What Photons Wish Humans Knew About Them

Atoms are the life of the party. Sure, when they’re having a real gas, they tend to like to spread out and take some time to explore. At heart, they are social entity, and prefer to amass with like-typed atoms.

Some say that atoms are like us, comprised predominantly of a quantum vacuum fluctuations, and not so much real stuff, you know?

Well, sometimes, when I close my eyes and look inward upon my own mindspace and landscape of ideas, I really do feel barren, as if a perennial floating void of not-much-edness rushes past ideas  as they try to form, dissipating them back into the foul and inky aether of their almost birth. (This is a lie, like everyone else, I perceive the void of my mindspace to be static, the canvas that roils and incessantly conjures figments of anecdotal ideas when not forcibly focused on greater, high-minded tasks like database maintenance.) Atoms might feel like that too, like they are just a core set of id-based self-driving emotions with a fluttering cloud of activity and genius that always feels just out of reach, as if repelled by the notions of their own success. But that’s not really here nor there, because what’s truly important is that they tend to cohere and congregate in coincidence with one another, interacting in water coolers, ball field sky boxes, over golf, in three-martini-lunches (with or without olives), and pretty much anywhere you see stuff.


Oh-ho-ho! I mentioned the dirty word, didn’t I. No, not the martini, though I do love them with a dash of olive juice (must be the fact that sodium goes a long way to clog my arteries—she plays the long game), the seeing.

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Do you see backwards and upside down like I do? I spent a year of my life walking on my hands just to see things the way my brain does.


Okay, so atoms aren’t found loitering alone and vagrant out in space, just like humans. And even when they are alone in space, they still travel predominantly in groups of massive gas clouds. So what?

Atom, Atom, in the Sky

So, listen. This is what they’re doing these days. They are taking simple atoms, one atom at a time, picking it up electromagnetically and shooting it at some mystical semi-transparent mirror (don’t as me, they never told me!) that splits the waveform of atoms, each wave sent in a different direction (why interacting with mirrors does not collapse a waveform, I imagine I’ll never be told) after which point, and more electro-magnetic suspension, the atom has a 50% of being found by a photon in either box or (most certainly, exclusively or) continuing on its wavy life toward an atom detector, victim to a cruel act of positional entrapment.



Right up front, I have about 12 new variants of this experiment I need to hear the results of, since I feel like it would give me some elucidation, but I can’t read physics (it’s a political stance), and I need someone to explain to me the outcomes.

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For instance, what happens when you hit both boxes with photons, but don’t observe them; I’m told that both sub-atomic systems but would still be entangled. And then measure the photon before the atom(s) reach the detector. Do they still show interference patterns? What about the inverse? Is it still an interference pattern? Do the photons just vanish in such a case? Or is it not an interference pattern because it must know that it can have its properties observed, and landed as if it had come from the “invisible box” that it did? And if so, then where does that leave the entanglement of the entire system? It would seem more to me like you just proved that they weren’t co-entangled, this atom and photon, and that means that even sub-atomic elements can collapse, concretize, cohere or interfere with one another, and you should be able to leave consciousness out of it at that point. Or, how much time exactly before decoherence. I’m told the “slits have to be opened at “nearly” the same time. Well, how much time exactly, as I was also told that if you just wait too long they innately decohere. The window (or mirror) of opportunity has not been explained to me.


But most importantly, all of this has to take place in a specially prepared environment long before the transparent mirrors arrive. They must be isolated from the rest of the world in a quantum vacuum.

How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Void

You’d be forgiven, thinking that this was what a photon, a discrete quanta finally released from some fringe atomic over-reaction into the vast Glory of Vacant Space, would desire at its most core. Just a photon and the open road, maverick set out across the universe, thousands of light years with all the fuel she’ll ever need. And drive she will. With that kind of time, there’s nothing left for anything but dreaming. And dream she does, that one day, her great trajectory, the arc of her existence is to stank some erudite human astronomer (they put the ass back in tron-ometers) in the eye, just askin’ for it. Hell, yeah. Bam! Right in the ocular region.

But it’s not what a photon wants. There are many instances, and certainly many packets of light that have to go through this extensive journey. But for most, they spend the majority of their time transforming through a miraculous chain of absorptions or getting bounced in reflection around a local macrosystem, relatively unshaken, nor worse for wear. The do not necessarily abhor a vacuum, but such travel days are nothing to write home about.

It seems to me that the skeleton in the closet of physics is not consciousness (not that consciousness is above reproach, by any means!), but the tricky bit about space, spacetime, and vacuums. I think it’s what they really don’t want to talk about.

There is a vast deficit to the abyss that does terrify us at the precipice. Three principles greatly underserved by math: True randomness (the chaotic wild-child, bastard of the natural world, rife with dark energy that animates its psychotic hate), Infinity (eternal has a whiff of godly glory to it, but infinity has this incomprehensible ring to it, where no torture ever ends) and the Zero: Nothingness. Nothing frightens us like nothing. Everything we’ve ever built, architected or protected, like fire, the collective consciousness of the entire species is forever in our hands, and always untouchable. It is terribly precarious as these three mathematical nemeses circle about them like prey. This disphemoral diaspora of idea, notion, sentience. From one generation to the next, without fail, we carry this human story of all languages and all ideas forward, evolving and socially ricocheting through cultures, bound in written words, penciled in memories, and reduced to ciphers and logical binaries, but we have stored and carried this ever-burgeoning gift we keep giving to ourselves, again and again, an act of love, compassion and kindness, to share the waves of these tremendous, life-giving waters, to wield greater power and capacity to animate imagination and explore reaches no biological form should ever have opportunity to do, should the natural world abhor a conscience. Wave upon wave of ideas collapsing, or decohering again and again inside neural patterns for a short while, learning for the first time, the sound of one’s own name writ into the codex of our bonded plight.

But then we want to believe that vacuums are teeming with life! Is-ness!

And maybe it is. Maybe when small articles of particle physics are detached from their body of knowledge, the photon-consciousness that surrounds and defines its interactions and co-incidental occupation of quantum field oscillations for massful particle stripped of its inter-experiences it reduces to something. It looks to achieve a lower energy state, and it chooses to do that by enmeshing with the only thing left… the vacuum. The Nothingness, the zero that can’t be zero because we can’t divide by it any longer, it just doesn’t make sense. That the photon is adopted by that vacuousness, embracing it’s loneliness and looking to survive the only way it knows how. By succumbing to the Void. And it turns out the Void moves in less mysterious ways than anticipated. It moves in oscillating waves.

That atom, decoupled from the entire universe, bereft of atomic ideas and memories of interactions, just lost, as if this entropy would last forever, and nothing would come along to save it, it, too, succumbs. And becomes a part of the only thing left: the quantum vacuum. Just like you or I would. If we were born without this safety net of ideas and packets of knowledge that we, as a species, have pushed forward century after century, until finally, we are building the apparatuses we need to concretize our ideas and our de-concretize ourselves; while in doing we enmesh with everything all of us have ever been, we, too, would collapse into an oily nothingness, unclear of who we were, even what we were, decoupled from the swarming activity of ideas, we would be lost in a state of chaotic, random, endless torment of being nothing. De-quantized and truly alone without anyone to see or anyone to be seen by.

So to me, it’s no surprise that these systems, an atom, a photon, or a thin metal paddle, function differently, looking to conserve something (if not energy), attempting to survive in the harshest climes imaginable by math. Or if not conserve, attempt some function of mutation to adapt to the dire situation they’ve found themselves in. By super-positioning, it gives them more opportunity to be more places, to reach out externally in an attempt to be connected to more things at once.

And allegedly it works. The human taskmasters stop the experiment, and you’re free to relax in the detector net for a while. But it’s a bewitching calm that settles over the amateur marathon runner as their internal autonomic systems begin to shut down slowly… is this running getting too comfortable?