Fresh From Einstein's Too-Hard Pile . . . !

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Fresh From Einstein's Too-Hard Pile . . . !

Post by Corlyss_D » Thu Jul 12, 2007 12:00 am

The second quantum revolution

THE world used to be a much simpler place. A hundred years or so ago, we lived in a very normal, classical universe where everything made sense, and nothing behaved strangely. Then along came quantum theory.

Suddenly, stuff didn't always behave as any rational person would expect. At the fundamental level of atoms and particles, things could be in two places at once. They could even move in two different directions at once. And it seemed they could also be entangled - engaged in a quantum version of telepathy in which they are somehow able to sense and affect each other instantaneously from a distance.

Adjusting to this new universe was a tall order. Some physicists constructed elaborate philosophies to deal with the implications. Albert Einstein, on the other hand, famously rejected entanglement as "spooky". He was convinced that quantum entanglement couldn't be real because the implications would run too deep: any effort to produce a unified theory, one that tied quantum mechanics together with relativity and other physical theories, would need to reconcile the weirdness of entanglement with relativity's rather more practical grasp of time and space. That just seemed altogether too hard.

Not that he ever gave up on a theory of everything. Einstein spent the latter part of his life trying to construct a unified universe, without success. He also continued to wrestle with quantum spookiness on his own. To most physicists, quantum theory was useful if you wanted to design a laser or transistor, but it didn't do to think about it too deeply.

That attitude prevailed even among those who wanted to understand the intimate workings of the universe. So the "foundations" of quantum theory - the assumptions behind how it describes particles, fields and reality itself - has taken a back seat in the quest for a unified theory. "Einstein's strong belief that the foundational issues in quantum mechanics are a necessary part of solving the problem of unification got suppressed and lost," says Lee Smolin of the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Canada.

But what was lost has now been found again. At the core of this renaissance is a growing tally of results showing that entanglement has profound implications for our view of reality. Recent experiments led by a group at the University of Vienna, Austria, provide the most compelling evidence yet that there is no objective reality beyond what we observe. This idea, that our measurements create reality, is controversial and scarcely new, but the mounting evidence for it could have major implications in the search for a theory of everything. Indeed, we are at the "conceptual beginnings of a second quantum revolution", according to Alain Aspect of the Institute of Optics at Palaiseau in France.

The original quantum revolution came in the 1920s. Einstein's big problem with quantum mechanics was that it contradicted the intuition supported by all other theories of physics. In our experience, objects have definite locations in space and a limited range of influence. According to quantum theory, however, a pair of particles would be able to share information about each other's quantum states - and sometimes influence them - even where the distance and timing involved meant that no signal could have passed between them.

This suggested to Einstein that when it came to describing physical reality, quantum theory was lacking something. It is not that the information about the particles' states is shared in a spooky link between them, he thought - it is simply that we don't know where to find all the factors working on a particle to determine its momentum, say. Uncover these "hidden variables", Einstein said, and all the mystical spookiness would melt away. In its place would be a quantum theory that operates by the rules of common sense.

True to form, Einstein didn't leave it at that: he formulated a mathematical argument to bolster his case. Working with Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen, he threw down the gauntlet to the quantum camp.

In 1935, the three theorists published the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen thought experiment, known as EPR. It said that if quantum theory was correct and complete, you should be able to perform an experiment in which a measurement on one entangled particle instantaneously affects the quantum state of its distant twin. At the time, this seemed to violate the known laws of physics and cast doubt on whether quantum theory could be considered to be a complete description of reality.

Much gnashing of teeth and triumphalism followed. Erwin Schrödinger, who had also wrestled with the implications of quantum mechanics, gleefully told Einstein the EPR paper had caught quantum theory "by the throat". No one knew how to turn the thought experiment into a real one, however, so the two camps - Einstein's opposition was spearheaded by the fearsome Danish physicist Niels Bohr - spent the next two decades shaking their fists at each other.

In 1964, nine years after Einstein's death, physicist John Bell worked out a scheme to test EPR. He believed, as Einstein did, in the intuitive idea of "local realism": that a particle cannot be instantly influenced by a distant event, and that its properties exist independently of any measurement.

Bell derived a mathematical formula that quantified what you would get if you made measurements on an entangled pair of particles. If local realism was correct, the correlation between measurements made on one of the pair and those made on its partner could not exceed a certain amount, because of each particle's limited influence. The stage was set for a definitive experiment.

Many years passed before Aspect built the necessary equipment in his basement laboratory at the University of Paris, but by 1982 he had a result: Bell's formula did not agree with quantum experiments (New Scientist, 24 November 1990, p 43). The world, Aspect announced, could not be both local and real - Einstein was wrong. But which idea had to go, realism or locality? Do particles only acquire real properties when they are measured? Or are distant, instant influences possible between particles?

The answer would come from another source. In 1976, well before Aspect had carried out his experiment, physicist Anthony Leggett had what he calls "the kernel" of an idea to rework Bell's formula with a twist: he quantified what you would get if you made measurements on entangled particles, assuming that distant, instant influences were in fact possible. Leggett eventually published this formula in 2003, the year he won the Nobel prize in physics for his work on the quantum properties of helium-3.

Enter a team of Austrian and Polish physicists, who have now done experiments on pairs of entangled photons to test Leggett's formula (see "The end of reality"). The team, led by Markus Aspelmeyer of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and Anton Zeilinger of the University of Vienna, managed to reduce the noise in their set-up by a necessary factor of 10, compared with Aspect's work. They published their results in April (Nature, vol 446, p 871).

What they found is that Leggett's formula is violated as well: even if you allow for instantaneous influences, quantum measurements do not fit with the idea of an objective reality. This is surprising because you might expect that, once any spooky "non-local" action is allowed, you could account for almost any relationship between two particles, and there would be no reason to ditch our concepts of reality. "This is not the case," says Aspelmeyer.

Although some loopholes remain - not all non-local models have been ruled out - we now have to face the possibility that there is nothing inherently real about the properties of an object that we measure. In other words, measuring those properties is what brings them into existence. "Rather than passively observing it, we in fact create reality," says quantum researcher Vlatko Vedral of the University of Leeds, UK.

This idea may not be new, but the evidence for it is, and it could have serious implications for a theory of everything: it tells us that what we think of as real is not necessarily so. "We know from our experience that there is a 'real' world with 'real' physical events, starting from clicks in a detector in the laboratory to experiencing a headache after too many beers," Aspelmeyer says. But that doesn't mean our physical theories ought to slavishly follow that experience, he points out - perhaps they need to dig deeper.

While quantum researchers may find this satisfying, it raises deep concerns for anyone attempting to unify the universe. General relativity, Einstein's theory of gravity, is fully realistic - it relies on things existing independent of measurements. So the search for a theory of everything, which involves uniting quantum physics with general relativity, may be even more difficult than we thought. "It is not at all clear how to construct a theory of gravity that is not real, which is what we need to do if we want to quantise gravity," Vedral says.
Spooky space-time

As Einstein suggested decades ago, entanglement could be the key. "Understanding entanglement means understanding a great deal about the principles upon which physical theories are based," Aspelmeyer says. His Vienna colleague ÇCaslav Brukner goes further. For more than two decades, Brukner points out, people have been saying that physics is almost wrapped up, yet if anything we seem to have reached a stalemate. "We need to rethink and radically revise our basic physical concepts before we can make the next big breakthrough in physics," he says.

Some physicists working on unified theories are well aware of this. In terms of "new ideas about quantum gravity", says Smolin, "non-locality is certainly at the core". His particular area, loop quantum gravity, does not presume that space and time behave as Einstein's relativity dictates (New Scientist, 12 August 2006, p 28 ). As well as allowing for spooky instantaneous signalling across space-time, those working on similar models are revisiting the fundamental aspects of quantum mechanics. A recent paper Smolin wrote with Perimeter colleague Fotini Markopoulou points out, for instance, that loop quantum gravity may conflict with common notions of entanglement (www.arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/0702044).

Translating these studies into a deeper theory won't be easy. Physicist David Deutsch at the University of Oxford warns that even re-examining entanglement might not help us find the path to a theory of everything. According to Deutsch, we are blocked by something even more fundamental than that.

Entanglement is real, he says, but it tells us more about how information can be extracted from quantum systems than the nature of the physical universe. All the philosophical hand-wringing over entanglement is based on the "delusion" that we have a basic grasp on quantum theory, he adds. Just because we have made one leap away from the classical world doesn't mean we've reached the heart of quantum truth. "This local realism stuff is all to do with whether it is possible to have a classical world view," Deutsch says. "It's a completely pointless controversy that should have ended in the 1950s."

While his world view is clearly quantum, all Deutsch will say about a theory of everything is that it is likely to come from uniting quantum theory and relativity at a more fundamental level than current entanglement experiments allow.

This is, of course, where we are still scrabbling for clues. "The whole underlying problem, ultimately, is that we lack experimental observations in the region where quantum and gravitational effects both matter," Vedral says. "Gravity works well in its own domain and so does quantum physics." What we have to decide, he says, is whether gravity or quantum theory is more fundamental.

So does the universe exist independently of measurements? That is a question we will have to face. Maybe it is time to revisit Einstein's lost quest, if we are serious about uncovering the basic laws of the universe; the money spent on particle smashers such as the Large Hadron Collider certainly suggests we are. Perhaps we need to move quantum entanglement and the nature of reality to the centre of the quest to find a theory of everything. What was once a quirky sideshow may yet prove to be the main event.
The end of reality

Want to prove that everything you thought to be true actually isn't? Start with some common sense assumptions: that things have real, measurable properties before anyone measures them. Then try a quantum experiment.

Take the polarisation of photons. Assume that if a photon is polarised, its electric and magnetic fields oscillate in well-defined directions. Now assume that each photon's polarisation will create a predictable effect: when you put a polariser in front of the beam, you can predict what light intensity you'll get out.

These assumptions have been tested by Markus Aspelmeyer and Anton Zeilinger's team at the University of Vienna, Austria, in a landmark experiment (Nature, vol 446, p 871). The researchers examined pairs of entangled photons emitted by a crystal (see Diagram). Whereas previous experiments have looked at polarisations in one plane, the Aspelmeyer experiment happens in 3D, which allows it to rule out more options regarding the objective reality of the photons.

Underlying the set-up is a mathematical relation between the sum, difference and product of polarisation measurements, formulated by Anthony Leggett of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. This reduces to a set of results called a correlation function, which tells you how linked polarisation measurements on the entangled photons will be.

Two experimenters, called Alice and Bob (A and B), make the measurements. Alice can choose one of two angles for her polariser, and Bob can choose one of three. Both choose between planes of polarisation that are at right angles to each other. This enables you to test realism - the idea that a particle's state exists in objective reality - and non-locality, the idea that distant, instant influences are possible between particles.

The trick is to see if quantum theory plus the assumptions can predict the correlations. Leggett's formula says that a combination of the measurements should depend on the angles that Alice and Bob choose. If the predictions agree with what you observe, your assumptions are fine. If not, you have to give up your view of reality. "If you take into account all the theories in question, there will be a certain range of allowed values," says ÇCaslav Brukner, one of the Vienna researchers. "If the measured value is outside of that range, you know that nature is not described by those theories."

It turns out that assuming the photons have distinct polarisations prior to measurement stops the numbers adding up. However, the predictions match up perfectly if you assume that quantum theory is right, and that you can only describe properties statistically. The researchers take this to mean we have to abandon the idea of an objective reality. "Maybe Bohr and Heisenberg were right after all," Aspelmeyer says. "Physics doesn't tell us how nature is, it only tells us what we can say about nature."
Weblinks

* Lee Smolin, Perimeter Institute
* http://www.perimeterinstitute.ca/index. ... Lee_Smolin
* Alain Aspect, Institute of Optics
* http://atomoptic.iota.u-psud.fr/
* Markus Aspelmeyer, University of Vienna
* http://homepage.univie.ac.at/Markus.Asp ... index.html
* Anton Zeilinger, University of Vienna research group
* http://www.quantum.at/
* Anthony Leggett, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
* http://www.physics.uiuc.edu/people/Leggett/index.htm
* Vlatko Vedral, University of Leeds
* http://www.vlatkovedral.org/
* David Deutsch homepage
* http://www.qubit.org/people/david/

From issue 2609 of New Scientist magazine, 20 June 2007, page 30-33
http://www.newscientist.com/channel/fun ... ution.html
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Post by Teresa B » Thu Jul 12, 2007 8:24 am

Have I gotta quantum headache! :shock: Thanks for posting this, Corlyss. It's amazing and baffling that the human mind seems to be able to formulate scientific theories that work on a practical level, but at a deeper level, we either have no clue, or we are creating our own reality!

(I spent three years in chemistry classes, and I coulda been making up my own reality. :x Burns me up.)

Seriously, this nonlocal nature of things is impossible for our local brains to wrap around. I'm the last person to rhapsodize on the parallels between religion and physics, but the Buddhists have always been saying this--that "consciousness" IS reality, and Hey, All is One. :) So could it be that deep meditation is not just an altered mental state (admittedly able to be replicated by certain drugs), but actually is a state that allows a glimpse of this nonlocal connection-of-everything?

Teresa
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Post by jbuck919 » Thu Jul 12, 2007 8:40 am

Teresa B wrote:Have I gotta quantum headache! :shock: Thanks for posting this, Corlyss. It's amazing and baffling that the human mind seems to be able to formulate scientific theories that work on a practical level, but at a deeper level, we either have no clue, or we are creating our own reality!

(I spent three years in chemistry classes, and I coulda been making up my own reality. :x Burns me up.)

Seriously, this nonlocal nature of things is impossible for our local brains to wrap around. I'm the last person to rhapsodize on the parallels between religion and physics, but the Buddhists have always been saying this--that "consciousness" IS reality, and Hey, All is One. :) So could it be that deep meditation is not just an altered mental state (admittedly able to be replicated by certain drugs), but actually is a state that allows a glimpse of this nonlocal connection-of-everything?

Teresa
Yes, Teresa, and it was driving me crazy that Corlyss has been posting these challenging threads like no tomorrow and I was getting to the point where I wasn't sure I could take the time to get dressed today. :)

I will offer the following polite rejoinder: "Ordinary" chemistry is no mystery and it makes no sense that it only became a modern science within the last, what, century-and-a-half, and any coincidence between religious thinking and scientific speculation on what we cannot know because we're not wired for it is exactly that, speculation.

Many people do not know that Einstein himself discovered quantum reality. His Nobel Prize was for his paper on the photoelectric effect and Brownian motion, which is the first proof of this. His later self-imposed horror at the implications is more or less his own personal business. However, not attempting to compare myself to such an intellect, I will venture that the anthropic principle, which states that the universe has some kind of fundamental dependency on human cognition and is proposed by serious scientists as one aspect of quantum reality, must be false, and is repugnant to reason.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by Teresa B » Thu Jul 12, 2007 10:11 am

jbuck919 wrote: Yes, Teresa, and it was driving me crazy that Corlyss has been posting these challenging threads like no tomorrow and I was getting to the point where I wasn't sure I could take the time to get dressed today. :)

I will offer the following polite rejoinder: "Ordinary" chemistry is no mystery and it makes no sense that it only became a modern science within the last, what, century-and-a-half, and any coincidence between religious thinking and scientific speculation on what we cannot know because we're not wired for it is exactly that, speculation.

Many people do not know that Einstein himself discovered quantum reality. His Nobel Prize was for his paper on the photoelectric effect and Brownian motion, which is the first proof of this. His later self-imposed horror at the implications is more or less his own personal business. However, not attempting to compare myself to such an intellect, I will venture that the anthropic principle, which states that the universe has some kind of fundamental dependency on human cognition and is proposed by serious scientists as one aspect of quantum reality, must be false, and is repugnant to reason.
Well, truth be told, I didn't really (but what does that mean? :) ) think chemistry was pointless, because it does work!

I think that ("strong") version of the anthropic principle must be wrong, for the same basic reason--WE are not the point of the universe, and it takes a lotta hubris to believe we are. But we could surely be creating our own "reality" in terms of "what we measure is what we find"--sort of like the guy who keeps looking under the lamppost for his lost keys 'cause the light's better there.

Human hubris aside, what about the possibility that the universe is so interconnected at some level, all beings in it are, in essence, creating patterns and arising out of whatever the "primary" homogeneous substance is?

(And I openly admit to it all being speculation and musings. :D )
Teresa
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Post by jack stowaway » Thu Jul 12, 2007 4:45 pm

So does the universe exist independently of measurements?
I weigh myself, therefore I exist.

Fascinating stuff, and a welcome diversion from wars and rumours of war.

Reading about quantum theories very quickly reveals one's own limitations of both intellect and scientific-mathmathical knowledge.

Lay most laymen, I find the philosophical implications of an 'unreal' universe engrossing and baffling at once. With non-reality theories we are venturing into Star Trek physics, not to mention deep theological waters.

One can only guess that Einstein is correct and that entanglement offers a clue to the puzzle. This steers us perilously close to the Greek-Ptolemaic theory of influences -- still current today in the belief that a full moon affects the menstrual cycle and lunatics alike.

It all makes me wish I had an inspirational science teacher at school. The closest, alas, was the (American) geography master who stunned and excited the class one day by striding in and asking, 'Why is the sky blue?'

Brendan

Post by Brendan » Thu Jul 12, 2007 5:04 pm

And from a slightly different angle . . .

. . . Antonio Damasio proclaims, “Understanding consciousness says little or nothing abut the origins of the universe, the meaning of life, or the likely destiny of both.” Such confidence is remarkable in light of the fact that neuroscientists have not yet discovered the nature or origins of consciousness. Such researchers commonly assume that they already know that consciousness has no existence apart from the brain, so the only question to be solved is how the brain produces conscious states. In his book The Discoverers: A History of Man’s Search to Know His World and Himself, historian Daniel J. Boorstin calls such assumptions “illusions of knowledge.” It is these, he proposes, that have historically acted as the greatest impediments to scientific discovery.

The significance of the vacuum states of physical space and of consciousness can hardly be overestimated. Physicist John March-Russell declares “The current belief is that you have to understand all the properties of the vacuum before you can understand anything else.” Physicists have not yet fathomed all the properties of the vacuum or all the laws of nature, but they have widely assumed that consciousness is irrelevant to the universe they are trying to understand. Insofar as the universe conceived by physicists exists independently of consciousness, Buddhists may counter that such a universe is irrelevant to the world of human experience, in which consciousness plays a crucial role.

Wallace, B. Alan – Contemplative Science [Columbia 2007 p. 24]

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Post by Corlyss_D » Thu Jul 12, 2007 7:30 pm

I must admit to being charmed by the idea that it exists only when we look at it. Makes us all poets.
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Post by Gary » Sat Jul 14, 2007 4:09 am

Corlyss_D wrote:I must admit to being charmed by the idea that it exists only when we look at it. Makes us all poets.
But what happens when "it" is also a conscious being and is observing you? Who determines whose reality then? Poor Schrodinger's cat. No one's ever considered the problem from its point of view.

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Post by Teresa B » Sat Jul 14, 2007 7:18 am

jack stowaway wrote: One can only guess that Einstein is correct and that entanglement offers a clue to the puzzle. This steers us perilously close to the Greek-Ptolemaic theory of influences -- still current today in the belief that a full moon affects the menstrual cycle and lunatics alike.
I think we can be saved from reverting to moon theories or astrology by realizing this:

Although some electron in the Delta Quadrant could instantaneously have an effect on some neuron in my brain, the information cannot be transmitted faster than light--thus there is no way of actually knowing what changed as a result of the distant influence.

So...whether everything is constantly affecting everything, or not, we still perceive it the same way.

Teresa
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Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Jul 14, 2007 11:03 am

Gary wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:I must admit to being charmed by the idea that it exists only when we look at it. Makes us all poets.
But what happens when "it" is also a conscious being and is observing you? Who determines whose reality then? Poor Schrodinger's cat. No one's ever considered the problem from its point of view.
For half a mo' there, I thought you might be referring to the phenomenon of a conscious universe. An article from Science News in 1983 was provocatively entitled "A Knowing Universe Seeking to be Known." The discussion centered on the Princeton scientists who were studying and musing about an unexplained "bias in favor of consciousness" in the universe.
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Post by Teresa B » Sat Jul 14, 2007 11:54 am

Corlyss_D wrote:
Gary wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:I must admit to being charmed by the idea that it exists only when we look at it. Makes us all poets.
But what happens when "it" is also a conscious being and is observing you? Who determines whose reality then? Poor Schrodinger's cat. No one's ever considered the problem from its point of view.
For half a mo' there, I thought you might be referring to the phenomenon of a conscious universe. An article from Science News in 1983 was provocatively entitled "A Knowing Universe Seeking to be Known." The discussion centered on the Princeton scientists who were studying and musing about an unexplained "bias in favor of consciousness" in the universe.
I read an interesting little book by a British scientist who is also a Buddhist (I'll remember his name if a miracle happens). Anyway, he talks about consiousness being the universe, and all the separate entities being patterns, or channels, of this energy. (Stay with me here 8) ) In this view, every entity possesses, and indeed is a manifestation of, consciousness. The fact that sentience seems to exist only in living beings is simply because the more complex the stucture of the being, the more consciousness may inform it.

Thus a grain of salt, say, has such an infinitessimal glimmer of consciousness it is negligible. But a protozoan can swim away from a perceived threat or toward light. And a human with an incredibly complex neural network can compose a symphony, or reflect on consciousness.

Teresa
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Post by jbuck919 » Sat Jul 14, 2007 11:56 am

Corlyss_D wrote:
Gary wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:I must admit to being charmed by the idea that it exists only when we look at it. Makes us all poets.
But what happens when "it" is also a conscious being and is observing you? Who determines whose reality then? Poor Schrodinger's cat. No one's ever considered the problem from its point of view.
For half a mo' there, I thought you might be referring to the phenomenon of a conscious universe. An article from Science News in 1983 was provocatively entitled "A Knowing Universe Seeking to be Known." The discussion centered on the Princeton scientists who were studying and musing about an unexplained "bias in favor of consciousness" in the universe.
One problem with physics is that it creates situations that can only be explained with what to normal human reasoning seem self-contradictory explanations. For instance, a common (though I don't understand it, the experts tell me) interpretation of quantum physics is the many-universes theory, something that must remain forever theoretical and on its own terms is not experimentally verifiabe (as, for instance, relativity and some aspects of quantum reality are). I would certainly like to think that I did not die every microsecond of my allowed span of life in some alternative reality.

I don't know Science News, Corlyss, which is not to say that it is not a fine publication, but I do know Scientific American, which in spite of its jingoistic title may be the best general interest magazine ever published.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by Teresa B » Sat Jul 14, 2007 12:15 pm

John, your post showed up just as I entered mine. I don't like that multi-universe theory very well, either. (Some physicist said it had too much baggage, and I agree.) And anyway, I have a hard time translating an micro-happenings like electron taking two different paths into macro-happenings!

Here's an idea that has bugged me: It seems reasonable and natural that our brains, having evolved in this universe, would invent something like mathematics to describe this universe. So I'm not amazed that mathematics can describe the phenomena that we observe. But why are we frustratingly capable of grasping these concepts but not at all capable of understanding the nature of reality? (As Feinman said, "Nobody knows how it can be that way.")

(Ah, but as depressing as it is, perhaps it's just analogous to that Far Side cartoon where the dog scientists are busy in the lab amongst diagrams and microsopes, in vain trying to understand the doorknob principle.)

Teresa
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Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Jul 14, 2007 1:06 pm

jbuck919 wrote:For instance, a common (though I don't understand it, the experts tell me) interpretation of quantum physics is the many-universes theory, something that must remain forever theoretical and on its own terms is not experimentally verifiabe (as, for instance, relativity and some aspects of quantum reality are). I would certainly like to think that I did not die every microsecond of my allowed span of life in some alternative reality.
I don't know. That's the crux of it right there. At one time, like in college, I rejected the notion of multi-verses. Maybe there are just some things that we are destined not to comprehend, like string theory and Elliot Carter. Once that bothered me: everything should be readily understandable by the person of average intelligence. Seemed undemocratic (small-d) not to be so. Now maybe not.
I don't know Science News, Corlyss, which is not to say that it is not a fine publication, but I do know Scientific American, which in spite of its jingoistic title may be the best general interest magazine ever published.
http://www.sciencenews.org/pages/help.asp

Science News is an award-winning weekly newsmagazine covering the most important research in all fields of science. Its 16 pages are packed with short, accurate articles that appeal to both general readers and scientists. Published since 1922, the magazine now reaches about 150,000 subscribers and more than 1 million readers.
I tried several times since high school to subscribeto SA (which characterization of as "jingoistic" I reject - when a publication is 150 years old, it has a right to stick with its original title - people weren't ashamed of being American in those days like they are now) and read it. The thing was consistently over my head and not broad enough for my purposes - too much depth on a few articles and not enough breadth in covering the news. Science News was carried by my junior high and high school library, which is not to say it is a "dumbed down" publication. It's usually about 10-16 pages with science news stories and sources published weekly to be just a summary of the . . . . science news of the week. I read it then in school and subscribed for about 18 years after I graduated from college because the science news in weekly mags was so superficial and slight. After Barry put me onto New Scientist, I subscribed immediately. It has more stories more deeply reported than SN but not in the depth of SA.
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Post by Gary » Sun Jul 15, 2007 2:29 am

Corlyss_D wrote:
For half a mo' there, I thought you might be referring to the phenomenon of a conscious universe.
Not at all. I was merely probing further into Schrodinger's so-called cat paradox, wherein a cat is placed inside a cage along with a vial containing a poisonous gas, which has a 50% probability of being released and consequently would kill the animal. Note: the cage and its contents are sequestered from the observer (i.e., experimenter) for a period of time.

And according to the explanation the fate of our kitty is determined by the experimenter’s act of observing it. The theory works when only one observer is involved. It fails when the experimenter and the cat are observers of each other. So again I ask, which one of the two determines reality for the both of them?
Teresa B wrote:the more complex the stucture of the being, the more consciousness may inform it.
I think the cat is the one who's running the show--I mean reality. Animals seem much more conscious--certainly more alert--than we humans are! :)

Teresa B
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Post by Teresa B » Sun Jul 15, 2007 8:16 am

Gary,

I've long suspected a cat could run the show. :D Schroedinger's cat is fascinating, but I don't see why the experiment couldn't go the other way--a human is in the box, and a kitty opens it to find...a half-dead, half-alive human??

The point is, it is a quantum event like a photon hitting a sensor that either does or doesn't trigger the poison to be released. But since elementary particles seem to take the path we observe (or they somehow take ALL possible paths), until somebody looks, you end up with this paradoxical dead-alive state of whoever's in the blasted box!

And something is rotten in Denmark, regardless.

Teresa
"We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad." ~ The Cheshire Cat

Author of the novel "Creating Will"

Gary
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Post by Gary » Mon Jul 16, 2007 1:10 am

Teresa B wrote:...I don't see why the experiment couldn't go the other way--a human is in the box, and a kitty opens it to find...a half-dead, half-alive human??
Agreed. :)

Most physicists agree that the Copenhagen intrepretation isn't a very good explanation of the weirdness of the quantum world, but it's the best we have.

In his letter to Max Born, Einstein's famous remark "You believe in the God who plays dice..." was a direct assault on the interpretation. Here's the rest of the letter.
You believe in the God who plays dice, and I in complete law and order in a world which objectively exists, and which I, in a wildly speculative way, am trying to capture. I firmly believe, but I hope that someone will discover a more realistic way, or rather a more tangible basis than it has been my lot to do. Even the great initial success of the quantum theory does not make me believe in the fundamental dice game, although I am well aware that your younger colleagues interpret this as a consequence of senility.

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Post by jbuck919 » Mon Jul 16, 2007 6:38 am

Gary wrote:
Teresa B wrote:...I don't see why the experiment couldn't go the other way--a human is in the box, and a kitty opens it to find...a half-dead, half-alive human??
Agreed. :)

Most physicists agree that the Copenhagen intrepretation isn't a very good explanation of the weirdness of the quantum world, but it's the best we have.

In his letter to Max Born, Einstein's famous remark "You believe in the God who plays dice..." was a direct assault on the interpretation. Here's the rest of the letter.
You believe in the God who plays dice, and I in complete law and order in a world which objectively exists, and which I, in a wildly speculative way, am trying to capture. I firmly believe, but I hope that someone will discover a more realistic way, or rather a more tangible basis than it has been my lot to do. Even the great initial success of the quantum theory does not make me believe in the fundamental dice game, although I am well aware that your younger colleagues interpret this as a consequence of senility.
Off topic, but Einstein only really knew German well. He could barely say "yes" and "no" when he first arrived at Princeton. Later on he mastered English to a level that would embarrass most of us (well, certainly not Werner) who were making a stab at a second language begun in maturity. Just getting that great and difficult passage into English must have done some unknown translator proud.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by Gary » Tue Jul 17, 2007 1:11 am

jbuck919 wrote:
Off topic, but Einstein only really knew German well. He could barely say "yes" and "no" when he first arrived at Princeton. Later on he mastered English to a level that would embarrass most of us (well, certainly not Werner) who were making a stab at a second language begun in maturity. Just getting that great and difficult passage into English must have done some unknown translator proud.
He never mastered the violin, though he loved playing it.

jbuck919
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Post by jbuck919 » Tue Jul 17, 2007 2:33 am

Gary wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:
Off topic, but Einstein only really knew German well. He could barely say "yes" and "no" when he first arrived at Princeton. Later on he mastered English to a level that would embarrass most of us (well, certainly not Werner) who were making a stab at a second language begun in maturity. Just getting that great and difficult passage into English must have done some unknown translator proud.
He never mastered the violin, though he loved playing it.
Quite true. And famously, he only liked Bach and Mozart and deprecated even Beethoven and Brahms. He loved music in a rather back-handed way. It is not the easiest thing in the world for me to critique a giant of all ages because he only liked Bach and Mozart, but if you follow what he said about them, he (somewhat inappropriately) seemed to want something out of music the same thing he expected from physics, not really understanding the difference between science and art, or in spite of his brilliance, getting either quite right.

I am old enough to have known people at Princeton who still had Einstein stories. I would not wish to be any older, but he died the same year I was born, and it could have been a worse lot for me to have been dialed back a generation, when I might actually have known him, because he was a very approachable genius.

Incidentally, and apropos of nothing, since inherently obscure math has come up here, Kurt Goedel was a contemporary and friend of Einstein at Princeton. He was, to all intents and purposes, a psychotic nut case, who starved himself to death after his wife died because he was convinced that all food not prepared by her was poisoned. Einstein does seem a decent ordinary fellow in comparison, no? :)

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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