July 29, 2006


Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness (Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner)

Try summarizing the implications of quantum theory, and what you get sounds mystical.

Let's try a rough summary anyway. To account for the demonstrated facts, quantum theory tells us that an observation of one object can instantaneously influence the behavior of another greatly distant object--even if no physical force connects the two. Einstein rejected such influences as "spooky interactions," but they have now been demonstrated to exist. Quantum theory also tells us that observing an object to be someplace causes it to be there. For example, according to quantum theory, an object can be in two, or many, places at once--even far distant places. Its existence at the particular place it happens to be found becomes an actuality only upon its (conscious) observation.

This seems to deny the existence of a physically real world independent of our observation of it. You can see why Einstein was troubled.

Erwin Schrodinger, a founder of modern quantum theory, told his now famous cat story to illustrate that since the quantum theory applies to the large as well as the small, the theory is saying something absurd. Schrodinger's cat, according to quantum theory, could be simultaneously dead and alive--until your observation causes it to be either dead or alive. Moreover, finding the cat dead would create a history of it developing rigor mortis; finding it alive would create a history of its developing hunger--backward in time.

Anyone who takes the implications of quantum theory seriously would presumably agree that you can't accept it with equanimity. Niels Bohr, the theory's principal interpreter, tells us: "Anyone not shocked by quantum mechanics has not understood it."

The funny thing is, only the Brights are shocked by this truism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 29, 2006 8:34 PM

Every thing appears to be an object. Except from its own perspective. Each of those perspectives is an aspect of the almighty, who/which is nonetheless greater than the sum of all of them. Both immanent and transcendant. As it was in the beginning, is now, amd forever shall be.

When I was a child, I caught a fleeting glimpse ...

Posted by: ghostcat at July 29, 2006 9:35 PM

Ah, but that's the rub, we don't seem to be objects even from our own perspective.

Posted by: oj at July 29, 2006 9:48 PM

I'm currently reading "The Self-Aware Universe", which seems to be along very similar lines.

From the review: 'And the renowned Stephen Hawking has made his hostility to those who point out the problems in his field even more clear, saying that when someone brings up Schrodinger's cat he wants to "reach for my gun."'

Compare this Wikipedia article:

'Hanns Johst (July 8, 1890 - November 23, 1978) was a German playwright and Nazi Poet Laureate.

Johst studied medicine and philosophy and - later - history of art. He volunteered for the army in 1914. In 1918 he settled down at the Starnberger See.

His early work is influenced by expressionism (e.g. Der Anfang (1917), Der König (1920)). Later, he turned to a naturalist philosophy (Wechsler und Händler (1923), Thomas Paine (1927)).

In 1935 Johst became the President of the Reichsschrifttumskammer and of the Deutsche Akademie für Dichtung - organisations for German writers, but at this time just for writers who were producing pro-Nazi work. In the essay "Standpunkt und Fortschritt" (1933) he declared his agreement with Hitler's ideology.

Johst has gained notoriety for writing a line misattributed sometimes to Hermann Göring and sometimes to Heinrich Himmler:

"Wenn ich Kultur höre ... entsichere ich meinen Browning." Meaning: "Whenever I hear the word culture... I release the safety-catch of my Browning!" - Schlageter (Act 1, Scene 1), A line parodied by Stephen Hawking, "When I hear of Schrödinger's cat, I reach for my pistol."'

Posted by: Guy T. at July 29, 2006 11:38 PM

Are true mathematical statements necessarily true statements about the Universe? All this mystical quantum theory stuff assumes the answer is yes. I thought, though, that you were going to go for "There is always an Observer" implying that all states are always resolved.

Posted by: David Cohen at July 29, 2006 11:47 PM

I did.

Posted by: oj at July 29, 2006 11:52 PM

I agree.

But of course we're not objects from our own perspective. Only the un-sane view themselves as objects. They may also view other things as subjects. (That conversion of perspective is the essence of mysticism.)

Posted by: ghostcat at July 30, 2006 12:29 AM

Events have a way of making us perceive them. You can't ignore a nuclear bomb going off.

As for "one object can instantaneously influence the behavior of another greatly distant object--even if no physical force connects the two," that simply means there are examples of cause and effect that have nothing to do with forces.

May the non-force be with you!

Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger at July 30, 2006 3:39 AM


What events?

Posted by: oj at July 30, 2006 9:09 AM

Quite, so everything is subjective and Reason and Science amply demonstrate that there is no rational basis bor a belief in the subject.

Posted by: oj at July 30, 2006 9:11 AM

Reason and science reduce every thing to a mere object, dismissing the obvious fact that every thing also has its own subjective reality. The ultimate observer is both within and without.

Posted by: ghostcat at July 30, 2006 2:04 PM

No, according to science nothing has subjective reality. All is mere speculation.

Posted by: oj at July 30, 2006 2:18 PM

What we have here is failure to communicate.

Delete your "no" and I agree completely.

Posted by: ghostcat at July 30, 2006 2:32 PM

It's easiest stated thus: Rationalism is irrational.

Posted by: oj at July 30, 2006 2:40 PM

Would you agree that people have a way of getting us to notice them? Not a very 'scientific' statement, but it seems accurate enough.

Posted by: ratbert at July 30, 2006 4:51 PM


Yes, once you jettison science it's possible to discuss reality intelligently.

Posted by: oj at July 30, 2006 5:16 PM

Ecclesiastes 3.

Posted by: ghostcat at July 30, 2006 5:43 PM

As for "one object can instantaneously influence the behavior of another greatly distant object--even if no physical force connects the two," that simply means there are examples of cause and effect that have nothing to do with forces.

The ones I've heard of can also be explained by "hidden variables"- states which are not visible to outside observers until and unless an object is destroyed in the process. The same hidden variable was set to another value in the now distant object when the both objects were simultaneously created, and so can be inferred because it's known that there are only two states, and the creating process always creates two objects with different states. No need for superluminal effects. QED.

(Say I take a coin and cut it in half through the flat part, giving me two coins, one with he heads and one with the tails. I put each in an envelope without looking at them and randomly mail one to the Eastern Time Zone. These envelopes are "particles", and I can only determine if one is a "heads" or a "tails" by ripping open and destroying the envelope/particle. If I create a big sack of them, and don't somehow keep track of with pairs of which, they will be 50-50 Head whenI open them. But when I open my envelope that I've kept and find Lincoln, the one I sent doesn't magically become the Memorial. It was there all along, and I now don't even have to open that envelope to know that fact, because I kept track of it and its sibling. The "wavefront equation has collapsed", to use QM-speak.)

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at July 30, 2006 7:45 PM


Bohr was speaking to you.

Posted by: oj at July 30, 2006 8:11 PM

We flat earthers will rise again.

Posted by: erp at July 31, 2006 7:11 AM