If this was a road trip it might make more sense. But it isn’t.
It is a recap of what I’ve experienced on the way to learning
Quantum mechanics over the last X years of my life. I still find
myself attempting to recall what I’ve learned while driving for
fast food from time to time.
You see, when you set out to teach yourself things you go through
a process. There’s the struggle of confusion at the start of the
trip; the not knowing which way to go for a good solid while. And
then there are the first toe holds, the first glimpses of
understanding that zip by. They’re worth stopping for because they
are often hard won.
I remember the day I learned how measurements in Quantum
Mechanics were made. I was milling through the third floor of a
college library when I happened upon a book about Hilbert Spaces.
I flicked through the book and spotted something mentioning
Quantum Mechanics in the listed contents. A few pages later I
spotted a little chart with x-positions and momentums adjacent to
operators of a partial differential nature.
I was quite happy with the insight.
And the trip continued with such advances being made at sporadic
moments in my life. This, of course, was the route I’ve taken
over the last 5 to 7 years. I never really could sit with Quantum
Mech for very long before fatigue set in or I’d be distracted by
the more classical phenomena of daily life.
But once I got grotesquely sick for 3 years, I found myself
with a lot of time to study and a lot of sunsets to watch while I
sat on the sand and pondered the strange mechanics of the
universe. It was in that timespan that I developed a more solid
understanding of the subject.
And I met the right book I suppose. You have to keep working at
the thing. You have to keep searching for answers presented in
just the right way when you set out to teach yourself something
from dead texts. It’s almost like unraveling a murder mystery with
all the clues written in abstract notations you have to decipher
the meanings for.
It can be a painful process of learning and forgetting and then
remembering again. But it is only a process and like a lot of
other processes you are rewarded for your effort in the end.
But I haven’t yet arrived at my ending.
I asked myself when I could finally say I understood QM and I
decided it would be the day that I could think up or be given an
experiment and I could write what the outputs should be based on
my knowledge alone.
I know I’m getting closer to that day. I even entertain some
interesting notions I’d like to test out involving the recursive
creation of nano-scale test apparatus and what it might mean for
solving the decoherence problem.
But until then, I make side steps and visit the vistas of my
evolving knowledge of the field. Just the other day was a success
for me. I went and asked a physics professor about a small piece
of the puzzle I thought I understood but wasn’t sure.
And to my great relief I was right.
And I was right without spending thousands of dollars on an
education milled from the large brick and mortars of the world.