The Universe's Biggest Double Slit Experiment

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One of the most famous quantum physics experiments is the double-slit experiment. It's a simple experiment proving light behaves as a wave and a particle at the same time. You don't need a fancy set-up to try this at home, as Thomas Young performed a version of the double-slit experiment back in 1801. To be brief, a light source shines on a surface with two slits in front of a wall. The light creates an interference pattern of bright and dark spots since the photons are going through both openings at the same time, acting like a wave. Should one measure the light, in hopes of catching it acting like a wave, light then changes its mind acting like a particle by going through one slit at a time.

If the light "knows" when it's being measured, John Archibald Wheeler proposed it could be "fooled".

He suggested that the actual point of measurement at which you spy on the path taken by the light could be set up after the light has already passed through the slits but before it arrives at the detector—so the light could not know as it moved through the experiment whether it would be observed or not. Such experiments have since been carried out in quantum laboratories and it turns out that, even then, light could not be fooled. The observer’s later choice of what measurements to make determines whether the photon took one path or two at an earlier point in the test. In other words, the observer seems to have changed what has happened in the past.

Wheeler's delayed choice thought experiment utilizing some of the biggest, and most distant, objects in space. Gravitational lensing is when a large object with a strong gravitational field bends light from an object, creating the illusion of there being two. His delayed-choice experiment would use a quasar's light bent by a galaxy's gravitational field.

Now Dr. Laurance Doyle at the SETI Institute, and a few of his colleagues, are hoping to turn Wheeler's thought experiment into reality. They're scaling it down, and making it a bit more practical. Their plan is to ping Jupiter's moons Ganymede and Europa with radar when they're at nearly the same distance from Earth on the other side of the sun. As the radar propagates the 628 million kilometers between us and Jupiter, the beam will spread like a flashlight enabling it to hit both moons at the same time. When the signal bounces back at Earth, Doyle and co. will recombine the beams to see if there's an interference pattern or not. The interesting part is our sun's gravity could warp the beams, delaying them and allowing astronomers to see the path the radar took.

What they hope to discover is the nature of time.

If you’d asked Einstein, he would have told you that time is another dimension, much like the three dimensions of space. Together they knit together to create a spacetime fabric that pervades the universe. This notion of time as a dynamic, flexible dimension forms the basis of his immensely successful general theory of relativity, which explains how gravity manifests on cosmic scales as matter warps spacetime. On the other hand, however, the equally celebrated theory of quantum mechanics, which governs the nanoscale behavior of atoms and subatomic particles, says that time is unaffected by the presence of matter, serving as an absolute background reference clock against which motion can be measured.

One fly in the ointment is how precisely the scientists can measure any time difference. They could set up the experiment so the difference is so large, there will still be an interference pattern. The next time Earth, Jupiter, and its moons are in the correct alignment is 2017. Fingers crossed they're able to pull this off!

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News Briefs 01-12-2015

Looking for an awesome gift for the UFO-obsessed person in your family? Okay, let's be honest, that's you, right?

Thanks to Kat, @MikeJayNet and @UnlikelyWorlds.

Quote of the Day:

Skeptics, who flatly deny the existence of any unexplained phenomenon in the name of 'rationalism,' are among the primary contributors to the rejection of science by the public. People are not stupid and they know very well when they have seen something out of the ordinary. When a so-called expert tells them the object must have been the moon or a mirage, he is really teaching the public that science is impotent or unwilling to pursue the study of the unknown.

Jacques Vallee

Reddit AMA with Dr Jacques Vallee on the UFO Phenomenon

Jacques Vallee Reddit AMA

On Sunday one of our favourite people, legendary UFO researcher Jacques Vallee, took part in a Reddit AMA ('Ask Me Anything'), in which he directly answered questions from Redditors related to his field of research. As with any AMAs, there's a lot of 'noise' comments drowning out the signal (such as chest-puffing by self-claimed 'rational' thinkers), but if you stay with the first up questions, and answers from Jacques - without following down into the threads too far - there's plenty of interest in there.

For example, in response to the question "What is the most convincing case (and/or documented) that you have studied?", Jacques' response was:

There is a large number of cases that pass the "serious" screen: cases with unexplained physical traces and multiple witnesses over significant duration, etc. but I mostly look for overall patterns that can characterize the phenomenon as a whole. One especially significant case took place at Valensole in France years ago and has never been explained: a landing with physical traces and two "beings" that paralyzed the witness. The French government space agency has has a long-term group of investigation about such cases and I am on their advisory committee. Valensole has never been explained. Of course the paralysis has many scientists very interested. UFOs have many physiological impacts on humans.

Jacques' AMA appearance coincided with the final days of his crowd-funding campaign for a deluxe, limited copy collector's edition of his book Wonders in the Sky. It is currently at 69% of its funding goal, so if you're interested in backing the campaign and getting yourself a copy - no doubt a wise financial investment, if you could ever bear to sell it at a later date - then make sure you sign up *now*. Here's a mock-up version to make your eyes salivate:

Wonders in the Sky Collector's Edition

This would make the most amazing Christmas gift idea for anybody you know interested in the topic of UFOs (though, obviously, they will have to wait for the physical product to be manufactured), so with less than two days left, be sure to head to the crowd-funding campaign site and put your name down for a copy as soon as possible.

Link: Crowd-Funding Campaign for 'Wonders in the Sky: A Breakthrough in UFO Research'

Link: Reddit AMA with Dr. Jacques Vallee

News Briefs 30-11-2015

Nobody likes you when you're different...

Quote of the Day:

The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they’ve found it

Terry Pratchett

Egyptologists Say They Have Likely Discovered a Secret Chamber Behind the Wall's of King Tut's Tomb

Death Mask of Tutankhuman  (Creative Commons, author Carsten Frenzl)

Fresh off announcing that they may have discovered secret chambers in the Great Pyramid, Egyptian officials are now saying that they are 90% sure that they have identified a hidden chamber behind the walls of the tomb of King Tutankhamun.

Tut's tomb itself lay hidden for millennia, before Howard Carter famously opened the chamber in 1922, revealing a cache of treasures. Now, 93 years later, it seems that Tut's burial chamber was just one part of a larger complex.

Egyptologist Nicolas Reeves suggested in August that the famous Queen Nefertiti may actually be buried in a secret chamber beside Tut's tomb, after noticing a number of strange fissures and cracks in the walls of the room.

In a press conference, Egyptian officials announced that scans carried out recently are highly suggestive that a secret chamber does indeed lie behind the walls of Tut's tomb:

The primary results of the scan give us very positive results, very good results. We have here something behind the west and the north walls. It could be a burial chamber, especially behind the north wall. But this result...it is [a] primary result. We need more more time to solve the data and work to give us accurate results from the data, and [this will take] more than one month.

...But we can say now that we have defined behind the burial chamber of King Tutankhamun another chamber, another tomb, something behind - approximately 90% positive.

For more on about the discovery, see this National Geographic story which gives a nice insider perspective of the process of examining the tomb:

The room hushed, and Watanabe began to push the [radar scan] cart along the wall once more. After moving a little more than half of the distance, he broke the silence: “They changed the material here.”

This was exactly the point at which there seemed to be a doorway on the Factum Arte scans. Watanabe is not an Egyptologist, and he had not studied Reeves’s ideas closely, but what he observed on the radar matched up. He did one more scan of the west wall, and then he proceeded to the north. “It’s just a solid wall,” he called out, at the beginning. He reached the section of the wall that Reeves had proposed was a blocked-over partition. “There is a change from here,” Watanabe announced.

After he was finished, he studied the multicolored bars that ran across the computer screen. “Obviously it’s an entrance to something,” he said through a translator. “It’s very obvious that this is something. It’s very deep.”

We look forward to hearing more about this discovery - imagine the excitement if this does indeed turn out to be a previously unopened tomb, and of one of Egypt's most celebrated rulers!

Related stories:

News Briefs 27-11-2015

"All great truths begin as blasphemies."

Quote of the Day:

“There is only one religion, though there are a hundred versions of it.”

G.B. Shaw

That Time Obi-Wan Kenobi Used the Force to Warn James Dean About His Impending Death

Obi-Wan Kenobi

I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

Despite a long and celebrated career on stage and screen, this famous line from the original Star Wars will likely be the scene that most people remember in association with the name of Sir Alec Guinness.

As the Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi, Guinness is suddenly overcome when the entire population of the distant planet Alderaan is instantaneously killed when the Empire's "Death Star" destroys the planet. He feels this through 'the Force', a mystical power that gives him and other Jedi paranormal-like physical and mental abilities.

Interestingly, Sir Alec once had a real-life 'paranormal experience' of his own. In a talk on science fiction's use of parapsychological themes, researcher Dean Radin pointed out that in a 1977 TV interview with Michael Parkinson (post Star Wars release, in which he also discussed the film and how his 2.25% cut of the takings came about), Sir Alec told of a "very very odd, spooky experience" he had upon meeting James Dean, shortly before the iconic star's death in a car accident.

And when told by Sir Alec himself (see video below) - in the voice we all now know as Obi-Wan Kenobi - it certainly sounds like a manifestation of 'the Force'.

In September 1955, fresh off a plane and spending his first night ever in Hollywood, Guinness was out looking for a meal when James Dean approached him, asking the celebrated thespian to join him for dinner at the Villa Capri, a small Italian restaurant frequented by stars. But on the way into the restaurant, Dean first took them into the car-park, saying...

"Before we go in, I must you show something. I've just got a new car." And there in the courtyard of this little restaurant was a - I don't know what the car was, some little silver, very smart thing...all done up in cellophane with a bunch of roses tied to its bonnet. And I said, "How fast can you drive it". And he said "Oh I can do 150 in it". And I said "Have you driven it?" He said "No, I've never been in it at all."

And some strange thing came over me, almost a different voice, and I said "Look I won't join your table unless you want me to, but I must say something: please, do not get into that car. Because if you do," and I looked at my watch, and I said "if you get into that car at all, it's now Thursday"...whatever the day it was..."10 o'clock at night, and by 10 o'clock at night next Thursday you'll be dead if you get into that car."

[mimics James Dean's response with a wave of the hand] "Nonsense".

So we had dinner, a charming dinner, and he was dead the following Thursday afternoon, in that car. It was rather a very very odd, spooky experience.

For more fascinating stories similar to this one, be sure to like The Daily Grail on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Guinness does make the mistake in the interview of saying it was Thursday, when in fact James Dean died on Friday 30th September. Though in writing of the incident he has correctly said the dinner was on Friday the 23rd of September (and in the interview he also off-handedly notes "whatever the day it was"), with Dean dying within the week.

Also, when Michael Parkinson asks him if anything like that had ever happened to him before, Sir Alec replies "No, I'm glad to say". But this wasn't absolutely true: while serving in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve during World War II, he was tasked with taking his craft to the island of Vis to evacuate 400 women and children ahead of an anticipated German invasion. The day before the mission - New Year's Eve, 1943 - he was resting on his bunk when he heard a voice suddenly say "Tomorrow". He wrote in his diary that he took this as a premonition of his own death during the evacuation mission - and while he obviously survived, his ship was hit by a storm and had to be abandoned after being pushed onto rocks.

It seems that, just like in the Star Wars universe, in real life Obi-Wan Kenobi had mystical powers, and yet never actually seemed to stop anything awful from happening...

News Briefs 26-11-2015

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I am grateful they still let me post here...

Quote of the Day:

"Disbelief in magic can force a poor soul into believing in government and business."

Tom Robbins

News Briefs 25-11-2015

Which is weirder - our past or our future?

Thanks Greg

Quote of the Day:

The world is still a weird place, despite my efforts to make clear and perfect sense of it.

Hunter S. Thompson