Why I Believe Love is Like Quantum Physics (But in a Good Way)

By Salik Khan

Ishq par zor naheen, hai ye woh aatish ‘Ghalib’

ki lagaaye na lage aur bujhaaye na bane

(Ghalib! Love is a fire that lights itself

and dies out of itself, beyond our wills.)

Let’s accept it, we have been trying to understand the business of love since time immemorial. From poets to philosophers, we have tried just about everything. This enquiry has led us to literature, poetry, psychology, sociology and whatnot. But here we are, still trying to get the basics right. So perhaps it’s time to study the matters of love and relationships in a different light. The light of the Universe!

Why do we fall in love? Is it like planets and other celestial bodies falling under the invisible force of gravity? What if stars are in a polygamous relationship with planets? Perhaps what we call a solar system is a beautiful cosmic relationship, the kind of relationship poets write poetry about. In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Romeo speaks these lines in the balcony scene:

“It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.

Much like Ghalib’s ‘aatish’, Shakespeare’s poetic metaphor for love is a function of heat or fire. Brain science tells us the inside story: like any other intense emotion such as anger or sadness, our blood pressure and muscle tension increases, which stimulate sweat glands, and we feel hotter. Neurobiologically speaking, the association of love with heat (and by extension, stars, which are giant balls of fire) appears to be more literal than metaphorical.

The night sky, for me, is a poetic symposium of stars, planets, moons and satellites—artificial or otherwise. In the infinite darkness of the cosmos, their perpetual movement weaves poetry and patterns, a love of a different kind on the fabric of space-time. I heard the universe as a romantic ghazal sung by Mehdi Hassan. The stars talk love to me. I can hear the murmurs of the planets and rustling-rumbling of satellites, as they orbit around the sky, sixteen times a day.

Perhaps, as the song from Khamoshi goes, “Aasmaan ko bhi ye haseen raaz hai pasand.”

When people fall in love, they experience all sorts of feelings that are difficult to rationalise. Einstein once said that if the laws governing quantum mechanics were correct, then the world would be crazy.

Well, Einstein was right—the world is crazy, and so is love.

In the early 1920s, the scientific world was in the middle of one of the most heated debates in its history. The radical and bizarre theory of “uncertainty” forever changed the way we understand the Universe, and at the center of this debate was a battery of Nobel Laureates and some of the brightest minds of the 20th century—Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Ernest Rutherford, Max Planck and Erwin Schrödinger.

The Wacky World of Quantum Physics

In 1935, Mr Schrödinger (whose kittens were at the same time dead and alive) coined the term “entanglement”, which led to the development of a counterintuitive phenomenon called “quantum entanglement”. Quantum entanglement is a phenomenon wherein two particles can be intimately linked to each other even if separated by billions of light-years of space; a change induced in one will affect the other, much like Bollywood’s proverbial dramas with twins. Does it remind you of Judwaa 2? Me neither. But it certainly highlights the scientific accuracy and acumen of David Dhawan.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Whatever happens to one particle can have an impact on the second, even if those particles are billions of light years apart. It’s like two particles in love—like soulmates, defying the “till death do us part” rationale; a love story at the smallest scales imaginable.

Einstein was uncertain about this uncertainty and he initially dismissed this theory, calling such “impossible” and famously derided quantum entanglement as “Spukhafte Fernwirkung” or “spooky action at a distance.” He also refused quantum ideas, because “God”, he said, “does not play dice”. Scientists have proven beyond just about all doubt that it works, and now we are very certain about the uncertainties of the quantum world. Your GPS, lasers, smartphone, or the computer you are using to read this couldn’t exist without quantum physics. Almost every modern electronic device is a consequence of this bizarre theory.

The newest technological innovations today were made possible by the study, all those years ago, of two particles in “love”.

A Euphoric Entanglement Called Love

Love and quantum physics are completely unrelated subjects, yet strangely parallel. For starters, they both are mysterious. Two people can fall in love, much like two entangled subatomic particles, even if they’re nowhere near each other. Catching each other’s eyes for the first time across a busy metro station, or in a crowded room of strangers, or on social media, when they are thousands of miles away from each other. That’s the thing with love and quantum entanglement—age, distance and the value of Pi seem nothing more than just numbers.

Long-held beliefs, what society approves of, the notion of right and wrong, logic, and rational ideas don’t seem to hold any ground when it comes to love or the quantum world. Spooky? I say not. Quantum entanglement is perhaps the purest form of love—it’s quantum romance.

If you think of two lovers living at the opposite ends of this planet, the shared emotions, the sense of belonging, the way they perceive each other despite several thousand miles of distance, is nothing short of entanglement. Distance means so little when someone means so much. Breaking Einstein’s cosmic speed limit barrier, our thoughts and memories span a thousand miles in a fraction of a second. The poetic equivalent of “spooky action at a distance”. You can’t define an entangled particle on its own; both exist in a continuum, much like in a relationship where neither of the two lovers is complete on their own. They complete each other—like non-separable halves of the same entangled entity.

Credit: Shocking Science / The Daily Galaxy

That one person in the world who knows you better than anyone else. Someone who makes you a better person… actually, they don’t make you a better person—you do that yourself because they inspire you. Theirs is a force so powerful that it motivates you and leads you to the path of self-discovery and awakening. It’s like a reflection of yourself, a custom and tailor-made soul for you. It doesn’t matter if you are in the same city, country, Universe or in fact, in the same dimension—you’ll always find one another. As if the bond between these distant souls is pre-celestial, older than the Big Bang and stronger than any ionic bond chemistry has ever contemplated.

Love is an utterly complex concept, yet so beautifully simple, just like quantum physics. The uncertainty, the chaos, the randomness, the lack of any predefined ‘plan’ is what makes love so beautiful. Maybe it’s much more interesting to live with the willingness to embrace uncertainty, to live with mystery, and make peace with ambiguity.

The kind of love I seek—and what I think everyone else seeks—is beyond the reach of right and wrong, it pushes and pulls you, at the same time. My idea of love carries a scientific undertone, and I subscribe to the many worlds interpretation which posits the existence of an infinite number of “You and I” continuum in an infinite number of universes, and at least in one of those universes, we are together as a whole.

Quantum physics also suggests that we are made of particles that have existed since the universe began. It also suggests the most poetic thing I know about physics: we are all stardust. We couldn’t be here if stars hadn’t died. Don’t know about Jesus, a star in the backyard of the cosmos died for our sins. You see, those particles traveled 13.7 billion years through time and space so that we could be together. If not in this universe, maybe in some other universe, on a bright sunny day in February (Farvari ki sardiyon ki dhoop mein), I am reading Mir, or perhaps Carl Sagan, to you.

Are you even listening to me?

Salik heads the Social Media Communications (aka Ghalib-in-Chief) at Talk Journalism and he can be found tweeting about Poetry, Physics and Ghalib @baawraman


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