High-energy components evolve quickly, low-energy ones evolve more slowly
Two quantum physicists are lost at the top of a mountain..
The first physicist pulls out a map and studies it for a while, then he turns to the second physicist and says: “I’ve figured it out! I know where we are!”
The second quantum physicist asks: “Where are we then?”
“Do you see that mountain over there?” asks the first.
“Yes”, responds the second.
“Well… THAT’S where we are.”
This joke, reworded from a post on iopenshell.usc.edu by an anonymous member, serves to illustrate how whacky and far-fetched things can sometimes get when we wade into the thick of quantum mechanics. Let’s keep our minds open here.
There’s an idea that I’d like to pull out of Sean Carroll’s recent work, Something Deeply Hidden, and apply it to our everyday existence. While nothing gets eyes rolling faster than the steeping of quantum physics principles into certain existential or supranatural (not super) concoctions, it may be worth consuming this quick bit, only because it’s both laughably simple and shoulder-shruggingly agreeable (like how Lucasfilm has decided to use Baby Yoda to carry the Mandalorian series.. We see what you did there, and we don’t mind).
In his book, Carroll conveys a notion presented by historic French physicist Louis De Broglie, who had suggested that the momentum of a wave goes up as its wavelength goes down (not to fret — we won’t go into the thick of this); Schrodinger (of the ambiguously-natured Schrodinger’s Cat) proposed a similar thing, but for energy and time, indicating that the rate at which a wave function is changing is proportional to how much energy it has. We can leave the quantum meandering there.
Let’s now view this through a lens of time (and energy) and quickly unpack it in a way that doesn’t have to draw on the enormous implications of the theory itself: the shorter amount of time that it takes to get something done, the more energy is being used; or, in the words of Sean Carroll himself:
“High-energy components evolve quickly, low-energy ones evolve more slowly.”
It’s ludicrously simple, so much so that I’m over-simplifying it to a redundancy so fine that it prompts a double-take nonetheless.
A straightforward example — say we’re digging a hole that’s supposed to be six feet deep: if we dig with more energy, we’ll get there faster; less energy, and time will be expanded into a longer frame. Duh. We know that if we put more energy into getting results faster then, well, we’ll get those results faster. It’s not rocket science — but it is, in fact, part of some kind of frustrating science nonetheless.
Now think about this on a bit of a deeper level for a moment. We go through wanting certain things in life, wanting to be (or be with) certain types of people, wanting to develop ourselves or our careers into some desired state, to raise our children, to accumulate or cultivate prosperity or fulfillment to some degree. We put energy into all of these things, which must abide to the workings of time. And while we may think that these resources are fixed or finite (our energy working under these irreversible laws of time), we may want to possibly reconsider this very proposition.
Remember Carroll’s words: “High-energy components evolve quickly, low-energy ones evolve more slowly.”
This suggests a fundamental link, a correlation between energy and time which means more than we may initially take for granted. It means that time frames can change depending on our energy output — that one can exert an influence over another.
It means that we can use energy to manipulate time, that energy itself determines and influences time. In the context of digging a hole, it’s no big eureka moment, but in the context of our lives, we begin to discover some more potential at play..
“Time is an illusion.” ― Albert Einstein
Say, for instance, our career choices. If we fancy ourselves to one day be in a prime position atop a corporate ladder or to be a thriving entrepreneur, the energy we put into getting there will determine how long it takes. If we make it our existence to drive towards that role, if we cut everything else out and solely focus on that ambition, we’ll surely get there faster than we would, say, had we only partially-cared to get there.
The more we thirst, the harder we push, the better we endeavor, the less time it will take; the more energy we put into chasing our desires, the faster those desires will materialize or the faster we’ll evolve towards them.
In this way, energy can influence time. Again, it’s no revelation, it’s nothing new and nothing we haven’t already known. But a reminder, casually occasioned upon, is sometimes helpful – if not necessary.
In a world where we seek faster mechanisms, more efficient processes, speedier results, we tend to get hung up on why it takes so long for things to come to fruition. Well, now we know that the blame kind of rests with us and how much energy we decide to pour into those fruits that we labour towards.
It’s not to say that we should hurry up, that we should frantically obsess over our goals, no — it’s more so about understanding how one factor is joined at the hip with the other.
Maybe think of it this way: the best things, usually, take time because they require more energy. Likewise, those things that don’t take us much time, well, there’s not much energy put into them so the reward need not correlate to the effort. Exceptions abound, sure, but a notable perspective to grasp anyway.
One last point. If nothing above has sunken in, consider only this: the link between energy and time simply goes to show that we have more control over the universe around us than we may think we do.
To wrap things up with the artful words of Sean Carroll himself:
“What really matters is that there is some specific deterministic equation [between energy and time]. Once you have that, the world is your playground”