Thursday, September 5, 2013

The New Physics and the Case for Miracles

Recently I've been learning the mind-blowing esoterica of modern physics from Brian Greene's wonderful book, The Elegant Universe. One of the novel applications of quantum mechanics is quantum tunneling, which essentially means that a little bit of mass, like an electron, can borrow some energy from space-time, pass through a physical barrier, and pay back the energy when it emerges on the other side of the barrier. As strange as this concept seems, it has actually been applied in electronic devices like the tunnel diode and the scanning tunneling microscope.*

Just in case you missed the implications of that last paragraph, let me restate it: a solid mass can actually pass through another solid mass. Cool trick, huh? Generally this happens on an extremely tiny scale, like one electron at a time. But according to Greene, a group of particles--i.e., a lump of mass--could collectively perform quantum tunneling. The larger the mass, the lower the probability that quantum tunneling can occur, though. A baseball may not seem very large, but the odds that its quadrillions of atoms could simultaneously tunnel through a baseball bat are infinitesimally tiny. This explains why quantum tunneling seems so strange to us; it never happens at a scale we can detect in everyday experience.**

Greene states that it is actually possible for a human to pass through a wall, although it would take billions upon billions of years for you to do it if you repeatedly tried it once per second. Don't try this at home, you'll give yourself a concussion long before you succeed. But it does cast an interesting perspective on something that happened after Jesus was resurrected:

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

-- John 20:26-28

Could it be that the resurrected Jesus had the ability to quantum tunnel?***


* Don't ask me what those devices do.

** Although that time I struck out in the Little League All-Star game, it sure seemed like the ball tunneled through my bat.

***I want to dedicate this post to my dad, Ron Falter, who recently turned 75. He not only taught me so much about Christianity, science, and baseball, but he also taught me how to love them. Here's to many more decades of joyful service and life, Dad!