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The harmonious relation between quantum world and indian philosophy
Science

The Harmonious Relation Between Quantum World and Indian Philosophy

Let me warn you before I even start elaborating this article.

I am not one of those people who claim everything discovered in Modern Science is already described in Vedas and Upanishads.

Neither I am a great expert in Indian Philosophy nor in Modern science, I am just a curious seeker who loves to explore and find out things.

So whatever you are going to read here are my personal exploration and what I have found out throughout my exploration about Indian Philosophy and Modern Science.

I don’t need to convince you about the fact that scientific advancement is the key to the progress of civilization. You already know that.

Naturally then the scientific mindset of people in the country matters most when it comes to the role of science in making a positive change.

Therefore-

“Don’t just be a believer, be a seeker”

If you have doubts about something, find out yourself or at least find an authorized source.

Let your curiosity bloom instead of just believing someone or something.

Now let’s get back to the quantum world.

What exactly is quantum world?

In physics, there are two different theories that can explain the phenomenon of the universe.

One is Classical physics which explains the behavior of large objects like planets, stars, and everyday objects that visible to the naked eyes.

Sir Issac Newton’s laws of motion could explain the behavior of macro objects like their motion, force, energy, etc.

The limitation is that it could not explain gravity.

Later Albert Einstein further upgraded classical physics by introducing his theories of relativity that could explain gravity beautifully.

Together Newton and Einstein’s theories could satisfactorily explain almost all the physical phenomena.

However, when it comes to the microscopic world or the world of subatomic particles, classical physics falls apart when tries to explain their behavior.

Thus a new set of theories needed to be developed to explain subatomic particles and their strange behavior.

But how did quantum physics started?

In 1894, physicist Max Planck was hired by German bureau of standards to help design a better electric bulb.

Planck investigated the qualities of heat, energy, and light in a series of experiments.

As a light bulb filament heats, it changed the color from red to yellow to white.

Even when more enrgy is applied, the color still remained yellow or white.

Blue colour is at the higher end of spectrum.

So Planck thought if more energy is applied, the color should finally change to blue.

From this observation, Max Planck made a groundbreaking assumption that energy is not delivered in a continuous wave, but in packets or quanta and these quanta are uniquely and mathematically proportional to a given frequency.

This means certain frequencies only hold certain amounts of energy.

Max Planck received the Nobel Prize in 1919 and classical mechanics was born.

In fact, in 1905 Einstein in his photoelectric work (for which he eventually won the Nobel Prize) also elucidated quantum mechanics.

The photoelectric effect happens when light is shown on a metal surface and electrons are given enough energy to escape.

Using Planck’s formula, Einstein proposed that only certain wavelengths can carry enough energy to release electrons regardless of how intense the light is. Therfore, light energy is emitted in wave packets or photons.

This was the beginning of quantum mechanics.

Later, this field has been extended substancially by Erwin Schrödinger, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, and other scientists.

Scientists soon found out that the quantum theory although opening a new area of study but made some strange predictions about predictions about our world.

For example, the quantum theory states that the world consists of waves of probabilities, particles can exist simultaneously at two places, electrons can tunnel through walls, information can exchange between observers faster than light, etc.

This was a critical moment in the history of science. Physicists were in dilemma about whether to accept the theory that seemed too crazy to be true or not.

In fact, Albert Eibstein in this context said-

“God does not play dice with the Universe”

To this Niels Bohr replied-

“Stop telling God what to do”

Clearly, quantum theory brought a paradigm shift about the reality of our world in the minds of many scientists in those times.

According to classical Physics, particles like electron, proton, etc are solid particles but de Broglie in 1924 suggested that matter exhibit both particle and wave properties.

Quantum mechanics says, rather than being in one place, electrons are located as diffused electron clouds in various regions.

Remember you read in your school science books ‘The space around the nucleus where the probability of finding an electron is maximum is called orbital‘.

This cloud is represented by a famous equation which is famously known as the Schrodinger’s equation.

Schrodinger equation

If electrons behave like both particle and wave and every object is made of electrons then why don’t we see the wave-like properties of a tree or the device you are currently reading?

More importantly, is there any limit to which something can behave like a wave and then it starts behaving like a particle?

According to quantum mechanics (Neils Bohr, Schrodinger, Heisenberg, Max Born, etc.), an object loses its quantum nature the moment you observe it.

Which means, the device you are reading this article shows wave like property until you observe it.

Thus, as an observer you don’t just observe, you create reality.

I know this sounds so strange.

It sounded strange even to Einstein and that’s why he said to his friend-

Do you believe the moon exists only when I look at it?’

There is a striking similarity between what I have discussed about quantum mechanics and Upanishads (Hindu sacred texts).

You must have heard people say- ‘The world is an illusion, everything is maya‘.

If you think from quantum mechanics point of view then this does not seem very strange.

In fact, as quantum mechanics describe, there is no absolute reality. We all create our own reality.

The line in Upanishad- “Jaisi Drishti, Waisi Srishti” which means the world is the way you see it depicts exactly what quantum mechanics describe.

It is no surprise that many Scientists like Schrodinger, Heisenberg, Neils Bohr, Oppenheimer, Carl Sagan, etc, were inspired by the Upanishads.

Upanishads describe the universe in terms of Brahman and Atman.

Brahman is the universal self or the ultimate singular reality and Atman is the individual’s inner self, the soul.

Think of Brahman like an ocean and Atman like a drop of water in that ocean. Essentially, they both are same.

The central mantra of Upanishad is

“tat tvam asi”

Which means there is only one universal self, and we are all one with it.

According to Dr. Subhash Kak, an Indian American computer scientist, Schrodinger named his dog Atman. He was so fascinated by the Upanishad ideas.

According to Upanishads, observer and observed are not different but the same thing. Quantum mechanics also supports this idea.

Erwin Schrodinger in his book ‘What is Life’ raised some valid questions

If the world is indeed created by our act of observation, there should be billions of such worlds, one for each of us. 

How come your world and my world are the same?

If something happens in my world, does it happen in your world, too?

What causes all these worlds to synchronise with each other?

The answer can be again found again in Upanishads.

As he wrote in his book-

“There is obviously only one alternative,” he wrote, “namely the unification of minds or consciousnesses. Their multiplicity is only apparent, in truth, there is only one mind. This is the doctrine of the Upanishads.”

I know all these ideas perhaps boggling your mind.

For me, this is perhaps one of the most fascinating and insightful idea I ever heard or read.

I have seen two kind people regarding this. One who believes, Science alone has figured out how the universe works and vedas and Upanishads have nothing to do with Science.

The other theory is, whatever we hear in Science today has already been described in Vedas and Upanishads.

Both are perhaps extremes.

We need to be open-minded to look at things without much bias.

If the greatest minds on this planet have found something fascinating in the Upanishads, then these texts must be valuable and worth reading again and again.

On other hand, just because I know and understand what has been written in Upanishad does not mean I lose my interest in modern science and the research going on to unveil the secrets of the universe.

I guess the relation should be harmonious. Whether it is quantum mechanics or Upanishad, both aim to provide us a better picture of the reality of our universe.

Our ansestors and sages have taught us to be seekers and explorers. Don’t take sides, don’t induldge into unnecessary arguments.

Only a seeker can get closer to the truth.

As Schrodinger said-

“If a man never contradicts himself, the reason must be that he virtually never says anything at all.”

What are your thoughts on all of these?

I am eager to listen and reply.

Let me know in the comment section.

You can subscribe to get my articles in your inbox.

References:

  1. The Wire Science
  2. Thehinduhistory.info
  3. Guruprasad.net
  4. Scientists on the Upanishads
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