Crisis

Is quantum physics weird?

 

quantum physics wierd

quantum

Why quantum physics is believed to be so weird? Can we understand it without reading tons of scientific formalism? The answer depends on the incentive behind the question;

What people mean by saying that quantum physics is weird? Let’s see some possible reasons;

Formalism

Is it because you cannot understand the formalism? The formalism itself is not weird; maybe it is hard besause you are not so familiar with the mathematics behind it.

Insight

Is it because you cannot get the physical insight behind it? Then welcome to physics; the hardest part in any physics discipline is not to use the mathematics, but to develop an intuitive understanding by grasping the insight of the theory. This ability is very hard to be taught.

Uncertainty

Is it because you cannot accept the philosophical implications of quantum physics? Then we have you have to clarify a little more; What do you mean by philosophical implications? Is it that you are worried that the famous cat cannot be both dead and alive in the same time¹? Which means that you don’t like the innate uncertainty that quantum physics is introducing? In this case you assume that classical physics does not lead to any cats that they are dead and alive in the same time. But is this really true?

Classical physics

Classical physics is a study of how things, like stellar objects and planets, can move relative to one another in a regular fashion. In the language of classical physics, in order that we can have a theory about a certain subject matter we must presuppose that we already have two things in place;

a) We must have a kinematical framework in which we can define how the things to be studied might be distributed in space and time

b) We must have a dynamical understanding of the powers and properties that might successively occupy specific places in space.

The first framework is provided by the Cartesian analytic geometry. The second framework is provided by Newtonian laws, which they describe the evolution of things in space and time.

quantum physics wierdClassical physics offers a very important promise; if we know the initial state parameters of a system, theoretically, we can solve the equations that describe the dynamics of the system and  know the full behavior of the system in the past and the future. In simple worlds it means that if your cat is missing then if you put all the parameters of the system in a super computer that solves the dynamics of the world that you live in, you can find out with 100% certainty if your cat is dead or alive. The cat cannot be both dead and alive in the same time.

But there are some objections there;

1. Chaos: Even if a system is deterministic it cannot be 100% predictable, and that is because you can not measure the initial state parameters with infinite accuracy.

2. Complexity: Let’s assume that we don’t care about chaos, because we  have found a way to measure with infinite accuracy. Then we face some problems that they derive form computer science; How long will it take for this super computer to decide if the cat is dead or alive? If it takes more that a cat’s life time then we don’t need to perform the calculation because the cat is 100% dead. The problems is now transformed from pure physics to pure computational complexity.

3. Let’s assume now that we are lucky and the complexity of the calculations is not a problem (we have a super computer, and the equations of the dynamics of the world is an easy problem). Even in the situation that we can we really solve the equations for the whole universe and find out the position and speed of every single elementary particle of the world at any given time, can we really sort this kind of information? Imagine that we are talking about all the elementary particles of the world, even for a single snapshot you have a problem of storage; since the unit of storage cannot be smaller than one elementary particle! You cannot even describe a single snapshot of the universe , which means that there are points in the universe that you are uncertain of their properties. Maybe you can calculate if the cat is alive but then you cannot know what is the situation of all the cats in the universe!

So uncertainty can’t be the reason that quantum physics is considered weird.

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News

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Random numbers created out of nothing

Now Christian Gabriel’s team at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light in Erlangen, Germany, has built a prototype that draws on a vacuum’s random quantum fluctuations. These impart random noise to laser beams in the device, which converts it into numbers.

Sound can leap across a vacuum after all

Now a theoretical analysis by Mika Prunnila and Johanna Meltaus, both of the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland in Espoo, suggests that sound may be able to leap across a vacuum separating two objects made of piezoelectric crystals. These crystals generate an electric field when squeezed or stretched by sound waves or other forces, and deform in an electric field.

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Do we really understand Science?

do we really understand science?Science is not isolated from society; scientific discoveries can be an important reason for social changes. For example the discovery that earth is not flat influenced not only the scientific society but the whole world-view of the educated members of the society and helped in the separation from the Church . Philosophy was always inspired by technological innovations and scientific discoveries. Actually, someone can say, that Philosophy itself  is a by-product of the technological achievements in sea commerce; in ancient Greece trading provided people with massive new experiences that lead them to independent thought.

Philosophy and science should go hand in hand; Philosophers should decode the “true” meaning behind scientific discoveries and lead society to world-view change.  But this, of course, in not always the case or at least it doesn’t happen for the last couple of centuries. According to the humanists there is a big failure of philosophy in the latest years;

Dewey concluded that most of the problems of society during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries stemmed from the colossal failure of philosophy. He claimed that philosophers had forsaken their responsibility to explain the findings of science as they came to light, and to provide leadership in the continuous forging of a world view compatible with those findings–that they had, instead, lost themselves in the “quest for certainty.” The result was that much of the intellectual progress of the Enlightenment era stagnated and even regressed with the reemergence of a belief system that, once again, divided the world in two.

The reason for this failure is what they call “dualism”; Philosophers tried hard to reconcile science and religion by separating matter from “soul” which actually means to prevent science of studying humans as a part of nature.  If we describe thinking as another expression of Nature then there is no absolute truth and certainty any more.

Altogether, Kant provided a world view within which science was itself a quest for certainty –but a quest appropriate only for “the inherently rational and immutable domain of material substance.” As for that realm of change for which the methods of science are not applicable, humans were advised to rely on faith in metaphysical explanations, with their promise of escape from uncertainty through the soul’s ultimate connection to a realm of perfect being.

Dualism is the reason that Darwin’s theory was under attack for so long; This scientific theory treats humans and their “soul” as a part of Nature, and “dualists” cannot allow that.

For well over a century we have witnessed a battle, virtually to the death, to fence off psychological, anthropological, and sociological studies from that remarkable ordering paradigm now providing the very foundation for our understanding of all living things. This war has been fought not only by theologians but by many established academics in the humanities and so-called hard sciences. If it could be shown that evolution has no implications whatsoever for the spiritual and practical realms–that is, for human emotions, values, ideals, and actions–then the long-established reconciliation of religion and science in our culture need not be endangered.

The growing distance between dominant philosophy and the the philosophical suggestions that derive from scientific discoveries, creates a barrier to science itself;

No wonder we are producing so many mystics who throw all criteria for truth claims to the winds, while crying blithely, “All, all is mystery. We must learn to live with contradiction–to intuitively `know’ the unknowable!”. We tend to be satisfied only if a particular truth claim or value makes sense in terms of what we already believe–that is, if it fits into our current “meaning frame.”

What “dualists” refuse to abolish is certainty and  the idea of “absolute truth” behind scientific discoveries. Humanists, and evolutionary science in general, accept that we are bound to our nature and that our quest for knowledge is a gift that evolution gave to us. We are developing scientific methods because we evolved this way, yet we cannot handle the world views that Science suggests!

A very good demonstration of the problem can be the example of Relativity; Special theory of relativity is based in the assumption that there is no special system of reference in this world, there is no aether. But still people want to think that they hold a unique position in the Universe; that they are the only “intelligent” life form, even if the theory of Relativity suggests that time is bound to space which means that there are limitations on what we can learn about the universe (light cone), and that there can be parts of the vast universe that we cannot experience.

Another example is the one described in the post below; (In physics we can have two theories that describe the same world and they can be both correct)

http://www.science20.com/alpha_meme/duality_%E2%80%93_world_has_no_dimensionality_all

So let us put it yet again in another, more pointed way: There is a surface of N dimensions without general relativity, the stuff of which obeys some rules that allow for evolution and all that, only to end up with conscious systems that argue in all earnest that the world fundamentally must have N+1 dimensions and that anybody who does not pledge full allegiance to general relativity as the fundamental last answer is a total quack and has no place in science or philosophy.
This is basically the state of the world today, and the especially sad part is: we already know this for quite a number of years by now, but at least my entire generation has to first bite the grass before it is widely accepted. As always, progress goes on funeral by funeral, established philosophers are mostly windbags, and pop-science sells via time-travel and worm-holes, but fails to communicate insights.

So the question is; do we really understand science or we like to believe that Earth is still flat?

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Related questions/discussions

The Importance of Understanding Science

Why don’t Americans understand science better? Start with the scientists.

Why We Need To Understand Science

Related Books

Can we understand science?

References

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1374/is_4_61/ai_76800134/?tag=content;col1

http://www.wikipedia.org/

http://www.science20.com

What is Science (6). Can we simulate consciousness?

Epistemology tries to answer the question of knowledge;

  • What is knowledge?
  • How is knowledge acquired?
  • What do people know?
  • How do we know what we know?

The first question is really difficult. Someone – an engineer or scientist perhaps – would disagree and he would answer that knowledge is very simple to demonstrate; knowledge is the experience we acquire from our every day  with the outside world, what we call Nature. The more sophisticated and elaborated is this experience the more valuable it is.  In epistemology some philosophers will call this knowledge the “knowledge how” and they will ask “what about the so-called ‘knoweledge that’?”
consciousness problemFor example; 1+1=2 Do we know that by experience, belief or it is the way our mind works? Or the phrase ‘the sky is blue’ what kind of knowledge is contains? How it is different from the phrase ‘the sky has a color’? How do we know that blue means exactly the same thing for everybody? Experience is subjective, we cannot fully experience someone else’s experience. In philosophy this is described by “Qualia”

Qualia” singular “quale” (Latin pronunciation: [ˈkwaːle]), from a Latin word meaning for “what sort” or “what kind,” is a term used in philosophy to describe the subjective quality of conscious experience. Examples of qualia are the pain of a headache, the taste of wine, or the redness of an evening sky. Daniel Dennett writes that qualia is “an unfamiliar term for something that could not be more familiar to each of us: the ways things seem to us.” The importance of qualia in philosophy of mind comes largely from the fact that they are often seen as posing a fundamental problem for materialist explanations of the mind-body problem. Much of the debate over their existence hinges on the definition of the term that is used, as various philosophers emphasize or deny the existence of certain properties. Daniel Dennett coined the terms qualophiles for philosophers who believe in qualia; and qualophobes for those who don’t. – Wikipedia

Can we ever know anything about subjective concsiousness? Some scientist answer that we can try through simulation;

A subtler possibility is that we explain the ineffability itself. One example of this is a framework for thinking about natural and artificial information processing systems developed by Aaron Sloman and Ron Chrisley. They want to explain “the private, ineffable way things seem to us” by explaining how and why the ineffability problem arises at all. Their virtual machine (the CogAff architecture) includes processes that classify its own internal states. Unlike words that describe common experiences (such as seeing red in the world) these refer to internal states or concepts that are strictly not comparable from one virtual machine to another – just like qualia. If people protest that there is “something missing”; the indefinable quality, the what it’s like to be, or what zombies lack, their reply is that the fact that people think this way is what needs explaining, and can be explained in their model.  – http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/jul/12/science-religion-philosophy

Can subjective experience be simply modeled by internal state classification of a program? Hard question.

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sources

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/jul/12/science-religion-philosophy

http://en.wikipedia.org/