Temple Physics: I Want to be a Photon When I Grow Up

I am not a quantum physicist.

In fact, no matter how in-depth I study the brain, and no matter fancy titles like neurobiopsychoscientist, “real” scientists will still say our studies are a “soft” science and don’t count.

Respectful scientists might acknowledge our contribution to the study of patterns, if nothing else, while others would still discount our forms of measurement and so declare our observed patterns irrelevant.

Except that, the fun thing about quantum physics is that it requires an observer in order to see the pattern.

I have written about this before, because I find it so fascinating and study all I can, and wait for the pieces to fall into place.

That’s observing.

So when I observe, then I notice the patterns and can see clearly what is happening.

This is significant to me because of my spiritual beliefs, in which the Savior tells us to “observe” in two ways:

First, to “observe” that we keep the commandments.  Not just that we keep the commandments, but observe ourselves keeping the commandments.  There is a distinction, and I think the distinction is significant.

Second, to receive revelation or other understanding, we are first required to study it out for ourselves.  Study is a process of observation.  Observing what the prophets teach us (hearkening – hearing and doing), observing how these principles work in our lives (the “experiment” of Alma), and observing the benefits of following these principles (or consequences of not).

Because both of these are required processes for understanding, I think “observing” is significant.

Then, to make it significant-er, scriptures equate “Light” and “understanding”, almost as if they were the same thing (see D&C 88:11).

But not only are they defined as the same thing, they are consistently tied to the process of creation and its purpose of celestial-ness.


So I have wrestled and wrestled with this, searching and studying and pondering and praying.

It came to me again this spring, when I saw the “light” process again connected to creation in the pattern of cell division (see THIS BLOG about when I was learning about ovarian cancer – and what I learned that day made the entire process of whacky ovaries worth it, I assure you).  I promise this blog will make a little more sense if you look at that blog, even for a quick review.  And there are pictures, which is always fun. But it’s out there in Emily World, so hold tight until it makes sense for what it teaches.


How are Light (temporal) and understanding (spiritual) the same thing?  And how does it connect to creation paving the way for celestial-ness?

Those were my questions, for more than a year now.

Pieces have filtered through, sinking in as I study and ponder.

If you clicked on (or remember) that light blog above, then you remember this silly video about the double slit experiment:

For those bored by science (even in cartoon form), think shadow puppets.

If you send light through a double slit, you should see the pattern of the slits on the wall.

Except that’s not what happens.  The photons of lights show up as random dots, not reflecting the slits at all.

Unless… drumroll… it is being “watched” (see the video clip above).

When the photons are being watched, then they line up (in Order) and show the slit pattern.

When they are being watched,
the light follows the pattern
of the slits through which it goes.

When I am “observing” (watching myself keep the commandments)
I follow the pattern
of the Savior through whose atonement I can go.

When they are not being watched
the light is random,
not having a pattern.

When I am not “observing” (to keep the commandments)
my life is random, scattered, and un-organized
with no pattern (by which to testify).

So we see, whether it is quantum physics or Emily World, the difference between “observing” or not.

Except the question is still why the connection between light and understanding?

What about “observing” changes the way light behaves?

What about “observing” organizes light, so that it is transformed into a clear pattern?

The scientific drama is that back in the 1920’s there was a big split.  Scientists now follow the idea that we cannot know at such a level what is happening, because clearly quantum physics do not follow the rules – even though the behavior is predictable.

By this, they are focused on how the behavior is predictable – we know what will happen if there is any “observing” happening or not.  If there is observing, the pattern shows; if there is not observing, there is no pattern.  So, they say, it is impossible to understand because it does not follow the rules.

But the original theory, before the big philosophy split, was that even though it doesn’t follow the rules, the behavior is predictable, and so it is possible to understand.  Not following the rules is part of the pattern, so therefore it can still be understood because of that pattern.  Not just understood, but actually seen.  Like a postcard from creation, similar to watching cell division happen.

But how to resolve the difference?

Light – like Emily – does not follow the rules, because the rules – the Laws of physics – would say that the behavior should be the same either way.  We should always see the pattern, because it is going through the slits.   The photons have to go through the slits, and so the pattern of the slits should evidence when they “land”.

The same with Emily: I can only get to celestialness by way of the atonement, so my behavior should match.

But it doesn’t, not unless I am “observing” to keep the commandments (see D&C 42:78 for an example).

And the light doesn’t show up in patterns, unless it is being watched.

So how is it possible that if a photon is one thing, a photon, going through the slits, why does it show up two different ways?  How can the behavior be predictable and yet also conditional?  Why does it not follow the rules?

And going on the principle that all things are both temporal and spiritual (D&C 29:31), then what’s the connection between Light and understand, and what does it have to do with creation leading to celestialness (which is the Temple pattern, so again, it is significant)?

If I want the answer, I have to “study it out”.

So I devoured THIS ARTICLE last summer, and have pondered it since.

Then in April, THIS ARTICLE came out, and studying that out is what connected it to the cell-division-light blog, which gave me the first glimpse of how light connected to creation-ness.

Then in June, THIS ARTICLE came out, related to another new experiment with all its stats not yet released.

So for those who don’t care about math or science, the important part is that we know light is both particle (showing the pattern as it goes through the slit) and random (appearing random).

Because even elementary school kids know this by now, because we have known it for a while, I love using the analogy in my nerdy-therapist-workshops, especially those tense ones on marriage, in regards to males and females.

Males are the particle: the compartmentalized point on the line, holding information, full of raw information.

Females are the waves: they have the ups and downs that take that information and give it color, all while connecting the dots of the line so that the message can actually be transmitted.

People always laugh, but it’s a basic analogy easy to understand while being packed full of principles we can all apply and practice.

But when I was running my 5k today, I saw a clip about the double slit experiment being recreated in an oscillating liquid by a drop of silicone.  I could not find the reference yet for the original article (though there are tons of references about it if you Google it).

Here’s a (bad phone recording of) the clip I saw on TV, which was from the show Through the Wormhole (click to view):

Did you see?  Look at what happened when they did it:

It recreated the double slit, only with the for-dummies manual.

There evidence of both: the particle (enclosed circles) and the wave (around the circles).

It goes back to it being both particle and wave (that’s why it follows predictable), but more (that’s why it doesn’t follow the rules).

The center circles, to the left and right, have a specific area that never touch.

But the waves around them move it.

They said, in the show, you could see the droplet moving randomly like a quantum particle, but behaving like a quantum wave.

“The wave appears to guide the droplet.”

“In fact, the wave fields around the droplet develop a memory of the trails they have followed.  Despite their random behavior, they follow a small number of paths.”

There are two distinct “beings” (for lack of better terms):  quantum particles and quantum waves.

So go back to the parallel:  the males are the particles, and the females are the waves.

The male is the droplet, trying to function to shine light.

The female is the wave, with a memory of whence they have come, and a plan to help that light shine – despite what appears at times to be random behavior.

The droplet (male) is moved by the wave (female) that guides it.

The male cannot move – cannot progress – without the female.

The female’s purpose lies in helping guide the male.  She could still be a wave without the droplet, but her purpose is to carry the droplet.

And when they are observed functioning together, then the pattern is revealed.

That’s the doctrine of marriage (even watching each droplet with all its waves, like ripples in a pond).

It’s beautiful.  It makes sense.  It’s “plain and simple”.

It makes me cry like at the symphony – that kind of beautiful, that kind of purity, that kind of depth, that kind of profound.

From creation, male (particle) and female (wave) were made to be “one” (Genesis 2:24).

Separate in function, but one in purpose, and designed to be one unit working together to create Light.

Like a photon.

That’s the connection of “light” and “understanding” to “creation” and “celestial-ness”!

And, when we “observe” this, we see the “pattern” (of the Order of the Priesthood).

It’s the pattern of how the Priesthood and Relief Society work together:

“..it is a beautiful thing to see the priesthood and the Relief Society work in perfect harmony. Such a relationship is like a well-tuned orchestra, and the resulting symphony inspires all of us.”   ~ Elder Cook, April 2011 General Conference

It needs both in order to create, and what it creates is light, and it is by Light (understanding) that we progress (celestial-ness).

Think that’s deep stuff, how Light reflects the doctrine of marriage and so shows the path from creation to celestial-ness?

Think it’s amazing how the Temple pattern is right there, in a photon?

Take it one step further.

Take a picture of the math of all this (courtesy of the Physics Forum):

And if it doesn’t look familiar, turn it upside down as if you were hanging it from the ceiling to LIGHT your way:

(Really, it is both, put together, but that’s for a different blog.)

Does that look like any lights you’ve seen?

Yes.  It’s the sheckinah.

It’s the pillar of Light, the presence of the Lord, that led the Israelites through Egypt into the promised land.

Just as it is through a pillar of Light that messengers appeared throughout the restoration.

Can you “see” (and so also “understand”)?  The purpose of having Light is to “observe” – to “see” (John 9).

Do you see any “pillars of Light”?

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Temple Physics: I Want to be a Photon When I Grow Up — 13 Comments

  1. I honestly have to take a long time to digest most of your posts. I’m always amazed at the things you write about, and I’ve only been reading your blog a couple weeks.

    I’m definitely going to go back through and read this more closely. I just quicklly skimmed it to get the major points. I apologize if you mentioned this, but some of this reminds me of what Nibley wrote in one of the essays published in “Temple and Cosmos” (I can’t remember which and my copy is currently in storage) where he discusses entropy and the laws of thermodynamics and how that relates to the temple.

    I have a feeling we could have a lot to talk about. I’ve become extremely interested in neuroscience and biology and human behavior this last year or so. I’ve started to form some ideas about the intersection of these things and the gospel, perhaps you are someone I could bounce these ideas off of.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas.

  2. I hate to be a party-pooper, but you have the observed part backwards on the double slit experiment.

    If you use a system with a detector at one slit to determine which slit the photon passes through before hitting the back wall, the photons will form a gaussian curve behind each slit (like two hills of photons piled up). If you don’t observe, it’s as though the photon’s wave properties allow it to pass simultaneously through each and after thousands of such interactions, the wave interference pattern emerges.

    Apparently they’ve found new ways of observing which don’t disrupt the interference pattern: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double-slit_experiment#With_particle_detectors_at_the_slits

    • Right! I love it!

      Not looking at it backwards, just focused on the individual dots in the random pattern – which, yes, are caused by the wave-ness.

      It’s hard to get to the basics of it, and I still fail brevity. It’s gonna take more practice! Your words in a quick comment said it way better, and more accurately. Thanks so much!

      • My bad. That’s what I get for skimming. When I read this:

        When the photons are being watched, then they line up (in Order) and show the slit pattern.

        I instantly think: Pattern=Interference, I don’t think two gaussians behind the slits. I should read more carefully next time before putting my foot in my mouth.

        • No worries! Really – I still so very much appreciated the brevity of your comment. I totally fail brevity, and you said my whole blog in a paragraph. SNAP! HA! Loved it! Really!

    • And thanks for the link! I saw a similar one using liquid, but different than the silicone drop.

  3. Pingback: Young Women Talk (by request) | Housewife Class

  4. Pingback: #LDSConf – Mosiah 13 | Housewife Class: