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Here’s How We Change Our Universe Just By Looking At It

young's experiment

One for the science geeks.

I’ve been reading about a crazy experiment recently, called Young’s experiment or ‘the double slit experiment’. In a moment of completely unexpected revelation, scientists discovered that matter behaved differently depending on whether you were observing it or not. This experiment essentially proved that we change the nature of our universe, simply by observing it.

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This all sounds crazy, so let me break it down. The simplest way to explain this experiment is for you to imagine it on a larger scale: picture a room in your head, divided down the middle with a wall. In the middle of this wall is a slit rising vertically, which is exactly, let’s say, 1cm wide.

On the left side of the room is a gun that fires marbles that are a fraction under 1cm wide. The gun is free to fire from any point on the left side of the room, and is trying to fire the marbles through the slit. On the right side of the room is a wall made of clay – if the marbles make it through the slit in the dividing wall, they will stick into it.

What is the only possible formation of marbles in the clay wall if you fired a thousand shots from the gun? The answer is a straight line of marbles rising vertically in exact correlation to the slit in the dividing wall. The only way the marbles could fit through the slit is if the gun fired a perfect shot in a straight line. Anything else would bounce off the sides. If you were to introduce two slits into the dividing wall, then yet again, the only marble pattern in the clay wall would be two vertical lines exactly where the slits were. This is just how physical matter works.

Two slit experiment

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Scientists did exactly that, but instead of using marbles, they fired electrons through a slit. When they fired an electron at one slit, the electron acted as it should – like a physical particle. The only way it made it through the dividing wall was if it passed directly through the slit. This meant that the pattern of electrons at the other ends was the same as the marbles in the clay wall.

When they introduced two slits to the dividing wall, yet again, as they should’ve, the electrons acted like physical particles and formed two lines on the other side. A scientist then switched off the equipment that observed the electrons passing through the dividing wall, and one of the craziest moments in science history unfolded. They got an interference pattern on the measurement wall.

Instead of forming two lines on the measurement side, the electrons now formed multiple lines spaced out from one another – as if a waveform, not a particle, had passed through the two slits, going in as one wave but then coming out the other side as interacting waves. They were amazed. How could a physical object act like a waveform? Waves of energy don’t have physical mass.

double slit experiment

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They switched their measurement tools back on and repeated the experiment. Much to their surprise the electron patterns went back to normal and started acting like physical particles again, not as waves. The scientists thought they had made a mistake earlier, so they turned them back off again and started over. To their complete shock the electrons went back to acting like a waveform. Each time, the outcome was different depending on if they were watching.

If that was too geeky – the simple version is this: the nature of reality at an atomic level changed completely depending on whether scientists were observing or not. And that means, in really simple terms, that everything in the universe changes in nature completely depending on whether or not we are looking at it. Do we change the nature of our own realities just by looking at them? Basically, it looks like we do.

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