When I started my own blog I decided to focus on 3 of my passions in life, birds, physics and gardening. While this totally bizarre combination is likely to be hellishly boring to most normal sane people, I thought it would at least guarantee a certain uniqueness!
Standlake Pit 60 is my default local birding patch being only a short drive from my home. I have been watching and photographing birds here for some 6 years since my retirement from full time tedium. Having observed six cycles of the seasons at pit 60 I have a calendar in my mind of what I hope to see and photograph when and September and October are Kingfisher time.
We have 3 bird perches outside the Langley lane hide used by Common Terns in the summer and Kingfishers mainly in autumn. Kingfishers need clear water to fish and the Thames in autumn tends to be greenish and opaque while the water at pit 60 is crystal clear. It is said that female Kingfishers wear lipstick as the male has a black lower mandible while the females is orange. Somewhat confusingly, juveniles also have black lower mandibles. I believe my picture is a juvenile based on the greenish appearance of the crown feathers and the dark appearance of its legs.
A family of little grebes has recently regularly entertained me during my visits to pit 60. Today I heard a high-pitched strange squeaky call which I could not immediately place until the culprit, one of the four juvenile little grebes, came into view calling to its parents. It then managed to catch and very slowly swallow what was, at least relative to the bird’s diminutive size, a fairly large fish!
|Juvenile Little Grebe|
Winter wildfowl are starting to return with the whistle call of Widgeon being heard for the first time since early spring and Teal feeding on the lake margins.
Chiffchaffs are also singing again intermittently from the hedgerows around pit 60. My friendly neighbour and mega-birder Mick tells me that it is often this years fledglings that sing in the autumn. For what purpose it is hard to image apart from perhaps practising defending territories and attracting mates next spring.
So here we go again, look away now if my physics ramblings bore you to death!
I mentioned before something called quantum entanglement. While this is a truly weird and mind blowing phenomena, even by quantum mechanics standards, it is a concept at the heart of quantum information technology, a technology that industry and governments are pouring billions of dollars a year into.
So what’s so exciting about quantum information technology? Google are developing a quantum computer – more on what this is later. The Google quantum computer has just solved a problem in 3 minutes and 20 seconds that would take an estimated 10,000 years on the fastest traditional supercomputer in the world! So they are very fast and can do extremely complex calculations very quickly.
To try and explain quantum entanglement lets use an analogy. Imagine I have 2 children’s spinning tops and I set one rotating clockwise and one rotating anticlockwise on my table. This is a very simple (deterministic) system in that whether I look at them or not it is clear that one will continue to spin clockwise and one will spin anticlockwise.
Now imagine I do the same with two elementary particles whose motion is governed by quantum mechanics, i.e. one particle is spinning clockwise and one is spinning anticlockwise. If they satisfy certain other conditions their very existence is said to be entangled. Bizarrely what this means is that until you actually make a measurement to see which direction one is spinning in they are both spinning both ways in what physicists call a superposition of states. Only when I measure the spin of one is the spin of the other forced to be the opposite!
Very strange as it may seem this has been proven by experiment and entangled quantum pairs are the basic units of a quantum computer replacing the binary 1 and 0 used in existing computers. It turns out that, because these so called qbits can be 1, 0 and states in-between, a quantum computer is exponentially faster that a classic computer with the same number of bits.
By now any sane reader will have decided that this is all rubbish and will be checking what’s on netflicks! Just incase anyone out there is still reading this, let me finish on something even weirder that ties into my previous blogs about physics.
It turns out that you can separate the two parts of the entangled pair by any arbitrary distance and still measuring one to see which way it is spinning immediately forces the other one to be the opposite. If you remember a previous blog I said that Einstein’s relativity says that no information can be transferred faster than the speed of light. So how is the information that a measurement has been made on one part of the entangled pair transported to the other if they are an arbitrary distant apart? This question goes to the heart of the problem of unifying relativity and quantum mechanics into one grand theory.
There are a couple of unproven suggestions as to how this might work. Firstly, the quantum world is really deterministic as some deep level that we do not yet understand (the so called hidden variables theory that Einstein preferred). Secondly, the many worlds theory that says that each time the measurement is made the universe splits into two with one representing the second particle spinning one way and one the other. Thirdly, that the entangled pair are connected by a mico-wormhole that acts as a short cut through space-time. The last in many ways seems the most promising but current calculations indicate that the wormhole would be much too small for anything to pass through.
At this point I cant believe anyone is still reading and awake so its time to stop!!