The Quantum Monastery

As I was walking by a pet store the other day, I spotted a rodent running in one of those exercise wheels, and quantum reality suddenly came to mind. The parallel seemed fitting, except for the fact that the rodent a) probably knows it’s not going anywhere and b) is getting a useful workout. For the past 80 years or so, the confusion wrought by some of matter’s curious properties has crystallized into a latter-day mysticism called quantum reality. Quantum mechanics is a useful, powerful tool. Quantum reality however is about as credible as the study of paranormal activity, but has somehow wormed its way into the physics department. Indeed, one of its claims is that reality has a spooky nonlocality. The only difference between quantum reality and clairvoyance is the funding. Clairvoyance tends to be privately funded.

Quantum reality, like ‘jumbo shrimp’ and other oxymorons, has nothing to do with reality. What it has everything to do with is human ego. Unbridled, run-amok ego. The atomic realm doesn’t follow the classical rules we have so carefully laid out over the last hundred years, so the universe is irrational! When the confusion really started to percolate in the early 1900’s, de Broglie and Bohr, at least in the beginning, had no intention of starting a religion. Louis de Broglie wrote an excellent book, called Matter and Light: The New Physics (1939) that did a good job of expressing his deep desire to understand what the quantized world was trying to tell him. Heisenberg didn’t have the introspection of de Broglie and Einstein, and through force of will and his opponent’s inability to explicate a series of bizarre results, Werner started his own religion, and it is called the Copenhagen Interpretation (Quantum Reality).

Like any good religion, quantum reality rests atop deep, inexplicable mystery, and there are many things that, by the Uncertainty Principle, are taken to be forever beyond the reach of our instruments. Quantum reality works in mysterious ways. Do not question it. Do not ask us why it is the way it is; to do so is to consort in philosophy. Learn the magic rules of quantum reality, for that is science. These rules defy common sense, but nowhere is it written that the universe must adhere to common sense. Here is that megalomaniacal human ego again. We don’t understand it, physicists much smarter than us didn’t understand it, therefore it is beyond understanding. I pick up mixed signals on this assessment, but let’s see which one is the more likely interpretation. Are physicists a) freely admitting that they are not smart enough to understand the universe; or b) convinced that it can’t be understood because they are really smart and even they can’t understand it. One wonders. On what side does the burgeoning human ego fall?

Quantum realists walk silently along the halls of their quantum monastery, with shaven heads and wearing brown robes, and when they speak they all agree that physics’ job is to describe the universe, not understand it. To attempt to do so is at the best hopelessly naïve, or in the worse case heresy. Heretics are not tolerated in the quantum monastery. But one day, as the quantum monks are filing into their undecorated dining room, carrying their plates of lukewarm rice, they are startled to discover an intruder, sitting at a table, eating a hamburger, wearing shorts, a baseball cap, and a tee shirt with a colorful, offensive logo. “Yo” I said, “Want to see some cool geometry?”

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9 Responses to “The Quantum Monastery”

  1. norma mifsud Says:

    I am an open minded, non college educated grad. I envy those who have had the opportunity. I* often think about and wonder where all this wonderful earth and sky ends. I have been told that everything on this earth owes itself to something else:humankind,animals,plants,manufactured items. they all owe their existence to someone or something else. what I cannot visualize is WHERE DID THE
    EARTH AND UNIVERSE COME FROM< does it end anywhere?????????I cannot imagine infinity, or never ending. There MUST be an answer.

    I need HELP!!!!!

    (If I had my life to live over I would opt to become a scientist……..

    Regards for all the good you do to enlighten us. Norma M

  2. arg Says:

    this is the dumbest thing I have ever read.

    To state that physicists do not ask ‘why’ is so completely rediculous.

    You are staining the names of all scientists that devote their lives to the hard, unthankful work of science. We ask why aurora light up the sky, why sand exhibits fluid properties in bulk, why the universe is expanding. But we like to try and answer these things with data and facts. If you want to propose new mechanisms, show how that they are necessary! Show that your mechanism allows for models that more accurately fit our data. Show with rigorous satistical analysis that you are correct, or else stop trying to detract attention from the people who weren’t too lazy to do good science and actually did calculate all of these things. Science is work, not an amusement park.

    I hope you one day try to live the life of a scientist, just a warning, it is not for the faint of heart. 12-15 hours a day in a laboratory, seven days a week spent on your work. The rest of the time must balance eating, family, and sleep.

    Good luck.

  3. SwissMister Says:

    Though Mr. Witts entry is biting and critical of the scientific community, I do not think it is without merit. Considering how wont the scientific community is to embrace new theories with endearing terms such as “Crackpot” and “Woo”, I fail to see how turnabout is not fair play. Excuse me, who’s staining who?

    I’ve read in a few physics forums convictions held by numerous physicists who’ve gone on record stating “Why” is an irrelevant question and not germane to the practice of good science. So which is it? Why is irrelevant or Why is integral? Bear in mind, a good amount of the criticism levied against Mr. Witt has derived from his insistence that science account for Why events occur, not merely that they do.

    The fact you bemoan the “unthankful work of science” is at best unbecoming. If you are of the opinion that yours is the only vocation in life that is thankless, long on hours, and without lavish rewards, perhaps you’d like to speak with any of the thousands of small business owners in the United States. My guess is you’d be politely asked to get in line. From what I’ve read about Mr.Witt, he’s paid his dues. He’s self-made by virtue of his medical company: Started it himself, wrote the code, built the hardware, sold the devices and grew the company as the sole owner. He took on 100% of the risk; shared it with no one. I’ll bet he didn’t work very many 40 hour weeks during the time he built his company. If you don’t have respect for that, then perhaps wallowing in the “thankless” work of science is where you belong.

  4. Douglas Pankretz Says:

    Quantum Ocean

    Matter and Energy
    with Information
    appear at Once
    to Bind Observation
    albeit in passing.

    Douglas Pankretz

  5. ralfcis Says:

    Terry,
    I like the way you think and I like the way you write. I’m just a newbie but I think Bell kind of confirmed the quantum religion once simultaneity and superposition crept into the picture. The uncertainty principle was no longer a matter of observation affecting the end result (which is comprehensible) but became this mystical religion where everything is actually two superimposed things that correspond simultaneously with each other. Hence entanglement and the double slit experiment where the same particle occupies two different spaces simultaneously (which kind of violates the very definition of space). I get around all this by believing there are two interlaced 3 dimensional spaces so a particle can look like it’s in two different spaces simultaneously or two particles can act as if they’re overlapping two spaces simultaneously. Hence, I mentioned the 4 experiments which would confirm or deny this hypothesis. I believe Heisenberg. I believe the universe is based on the mathematics of geometry and probability and if you liken the universe to a casino, the only way we can all keep playing is if the casino has perfect 50/50 odds. Hence, for me, the magic number is two unless more than 2 particles can be entangled or a triple slit experiment yeilds some wave-particle triality.

  6. ralfcis Says:

    The main puzzle in physics is how superposition, simultaneity and observation define the nature of space and time. Unfortunately, most physicists are looking at the puzzle backwards as in how do we reconcile our notions of space and time with those three pesky contradictions. Relativity shows us that observation affects everything even our perception of simultaneity, space and time. Quantum reality shows us a single particle can occupy two spaces simultaneously (unless observed) or two entangled particles act as one particle occupying two spaces simultaneously. Since 1905 we’ve been slowly letting go of our notions of space and time and it looks like we may have to abandon it completely in order to understand the true affect of perception on reality. Sounds crazy doesn’t it?

  7. Dropout Says:

    I’ve read very little of Terry’s writings, but the mere idea of the reduction of complexities makes sense. It also fits with the elegance of solution I found in other fields of personal research. The point in logic is to let go of the old ideas. arg above wants this new approach to fit with given calculations. This fits in with the struggle Einstein had in his latter years when he could not make certain hypotheses work out in practice. If I remember correctly, it was his unified field theory which gave him uphill. He never got to the point of saying; “this is wrong, start over again”.

    The origin of religions stem from what I call the nightmare factor. We need to understand everything in some sort of cohesive fashion. We need the terror to go away. When we hit gaps, we will tell stories and devise fables to deliver social comment in a surreptitious way – all to render ourselves harmless against counter attack or persecution. This is especially relevant where we set ourselves up as prophets. The easiest then is to resort to “mystery”.

    ralfcis says “I believe . . .”. That is not science and it ties exactly in with the “contradiction” of two particles occupying the same space at the same time. From what I’ve seen in albeit non-scientific circumstance, I’ve learned to take any contradiction about any subject as a dead give-away that I’m missing something, that I know too little about the subject. Scratch a little further and sure enough it’s like walking around a corner into bright sunlight. Usually the simplicity of the answer is the most stunning aspect of the new discovery. The best relief is getting rid of the old baggage.

    Keep going, Terry. There’s a lot of stuff still to be chucked out, this is just the beginning.

  8. Dropout Says:

    Just returned from Null Physics 101 on the site. Under The Eternal Universe, the Energy Cycle includes entities like the Dark Halo. In keeping with what I say above, I say that issues like these are what we saw with the knowledge of the day, then. To my mind, many of these concepts have been objectivised to form hard, unmanageable entities. This locks the mind into the beaten ruts and – besides being entirely unscientific, the scientist must be aware of his influence on the observations – severely combats accurate analytical thought. Projected imaginations of how things may be isn’t even good religion. Issues like these should be revisited to be understood with today’s knowledge.

  9. ralfcis Says:

    I wish I had never seen your ad in Time nor caught the tail end of some educational program on TV listing the perimeter institute’s website. Now I’m hooked on solving this 100 yr old puzzle at the expense of everything else. You’re right, I have to reject the fact that observation has a real effect on reality. That’s more metaphysics than physics. This can only mean our definition of reality is wrong; either space or time or both. Space is easier to fudge with extra dimensions and coordinate transforms between the spaces. Time is more difficult because relativity mathematically explains time and the observations match the expectations. I’ve been reading all about the thought experiments on Wikipedia. I can follow the math but I still don’t understand the end result. My main stumbling block is simultaneity. Relativity says it can’t exist absolutely between moving frames nor be instantaneous within a frame. Many of the thought experiments need to involve the speed of light and observation of time. However, we can remove that and the effects of observation from all the thought experiments if we just entangle the clocks. Then, correlations are instantaneous and simultaneous. It would be no problem to physically entangle the outputs of two cesium clocks and repeat the experiments. Then re-explain them without all that observation and speed of light obfuscation. I would do it but I just don’t have the brains.


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