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By Blackwood O. H., Osgood T. H., Ruark A. E. et. al.

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Extra info for An Outline of Atomic Physics. 3rd edition, 2nd printing

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How can this be? The different sequences witnessed are all equally “real”—some observers can quite validly think that A got the signal first, others that it was B. Luckily or otherwise, though, no one can use the fact to send a signal backward in time because, considered as two events in spacetime, the time-and-space point at which A sees the flash and the timeand-space point at which B sees the flash are what is called spacelike separated. This means simply that the spatial separation between them is sufficiently great that it is impossible for any light-speed message to pass from one to the other, in either direction, in the time interval between the two events.

Could such a tiny thing really jostle other corpuscles millimeters or even centimeters away from it? The problem gets worse when you take into account that, even with naked-eye observation, light’s wavelike behavior can be seen at illumination levels thousands of times less than a brightly lit room, when individual photons are centimeters or even meters apart. In fact, photon jostling can be ruled out altogether. With slightly more modern technology than Young’s, we can lower the level of illumination inside a two-slit apparatus to the point where there can only be a single photon in it at any given time, and place sensitive photo- 20 / Schrödinger’s Rabbits graphic film at the back.

Changing anything in the building—moving a small statue in one of the side aisles a fraction of a micrometer, say— changes the position of the dark spots. As the pattern builds up, one photon at a time, each and every photon must explore the whole temple—trace every possible trajectory through it—to decide where on the film to alight. If even a few photons missed out on exploring even some of the possible trajectories, they would not know to avoid the dark spots, and the pattern would be contaminated.

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An Outline of Atomic Physics. 3rd edition, 2nd printing by Blackwood O. H., Osgood T. H., Ruark A. E. et. al.


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