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luigirovatti's avatar

Do you agree with the following quote about the double-slit experiment?

Asked by luigirovatti (1837points) January 21st, 2020

It’s a bit long and complex, though edited, for you, but it retraces the essence of the book “The Flicker Men” by Ted Kosmatka. So, here it goes:

You ever hear of the Feynman double-slit? (Physics) It’s the same thing as Young’s double-slit, only instead of light it uses a stream of electrons. Feynman claimed every situation in quantum mechanics can be explained by saying, ‘You remember the case of the experiment with two holes? It’s the same thing. The subject of the experiment is, of course, the wave-particle duality of light.

Fire a photon stream through two adjacent slits, and the competing waves create an image on the phosphorescent screen. The frequencies of the waves zero-sum each other in a set pattern, and a characteristic image is captured there. The photons act as the waves, and as the waves pass through the slits, one wave front becomes two, the ripples overlap, and you get the interference pattern. But there’s a way to produce a totally different result. A totally different image. If you put a detector at the two slits then it changes everything. When the detectors are in place, a kind of translation occurs, from the conjectural to the absolute—and when you look at the results, you realize that somewhere between the thermionic gun (an electron gun) and the screen, light has stopped behaving like a wave and started behaving as a particle series. So instead of an interference pattern, you get two distinct clusters of phosphorescence where the particles pass straight through the slits and contact the screen without impacting each other. This uses the same photon gun. The same two slits. But a different result.

This experiment started a half century ago as a thought experiment. It was about proving the incompleteness of quantum mechanics. Physicists felt quantum mechanics couldn’t be the whole story because the analytics takes too many liberties with reality. There was still that impossible incongruity: the photoelectric effect showed light to be particulate—an array of discontinuous quanta; Young’s results said waves. But only one could be right. Later, of course, when technology caught up to theory, it turned out the experimental results followed the math. The math says you can either know the position of an electron or the momentum, but never both. In electronic systems, there is something called tunneling leakage. It rises out of the same principle as the tunneling effect. When the first satellite was launched toward deep space in 1977, it carried a special golden record. The record held diagrams and mathematical formulas. It carried the image of a fetus, the calibration of a circle, and a single page from Newton’s “System of the World”. It carried the units of our mathematical system because mathematics, we’re told, is the universal language. I’ve always felt that golden record should have carried a diagram of this experiment, the Feynman double-slit. Because this experiment is more fundamental than math. It is what lives under the math. It tells of reality itself. Richard Feynman said this about the slit experiment: “It has in it the heart of quantum mechanics. In truth, it contains only mystery.”

The Copenhagen interpretation proposes this fundamental incongruity: Observation is a principal requisite of phenomena. There is nothing that exists until it is first witnessed to exist. Until then there are only probability waves. Statistical approximation. For purposes of the experiment, the behavior of the electron is probabilistic—its specific path not merely unknown but theoretically unknowable, manifesting as a diffuse probability wave front that passes through both slits at once. Beyond the slits, these waves interfere with each other as they propagate, like two snakes traversing a pond, the ripples crossing and recrossing each other as they expand outward, forming a diffraction pattern on the capture screen. But what if detection by an observer were possible at the slits? What if you could prove which path the electron took? In this case, its movement would no longer be subject to probabilistic forces. Here probability collapses. Becomes certainty. Becomes measured fact. If a particle is shown to pass through only one slit, then rationality dictates that it can’t interfere with its own propagation. And yet it remains, if you shoot light through two slits, the pattern will form. Slowly, photon by photon. A single experimental setup with two different theoretical outcomes. This incongruity would seem self-contradictory, except for one thing. Except that the interference pattern disappears if someone is watching.

The big question: How does the system know that the detectors are on. How does it know the electron’s position has been recorded? Are the detectors putting out some kind of electromagnetic interference? (N.B.: You haven’t read the really weird stuff yet. :-) ) The electrons aren’t really responding to the detectors at all. They’re responding to the fact that you’ll eventually read the detectors’ results. And now the magic test: The experiment was the same as before, with the same detectors turned on both times. The only difference was that I erased the results without looking at them. If you look at them, you’ll see an interference pattern. It’s called retrocausality. By erasing the results after the experiment was run, I caused the particle pattern to never have occurred in the first place. Unless a conscious observer makes an ascertainment of the detector results, the detector itself will remain part of the larger indeterminate system. The detectors don’t induce the phenomenon of wave function collapse; conscious observation does. Consciousness is like this giant roving spotlight, collapsing reality wherever it shines—and what isn’t observed remains probability. And it’s not just photons or electrons. It is everything. All matter. It is a fault in reality. A testable, repeatable fault in reality.

It’s like an unexplored law of nature, quantum physics as a form of statistical approximation—a solution to the storage problem of reality. Matter behaves like a frequency domain. Why resolve the data fields nobody is looking at? There are schools of mathematical thought which assert that a deeper, harmonic order is enfolded just below the surface of our lives. Bohm called it the “implicate”. (According to this book, in theory at least, it’s possible to build the world’s first quantum lie detector—a divination tool made of light. Don’t ask me the details, I don’t know.)

According to David Bohm, quantum physics requires reality to be a nonlocal phenomenon. Deep in the quantum milieu, location no longer manifests, every point merging to equivalence—a single, concordant frequency domain. Bohm’s implicate order that lives beneath everything. (Always according to this book, it’s possible to define the indeterminate system when, instead of a readout, you set up a light that goes off when the detector picks up an electron at the slit.)

So, final question, did I really have a choice? Could I have looked if I wanted to? Some mathematicians say there is either no such thing as free will, or the world is a simulation. Which do you think is true?

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3 Answers

stanleybmanly's avatar

Why can’t they both be true?

stanleybmanly's avatar

It is a simple matter to dismiss the discrepancies at the quantum level. You simply choose whether the flaws are in reality itself or our interpretation of reality. My guess would be that we lack the innate “equipment” to interpret what we think we see. It is our “perception” that isn’t up to the job.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I’m gonna need more information… :)

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