Is quantum theory basically saying that 'anything can happen' in the physical world?

Mark Hooper
  · 352
Affiliated lecturer in physics, University of Cambridge. @Cambridge_Uni

With quantum theory you can calculate the probability of observing a particular outcome of an experiment or a measurement. But some events are very rare indeed. In the quantum football analogy you might find the football in the net 50% of the time, on the other side of the stadium 1% of the time, but you might have to keep repeating the experiment for billions of years to ever observe it on the moon.

So when you say anything can happen, yes, that might be true, but with the caveat that you’d you might have to wait several lifetimes of the universe to stand a chance of observing something that is very unlikely.

Having a background in physics sometimes changes the way you look at the world. For instance, one of the things that I’ve always found fascinating is this: you know the old style televisions, when you tuned between channels and just saw a bunch of static? Some of that static, about 1% of what you see on the screen, is a flash of light caused by cosmic rays that originated in the Big Bang, have hung around the universe for 14 billion years, only to end up being annihilated by hitting screen of your television, making a little flash. That always struck me, how having that sort of knowledge makes something boring like grey fuzz on a television screen actually seem pretty cool. There are lots of examples of that – things that you observe in your daily life that most people wouldn’t think twice about, but when you have that extra knowledge from physics, they actually are pretty amazing.

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