Though science teacher Antonio Nassar has had 56 research papers published in physics journals during his career at Harvard-Westlake and the University of California Los Angeles, he considers his latest to be his crowning achievement.
“There was always one journal, the most prestigious one, that never published me before,” Nassar said. “But now that journal has.”
The journal is Physical Review Letters, the first publishers of famous papers like Peter Higgs’s discovery of the “God Particle.”
Nassar’s paper, co-authored with Spanish physics professor Salvador Miret-Artés, upsets a common belief in physical science: that at the exact moment a particle is observed it loses its quantum properties and becomes a classical physics particle. Nassar’s research led him to conclude that this does not happen instantaneously but occurs over a timespan of 10-26 seconds, one sextillionth of the time it takes for lightning to flash once.
An example of this principle is the “Schrödinger’s Cat” thesis: one does not know whether a cat inside a closed box with a vial of poison equally liable to kill the cat or leave it unharmed, is dead or alive. By opening the box and “measuring” the cat’s life state, the observer instantly changes the state and invalidates his or her own measurement.
This belief agrees with what Nassar describes as the “Copenhagen orthodox” school of thought. Nassar’s own work falls under an oppositional category called “Bohmian mechanics.” However, up until now, the only split between the two groups has been the method of discovery, not the conclusions they reach, Nassar said.
Nassar’s discovery, he said, is revolutionary as it could not have been found with the orthodox method of physical thought.
“In a sense, it is the first true Bohmian discovery,” Nassar said. “It’s something that really changes the game.”
Nassar adapted ideas in this paper from a paper he previously published, which was his first attempt to find the value of the Bohmian time constant he found in his research for this paper.
While his study will be published shortly, it could be a long time before its main thesis is experimentally proven.
“I feel like I’ve found something big, but many theories are beautiful and unproven,” he said. “I’m not even sure I’ll be alive to see this proven. Technology has to progress more before that can happen.”
While Nassar said this discovery may not affect people’s daily lives, he believes it will spur innovative thinking and pave the way for future changes.
“I hope that my work inspires people to go into the discovery process and not just seek financial success,” Nassar said. “There’s immense potential for discovery out there.”