a pattern in the data. He then developed a mathematical algorithm that fit the data regarding double reflection and the photon. As additional confirmation, this method also accurately characterizes all the rest of the light–related phenomena.
However, Feynman‘s technique provides no explanatory power as to how the photons decide what to do. He is equally baffled by the results and mechanisms behind his results.
“The situation today is, we haven’t got a good model to explain partial reflection by two surfaces: we just calculate the probability that a particular photomultiplier will be hit by a photon reflected from a sheet of glass. I have chosen this calculation as our first example of the method provided by the theory of quantum electrodynamics. I am going to show you “how we count the beans’ – what the physicists do to get the right answer. I am not going to explain how the photons actual 'decide’ whether to bounce back or go through; that is not known. … I will only show you how to calculate the correct probability that light will be reflected from glass of a given thickness, because that’s the only thing physicists know how to do! What we do to get the answer to the problem is analogous to the things we have to do to get the answer to every other problem explained by quantum electrodynamics.” (QED, p24)
His technique is simple to describe, although it is impossible to understand why it works.
Feynman continues: “It is absolutely ridiculous. All we do is draw little arrows on a piece of paper – that’s all. … According to the rules of ‘how we count the beans’ the probability of an event is equal to the square of the length of the arrow.” (QED, p24)
Reiterating for clarity: The event/behavior is equated with the length of the arrow. And the probability of the event is equated with the square of the arrow. For instance, the probability of reflection is 4% for a single pane of glass. Therefore, according to the rules, the arrow would be 0.2 units long, as 0.2 * 0.2 = 0.04 (4%). Note: this process does not tell us why 4% is the probability of the event. It just tells us how to construct the arrow. In other words, the arrow is matched to the data; it does not predict the data.
Let’s talk a little more about these arrows. Technically speaking, the arrows are called ‘probability amplitudes’. This is because their length is the amplitude of the photon’s information wave and squaring the amplitude yields the probability. Feynman refers to the arrows as events.
The event arrow is a vector. This means that the arrow has both magnitude and direction. Vector addition is the simple process of placing vectors end to end and then constructing another vector arrow that connects the beginning point with the end point. Vector multiplication simply means to take the area of a rectangle that is constructed from two vectors. In other words, vector addition and multiplication are both geometrical and straightforward. This visual simplicity is why Feynman says that his technique only entails ‘drawing little arrows on a piece of paper’.
With the single pane reflection, we only dealt with the magnitude of the vector. When we introduce a second pane of glass, we must also consider the direction of the vector. This is when it gets fun.
Remember we still haven’t determined how the photon makes up its mind. But the scientist community has done extensive experimentation to establish that it has nothing to do surface irregularities or internal ‘gears and wheels’ in the photon. In other words, neither the reflective surface nor the photon have any physical attributes that would lead to the unusual results associated with partial reflection in 2 panes of glass.
As mentioned, Feynman skipped to the answer without showing his work. His analysis viewed the photon as a mathematical process rather than as something. To determine the direction of the vector – the way the event arrow points, it gets a little more complicated. On the basic level, two surfaces require two arrow events.
“To determine the direction of each arrow, let’s imagine that we have a stopwatch that can time a photon as it moves. This imaginary stopwatch has a single hand that turns around very, very rapidly. When a photon leaves the source, we start the stopwatch. As long as the photon moves, the stopwatch hand turns (about 36,000 times per inch for red light); when the photon ends up at the photomultiplier, we stop the watch. Then hand ends up pointing in a certain direction. This is the direction we will draw the arrow.” (QED, p.27)
We could also view this process as a spinning arrow. After leaving the first surface, the arrow starts out pointing straight ahead. As it moves toward the 2nd surface the arrow spins around itself. Depending on how far the second surface is, the arrow may ‘strike’ the second surface pointing straight ahead, facing completely backward, or most probably at some kind of oblique angle.
Note the arrow is a ‘probability amplitude’ with no physical characteristics whatsoever. The arrow merely provides information about the photon. But it is this probability arrow that has a direction. It is this pulse of information that spins. The direction of the spinning information when it collides with the far wall tells us how it will interact with the initial probability amplitude – the event-arrow associated with the initial surface.
Amazingly enough this bizarre strategy works to accurately describe experimental results. Employing the spinning arrow notion works perfectly to describe partial reflection. Interference patterns are generated that exactly fit the partial reflection patterns of both 1 and 2 panes of glass.
Why? Ultimately, the photon’s arrow, its probability amplitude, seems to somehow have direction. The directions of the probability amplitudes interact in a wave-like pattern to generate interference patterns. The mathematics fits the data exactly. This redundancy between mathematical algorithm and experiment indicates the efficacy of this technique. (Note again: Feynman initially fit his mathematics to the data, not vice versa. While the algorithm works, it does not explain why this happens.)
If the photon is thought of as a traditional wave or particle, this analysis makes no sense. How could a particle or wave even have a probability amplitude, much less a spinning probability amplitude that determines the behavior of light? To make sense of the findings, let us instead consider the notion that the photon is a packet of information. After all, the info packets of music interfere and resonate with each other in an acoustic fashion. Similarly, the photon's info packets interact with each other to create interference patterns. However to embrace this direct explanation, one must let go to the traditional idea that info packets reveal the location or trajectory of the photon. Instead we must entertain the notion that the info packet is the photon.
Of course, considering photons and electrons as info packets opens the door to the even more radical proposition that they might interact in some fashion with the info packets of the Mind. Horrors! The Mind–Body dualism is bridged. If so, we must give up our secure and stable, exclusively materialist perspective. “Never!” comes the desperate bleat from the hallowed halls, “Not until me and all my graduate students die.”
The categorization of the photon as an elemental info packet is revolutionary to the scientific community because it is impossible to visualize an info packet. In contrast, it is easy to visualize a particle. Visualization is employed as a criterion because Science in general is driven by the logic of sight. As evidence, the metaphorical blends that provide the foundations of logic and mathematics are primarily derived from image schema. Image schema, as the name implies, are based in sight, not sound. (See our article stream Hypersets for an in depth discussion of this topic).
Spinning information doesn’t make sense from an exclusively material perspective. This is one reason that Feynman refers to the process as both ‘ridiculous’ and ‘absurd’. However, we have all had a direct experience of a similar phenomenon when we digest verbal or musical information. To assist our understanding or the mathematics behind the spinning arrow technique, let us instead consider a sound-based model
For instance, the exact same type of verbal information can be interpreted in a variety of ways depending upon the listener’s personal ‘distance’ from the transmission. If the listener is at the ‘wrong’ distance due to a bad mood, exhaustion, or the woman’s monthly cycle, the transmitted information, no matter how benign, can be irritating, inflammatory, or boring. In other words, the Speaker’s information wave interferes with the Listener’s information state. Similarly, if the listener is at the ‘right’ distance due to lots of rest, a good mood, and an abundance of vitality, the exact same information can be inspirational or make one laugh. In this case, the Speaker’s information wave augments the Listener’s information state.
Interestingly, we call propagandists, such as Karl Rove, ‘spin doctors’ because they put the proper ‘spin’ on information. With the proper ‘spin’, the electorate interprets detrimental information in a positive light. The classic case in this regard was turning Presidential candidate’s Kerry’s excellent service record into a liability and Bush’s pathetic service record into a non-issue.
With musical information, the parallels are even more striking. The exact same chord of musical information will be interpreted differently depending upon its temporal distance from the surrounding notes. Depending upon the musical context – the distances between the spinning information, we might experience the identical sound as sad, defiant, playful or grim.
Further the Listener’s emotional spin – their personal reflective surface – influences whether the information gets through or is reflected. For instance, if the Listener has too much on his mind, he has a hard time concentrating on the music – the spinning information is reflected.
This information model certainly provides a means of understanding the spinning information packets of partial reflection. But if we entertain this perspective, there is a cost. We have allowed the camel to put his nose in the tent. A desert nomad resists this possibility because he knows what happens next – the entire camel slips in.
For more, check out the next article in the stream – Spreading Light: Subatomic Event Arrows as Info Packets.