Social Question

philosopher's avatar

Have you seen this Video about Quantum Mechanics? Should it make us question reality as we perceive it?

Asked by philosopher (8557 points ) March 1st, 2012

Check out this Video.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfPeprQ7oGc&feature=player_embedded#
I want to know what you think?
I think reality may be different than we currently perceive it.

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50 Answers

Rarebear's avatar

I can’t view the video from where I am. What is the gist of the video?

Blackberry's avatar

@Rarebear I’m still watching it, but it’s the “Double Slit Experiment” from the movie What The Bleep Do I Know.

After watching the whole thing, I still don’t know what this means. But reality is still the same for me, regardless of what video I watch.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

Yes. I don’t need to watch the video, but yes:

“If [quantum theory] is correct, it signifies the end of physics as a science.”
-Albert Einstein.

“Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real.”
-Niels Bohr.

Rarebear's avatar

Oh. That movie is full of metaphysical woo.

philosopher's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought
It simply makes me think and question.
I hope we will have more answers in my lifetime.
I prefer this to all the Political stuff.

philosopher's avatar

@Rarebear
What does that mean?
The video should make people think.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@philosopher I do enjoy these things as well. My favorite comment about Quantum Physics is from Richard Feynman:

A philosopher once said, “It is necessary for the very existence of science that the same conditions always produce the same results.” Well they don’t!

Rarebear's avatar

Again, I can’t see the video from where I am.

Quantum mechanics is often used to describe things that it is not intended to describe. Quantum mechanics is the physics of quantum sized particles. That’s it.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@Rarebear I respectfully disagree. I think modern scientists, who take pride in thinking science is above mysticism, have decided that they will only discuss quantum physics to a certain degree and refuse to consider further implications. Obviously from the quotes I pulled above, I can find the greatest scientific figures of the last century saying that the theory has implications to all reality, and a decision to only consider it on the quantum level is a conscious choice.

It is as if modern scientists are willfully choosing not to look behind the curtain at who the wizard really is, in order to maintain confidence in their own metaphysical belief system.

Rarebear's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought Science isn’t “above” mysticism, but if mysticism is explained by science, then it’s not mysticism any more, it’s science. Science is a process by which hypotheses are proven or disproven by experiment, and then replicated, or not.

Philosophy and science are different. In philosophy you can talk about how quantum mechanics explains thought. In science you can only test it.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@Rarebear, please correct me if I misunderstood something, I am an amateur. At the quantum level, no experiment is repeatable, except in the aggregate, and anything with a non-zero chance of occurring, will occur, at completely unpredictable times.

So when I think of modern science, I hear you say: “Science is a process by which hypotheses are proven or disproven by experiment, and then replicated, or not.” and I silently add “unless you look really, really closely”.

Rarebear's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought It’s a question of statistics. If you shoot one photon or electron through the double slit, it will either go left or right. But if you shoot a billion, then statistically it’ll go 50/50.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@Rarebear My understanding of the double slit experiment is contradictory to yours. I understood Young’s experiment established a detraction pattern to result, with clear interference bands, establishing that particles move along waves of probability which interfere with one another unless the multiple waves are collapsed by an observer in the future selecting the past behavior of particle path selection.

What am I not getting?

Blackberry's avatar

@philosopher There’s nothing wrong with the experiment, but the problem is they’re adding extra suggestions to it, like suggesting particles are “alive” somehow.

Rarebear's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought I was being deliberately simplistic because you said you were an amateur, I apologize. If the particles are observed going through the slits, and you have detectors to see which slit they go through, then the wave function collapses and it either goes through one slit or another. If the particles are not observed going through the slit then you see the diffraction pattern.

Nevertheless, it’s a quantum phenomena with only quantum sized particles (I think that C-60 buckyballs are the largest that have been observed with this effect, but I might be wrong on this point). Just because bizarre things happen like this at the quantum level does not necessarily translate to descriptions of stuff like consciousness. That’s what I’m talking about.

philosopher's avatar

@Blackberry
All I heard was that when observed the outcome is different.
This fascinates me.
One of my doctors who is a researcher in another area said, he believes that our neurons firing produce energy. That is true. Right?
My Doctor is brilliant. I have heard similar comments from other Scientist. That energy could effect the outcome. No one knows.
I am not here to debate. It is more fun to discuss the possibilities.
Happy Thursday and thank you for your thoughts.

Rarebear's avatar

Yes it is indeed interesting. And yes, neurons use energy when they fire. And yes it is possible that those neurons also have quantum effects. And yes it is possible that those quantum effects are responsible for consciousness.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@Rarebear I am pretty amateur hour at this stuff, but I looked at that hard because it is so fascinating to me. As you say, I am not trying to make broad assertions to consciousness, that may be a little bit of a stretch.

However, every time I look at it, it is more clear to me that a current observation can rewrite history, which makes me fundamentally distrustful of assertions that the universe is purely physical and deterministic in nature.

Qingu's avatar

“What the Bleep do we know” is not science, it’s a cult video. Much of the film is just pseudoscientific BS. It uses the mysterious aspects of quantum mechanics to make assertions about consciousness that have absolutely nothing to do with the actual science, and only serve to promote the Ramtha cult.

See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_the_Bleep_Do_We_Know!%3F#Academic_reaction

I would mistrust anything you hear about quantum mechanics from that film.

That said, the dual-slit experiment is genuinely fascinating. It means that particles are fundamentally “waves of probability.” This behavior is described by a mathematical function called the quantum wavefunction. It is a major question in physics as to how to interpret the wavefunction. Is the wavefunction physically real? Do its components all exist before it collapses, spread out in a “multiverse”? These are all fascinating questions and active topics of scientific study and the bullshit spouted in that film adds nothing of value to the topic.

Qingu's avatar

@Rarebear and @Imadethisupwithnoforethought, I am incredibly skeptical that quantum effects have one whit to do with consciousness, despite some awesome science fiction written about the subject.

QM is mysterious. Consciousness is mysterious. The fact that both things are mysterious doesn’t remotely imply they are remotely connected.

Does quantum mechanics have anything to do with Deep Blue winning at chess, or Watson winning at Jeopardy? They’re computers. Computers, just like neurons, are made of molecules, and the behavior of those molecules can be reduced to Feynman diagrams. So what? You don’t need Feynman diagrams to explain how Watson parses information and answers questions. Well, your brain is also a computer. Its architecture is different from a transistor-based digital computer. But there is absolutely no evidence that the brain’s computing architecture has anything to do with quantum effects.

Maybe it does. And maybe I’m a Chinese jet pilot.

Qingu's avatar

One more poast, for those who think QM has anything to do with consciousness.

My cat can jump really high. I know that his jumping ability probably has something to do with his muscles.

Muscles are tissues. Tissues are groups of cells. Cells are the fundamental unit of life.

All cells are surrounded by lipid membranes. A lipid membrane is a double-layer of fats. It is, in fact, a liquid crystal.

The chemistry and physics of liquid crystals is an active area of research. They underlie much of our technology (like most TV/computer screens). The name “liquid crystal” also makes them sound weird and mysterious. Studies in liquid crystals have upended our traditional conception of phases of matter. Liquid crystals display ordered parameters somewhere between a solid and a liquid.

If I had the means and the wherewithal, I could make a 2-hour documentary about the amazing nature of liquid crystals, how liquid crystals have challenged so much of physics and chemistry, etc etc.

Now ask yourself: what the hell does our understanding of liquid crystals have to do with my cat’s remarkable jumping ability. Nothing.

Likewise, we humans can think; we have consciounsess. We know our thinking probably has something to do with our brains. Brains are made of cells. Cells are made of molecules. Molecules are made of quantum particles. Those quantum particles obey the rules of quantum mechanics, a remarkable, mysterious, and revolutionary branch of science that is the subject of 2-hour documentaries. What the hell does our understanding of quantum mechanics have to do with consciousness? Probably less than my cat’s jumping ability has to do with liquid crystals.

Rarebear's avatar

@Qingu I agree with you. I was just being polite to @philosopher because he said he didn’t want a debate.

ninjacolin's avatar

The answer is “magic”
Next!

philosopher's avatar

@Rarebear
I (she) am simply fascinated by this. I can not argue about something that even Physicist are unsure of.
I prefer to hear what people think.
I think that somehow our brain (presence) is affecting the outcome.
I enjoy reading Dr.Kaku’s book and learning.
Many years ago in college I took Science Classes.
At this most people are novices but we can learn.

Qingu's avatar

“I think that somehow our brain (presence) is affecting the outcome.”

Why do you think this?

And while it’s true that “most people” are novices at quantum mechanics, many physicists are experts. They might not have all the answers. But you don’t need to know all the answers to know when someone is just making shit up.

gorillapaws's avatar

As a skeptic, free will and philosophy of mind questions may well be my “Sacred Cow” but I think it’s an area that has too many open questions scientifically for materialists to declare certain victory. I admit it’s certainly possible, but I do think (and perhaps hope) there might be more to it than what we’ve uncovered. I certainly disagree with the bogus claims that are commonly made about QM, but I’m reserving judgment until science has had enough time to get to the bottom of mental phenomena. I’m not one to ignore evidence though, and if we get good science that demonstrates one way or the other, I’m all ears.

Rarebear's avatar

@gorillapaws Yes. Exactly. Well said.

ETpro's avatar

“After voicing how fascinated I have been with the double slit experiment and its outcomes, I will second @Rarebear‘s approval of what @Gorillapaws had to say about it. THe deper philosophical implications of it may or may not turn out to have merit. I’ll wait for the evidence to come in on that. But the simple result of the expreiment are enough to make me conclude that J. B. S. Haldane was quite right in saying, “The Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.”

ratboy's avatar

There is another video (Lecture 6) in which a funny professor (Richard Feynman) explains the double slit experiment. I don’t believe that anyone can seriously argue that the phenomenal world is not an illusion.

philosopher's avatar

@ratboy
Fascinating.
I will watch more.
I posted this for discussion and information.
I think No one is sure. However as you say it is not an illusion.

Qingu's avatar

I agree that the question of how consciousness works is nowhere near being solved. But I’ve seen zero evidence that QM has anything to do with it. On the other hand there’s plenty of evidence that arrangements of neural pathways that function as codes for observation and behavior has quite a bit to do with it.

So I don’t think it makes any sense to give credence to the “QM-explains-consciousness.” Of course if there is evidence for QM being involved in brain activity then I’ll revise my stance. There just isn’t any.

Rarebear's avatar

Oh, don’t be such a grump. @philosopher was just @philosophizing.

Qingu's avatar

I’m afraid I can’t not be such a grump anymore than an electron can’t have half integer spin.

ratboy's avatar

@philosopher You misread my comment. The phenomenal world is certainly an illusion.

philosopher's avatar

@ratboy
I do not believe the link I posted is an illusion.
I believe No one knows exactly what is happening.
If Scientist did not do research and explore the possibilities we would have No cures. Humanity would not have made the progress we have. We would all believe the Earth was flat.
I did not say the Video had a definite answer. There are many questions. I enjoy thinking, learning and hearing what people think. In a respectful matter and with an mind open to the possibilities. I am not naive and I believe in Scientific documentation.
I have enough confidence in myself to be honest. I am not concerned if people disagree.
I do not understand why differences of opinion need to become unpleasant.
I never debate about things that can not be clearly documented. This can not.
Have a pleasant weekend.

Rarebear's avatar

@Qingu Okay, that made me laugh out loud.

HungryGuy's avatar

I just watched it. Now, as most scientists know, it’s impossible to observe something without affecting it. My hunch (and I’m not a physicist) is that the act of observing the electron is altering its behavior and so the experiment is flawed.

ETpro's avatar

@Qingu If you have seen compelling evidence that quantum mechanics is NOT involved in consciousness, please present it. How sentience arises is a subject that fascinates me, and in all my study of it I have never found any evidence pointing to quantum mechanics being involved, or not involved.

Rarebear's avatar

@ETpro You can’t show data to prove a negative. You know that.

gorillapaws's avatar

@ETpro I think the reasoning is something along the lines of (not to speak for @Qingu, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). The default Null Hypothesis is that 2 things are unrelated unless there is evidence that they are. Materialists argue that the human brain functioning as a kind of “meat computer” is perfectly sufficient to explain all mental phenomena, and therefore they operate on the principle that because weird physics of subatomic particles isn’t necessary to explain mental phenomena, it’s in all likelihood the case that weird physics isn’t involved (likewise with “souls” ghosts in machines, or other proposed mechanisms).

Personally, I feel like there are phenomena that aren’t explained well by the “meat computer” model, and suspect there may be something funky going on that science still needs to get to the bottom of. Because both @Qingu and I are both critical thinkers and rational people, I suspect that we are both open to new lines of valid scientific evidence as it comes up, and will change our hypotheses as dictated by the data.

ETpro's avatar

@Rarebear I’m sorry, but that answer doesn’t compute. You can neither deny nor assert something without proof. Doing either leads to confirmation bias and error. When we do not know something, the right answer is, we don’t know. Period.

The video is hilarious, but we really don’t know that’s all there is to it. And even meat is made out of hadrons.

@gorillapaws I did not assert that sentience is controlled at the quantum level, only that we do not know how it arises. It could be at the classical physical level, and it could be at the quantum level. It could even be true that there is a spiritual (or machine elf) level we can’t measure yet. It wasn’t so long ago that we couldn’t measure anything at the subatomic level and were convinced the atom was the basic building block of matter. Now we know it is not.

We should look at all possibilities till we find the right one. If I seemed to be defending the folks who rush to metaphysical understanding of the behavior of electrons, that was definitely not my intent.

gorillapaws's avatar

@ETpro I think we’re all on the same page here. It’s simply the case that some of us have different philosophical viewpoints. I think all of us agree that there is more study necessary, and are reserving final judgment for better evidence. It’s certainly possible to have operating hypotheses based on our philosophical perspectives. The beauty of science is that the correct hypotheses will eventually be validated and the incorrect ones will be changed or discarded, it’s constantly evolving, and reasonable people can disagree about their hypotheses (but not conclusive evidence).

@Rarebear thanks for the laugh.

Rarebear's avatar

That’s the basis of science and the null hypothesis. I can’t prove there are not pink unicorns with green polkadots and I don’t have to. The burden of proof is on he person who is trying to disprove the null hypothesis. That’s what science is. Otherwise it’s just postmodern babble.

ETpro's avatar

@gorillapaws & @Rarebear We are on the same page. I am not trying to disprove any hypothesis for sentience. I have no hypothesis for sentience. All I know is that I don;t know. THat is the essence of the null hypothesis.

Qingu's avatar

@ETpro, I also think we’re on the same page. What I’m reacting to is the idea that:

“Consciousness is mysterious”
“QM is mysterious”
“Therefore MAYBE THEY HAVE SOMETHING TO DO WITH EACH OTHER.”

Maybe they do. But there’s no evidence they do. Until there is some evidence, or even a hint of correlation, I don’t believe this idea is even worth entertaining.

Likewise, maybe aliens brought life to Earth from a distant galaxy. But there’s no evidence they did, so I don’t believe the “panspermia” hypothesis is worth entertaining either.

ETpro's avatar

@Qingu You frightened me with that. I wondered if, in a moment of intellectual stupor, I actually said something such as that. Searching through my comments I am relieved to see I did not. I agree that putting the ergo after those two statements of fact is a logical absurdity.

It’s no more sensible than:
My house is white.
My father was white.
Therefore, Maybe my father was a house.

Rarebear's avatar

@ETpro Damn you. You made me spit out a mouthful of 18 year old single malt I started laughing so hard.

ETpro's avatar

@Rarebear That is tragic. So why am I laughing about it?

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