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Demystifying Quantum Physics

Discussion in 'Science and Religion' started by Mr Spinkles, Apr 18, 2013.

  1. Mr Spinkles

    Mr Spinkles Mr

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    In another thread, many connections were claimed between mysticism and quantum mechanics. My purpose here is not to denigrate, disprove, or criticize mysticism itself in any way. My limited purpose here is only to caution against making over-enthusiastic and hasty connections between QM and mysticism--in short, when it comes to quantum physics, beware of Deepak Chopra. ;)

    First example: the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. What it basically says is that physical objects are never perfectly localized. That's why in chemistry, depictions of atoms often don't draw electrons as particles with definite positions, but rather as clouds or orbitals "smeared out" in various shapes around the nucleus:
    [​IMG]

    As you can see, tiny things like electrons can be pretty well "smeared out". That's weird, and cool. Keep in mind, however, that they are not infinitely smeared out. It's not like an electron in an orbital around a hydrogen atom is likely to end up on the other side of the universe. Smeared out though they may be, even electrons still stick to relatively small areas according to the rules of physics they must obey. They aren't magical.

    Now, what about large objects familiar to us in ordinary experience, like baseballs? It would be cool if they could be smeared out just like electrons. As it turns out, if you use the Heisenberg uncertainty principle to calculate the uncertainty in the position of a typical baseball, the answer is ~10^-30 mm, or 0.000000000000000000000000000001 mm. That's about one billion billion millionth the width of a single atom! In other words, ordinary objects like baseballs have an extremely well-defined position. They are hardly smeared out at all. The same is true of other classical objects such as people, brains, the Earth, your coffee, etc.

    And this is a very important aspect of quantum physics: when you start going up in the mass/size scale, weird quantum effects all but go away (there are always interesting exceptions, of course). That is why classical physics describes observations of things like baseballs extremely accurately, and why a quantum description is often only necessary when considering tiny things (like individual electrons--although you can sometimes get a reasonably accurate picture without quantum physics even then). If quantum physics made predictions which go against our everyday observations of baseballs, it wouldn't be a very good theory!

    What is the take-home message here? Weird physics at the level of atoms is not a license to extrapolate any weird idea to the level of everyday experience. Deepak Chopra would like to say that quantum physics is about "fields of possibility", and therefore maybe anything is possible, and therefore you should buy his books so you can realize any possibility you want. The truth is that some things are far, far less possible than others. Just ask a baseball.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 30, 2013
  2. Willamena

    Willamena Just be there, doing that

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    Forgive my ignorance of physics, but I was under the impression that the uncertainty principle basically says that we cannot measure both position and momentum with any precision, but not that we cannot measure one or the other with any precision.

    What do you mean by "never perfectly localized"?
     
  3. Mr Spinkles

    Mr Spinkles Mr

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    10,861
    That's correct. Not only can you not measure it but an object cannot have a perfectly well-defined position and momentum at the same time (there's always a tradeoff between the two).
    Well ... I was just trying to simplify things, ignoring momentum entirely. In practice there's always some uncertainty or spread in the position of a particle.
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2013
  4. fantome profane

    fantome profane quintessence of dust

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    Part of the uncertainty principle states that you can never measure the location of a particle with complete accuracy. To do so would require a probe with infinite energy, impossible.

    You can measure its location with a high degree of accuracy, but never perfect. And of course as you say the more accurately we measure the position, the less accurately we can describe its momentum.
     
  5. fantome profane

    fantome profane quintessence of dust

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    Btw. Did you hear the story of the time Heisenberg got lost? He was running late for a lecture he was suppose to give on his new insight into physics. And then to make matters worse he missed his exit. And then to make them worse again he gets pulled over for speeding. When the cop went up to his car and asked "Do you have any idea how fast you were going?" Heisenberg replied "Yes, I know exactly how fast I was going. But I have absolutely no idea where I am!".
     
  6. YmirGF

    YmirGF Bodhisattva

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    Religion:
    Beyond the Light
    Thanks for the primer, Mr Spinkles. This last part reminded me of a quote I heard long ago that went something like, "Most probabilities are possible; but that does not mean that something that is possible is particularly probable."
     
  7. godnotgod

    godnotgod not born, not dead

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    Mysticism is merely the gateway to Higher Consciousness, or Cosmic Consciousness. It is more accurate to talk about the connection between Consciousness and Quantum Mechanics. Ordinary consciousness, which includes science, is not aware of this connection for various reasons.

    Here is Chopra himself providing an overview of QM's connection to consciousness:


    [youtube]EGL1T9qZpPE[/youtube]
    Deepak Chopra on Skeptics Questioning his Definition of Quantum Physics - YouTube
     
  8. Kilgore Trout

    Kilgore Trout Misanthropic Humanist

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    22,701
    Deepak Chopra knows as much about quantum physics as my dog. And considerably less about most other things.
     
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  9. godnotgod

    godnotgod not born, not dead

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    The Holographic Paradigm

    2006 01 02
    By Michael Talbot


    In 1982 a remarkable event took place. At the University of Paris a research team led by physicist Alain Aspect performed what may turn out to be one of the most important experiments of the 20th century. You did not hear about it on the evening news. In fact, unless you are in the habit of reading scientific journals you probably have never even heard Aspect's name, though there are some who believe his discovery may change the face of science.

    Aspect and his team discovered that under certain circumstances subatomic particles such as electrons are able to instantaneously communicate with each other regardless of the distance separating them. It doesn't matter whether they are 10 feet or 10 billion miles apart.

    Somehow each particle always seems to know what the other is doing. The problem with this feat is that it violates Einstein's long-held tenet that no communication can travel faster than the speed of light. Since traveling faster than the speed of light is tantamount to breaking the time barrier, this daunting prospect has caused some physicists to try to come up with elaborate ways to explain away Aspect's findings. But it has inspired others to offer even more radical explanations.

    University of London physicist David Bohm, for example, believes Aspect's findings imply that objective reality does not exist, that despite its apparent solidity the universe is at heart a phantasm, a gigantic and splendidly detailed hologram.

    The rest of this fascinating article is here:

    The Amazing Holographic Universe
     
  10. godnotgod

    godnotgod not born, not dead

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    Then we had better add Amit Goswami to that as he and Chopra are saying much the same thing, except that Goswami is a bona fide theoretical physicist who, in spite of his QM credentials, still must not know much about it. Chopra, besides being a credentialed medical doctor specializing in endocrinology and an ayurvedist, has a long list of recognized achievements under his belt, having headed several organizations and projects, and the author of some 70 books. See here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deepak_Chopra
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2013
  11. Kilgore Trout

    Kilgore Trout Misanthropic Humanist

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    My dog licked himself after reading this. His wisdom is beyond measure.
     
  12. godnotgod

    godnotgod not born, not dead

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    Maybe he's not letting on to how much he really does know about QM.:)

    (I added more info to the post you just responded to. Must'a crossed in the mail before you saw it)

    note: The reason the scientific/medical community finds Chopra distasteful is the fact that he has gone against them in some areas. For instance, he says that cataracts can be cured by washing the eye in one's own saliva. Saliva contains digestive enzymes. Cataracts are proteins, dissolvable by these enzymes. Zero cost, and the medical industry does'nt like zero or low cost. Same with the healing of disease. Chopra focuses on the body's own natural healing power.

    The knowledge of healing cataracts via saliva came to him from a visit to a small village in India, in which an old man was reputed to be healing many cataract patients with this method. How many times have we heard of herbal healing from South American curanderas? Once these are verified, the pharmaceutical industry steps in, exploits the resource, patents it, while reaping mega-bucks in the process.
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2013
  13. Penumbra

    Penumbra Well-Known Member Staff Member Premium Member

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    Chopra has the necessary education to practice endocrinology.

    When he talks about quantum mechanics, he speaks outside of his circle of competence. I have a degree in electronic engineering and no more than basic knowledge of Chinese history, so for me to make assertions to someone with a PhD in Chinese history about a given topic when I am extremely out of my element would be absurd.

    For example, from 6:40 to 10:00 in this video, audience member Leonard Mlodinow, a professor of quantum mechanics, explains to Chopra that in his debate he has misused quantum mechanics, particularly that his use of "non-local" was incorrect.
    [youtube]WYK6w8xLhtI[/youtube]
    "Does God have a Future?" (Part 5 of 7) - YouTube

    In the first half of this video, biologist Richard Dawkins discusses the use of quantum mechanics as it relates (or does not relate) to practical biological healing, and asks Deepak Chopra a few questions that lead to kind of awkward statements.
    [youtube]FoUHDhPJdEs[/youtube]
    Irrational Health Service (3/5) - Richard Dawkins - YouTube

    In some ways this is at the very heart of the difference between religion and science. Leonard Mlodinow is extremely cautious about what he does not know, and to present an objective truth about the universe for him would require considerable research and the passing of a peer review. Deepak Chopra, on the other hand, is casual and comfortable with asserting truths to millions of people about subjects he is not deeply familiar with.
     
    Mr Spinkles likes this.
  14. Mr Spinkles

    Mr Spinkles Mr

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    10,861
    Where do I even begin? I'm tempted to ask how Chopra proposes that rubbing spit in your eye cures cataracts ... I am no optometrist, but I have to wonder how the enzymes in saliva get through the cornea to the lens, and selectively break down the "bad" proteins which cause cataracts, but not the good proteins which make up the lens. I'm also not an M.D., but Google says that the enzymes in saliva break down carbohydrates, not protein; protein is broken down by enzymes in the stomach, not the mouth.

    All that is far afield of quantum mechanics, so perhaps it's best not to go there ....
     
  15. Mr Spinkles

    Mr Spinkles Mr

    Messages:
    10,861
    In the video Godnotgod posted, Chopra cites two physicists who endorse his ideas: Amit Goswami and Menas Kafatos. Let's just put this in context: over 1,000 physics PhDs are conferred each year in the U.S. Those numbers are large enough that you can always find at least a few physicists who will endorse almost any opinion you like. I've met physics PhDs who believe: a certain well-established equation is wrong; the human hand could not have evolved; acupuncture is not just a placebo; you can telepathically know things about a person just by hearing their name. There is one guy who dedicates his papers to various saints. But that's all extremely rare; four people, out of probably hundreds of physics PhDs I've met. And even those three probably reject each other's beliefs (e.g. I'm certain the guy who believes in acupuncture does not reject evolution). Thousands more physicists go to just one of many annual meetings each year, including the recent recipients of the Nobel Prize in physics, who lectured on their work in quantum physics. From what I have seen of Goswami (videos posted by Godnotgod) and Kafatos (a paper published with Chopra, in an obscure journal--more on that in a moment), very, very few of the physicists at that conference would agree with their propositions about quantum mechanics.

    That does not mean Goswami et al. are wrong. Maybe they are right, and most physicists are wrong. I'm just providing context to people who are not themselves physicists. That's what good scientists do: they inform their audience when they are saying something which is controversial in the wider scientific community. I've even seen Chopra admit this once (but fail to admit it way too many times!) ;)

    Chopra claims he collaborated with Kafatos and Tanzi, a Harvard neurologist, in "several published papers, some of them in refereed journals like the Journal of Cosmology". I did several Google Scholar searches and could only find one supposedly refereed paper by Chopra with either of those authors, the paper he mentioned in Journal of Cosmology. This appears to be an obscure, self-publishing journal with a questionable reputation. Reputable journals do not usually bother to write "Ph.D." or "M.D." in big bold letters along with the author names. But out of generosity let's just count this as one refereed publication. Where are the other "some of them" from refereed journals? I couldn't find them. So did Chopra publish one paper with Kafatos or "some" in refereed journals? Chopra has a tendency to embellish and all these little embellishments--turning one paper into "some" papers--can add up.

    Papers, by the way, are even more numerous than physicists--as I'm sure you can imagine. The same things I said above apply, look hard enough and ye shall find (although if it's a good jouranl you won't find just any vague, unsubstantiated opinion).

    Again, that's all just to provide context. It doesn't prove or disprove anything argued by Chopra et al.

    Turning to the meat of Chopra's supposedly refereed paper (maybe it was refereed, I'm not sure), I see that it mentions biophysics! I happen to be a biophysicist. So to provide context, here's my opinion. To be quite honest no one I know would pay any attention to such a paper, including myself, ordinarily. Why? Well first of all, it's extremely vague. No experimentally-verifiable predictions from their model jump off the page at me. (Have I missed them?) Secondly I think in their discussion of other people's work they have misused the term "pre-organized" when describing the structure of a potassium ion channel. Third when discussing other people's work (again) they don't provide adequate context for quantum coherence in a protein molecule involved in photosynthesis. They give the impression that this occurs for a long time over a long distance "in reaching the part of the cell needed". But in fact that research was about quantum coherence occurring across a protein complex perhaps ~10 nanometers across, for perhaps ~1 nanosecond.

    Most importantly, none of these quantum effects have anything to do, as far as I can see, with their model of consciousness. Suppose their model is correct, and "thought" is the fundamental stuff which gives "produces molecules" (Chopra's words). There is nothing about that model which requires, in principle, coherent quantum states to exist at large space/time scales. It doesn't even require quantum mechanics at all. Even if we lived in a purely classical universe, we would still wonder how consciousness arises and we could still speculate that thoughts are the fundamental stuff creating/influencing matter. Similarly, suppose their model is wrong, and actually matter is the fundamental stuff which gives rise to thoughts. There is nothing about that model which disallows any particular quantum state (e.g. coherent ones) at large space/time scales. So why do the authors even care about quantum mechanics? The authors seem to think that the bigger quantum mechanics becomes, the more confusion there will be and thus more room for their vague theory to live in.

    But then, Chopra occasionally contradicts himself and says quantum physics isn't important after all. In one video he said at one point "it's just a metaphor". In Godnotgod's video Chopra said "Actually I don't believe quantum mechanics is the key. I think qualia-mechanics is the key. Qualia are subjective quantities of consicousness like [sound, etc.] that then translate themselves into quantum events which appear in the material world." So I guess Chopra agrees with me on the role (or lack thereof) of quantum physics in all this ... sometimes.

    He's right, that is the key, and it can be tested. It's hard to explain *how* matter gives rise to thoughts but the key here is to test *whether* it does, or not. Show me matter in a person's brain which is disobeying the laws of physics in order to satisfy "qualia". Amit Goswami, in a previous video posted by Godnotgod, claimed experiments were done in Mexico demonstrating essentially that: instantaneous, non-physical communication between people who meditated together. Someone call the Nobel committee ...
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2013
    Penumbra likes this.
  16. godnotgod

    godnotgod not born, not dead

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    You are aware, are you not, that Chopra and Mlodinow ended up the best of buddies and have now co-written a book together?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3S9nUiKMI7s

    Sometimes, people who are 'deeply familiar' with something cannot see into the heart of the matter as they are focused on the details, the mechanics instead. And sometimes an outsider can come into it and see something immediately that is not apparent to the specialist. Both Chopra and Goswami have the spiritual insight to see all the way through that there is no difference between the so-called 'material' world and the world of consciousness. That is why they can so readily see how things talked about in science are already interconnected to the world of consciousness even before they have been 'discovered', because it is all One World from the get-go. You don't need 'credentials' to see that these relationships really exist. It's as if science is seeing only half of reality, while the mystic sees it fully intact.

    I agree with Chopra that people like Dawkins are the real hijackers of QM. QM does not 'belong' to science; it is a feature of the universe; of Reality, just as Evolution is, but neither QM nor Evolution are the whole story in and of themselves.
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2013
  17. LegionOnomaMoi

    LegionOnomaMoi Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps. But missing the larger picture because you are focused on the details is not nearly as bad as "seeing" a larger picture that's nothing but fantasy because you have no idea what the details are. Like it or not, understanding quantum mechanics requires understanding mechanics.




    This is true. An outsider can provide perspective, or even say something which is completely wrong but sets off a spark in the mind of someone who knows the details.

    However, you have consistently criticized those who cannot see via your perspective, those who focus on the details and those who do not understand this or that. You have an inside view yourself.

    Having almost no clue what quantum physics is while making extravagent claims about it is like going up to someone speaking a language you can't understand and correcting their grammar.



    Maybe the mystic could benefit from the point of view of an outsider.


    QM is a framework and a tool. It is as much a feature of the universe as statistics and algebra are. Not just because they all use mathematics, but because QM is not like any other science in that it does not describe reality (more technically, it is a statistical description of some of reality).
     
  18. Penumbra

    Penumbra Well-Known Member Staff Member Premium Member

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    Chopra and Mlodinow debate and disagree throughout that hour-long video.

    QM is a scientifically constructed framework to explain aspects of the universe. Some people like Mlodinow study it directly while others like Chopra do not study it in a rigorous context, and instead twist words together to sell books about concepts they have superficial understandings of.

    If he wants to apply it from an outside view to things, then fairly bad ways to do it are:
    -Use terms and concepts incorrectly, inappropriately, and inconsistently, and then get called out on it by people who are deeply familiar with those terms and concepts.
    -Make assertions of truth without evidence or justifications, rather than merely hypotheses.
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2013
  19. idav

    idav Being Staff Member Premium Member

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    Religion:
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    There is an underlying nature that gives the potential for reality to act "funny". QM is the way to get passed the barriers of the physical world through use of advanced technologies. Our brains are pretty awesome machines and as such very likely work in the QM world, the only question is to what extent and what is the potential. Anybody having a hard time hearing radio broadcasts in their mind would have an even harder time hearing someones thoughts via meditation or what not.
     
  20. godnotgod

    godnotgod not born, not dead

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    "This notion that consciousness is in some way intrinsic to the universe is comparable to purely subjective views on consciousness going back thousands of years in India. In Vedanta, consciousness is everything, and manifests, or creates reality. In this view... consciousness is both subject and object, both quantum and classical. Consciousness is all there is... Penrose OR (and Penrose-Hameroff Orch OR) maintains the classical world exists on its own. Consciousness is a process on the edge between the quantum and classical worlds, the process consisting of discrete, quantized ripples in the finescale structure of the universe, transitions between subject and object."
    Deepak Chopra

    https://www.deepakchopra.com/blog/v..._quantum_world_and_fine_scale_of_the_universe
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2013
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