How Quantum Physics Makes Your Backups More Efficient


For this video, I’d like to take a moment and examine some of the amazing scientific discoveries which have made technologies like online backup and cloud computing possible.

But first, let’s talk about something completely unrelated.

Let’s suppose that there is a lifeguard who spots a struggling swimmer. For this example, we’ll assume that the lifeguard always runs on land at a constant speed, and that he also swims at a constant speed which is much slower than his running speed on land.

In order to maximize his chances of saving this swimmer’s life, he’ll need to get from point A to point B in the least amount of time. How does he decide this?

At first, it may seem like a good idea to follow a straight line towards the swimmer. Although this is the shortest distance, it’s not the fastest route… since his swimming speed is very slow.

In order to minimize his swimming time, he may decide to run along the beach until he reaches a point where he has the shortest possible swimming distance. Although this route is faster than the previous one, it’s still not the shortest, since he has to do lots of unnecessary running.

Somewhere in between, there is a sweet spot where the sum of his swimming time and his running time together are the smallest that they could possibly be.

In order for the lifeguard to be able to find this route, 2 conditions must be met:

  • The lifeguard must be able to see into the future, so that it can plan the fastest route to his final destination.
  • The lifeguard must have strong analytical capabilities, since planning this route will involve lots of ugly calculus.

Now, let’s go on another completely unrelated tangent and talk about fish.

If a fisherman shines a laser into a pond and strikes a fish, the beam won’t form a straight line. Instead, the beam will bend or “refract” at a certain angle when it hits the water’s surface.

We also know that light travels at different speeds through different substances. It will travel at one speed through air, another speed through glass, another speed through water, and another speed through empty space.

If you multiply the speed of light in water with the distance it travelled through air, you know how long it took to get from point a to point B. Likewise, you can multiply the speed of light through water with the distance it travelled in order to find out how long it took to get from point B to point C.

So when the beam hits the water’s surface, how does the light know what angle to bend at? Well, it turns out that if you add up the time it took for the beam to go from the laser to the water and the time the beam took to travel from the water’s surface to the fish, that this trajectory will always be the FASTEST route from the laser to the fish.

And this principle is how the light beam decides what angle to bend when it reaches the water. It will always bend at an angle which provides it with the “path of minimal time” to reach its final destination.

So how is this possible?

  • How can a beam or a photon of light know where it’s going in advance?
  • Is light able to see into the future?
  • And how can light calculate the shortest trajectory?
  • Does a photon of light know how to do math?

Unfortunately – as with most things in quantum physics – the real answer to this question is more bizarre, and more confusing than the question itself.

This “path of minimal action” – although it sounds too crazy to be true – is actually a core working principle which is required in order to make fiber optic networks function properly. Without it, there would be no Internet and no cloud computing.

A fiber-optic cable is simply a long, thin strand of glass. Light of a specific color or wavelength is beamed into the glass at a very steep angle, so that it ends up bouncing back and forth along the walls of the glass until it reaches the other end. The path followed by the light will always be the fastest-possible trajectory for a photon of that specific wavelength.

And this incredibly bizarre phenomenon happens trillions of times per second, every time you back up your data online.

Just something to think about.

If you’d like to learn more about the incredibly fascinating technology that makes online backup possible, contact Storagepipe Solutions today for Canada online backup!

Leave a Reply