Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless. With this one, I'm speaking with my layman's knowledge, so if anyone's on break from trying to find one of those sixth quarks or a superstring for the cat to play with, feel free to bombard me with every detail I got wrong or left out.
"If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics." -Richard Feynman"Quantum" is a word woos have fallen in love with, probably because of the weirdness of quantum mechanics: The experts have a hard time dealing with it, so it's easy to dazzle laymen with QM jargon.
The word "quantum" by itself refers to, as I understand it, the smallest possible units of energy. You won't find half a quantum anywhere in the universe. Because of this, quantum mechanics deals with very small stuff, down to fundamental particles. On that scale, our familiar Newtonian assumptions stop working, and probability takes a much bigger role. Particles don't have a simple position and velocity assigned to them: They have a wave function, which "collapses" when "observed." There seem to be plenty of interpretations of what wave function collapse is, but none of the good science ones involve consciousness in any way, like plenty of woos like to claim. The woos probably got it from the use of the term, "observer" in many of those interpretations. Some, like those who made "What the Bleep Do We Know?", don't seem to care about the misrepresentation. As David Albert, one of the scientists they edited said,
I was edited in such a way as to completely suppress my actual views about the matters the movie discusses. I am, indeed, profoundly unsympathetic to attempts at linking quantum mechanics with consciousness.The realm of quantum mechanics isn't subjective. It's still quite deterministic, like the rest of science. It's just weird and probabilistic.
So, while I'm waiting to be bombarded by people with better explanations, is a quantum mechanic someone who works on very small cars? If he looks at the speedometer, does he get lost?