Quantum Physics and the Abuse of Reason

Patriotism has been called the “last refuge of a scoundrel,” and for good reason. But over the last few years, I’m afraid that phrase has become outdated. Patriotism is now the second-to-last refuge. Quantum physics has become the last refuge of a scoundrel.

I’ve noticed a fashionable worldview which embraces a very particular way of thinking: the idea that reality is not concrete, that our rational faculties are fundamentally flawed, and that language is a wholly inadequate tool for discovering truths about the world. They often take this idea to its extreme, arguing that outright logical contradictions aren’t as big a deal as philosophers make them out to be. They think contradictions and paradoxes are actually a fundamental part of reality. So, we shouldn’t be shocked or concerned when we find a contradiction in our worldview. In fact, a kind of spiritual enlightenment occurs when one finally makes peace with a paradoxical world. This is perhaps best summarized by the popular Walt Whitman quote:

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large; I contain multitudes.”

Naturally, such theories are profound if true. I’ve spoken with probably a half-dozen people in substantial detail about these ideas, and – almost universally – a fundamental justification for their beliefs comes back to quantum physics. They say, “Yes, binary logic is practical for human beings, but it’s fundamentally imprecise. When you get down to “quantum” level (the micro-microscopic level) of reality, binary logic doesn’t hold. Things can be true and false at the same time, and experimentally, this has been demonstrated for 80 years. The universe does not play by logical rules, which are merely constructed by human minds.”

They often add – especially the more spiritually-inclined ones – “Reality itself is mind-dependent. We can empirically demonstrate that the state of the universe depends on our observation of it. And, if the universe goes unobserved, then it remains in an indeterminate state.”

Before diving into the explanation of this argument, I’ll give you my evaluation up front: I believe these ideas are catastrophically flawed. Interpreting quantum physics in this particular way is nothing short of an abuse of Reason – an embarrassment to critical thinking. I don’t say that glibly. It’s akin to writing the equation “2 + 2 = 5” and thinking that you’ve demonstrated mathematics is flawed, and when somebody challenges your conclusion, you simply point back to your formula. You show an empirical “test” with your fingers – you add two fingers to two fingers, but mistakenly end up extending all five fingers, then walk around showing your open hand to people as proof of the paradoxical nature of mathematics.

The Proof

Alright, so let’s get into the meat of their argument. What exactly is the data which seems to show reality contradicting itself? And what’s the proof that the universe is mind-dependent? I won’t go into super technical detail, but it can all be illustrated by one famous example. It’s called the “double-slit experiment.”

It begins with a question: is light a particle or a wave? According to the standard model of physics, it’s impossible for something to be both a particle and wave at the same time – those concepts are mutually exclusive. But in different circumstances, light appears to act like both. Take a light source, shine it through a single slit in a plate, and examine the resulting pattern left on a screen behind the plate. You’ll find evidence that light is a particle (see image below). The light which travels through the slit will leave a corresponding “blob” of light on the screen – no different than pouring sand through a small hole and seeing the particles land in one particular place. But, open up a second slit right next to the first, and we get a very different result. Instead of getting two corresponding blobs, we get an interference pattern (shown below). The light which travels through both slits creates waves which interfere with one another. Some waves cancel each other out; others blend together to create a stronger wave, creating a predictable pattern. So, by simply opening and closing a slit, light appears to behave as both a particle and a wave.

Single_slit_and_double_slit2

It gets weirder. Instead of having a constant light source in our experiment, what if we send one “piece” of light (one photon) through the slits at a time, and keep track of the results? Oddly enough, we still get an interference pattern. But what could one photon be interfering with? Itself? Indeed, that’s what the experiment seems to show. One photon acts like a wave and a particle at the same time, seems to go through both slits at the same time, and it follows the same interference pattern.

But there’s yet another problem: every time we actually measure which slit the photon travels through with detectors, it only travels through one slit at a time, not both. The “wave-function” completely disappears, along with the corresponding interference. When we remove the detectors, the wave-function seems to spring back into existence, along with the interference pattern. Here’s a quote from a physicist explaining their predicament:

“It seems that light passes through one slit or the other in the form of photons if we set up an experiment to detect which slit the photon passes, but passes through both slits in the form of a wave if we perform an interference experiment.”

Puzzling indeed. Another question: is it possible to predict beforehand which slit our single photon will pass through? For example, we can easily predict the motion of billiard balls being struck on a pool table, but can we apply the same principle to phenomena on the quantum level? Apparently not. Physicists do their best to control every possible variable in these experiments, and by repeating the same test over and over, they have never found a way to “predict” which slit the photon will travel through. They can, with a great degree of accuracy, predict their results only in the aggregate – the probability that any particular photon will travel through a particular slit.

Think about flipping a coin a hundred times. You’re going to end up with about fifty heads and fifty tails. But for each particular flip, you won’t be able to predict beforehand heads or tails. The same is true for the double-slit experiment. There’s a 50% chance that the photon will pass through the slit on the right or the left, but we can’t know beforehand which one.

The Interpretations

OK, so that’s the rough overview of the double-slit experiment. Now, for the interpretations of the data. Here’s where things start getting funky. What many scoundrels won’t tell you is this: there are several different, mutually exclusive theories regarding quantum phenomena. The most popular one happens to be the most preposterous. It’s called the “Copenhagen interpretation” (CI). Virtually all of my objections about quantum-tomfoolery are related to the Copenhagen interpretation, and I am far from alone in my criticism.

At first glace, these odd quantum phenomena seem to posit a fundamental problem. On the one hand, modern physics is built on top of so-called “classical mechanics,” which successfully explains the motion of particles through space. This is especially true for macroscopic objects – classical mechanics gives a practically full explanation (and prediction) for all motion, and it’s based on a central premise: future states of reality (or future positions of particles) are based off of previous states of reality. In other words, a particle’s momentum, trajectory, charge, etc., determines its future position. Boiled down to four words: effects have distinct causes.

However, the predictions of classical mechanics do not seem to apply to quantum mechanics. Given the exact same inputs (momentum, charge, etc.), we cannot accurately predict the outputs. Shooting one photon at a time through the double-slit experiment shows unpredictable results, and we’re left describing the quantum world in terms of probability, rather than certainty. If this is an accurate reflection of reality, it implies that quantum phenomena are fundamentally indetermined – their behavior is not “caused” by anything and the final position of individual particles is ultimately left to chance.

So, we’re left with two mutually exclusive theories. On the one hand, you have a classically-determined universe, where motion is caused by concrete inputs. And on the other hand, you have the world of quantum indeterminacy, where motion is probabilistic and fundamentally random at the smallest levels. How do we resolve this conflict? We have several options.

First, we might examine our theories. Let’s say theory X and theory Y are both useful in their current forms, but they contradict each other in some way. Obviously, something needs to be amended – either theory X, theory Y, or both. In terms of Physics, that means either classical mechanics or quantum mechanics needs to be tweaked. We could say, “Quantum phenomena are more fundamental than classical phenomena, and therefore the principle of indeterminacy is ultimately true. Macroscopic-level motion only appears to be determined, but in reality, it’s probabilistic.”

Or, we might say, “Classical mechanics more accurately describes reality, and the odd results of quantum experiments are due to a lack of sophisticated-enough equipment. We’re simply missing a variable in our experiments which causes the particles to behave in seemingly-unpredictable ways. Once we learn more and can measure more accurately, the missing variable will be found, and we will be able to correctly predict the motion of quantum particles.”

Another option might be to say both theories are inaccurate, and we need to come up with an altogether new theory to explain both macro and micro-level phenomena with consistency (e.g. matter is fundamentally a new type of thing – akin to waves and particles together, at the same time, in a non-mutually-exclusive way).

These approaches seem sensible and logical. Let me introduce you to a final option, closely associated (though not necessarily so) with the Copenhagen interpretation. It’s called the “principle of complementarity,” and it states that “wave-ness” and “particle-ness” are present at the same time, but they are impossible to measure at the same time. To the extent you’re measuring the wave-ness of something, the particle-ness shrinks. And to the extent you measure the particle-ness, the wave-ness disappears. This is not a quirk of the experiment, but rather a fundamental principle of the universe.

In other words, the theories of classical mechanics and quantum mechanics are mutually exclusive and true at the same time. It all depends on your perspective. Classical mechanics is true when you observe macro-scale phenomena, and quantum mechanics is true when you observe micro-scale phenomena. Depending on how you look at it, either interpretation is true, and yet, both theories contradict each other.

Why, then, does the world appear to be in only one state at a time? Here we find the central claim of the Copenhagen interpretation: it’s only upon observation that reality resolves itself into waves or particles. Without observation, the universe remains in both, mutually exclusive states at the same time. If that’s a paradox, so be it.

 Schrödinger’s cat

If that sounds like an extraordinary claim, you’re not alone. Erwin Schrödinger was an Austrian physicist who came up with a famous thought experiment in the 1930’s. In essence, he said, “Imagine a cat in a box. Within the box, there’s a flask containing acid which, when broken, would kill the cat. Whether or not the flask breaks is determined by a ‘probabilistic’ quantum event.” In his example, he chose radioactive decay. “Say, over the course of an hour, there’s an equal probability that an atom will decay or not. If the atom decays, the flask is broken, and the cat is killed. If the atom does not decay, the cat lives.

So after an hour, the cat has an equal probability of living or dying.  According to the Copenhagen interpretation, until we look inside the box, the cat is in a state of ‘superposition’ – alive and dead at the same time. Only when we look inside the box does one version of reality collapse, and the cat appears either alive or dead.”

What a preposterous conclusion! The cat is both alive and not-alive at the same time, and the universe waits with bated breath for our mere observation to determine which state it (randomly) collapses into. Astoundingly, Schrödinger’s cat is often used by proponents of the CI, not realizing he actually created the thought experiment to show the absurdity of their theory.

But it gets worse. Some supporters of the CI have taken the absurdity a step further. Reality, they say, is not only determined by observation, but conscious observation. Meaning, the collapse of the wave-function only happens when being viewed by a conscious observer, putting consciousness squarely in the middle of what defines reality. Our awareness becomes a necessary part in determining the structure of the universe – in effect, there’s no such thing as “external” reality, because “reality” is suspended in probabilities which are only concretely resolved by our conscious awareness. We are not passive observers of reality – nay, we’re creators of reality. In this way, the entire universe is quite literally mind-dependent.

It’s no surprise that this line of reasoning is popular with the Deepak Chopra’s of the world. It implies a spiritual, mystical connection with the universe, and it puts your awareness as the fundamental determiner of reality. Naturally, spiritual “gurus” are eager to sound scientific, as if the authority of the scientific community supports their mystical ideas. “Really,” they say, “we know the universe is a blurry blank slate, completely dependent on your consciousness to become concrete. You can transcend logic by seeing that the universe contains all potentials at once. It is, and it is not, any particular way. It depends on you. Everything is bound in a universal contradiction – a unity of opposites – and you can choose to resolve them or peacefully accept them.”

Indeed, it’s here – in the bowels of irrationalist mysticism and the rejection of logic – that we find the crudest philosophical worldviews: the lazy acceptance of self-contradiction, the belief that the universe depends on your particular consciousness, and the embarrassing notion that something can be true because you say so (and, of course, not true at the same time). All the while trying to gain a veneer of scientific authority.

Well, I have news for the quantum mystic. Your worldview is a load of baloney, built upon mistake after mistake, a foolish understanding of the relationship between data and theory, and a complete lack of big-picture critical thinking. Simply taking two steps back and thinking, “OK, what am I actually claiming and why?” would all but entirely resolve the paradoxes you find yourself within. But alas, many CI proponents are stuck believing that such philosophic ideas are useless; they’re simply following the data wherever it leads, even if that means throwing out basic critical thinking skills.

 Big problems

Alright, so lets start with the lowest hanging fruit. Take the sentence, “The wave-function collapses upon observation.” Even if we accept this central premise, the first embarrassing error is made by the quantum mystics. They interpret the word “observation” incorrectly. In our common language, “observation” implies a passive, conscious awareness of some event. So, they think the physicists’ experiment shows that conscious awareness directly affects reality. Sorry, but it doesn’t. “Observation” is never used in the “conscious-awareness” sense, but rather the “measurement” sense. Measurement, all done with mechanical tools, is what collapses the wave function. It’s called “the observer effect,” and it’s especially pronounced at the micro-microscopic level.

In a nutshell: in order to “observe” things at a quantum level, it requires specialized devices, which necessarily “interact” with whatever is being observed in order to work. Think about a glass of water. If you want to measure the temperature with a thermometer, the actual act of placing the thermometer in the water will subtly affect its temperature (what you’re measuring in the first place). The instruments of measurement physically interact with the system being measured. This usually isn’t a big deal in the macro-world, but it’s quite apparent at the quantum level.

Let me be clear: no data – ever – has been produced to show that conscious observation is what collapses the wave function. Quite the opposite is true. The experiments can be set up, the measurement devices running, and you’ll get the same results whether the group of scientists watches the experiment or leaves the room. The universe does not “know” whether it’s being consciously watched, and it does not switch back and forth between particle and wave because of shifts in human awareness. Anyone who claims otherwise is either confused about basic terminology, or is an outright charlatan. “Observation” means physically recorded measurement and not conscious awareness.

Next, even without questioning the double-slit experiment, we can still preserve its results without requiring mysticism or an abandonment of logic. One alternative to the CI is called the “many-worlds” theory, and it goes like this: the wave-function never actually collapses, it only appears to collapse, because reality itself splits into two channels. For example, in the double-slit experiment, there is one reality which a photon travels through the left slit, and another reality in which travels through the right slit. Our consciousness only resides in one of these worlds at a time, so that’s why we can’t perceive or interact with these alternate realities. Our minds simply go along for the ride as reality splits itself into many parts. Because quantum events happen constantly, you end up with a practically infinite number of real universes, each with only a micro-change between the others.

The many-worlds theory sounds wild, but it doesn’t require any logical contradictions, so it should immediately be preferred to the CI. However, a far more sensible idea is to take a second and think a bit deeper about the double-slit experiment. Perhaps we should be cautious before throwing out all of classical mechanics. Is there any way to preserve classical determinism, not reduce reality to a clump of probabilities, and still explain the double-slit experiment? Yes, and it doesn’t yield any radical, absurd, or transcendental conclusions.

Let’s start with the simplest hypothesis: we simply don’t know all the variables involved in micro-micro-scale phenomena. Rather then think we’ve a perfect understanding of all theories, and that our experiments must prove reality is probabilistic, we’re simply missing a theoretical piece to the puzzle. We didn’t used to understand gravitational theory, but now we do. It would have been foolish to chalk up the inexplicable force of gravity to random mysticism. People simply thought about it some more, and they came up with a sensible theory of gravity. Once we understand the missing link in quantum theory, classical and quantum mechanics will be integrated. This is called the “hidden variable” theory. One proposed hidden variable is called a “pilot wave,” which seems to fully explain the double-slit experiment without indeterminism.

We could also turn our attention to the double-slit experiment itself. What if the test is flawed? Take this hypothesis: the traditional double-slit experiment is set up in such a way where the measuring apparatus physically interferes with the photons and changes their behavior. The reason the wave-function collapses is not random – it’s determined by the interference of the specific tools involved. Note: this does not claim “as a principle, all observation collapses the wave-function.” It says, “in this particular experiment, these specific tools will collapse the wave function.” If that’s true, it means a) causality and classical mechanics are preserved, b) setting up the experiment a different way might yield different results, and c) the quantum mystics are a bunch of unthinking fools.

So, are there any modifications to the traditional double-slit experiment which show different results? Yes, and they directly contradict the key claims of the CI. Probably the best-known example is called the “Afshar experiment.” It shows photons being measured as a particle and wave at the same time, directly contradicting the principle of complementarity.

The setup of the Afshar experiment is simple and brilliant. All it does is add a wire grid and a lens. You begin by setting up the standard experiment, shining a laser through two closely-spaced pinholes, and making note of the interference pattern. Afshar-experimentThen, you shape a wire grid to mimic the interference; the wires reside in the dark fringes where the waves cancel each other out. When the light acts like a particle (when only one pinhole is open), the photons bounce off the wire via diffraction. When the light acts like a wave (when both pinholes are open), the interference allows the photons to travel around the wire without any diffraction. Here’s the kicker: by using a lens, you can direct all photons passing through the left pinhole to one detector and the photons passing through the right pinhole to another.

Sure enough, when both pinholes are open, you can record which pinhole the photon passed through, and you can know it experienced interference, because it did not bounce off the wire grid. It’s an observation of wave-ness and particle-ness at the same time. This test has been replicated and confirmed numerous times.

Furthermore, in recent years, as technology has improved, physicists have discovered a technique of recording the path of photons using so-called “weak measurement,” which allows for measurements of quantum phenomena without necessarily disturbing them, potentially avoiding the observer effect altogether. And go figure: by being able to passively observe the double-slit experiment, we can see the interference and the path of the individual photon at the same time. In other words, the wave-function and particle-function are being observed at the same time, which is supposed to be impossible due to the principle of complementarity, the so-called “Heisenburg uncertainty principle,” and the famous “Bell’s theorem.”

Will the quantum-mystics ever bring up these tests, or the many others that have occurred over the last 30 years which challenge the CI? Never. It strikes at the core of their pseudo-intellectualism.

Think about the elementary nature of their conclusion: they devise an experiment to test impossible-to-see movements of extraordinarily small particles. The results come back blurry. They conclude: “see right there – reality itself is blurry! We have proof!” It’s like looking at something with smudged glasses and thinking that whatever you’re looking at is smudged in reality.

To quote Schrödinger:

“… [this particular theory] prevents us from so naively accepting as valid a ‘blurred model’ for representing reality. In itself, it would not embody anything unclear or contradictory. There is a difference between a shaky or out-of-focus photograph and a snapshot of clouds and fog banks.”

The whole Copenhagen interpretation reasoning-process is a bit ironic. They trust the accuracy of their experiment enough to conclude that inaccuracy is accurate.

To borrow an idea from Mitch Hedburg, it’s like looking at all the photographic evidence and concluding, “I know what’s going on: Bigfoot is blurry!” And when you doubt this conclusion, they bring you more empirical evidence – more blurry pictures taken by the same camera.

Or think of it this way: physicists can’t explain causally why matter behaves a certain way, but they’ve created an accurate probability-function to make predictions in the aggregate. Then, because their probabilities are accurate, they conclude that reality must be probabilistic.

It’s like saying, “I don’t know why the coin lands heads sometimes and tails other times. But, I’ve discovered that 50% it will be heads. So, my best theory is that the coin is actually heads and tails at the same time. Until I look, of course. Then, it pops into concrete existence as either heads or tails, with no causal reason.” Anybody can take a step back and see the purely theoretical (methodological) problems with this line of reasoning, nevermind the empirical tests.

Despite the numerous problems, of the quantum-mystics I’ve spoken with, almost all of them are explicitly unwilling to change their mind on the topic. They say things like, “You might have caught me in a contradiction, but you’re just using language and logic! The world transcends such archaic boundaries! Reality is contradictory, so shall I be!” And then they proceed to build theories atop their internally inconsistent worldview, building grandiose theories and interpretations of the world – all of which coming back down to a foundation of sand.

If you think that doesn’t do their ideas justice, consider a quote from famed quantum physicist Niels Bohr:

“No, no, you’re not thinking; you’re just being logical.”

Fun fact: Niels Bohr was also ready to throw out the law of conservation of energy, because he saw some empirical data which he thought challenged the theory. Turns out, the most popular models at the time didn’t account for “neutrinos,” which satisfy any conundrum. He apparently didn’t have the patience to deeply think about the philosophic relationship between theory and data.

It should also be noted that Einstein (among others), who was a pretty sensible guy, adamantly refused to believe the Copenhagen interpretation, writing and debating extensively on the subject. He and Bohr had several popular written exchanges on the topic, and tragically, the scientific establishment sided with Bohr. It’s shows a scandalous lack of bigger-picture critical thinking by those physicists. Though, thankfully, the CI is nowadays considerably less popular than it used to be (last poll I saw put the number at around 40% of professional physicists believe the CI is the most compelling theory to explain quantum phenomena).

In conclusion: no, reality is not determined by our observation of it. The universe does not magically know when it’s being watched. Reality is not stuck in a contradictory state of super-position and paradox, waiting to pop into existence once somebody opens their eyes. Or, as Einstein put it, “I like to think that the moon is there even if I am not looking at it.”

You can not create your own reality just by willing it so. There is absolutely no data which suggests consciousness plays any role in collapsing the wave-function. The most obvious answer is the most accurate: the apparatus used to measure quantum phenomena in the double-slit experiment interferes with the results.

I’m afraid the scoundrels don’t have an easy way out. If reality is actually not a giant blurry paradox, there’s is indeed reason to fret over self-contradiction and imprecision. Suddenly, the laws of logic start binding you again, and you’re no longer free from the constraints of rational thinking. I sincerely believe, within my lifetime, the ridiculous claims of the CI and quantum mystics will be relegated to the dustbin, and a lot of people will feel quite embarrassed, including professional physicists.

[Note: after talking with some friends about this post, I want to make sure this is extremely clear: I am not arguing that “quantum physics is flawed,” or that the entire field is mistaken. I am criticizing a very particular way of abusing quantum physics, best represented in pseudo-scientific literature and media like “What the Bleep Do We Know?” I’ve intentionally tried to show their flawed reasoning and thought-process, and I fully realize classical mechanics and quantum mechanics can be integrated without paradox. Indeed, that’s the point.]

  • Jay Daniels

    This was a fascinating read. I knew probabilistic theory was B.S.! Just kidding, I bought into it because mystic science is super cool, however, after reading your evisceration of Mr. Chopra & Bohr I’ve got to admit we must be missing a variable here- luckily from what I gathered we are getting closer to the perfect experiment set-up on the quantum level. Cheers!

    • http://steve-patterson.com/ Steve Patterson

      Thanks Jay – welcome aboard!

  • Jason Redding

    Quite possibly the best article I’ve read in years. I’ve often pondered the double-slit experiment since learning about it 20 years ago. Reason ALWAYS wins. Why do people forget that everytime there is something we can’t explaon….yet.

    Well written!

    • http://steve-patterson.com/ Steve Patterson

      Thanks Jason. Glad you liked it.

    • JamesThib007

      I agree, well written, clearly constructed, enjoyable : awesome !
      Unfortunately, the bias towards a “Cartesian” explanation of the universe is appearant.
      Although experience is the ultimate proof, it can be used to demonstrate anything.
      The author uses the same logic to destroy CI and to build his own: the trust in an experiment result, and its’ interpretation.
      Superposition complicated the double slit interpretation in our limited understanding, or solved it in a humble manner.
      It’s good to refute God, but some scientists understand that there is a certain point where “God” has to be.
      A point exists where questions will stop being answered by experience, and from there on, it will be all conjectures ( even if mathematically standing ) : factions of scientific believers.
      And we’re back to square one : religion
      We are getting close to that point and I do not see that this “escape from quantum mysticism” propose the long overdue truce.
      Get over it, although the lens is a step forward, it does not not-interfere with the experiment.
      As long as we will interfere with the experiments, we will get biased results.
      The only way to get actual truth is to be told, the rest is just models being “confirmed”.
      Stop calling past believers idiots, you are just the same, and will be laughed at by the next know-it-all.

  • saijanai

    I’ve been talking with Wigner’s Friend and HE tells me that it isn’t quite as cut and dried as you present here.

    • Ventura Neptune

      Read my remark below. You’ll see that I do a thorough demolition of Steve’s entire article.

  • Anon

    While I agree that quantum mystics are just spouting bullshit and the term ‘observation’ is misunderstood to be conscious observation, but I do not agree that we are experimentally eliminating the observer effect. Even in the case of weak measurement, we are just at a different trade off between how much information we gather by measurement and how much we affect the system, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle still holds, it is in no danger of being shown false.
    Also it is also well understood how quantum mechanics reduces to classical mechanics in the large scale, look up Ehrenfest theorem. Classical mechanics is just a limit of quantum mechanics at large scales, much like how Newton’s laws are a limit of special relativity for low speeds.

    • t

      True. I would even mention the double pendulum, or fluid mechanics under turbulent state. Classic mechanics can’t predict them precisely.

      • Brandon

        Yeah, neither of these have anything to do with the probabilistic nature of the universe… Both systems are examples of chaos – where the underlying system itself is really sensitive to input conditions. The systems are totally deterministic (described by Newton’s laws and the Navier-Stokes equation respectively), and the differential equations allow for reasonably accurate short-term predictions which diverge over time from experiment because we can’t measure or control initial conditions to a sufficient degree of accuracy.

  • freshhawk

    Damn, I was just writing this same argument out myself in a comment but did not put it nearly so well. The timing and even the examples chosen have some fun synchronicity too (http://www.reddit.com/r/videos/comments/2vxz2u/a_mindboggling_demonstration_of_particle_physics/coly69d?context=3)

    I’m going to bookmark this to point people to when this type of CI mysticism comes up, as it often does. Thank you.

  • http://koqoo.uk/ @koqoo

    Excellent post Steve! Thanks finding the time to observe… Thanks for sharing!

  • Anony

    I enjoyed the article despite the strawmen sprinkled in between. A few points: the example of the thermometer is pointless since the way the thermometer impacts on the water temperature is quite different to any effects seen in any quantum experiment. The Afshar experiment has multiple other interpretations and criticisms (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afshar_experiment) and is in no way as clear cut as been suggested in the article. In any case it would be quite far fetched to throw out Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle based on this. Quantum physics came up with a whole bunch of additional data, most mind blowingly https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delayed_choice_quantum_eraser, and there’s some fame to be gained for coming up with good interpretations. The call for hidden variables strikes me as something quite mystic in itself (possibly someone would come up with god as a hidden variable, or something equally unprovable such as many-worlds). Logic in itself can’t come up with a coherent physical model (or better it can come up with an endless amount of them) that fully corresponds with reality; it needs data. Looking away from data is unscientific. Picking a few experiments and bending them into one’s own interpretation is no different to ignoring the last 100 years of physics.

    • http://steve-patterson.com/ Steve Patterson

      It’s true that the Afshar experiment has other interpretations – but that’s no criticism of this post. I’m fine with people creating any theory they like based on the data, and I wouldn’t have an issue with it – unless it involves a logical contradiction or paradox. Then, it’s necessarily false.

      As for the data, it’s unscientific to think that empirical tests create their own theory. The most important part of an experiment is not the data – it’s meaningless without a rational theory behind it. The whole purpose behind science is to best explain the phenomena that we experience in a logical way, and if the concepts we’ve created for doing so end up contradicting each other, we must tweak our concepts.

      • Vlady Gerasimov

        But why is a paradox such an enemy to reality? Paradoxes could exist and we just might not be able to fully understand them, much in the same way our brains cannot conceptualize “infinity”

        • http://steve-patterson.com/ Steve Patterson

          Whether or not paradoxes exist isn’t a hypothetical – by their very nature, they cannot exist. We don’t have to wait for the results of experimentation to tell us whether or not a square circle is floating around out there. It isn’t, because the concept contradicts itself – it’s not even a “thing” which could be.

          It’s literally non-sense. All paradoxes include logical contradictions, which mean they aren’t even meaningful propositions when you clearly state them. Our brains can’t conceptualize them because there’s nothing conceptualizable.

          • Ventura Neptune

            This is a metaphysical assumption and not a factual statement. Point in case, here’s a paradox: the sentence which states “You cannot prove this sentence true.”

            • Juan Diego Borbor

              That’s not really a good example. The law of noncontradiction says “A” cannot be non-“A” in the SENSE and at the same TIME. “You cannot prove this sentence is true” says nothing because a sentence on its own like that means it is out of context, and an idea with no context is arbitrary and as invalid as a contradiction. If you mean there’s nothing wrong with that sentence, that’s true ONLY in the syntactic sense, but it is WRONG in regards to its content because it is out of context and therefore disconnected to reality (arbitrary). The fact that these statements are correct does not violate noncontradiction because the sense, the context of the argument has changed from form to content.

              The law of noncontradiction, the law of identity, or the fundamental axiom that contradictions do not exist IS true. Even when you say that “quantum theory is true” you would also be wrong, because you’re assuming your words have a definite meaning, and you’re uttering with conviction–meaning that you implicitly are accepting the law of noncontradiction that whatever you mean or think is whatever you mean or think it is.

              Either a thing is the way it is or it isn’t. “A” cannot be non-“A” at the same time and in the same sense.

      • chefjas

        I think the key phrase in your reply was “in a logical way”. Unfortunately, Steve, there are many observed phenomena that are completely “illogical” at least in the way that current science sees the world.

  • Rob

    Well yes, of course. Marketing. Just as the world is split into two camps, those who think they understand quantum mechanics (they don’t) and those, like the late Richard Feynman, who know that they don’t (yet), there is a seemingly permanent battle between scientific correctness, and the selling of mostly useless crap to proles.

    Somehow the science camp will have to wrestle the term ‘quantum’ away from the world’s marketing departments if it wants to be taken more seriously (which it should, and does, though not effectively). Many marketing departments have bigger budgets than most laboratories, so maybe a minor paradigm shift is needed in the public sphere instead. Strangers things have happened.

    It is fair, I think, to lay some blame at the doorstep of universities, specifically the “humanities”. There is a known, and marked, tendency for humanities-types to teach their pupils that science is an incomplete way of understanding the world, that it often veers towards being wrong, not just incomplete or irrelevant. C.P. Snow highlighted this in his 1959 Rede Lecture, “The Two Cultures”. C.P. Snow was a novelist, and a scientist, who decried the lack of not just communication, but base understanding, between scientists (naturalists) and everyone else. He had a hell of a point, and it resonates still and in no lesser measure.

    People who think rationally are a minority, and education is the best answer, but the forces arrayed against quality education have FAR bigger budgets than marketing departments. Smart people can’t be co-opted, and the world’s powerful survive on co-opting people – and unlike us, they see the dissonance clearly. So: paradigm shift, anyone? Or just a big war? The latter option served as a premise for both Nineteen Eighty Four and Brave New World.

    Parting shot: if politicians knew more science, and less PPE (Politics+Philosophy+Economics), that couldn’t hurt much.

  • Ventura Neptune

    I’m writing a criticism of everything you’ve written in your blog thus far on the topic. I don’t have enough time to finish it now, but your treatment of the subject is so erroneous that your article should be immediately pulled to avoid further confusing the public on this issue. What follows are simply some of the criticisms I have of your article. More will follow when I come home from work.

    ”Patriotism has been called the “last refuge of a scoundrel,” and for good reason. But over the last
    few years, I’m afraid that phrase has become outdated. Patriotism is now the
    second-to-last refuge. Quantum physics has become the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

    (Immediately in this article we walk into a logical fallacy: a violation of the principle of charity. In logic, the principle of charity says that in order to acquire knowledge, we are far more likely to succeed in doing so when we represent an position in its best light and refute it at its best rather than caricaturize the argument as absurd and attack it as such. This article begins immediately on the wrong logical foot by first violating the principle of charity, and then attempting to posit the logically spurious fallacy that Ayn Rand called the
    argument to intimidation, whereby potential proponents of a position are intimidated away from a fair hearing of the contrary side by affiliating the proponents with negative qualities. In this case you do so by saying that quantum mechanics is the last refuge of the scoundrel.)

    I’ve noticed a fashionable worldview which embraces a very particular way of thinking: the idea that reality is not concrete, that our rational faculties are fundamentally flawed, and that language is a wholly inadequate tool for discovering truths about the world.

    (This sentence is simply false. Neither physicists, philosophers nor quantum mechanics holds that language is wholly inadequate for discovering truths about the world, or that reality is not concrete. The logical fallacy here is simply counterfactual. First, mathematics itself is a quantitative language, and mathematics is wholly adequate for discovering truths about the world – and this means that a mathematically qualified language is wholly adequate for discovering truths about the world. As such, this sentence of yours is just flagrantly contradicted by what’s actually the case in the science.

    Secondly, you make another logical error: you set up a strawman of the subject and then proceed to attack your strawman in place of the subject. In this case, your strawman is one which asserts that quantum
    proponents say reality is not concrete – but qualify it with weasel words such as ‘’often’’ backed by anonymous authorities so you can equivocate in the event your article is attacked. However, it’s critical to note that the logical error here is conflation: you’re mistaking the fact that the experts on quantum
    mechanics says nothing concrete about reality with the experts on quantum mechanics saying reality is not concrete. In quantum mechanics reality is both concrete AND probabilistic as represented by the wave function – and my pointing this fact out in your article is sufficient to undermine the entirety of your effort.)

    They often take this idea to its extreme, arguing that outright logical contradictions aren’t as big a deal as philosophers make them out to be. They think contradictions and paradoxes are actually a fundamental part of reality. So, we shouldn’t be shocked or concerned when we find a contradiction in our worldview.

    (This, of course, is a total mischaracterization of quantum mechanics – again, it’s another strawman on the subject that you erect in its place in an effort to refute. Quantum mechanics doesn’t contradict itself, nor does it make paradox a fundamental part of reality – because in quantum mechanics, reality has no individual parts that causally interact so as to allow for a contradiction or even paradoxical relationships between separate events. Causality itself is entirely jettisoned and replaced with quantum entanglement, so everything in quantum mechanics is simultaneous and synchronistically coordinated rather than causally integrated because all phenomena in quantum mechanics are the same event. There’s nothing to contradict, and subsequently there is no paradox.)

    In fact, a kind of spiritual enlightenment occurs when one finally makes peace with a paradoxical world. This is perhaps best summarized by the popular Walt Whitman quote: “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large; I contain multitudes.”

    (Again, this is the logical fallacy of arguing to intimidation as well as a violation of the principle of charity. Mischaracterizing your opponents by attempting to undermine their credibility by associating them with quantum woo neither builds your own credibility nor establishes the proper predication for your arguments
    to touch their targets. At best you’re attacking fringe groups whose misunderstanding of quantum mechanics is as deeply erroneous as your own.)

    Naturally, such theories are profound if true. I’ve spoken with probably a half-dozen people in substantial detail about these ideas, and – almost universally – a fundamental justification for their beliefs comes back to quantum physics. They say, “Yes, binary logic is practical for human beings, but it’s fundamentally imprecise. When you get down to “quantum” level (the micro-microscopic level) of reality, binary logic doesn’t hold. Things can be true and false at the same time, and experimentally, this has been demonstrated for 80 years. The universe does not play by logical rules, which are merely constructed by human minds.”

    (This, of course, is the logical fallacy of citing the anonymous authority. When you’re citing somebody in
    text, you have to disclose the source rather than conceal the source in the name of full disclosure – because the source is liable to be unreliable. In this case, this is precisely what you’ve done: evoked an anonymous appeal to an authority without qualification. Doing so, the credibility of this criticism is sunk on grounds that it sequesters into unreliability whereby it’s safe to say that it falls within the metes and bounds of providing us with justification for maintaining a reasonable doubt about your sources.)

    They often add – especially the more spiritually-inclined ones – “Reality itself is mind-dependent. We can empirically demonstrate that the state of the universe depends on our observation of it. And, if the universe goes unobserved, then it remains in an indeterminate state.”

    (Again, you not only fail to include the source, but you go as far as to inject ideologies into the mouths of those you fail to source in your text adequately that they may not subscribe to when asked. For example, you say that the spiritually inclined are especially prone to seeing reality as conscious-continent, belying the fact that the quantum pioneer Martin Rees himself stated, “In the beginning there were only probabilities. The universe could only come into existence if someone observed it. It does not matter that the observers turned up several billion years later. The universe exists because we are aware of it.”

    Rees wasn’t a theologian or a spiritually inclined mystic. Rees was a physicist. If in the event there are spiritually inclined individuals who gravitate to this implication in quantum mechanics, then not justified by the premises you’ve thus far explicated to say that they do so because of a spiritual bias in their understanding of the subject. Even the quantum pioneers themselves were forced to confront the reality of a conscious-contingent universe. So, with this having been said, your last remark is sufficiently refuted. )

    Before diving into the explanation of this argument, I’ll give you my evaluation up front: I believe
    these ideas are catastrophically flawed. Interpreting quantum physics in this particular way is nothing short of an abuse of Reason – an embarrassment to critical thinking. I don’t say that glibly. It’s akin to writing the equation “2 + 2 = 5” and thinking that you’ve demonstrated mathematics is flawed, and when somebody challenges your conclusion, you simply point back to your formula. You show an empirical “test” with your fingers – you add two fingers to two fingers, but mistakenly end up extending all five fingers, then walk around showing your open hand to people as proof of the paradoxical nature of mathematics.

    (This passage commits the logical fallacy of the false analogy. It’ nothing like adding 2+2 and getting 5. It’s far more similar to adding 2+2 and arriving at 1. In fact, we can use a thought experiment that demonstrates the quantum effect that you’re talking about in order to debunk the analogy. Let’s imagine we have two perfectly black shadows of identical shape and size. Now, let’s add these shadows together by drawing them close together until they’re both exactly at the same exact space at exactly the same time. By adding 1+1, only 1 shadow now remains – or does it? Being perfectly black, when the 2 shadows moved in superposition of each other, there wasn’t a qualitative change in their color. Likewise, being totally massless,
    there’s no qualitative change in their size or shape either. For all intents and purposes, by adding 1 shadow to 1 shadow, we just arrived at 1.

    The classical mathematics in this case isn’t adequate to describe what we’re looking at. A quantum math must be developed to account for such interactions, because standard reasoning fails. We added 1 and 1 and arrived at 1. It was empirically observable. However, it’s clear to us that within the product there’s not only 1 shadow, but also 2 shadows. Simultaneously, there’s neither one shadow nor two shadows for certain.

    That’s an example of a quantum effect we could observe in real life, for ourselves both in the laboratories as well as in a thought experiment. Seeing this, it’s obvious that your whole understanding of quantum events is predicated on failures to adequately grasp the subject – which is why your attacks on quantum mechanics
    are so fallacious.)

    The Proof

    Alright, so let’s get into the meat of their argument. What exactly is the data which seems to show reality contradicting itself? And what’s the proof that the universe is mind-dependent? I won’t go into super technical detail, but it can all be illustrated by one famous example. It’s called the “double-slit experiment.”

    It begins with a question: is light a particle or a wave? According to the standard model of physics, it’s impossible for something to be both a particle and wave at the same time – those concepts are mutually exclusive.

    (You made a huge error here – namely the logical fallacy of a conflation of terms. The standard model of physics is based on wave-particle duality because quantum mechanics is the foundation of the standard model of physics. Therefore, your claim that the standard model of physics states that it’s impossible for something to be both a particle and a wave is patently false because this is precisely what the standard model claims: light is simultaneously a particle on a wave depending on context and that the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Instead, it’s classical physics in the tradition of Newton that says that it’s not possible for light to be both a particle and a wave.

    The entire error of your logic here is a classic conflation of disciplinary fields. You’re exploiting the fact that your readership is not liable to have as sophisticated an understanding of the subject as myself or even physicists in general, so you’re baiting them in with classical criteria and then falsely attributing the classically criteria to a different technical enterprise that has long since reconciled the conflict while the bait and switch goes unnoticed by your audience. That’s either intellectually dishonest, or a consequence of not understanding what you’re talking about.

    I’m using the principle of charity here by assuming that your character isn’t to be doubted so much as your understanding. You’ve made errors in every remark on the subject so far.)

    But in different circumstances, light appears to act like both. Take a light source, shine it through a single slit in a plate, and examine the resulting pattern left on a screen behind the plate. You’ll find evidence that light is a particle (see image below). The light which travels through the slit will leave a corresponding “blob” of light on the screen – no different than pouring sand through a small hole and seeing the particles land in one particular place. But, open up a second slit right next to the first, and we get a very different result. Instead of getting two corresponding blobs, we get an interference pattern (shown below).

    (This so far is accurately represented.)

    The light which travels through both slits creates waves which interfere with one another. Some waves cancel each other out; others blend together to create a stronger wave, creating a predictable pattern. So, by simply opening and closing a slit, light appears to behave as both a particle and a wave.

    (This is false. When one slit is open, light appears as a particle and not a wave. When both slits are open, light appears as a wave and not a particle. At no time does light appear as both a particle and a wave during observation because observation itself is what determines whether light will appear as a particle alone or as a wave alone. So even your best efforts to explain the model is mistaken and at odds with the Observer Effect of quantum mechanics.)

    It gets weirder. Instead of having a constant light source in our experiment, what if we send one “piece” of light (one photon) through the slits at a time, and keep track of the results? Oddly enough, we still get an interference pattern. But what could one photon be interfering with? Itself? Indeed, that’s what the experiment seems to show. One photon acts like a wave and a particle at the same time, seems to go through both slits at the same time, and it follows the same interference pattern.

    (Here you’re using Fred Alan Wolf’s explanation of the effect. However, what you’re not aware of is that Wolf is explaining the quantum effects from the perspective of the now erroneous classical mechanics, whereby in order to account for the strangeness of quantum effects we have to assume that one particle goes through two slits and interferes with itself to produce the interference pattern. No one in science actually believes this, and to do so is to perpetrate the logical fallacy of misplaced concreteness, whereby we conflate our model of reality with the actual fact of reality in itself.

    The purpose of underscoring the absurdity is to showcase that the classical view of the world results in absurdities, and not to showcase the absurdity of the world as you’ve described it, in order to emphasize the necessity of creating a new science – quantum mechanics – to account for the paradox in non-paradoxical terms. This is precisely what the quantum pioneers did. There developed a new model where what
    exists independent of observation is only a cloud of potentials that collapses in the moment of observation into a concretely observable reality. Independent of observation there isn’t a photon at all. Only by appealing to the influence of a conscious observer is the paradox reconcilable – and your failure to adequately apprehend this is evident in the fact that you’ve succumbed to the fallacy of misplaced concreteness.)

    • Don Lemon

      Uh, dude. So do you believe in CI or not?

      • Ventura Neptune

        No. Laszlo’s A-Field Interpretion has been confirmed by The Afshar Experiments. The physical universe is a cosmic hologram projected out of the zero point field through the act of the observer interacting with the wave function.

    • http://steve-patterson.com/ Steve Patterson

      An 11,000 word response? Man, I had suspicions that you were nuts (given our conversations about you viewing yourself as the “greatest living philosopher,” being able to disprove the law of identity, and threatening to sue me if I posted our dialogue online). You’ve confirmed my suspicion.

      I’m afraid you’ve mistaken quantity for quality here, and there’s no possible way I am going to wade through 11,000 words to actually respond. In that sense, you’ve certainly won the war of attrition. Good luck to you.

      • Ventura Neptune

        “When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser.” -Socrates

      • DrewCali

        Wow, your such an intellectual pussy. Pathetic. You got owned by Ventura.

      • Sam Pacetti

        Hopefully you’ll muster the courage to read Ventura’s refutation, for in so doing, you may yet gain in understanding and achieve clearer use of logic. For it’s very clear, nay, evident. That you are not fully qualified to speculate on such topics using such a thinly transparent patina of assumed authority. Try again Steve.

      • Hathor

        He probably is a bit nuts. Seems like you challenged his masculinity or something and he went in the direction of overcompensating with classic dick-waving syndrome. Still, he thoroughly annihilates your viewpoint and your unwillingness to even read what he had to say shows that you don’t actually value pursuit of “truth” but rather place yourself as an authority on a topic you aren’t even qualified to write about. I found the whole thing to be pretty entertaining.

    • http://steve-patterson.com/ Steve Patterson

      Haha – you are something else my friend. My note had absolutely nothing to do with your writing, because I didn’t read your absurd response. It has to do with specifically one conversation with a physicist friend, who thought I wasn’t explicit enough that my formulation of classical and quantum mechanics is the wrong one: it leads to an unnecessary contradiction.

      This article is like, “Here, play along with this thought process, and you’ll see that it leads to a contradiction and is therefore false.” I don’t want people walking away thinking the least accurate (outright nonsensical) way to understand physics is the most accurate way.

      • Ventura Neptune

        Steve: I refuted you. Just let it go.

        • bdub

          you couldn’t refute your way out of a wet paper bag you momma’s boy

          • Ventura Neptune

            Here’s a link to a recently concluded experiment showing that I’m exactly right, and that Steve is exactly wrong.

            http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150324084808.htm

            • bdub

              Who cares pussy? You challenged me to a leg kicking contest and you never showed up.

              • Ventura Neptune

                bdub: If I wanted your lip, I’d stick my hand down your pants. Secondly, the adults in the room along with myself are trying to have a conversation. So for the interim, know your roll and shut your mouth. Unless you want to fetch me a sandwhich – in which case, get back in the kitchen.

                • bdub

                  Scared?

                  • Ventura Neptune

                    You actually believe anyone’s scared of the shit-talking internet warrior you are – especially someone who’s employed as a trainer at an MMA academy? You never saw a day in your life when you were hard, Cake-Heart.

                    Let me know when you’re in CT. Until then, don’t make promises that you have neither the time nor the inclination to follow up on.

                    • bdub

                      Spoken like a true faggot.

                    • Ventura Neptune

                      As opposed to an imaginary one?

                    • bdub

                      Keep flappin’ your cock sucker.

                    • Ventura Neptune

                      What makes you think I have to put in the effort to do anything when you keep flapping your gums for me?

                    • bdub

                      Happy Easter my faggot fanboy.

                    • bdub

                      opposite of true is false, faggot

                • bdub

                  Big words for someone who challenges someone to a leg kicking contest then doesn’t show up.

      • Hathor

        his response wasn’t absurd. he could have been less verbose and snarky about his talking points. but he clearly has given the topic much more rational/logical consideration than you have.

      • chefjas

        Steve,
        The last thing I would say in regards to your article and The lengthy response by Mr. Ventura. You and Brett talked about the fundamental principles that are required for learning. Principle number three as I remember was; The Basics which was “Essentially related to the principles of technique and efficiency is mastery of the basics – the fundamentals – of any discipline is mastering the discipline.”

        I really think perhaps you jumped into a debate concerning CI and Quantum Mechanics without regard to your own advice. I don’t believe you have anything close to a “masters” understanding of the topic. Nor do I, having only read 20 or 30 books on the topic. It seemed to me that the whole idea of CI pissed you off because you felt it violated basic, logical principles that you held dear. May I say, sir, that you are definitely not the first one to feel this way in regards to QM.
        The “truth” in my mind is this, according to a very close relative who was very high in CIA. In response to my queries about nature of the Universe, ET, etc., he said “All I can tell you is that the Universe is LITERALLY, 1,000 times stranger than you can ever IMAGINE.”
        I think about that a lot. I think it’s true. That’s why “weird shit” doesn’t make me throw spittle at an opponent who believes it. Something to think about.
        Regards,
        James

    • Alan Forrester

      The MWI is testable, see

      http://arxiv.org/abs/1508.02048.

  • Anonymous

    So many argumenta ad hominem… Seriously calm down. I am getting the distinct vibe that your interpretations of the experiments you use to support your cause are not entirely objective.

    ‘For example, in the
    double-slit experiment, there is one reality which a photon travels through the
    left slit, and another reality in which travels through the right slit. Our
    consciousness only resides in one of these worlds at a time, so that’s why we
    can’t perceive or interact with these alternate realities.’

    This reasoning would actually confirm the Shrödinger thought experiment, since both are true at the same time, but our consciousness only can observe one and not both, and when you observe it to you it becomes your reality, while the other one is at the same time true outside of your observated reality, just not true to your own consciousness.

    All this does not mean that I completely disagree with you, or that I completely agree with what you call ‘quantum mystics’. I do feel that we need more research on the topic, with other/newer/better equipment, but at the same time I do think that the current model of physics may need to be adjusted, and that you are in a way prejudiced towards this model. You really refuse to accept their findings as true. I think that your language is quite unacademical, due to the fact that you spend more time trying to ridicule the people at the other side of the debate than you are trying to convince us by presenting experiments, which you want us to accept as truthful, without telling us the full picture of those experiments, but rather over-simplified representations of the truth. By using sentences like ‘You can not create your own reality just by willing it so.’ you make it appear as though they are making a claim without supporting it with empirical evidence.

    ‘Naturally, such theories are profound if true.’ (speaking about contradictions and paradoxes in nature) by stating it in this way, you make us agree with this preposition due to the very way in which you say it. You state that this is true, without supporting your cause why.

    ‘Let’s say theory X and theory Y are both useful in their current forms, but they contradict each other in some way. Obviously, something needs to be amended – either theory X, theory Y, or both.’

    This also, is based on the reasoning that multiple things which contradict each other proofs that either of them or both are wrong. But consider this: If one person from the North-Pole and one person living in the Sahara dessert meet in the middle, and talk about the weather, one will probably say it’s very warm, and the other will say it’s chilly. And yet, both are reality to those persons, while they are contradicting each other. Hence, two things which contradict each other don’t necessarily make the other statement any more or less valid.

    ‘I sincerely believe, within my lifetime, the ridiculous claims of the CI and quantum mystics will be relegated to the dustbin, and a lot of people will feel quite embarrassed, including professional physicists.’

    I sincerly hope, within my lifetime, that people will start to try and look at someone’s value, and not at their faults. You are embarassing yourself by speaking in such a way, how disrespectful are you going to speak about other scientists/philosophers? Is it your true desire to proof yourself right, or them wrong, or is it to make them feel bad about themselves? If you would really value the truth above your personal feelings of dislike toward people disagreeing with you, then write in a style which is more objective, because it really distracts people from the arguments you are making. Or perhaps that is your intent? If you wish to make your statements true in the eyes of other people rather than claiming a statement which is true according to your empirical data, become a politician, not a scientist.

    • http://steve-patterson.com/ Steve Patterson

      “It is warm” and “it is cold” are not objective statements. They are imprecise sentences. A clear statement would be, “I feel warm in this weather.” and “I feel cold in this weather.” Both true, and no contradiction necessary.

      If you don’t appreciate the tone of this article, do check out some of my other writing. This is intentionally sharp, because the proponents of quantum mysticism are often charlatans who prey on the gullible. I have little patience for people who suggest “A and not-A” can be true. I am more sympathetic to other inaccuracies.

  • walkinghere

    I
    think that we should give you the Nobel Prize in Physics because in
    only some lines you demonstrate with certainties the
    incompetence of our best scientists worldwide. Indeed thanks to your
    approximations, your popularization, your errors of understanding and
    the use of falacious arguments , you prove us to what extent you master
    the subject and to what extent our scientists are idiots. Your
    insults to the scientists honor you because thanks to you we
    finally know the truth. Your hypotheses and your theories are completely
    logical compared with those of the tens thousand researchers who
    dedicated their life on the subject. But fortunately, you Steve Patterson, our
    rescuer, manages to solve the problems when all these overqualified scientists with their huge IQs failed.

    • http://steve-patterson.com/ Steve Patterson

      I know right? Because high-IQ people aren’t ever wrong. Scientific consensus is always accurate, because those people are so smart! We should continue outsourcing our critical thinking to them.

      • walkinghere

        The problem is to criticize them you need to have the necessary knowledge.
        When reading your article, a researcher, like i am, immediatly understands that you have little background to do this.
        I do not like either the quantum physics, I do not like either the idea that the world is not determinist, or the idea that the reality appears because I observe it…
        But unlike you, I recognize that for the moment, nothing invalidated quantum physic, and that all the experiments are in absolute concordances with the theory.
        It is not because I do not like these ideas that I consider quantum physic as piece of shit and that I insults scientist as you do.
        In your opinion how many scientists have already had the same reasoning as you ?
        Do you really believe that you are the only one on the planet to try to see differently the problem ?
        A theory is considered as true until somebody proves the opposite.
        Your article proves nothing except the fact that you do not like the quantum physics and the reality that comes with, but science is not : do i like it ?
        You’re real reasoning is : If i like it’s true, if i dislike it’s false, and if i dislike when the other don’t then they are idiots !
        Besides, after reading your other articles I suspect that you have an inferiority complex that’s why you use insults…
        It is not because your studies at Alfred were bad that all the scientific system is bad.
        You make generalities of particular cases, it is a very dangerous reasoning.
        But nevertheless I wish you success in your job of freelance writer.

        • Vangrab

          Just because the experiments say so, it doesn’t mean it’s true, when you are dealing with extremely small quantum world, the instruments are the last thing you should rely on, i bet the answer is completely different from experiments, since you can only guess what it is, you can only guess what exactly you are observing in experiments, when it comes to quantum world, all experiments are completely useless, because you can never see what’s really is going on there on quantum level.

          You criticize Patterson for insult of scients, but let’s be honest, scientists today are mafia, they can make up their own test results on how they want to, this why I don’t believe that Higgs boson was detected, it was not detected, it was detected through statistics, and statistics is very easy to manipulate, especially when you have closed facility like Cern, none else in the world in the world was given to reproduce .

          Also, The results of experiments are thought out, pre-conceived prior to experiment via
          theoretical narratives and as such are being expected.
          The possible, but
          unpredicted results are never expected and never perceived (measured)
          due to specifics of the experiment, which excludes such a possibility.

          The failure of experiment i.e. obtaining results that are not compatible
          with predictions of “tested theory” is never examined.

          The theory
          however is, and appropriate changes are made to fit to pre-conceived,
          subjectively interpreted results.

          This well established, and widely
          accepted procedure of scientific research is nothing but circular chain
          of mind conceived arguments, which would always produce results
          consistent with theory if not for flaws of our binary logic used in our
          subjective interpretation of the experiment.
          The test is never against
          reality but solely against mind-conceived expectation of theory as it is
          subjectively interpreted.

          So, I don’t buy that all the theories are always correct, scientists simply adapt experiments to fit the theories, instead theories should adapt to experiment results.

          Scientists and technologists would destroy this civilization, sure rich private people decide, but it’s the scientists and technologists are responsible why rich people can rule over the world, control and manipulate anything they want to.

  • Peter Donis

    You mention the “pilot wave” as an example of a hidden variable that might resolve the apparent issues with quantum indeterminacy; but you fail to mention that any such hidden variable theory must be nonlocal, because of Bell’s Theorem. In the case of the pilot wave, the equation that guides the wave is explicitly nonlocal: at every instant of time, the pilot wave at any given point is affected by the state of the entire universe.

    I completely agree that all the talk about consciousness determining reality is bogus. But that does not mean that quantum physics is actually just like classical physics, once we figure out all the hidden variables. There are still fundamental ways in which the quantum world does not work the way our classical intuitions say it ought to.

    • http://steve-patterson.com/ Steve Patterson

      If it’s true that a hidden variable must be nonlocal, that’s not a problem for me. I don’t particularly have a dog in the fight, as long as the theoretical explanation doesn’t involve a logical contradiction.

      • Peter Donis

        It’s true–at least, experiments have shown that the Bell Inequalities are violated, so local hidden variables are not an option.

  • Rand

    Dude, seriously, this is pretty embarrassing. You really are in over your head here. You have no real understanding about what you’re talking about. You understand (just a little) about mechanics, and still (erroneously) think mechanics explains the world.

    • S. Hawking

      Is that you Kanye?

  • Simon K

    Part of your argument seems to be “some interpretations of quantum physics violate the law of non-contradiction, the law of non-contradiction is true, therefore those interpretations are false”. Are we sure the law of non-contradiction is true? I don’t deny that it is true in most cases, but is it true in absolutely every case, or only the vast majority of cases? Research in paraconsistent logic suggests we can live without the universal applicability of the law of non-contradiction. And if we can, then the fact that an interpretation of quantum physics violates it becomes a less compelling reason to reject that interpretation.

    • http://steve-patterson.com/ Steve Patterson

      Yes, all violations of the law of non-contradiction are necessarily false. That is indeed a fundamental assumption (something I’ll write about more detail in the future). I do not believe in paraconsistent logic.

      • Simon K

        I think there is an important part of natural human reasoning which only paraconsistent logic can model. Suppose we have some set of generally accepted axioms A (e.g. ZF + axiom of choice), and a mathematically interesting proposition whose truth is unknown P (e.g. Goldbach’s conjecture). Now let us suppose that P is in fact true, and there exists a proof of P given A, but we have not yet discovered it, and that discovery is decades away. But, even though no one can prove P or ~P given A, they can reason about the respective consequences of P or ~P – and in doing so, they are reasoning about the respective consequences of A&P or A&~P. This is a useful exercise in itself, and may also give us hints which may help us to eventually find that elusive proof. Yet, A&~P is a contradiction, and hence by ex contradictione quodlibet, every proposition is its consequence; yet the mathematician’s reasoning about the consequences of A&~P assumes that it has only certain propositions and not others as its consequence. So only paraconsistent logics can successfully model the informal reasoning of mathematicians (and theoretical computer scientists), which is I think a good argument for accepting them.

  • Dax Fohl

    So you’re trying to out these egoists sporting their flawed naive misinterpretations of quantum mechanics, by promoting your own flawed naive misinterpretation of the same topic? In particular the way you use your Feynman quote, that’s not at all what he was talking about.

    • http://steve-patterson.com/ Steve Patterson

      I’m all ears. (Do read the note at the beginning of the post beforehand, however.)

      And no, that Feynman quote was not out of context, because I didn’t use a Feynman quote.

  • dsherret

    Hey Steve. I liked your article, but you should leave all the personal attacks of the other side out of it next time. Calling someone a fool is probabalistically a bad way to get someone thinking… it more than often gets them angry and defensive about their beliefs than thinking about changing them. I would have shared your article with the people who need it most otherwise.

  • Ankur

    I would agree with you completely. I just don’t get the reason that “observation/consciousness” is somehow making reality. These approaches seems to go like this “Hey we have tried very very hard and it seems mystical, so it must be mystical”, well it just means you have to try more and differently rather than being stuck in the same thought circle that will always lead you to same conclusions, right now it is mystical but that’s not the end. This way of thinking is just completely against science, which for me is a forever journey and not some final goal, as you travel through the journey you also think retrospectively about you experiences and upgrade your theories. People seems to always find some sort of pleasure in thinking that they have reached the “end goal” and there is nothing left to worry about, this way of approaching things have caused humans to create the concept of God etc.

  • Victor

    “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge”.

  • Nathan Neiman

    Of course the Afshar experiment is “wrong”! The others experiments and the new ones are wrong too! This is cristal clear, because the results are violating the “dogmas” that were forever written in the stone (Just like the 10 commandments)! The “church” doesn’t approve this experiments and conclusions. How dare you think and say such things?…

    As already established by the “great bishops and prophets”: The truth will never be known! Is impossible to be “understood ” by you, simple mortals! “The reality is not logical”. The reality does not exist! So stop to trying to understand it!

    Stop thinking, you morons! Just let “us” think for you and stop to make this stupid “logical questions”…

    So, we all must to “believe in” QM (Quantum Magic)…

    If you are a true believer, certainly you will be rewarded by our Lord Father with a job in the CERN, and you will live forever in paradise.

    Remember Galileu: This is Science, not Religion.

  • Mr. Physics

    I really wanted to read the article, but when I saw that it was written in a non serif typeface I gave up! Really a pety to use this ridiculous typeface for an important topic.

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  • steve j

    Loved this post and love some of the insane comments. While I see a bunch of people claiming you are an idiot I don’t think any of them went so far as to claim a cat can be both alive and dead at the same time. I’d like to see a photo of this live/dead cat – a camera is not conscious you know.

    • xor007

      Nice one!

  • Vincent Cate

    At 26 minutes into this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLQ2atfqk2c
    Feynman talked about how the Mayans had methods for accurately
    calculating many astronomical events even though they did not have a
    good model of the underlying phenomenon. I think Quantum is currently
    like that. Some day there will be new theory with a better model of
    the underlying physics.

  • gk

    Fundamental flaw in the scientific method is sold as its biggest feature. It starts with approximate models of reality and then progressive refinement of the models. You don’t have to refine if you get it right the first time. But since random mental reflections in some guy’s mind is called as a theory, the guy has to decide what to measure and how to interpret. All these work because of continuous trial and error methodology. Why exactly should we choose to believe in either a “particle” or a “wave” or both. These phantasms are random choices made by some people. What exactly these terms refer are also subjective. Who are you to say a particle is a sphere with a surface of infinite smoothness. The problem really is using a certain mental faculty beyond its realm. The faculty in question can be termed as ‘reason’. It involves trying to create patterns from dots or trying to see dots in patterns.

  • KYC

    Dear Steve,

    Your article is clearly and well written. But I have some questions for you. You said, “[Afshar experiment] shows
    photons being measured as a particle and wave at the same time, directly contradicting the principle of complementarity.” Is it not self-contradictory to say that a photon is both particle and wave at the same time? Is it not like saying that a paper is both completely black and completely white at the same time? If so, is it not the case that Afshar experiment shows that some self-contradictory propositions (e.g. “A photon is both particle and wave”) are true?

    • http://steve-patterson.com/ Steve Patterson

      Good question. If it’s true that we can observe “particle-ness” and “wave-ness” at the same time, it must be that they are not mutually exclusive. Our theories about “what is a particle?” and “what is a wave?” would need changing. Perhaps the world is made up of “wave-icles”, or some non-mutually-exclusive combination of the two.

      If we “observe a contradiction”, it’s simply an observation that our theories need revising, not some insight into a contradictory reality.

      • KYC

        Agree. In other words, it is possible that a photon is neither a particle nor a wave, and that it is only particle-like (in some respects) and wave-like (in other respects). If so, it would be very misleading to say that a photon is both particle and wave.
        It is also possible that sometimes a photon takes the form of a particle, sometimes it takes the form of a wave, but never both. Which form a photon takes can be influenced by our scientific detactor. This explanation also coheres well with the two-slit experiment.
        So we have no reason for thinking that the Copenhagen Interpretation is the only (or the most) plausible explanation of the two-slit experiment. Therefore, one cannot plausibly hold that QM invalidates the law of non-contradiction.
        Thank you for your inspiring discussions!

        • http://steve-patterson.com/ Steve Patterson

          That’s correct. Though, you say, “It is also possible that sometimes a photon takes the form of a particle, sometimes it takes the form of a wave, but never both.”

          That depends on our conceptions of “wave” and “particle” as mutually exclusive. If we can salvage the term by making a few conceptual tweaks, then perhaps it can take both forms at the same time.

          The deeper point is also true: no “observation” can somehow violate the law of non-contradiction. It can, however, demonstrate our concepts need to be altered.

          • chefjas

            I’m curious. No one here has really commented on the fact that many of these so called “particles” appear and disappear seemingly at random. Many physicists just say they’ve gone to another dimension. Doesn’t that violate our logical, rationalist view of reality? What about entanglement??!!! How can you have a “serious, philosophical” discussion about QM without discussing entanglement? Don’t get it.

      • Ben

        This is one very good easy to understand possibility that resolves all the supposed paradoxes
        http://www.spaceandmotion.com/Physics-Particle-Wave-Duality-Paradox.htm

  • brian sigler

    If the universe had to wait on us to look at it, what was it doing before we were here? This article made a lot of sense.

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  • http://invisibleorder.com/ Mike Reid

    This is a breath of fresh air!
    I have been wondering about this for decades, and somehow thought that the Copenhagen interpretation was the ONLY interpretation!

  • IdPnSD

    “What exactly is the data which seems to show reality contradicting itself?” – I do not think you have asked the correct question. You should ask why there is uncertainty. What is the proof that uncertainty principle (UP) is correct? Heisenberg said if UP is wrong then QM will be wrong. Thus if you can show that UP is wrong then you will have your answer. The fact is – UP is completely wrong and therefore QM must be wrong. We do not need to go through all the debates about the universe.

    There is another important logic you must consider. No experiment can prove any theory. All experiments prove something, but they never prove any theory. All theories of math and physics have some assumptions. But nature and engineering cannot make any assumptions. All engineering experiments will automatically reject all assumptions of all theories. Thus engineering experiments cannot validate any theory.

    What are the assumptions for UP? Look at the Heisenberg’s proof in his book: “Heisenberg, W., The physical
    principles of the quantum theory, Translated in English, Eckart,C. & Hoyt, F.C., Dover publications, University of Chicago, (1930)” You will find that Heisenberg made the following two fatal assumptions: (a) He assumed that position and momentum are related by the Fourier Transform (FT) and (b) He ignored that FT is defined by using infinity.

    These are absurd assumptions. Therefore UP cannot be correct and therefore according to Heisenberg QM must be false. Take a look at the details of the proof in the QM chapter at the blog site https://theoryofsouls.wordpress.com/ The proof is the exact copy from Heisenberg’s above book. It appears that 99% of the QM people did not read the proof of UP.

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  • http://LucidThinking.org LucidThinking.org

    “Let me be clear: no data – ever – has been produced to show that conscious observation is what collapses the wave function.”

    Hey man, how do you know? Are you familiar with the Delayed Choice Quantum Eraser experiment?
    The experiment was constructed in such a way that the particle was detected by one of several detectors.
    Some of the detectors where set in a way that the scientists couldn’t know from which slit the particle has passed.
    The results were that the detectors that were arranged with erased info of the path of the particle, didn’t collapse the wave function.
    So it isn’t the detector that was influencing the particle, but weather the scientists knew it’s path.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_RwcGzGurc

  • xor007

    Finally! Used to think that the CI did not make sense to me because I was stupid… Nonsense IS Nonsense!

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  • chefjas

    Very interesting article, Steve. Thank you. I found this listening to the School Sucks Podcast and I was alarmed that when explains your opposition to CI, you never mentioned the “observer effect”. Perhaps that was for “effect”, eh?
    I don’t really have many issues with your argument as the world of QM (and the way the Universe works in general) is really not understood very well by scientists or religionists. Take entanglement which seems to violate relativity. “Oh well” scientists say. “”We have NO idea how entanglement (non-locality) works, but ain’t it a dandy thing?” Or so called “dark matter or energy”. The fact is, we really don’t know jack.
    As for the “Mystics”, I myself do not immediately hurl upon the junk heap anyone who thinks there is more to “reality” than we perceive. I mean fuck. Really? NDE studies are just one avenue of research that seems to show that consciousness may extend beyond physical life.
    Watch Peter Russell’s video, The Primary of Consciousness. I believe he makes a compelling argument that consciousness is indeed, primary.
    I enjoy your opinions and obvious powerful intellect and ability to reason. I would hope that that doesn’t mean you have a mind that is closed to certain anamous events or phenomena be assume they don’t fit into “your” world view.
    Cheers!

    • http://steve-patterson.com/ Steve Patterson

      I’ll respond to all of your comments here:

      a) There’s a difference between “quantum physics is weird” and “quantum physics is logically contradictory”. I accept the weirdness, not the logical contradiction.

      Logic is not something that can be violated. It isn’t an empirical hypothesis. There is no “test” that can show logical contradictions in the universe. The idea is nonsensical (I have many articles on my website on “logic”, if you just search the term in the searchbar).

      b) You bring up entanglement as evidence of “weirdness” that somehow I’ve overlooked. I haven’t. I have no problem with entanglement, and indeed I have no problem with non-locality. Physicists do. Einstein was wrong in this regard.

      Non-locality is weird; it isn’t logically contradictory. However, when you accept non-locality, and you accept the many violations of Bell’s Theorums that have been demonstrated, the case for the CI turns into dust. There’s no positive reason to believe in the CI.

      c) You’ve implied several times that I am just dismissing “mystical” or “weird” beliefs out of hand. I am not. I am a dualist.

      Article on dualism here: http://steve-patterson.com/the-case-against-physicalism/

      You might also fight this argument interesting. It’s called “the logical case for mysticism”: http://steve-patterson.com/all-is-one-the-logical-case-for-mysticism/

      d) You say, “No one here has really commented on the fact that many of these so called “particles” appear and disappear seemingly at random. Many physicists just say they’ve gone to another dimension. Doesn’t that violate our logical, rationalist view of reality? What about entanglement??!!!”

      My response: take the arguments at face value. Let’s say particles are disappearing at random (which they aren’t, but let’s say they are). Let’s say they slip “to another dimension”. There’s no violation of logic or rationality. I believe you’re confused about the nature of logic.

      You might find this article helpful (as well as the links in it): http://steve-patterson.com/the-metaphysics-of-logic/

      There’s a difference between “the particle existed, then it didn’t”, and “the particle exists and doesn’t exist at the same time.”

      The former is logically acceptable. The latter is a logical contradiction, akin to the Copenhagen Interpretation.

      e) You say, “There are some replies to his article that honestly evisverate his arguments; both logically and through an examination of the evidence.”

      To this, I don’t have much response. If you’re referring to “Ventura Neptune”, then I humbly suggest everybody examine for themselves. It’s nothing more than 10,000-word-salad.

  • Peeter Joot

    You write: “On the one hand, modern physics is built on top of so-called “classical mechanics,” which successfully explains the motion of particles through space”

    I wouldn’t consider this to be an accurate statement. The modern physics that describes most of the world we observe is a synthesis of quantum mechanics and relativity, with classical mechanics considered to be an approximation for macroscopic domains.

    The reason that macroscopic vs microscopic is relevant is due to scale. Macroscopic processes, like dropping a baseball, involve astronomical numbers of particles (perhaps 10^25), and end up behaving as if governed by a herd mentality. If you are considering a single electron and had a mechanism to observe it’s position there’s a chance that you’ll measure it near the rest of the atoms of the baseball, but also a chance that you’ll find it suddenly shifting a foot to the right (or in the next town, or on the moon, …). Given quantum mechanical rules, there would be a chance that the baseball wouldn’t according to the classical behaviour, so instead of it dropping in a classical parabolic arc, and showing up somewhere off its trajectory. However, because there are so many particles and so many continuous interactions among them, that chance is effectively zero. This constant interaction constrains the “weird” quantum effects and we observe the baseball’s particles all moving together in aggregate with each particle acting as the sheepdog for all the others. Some particles may occasionally break from the pack, but there are so many of them this would also not be observable classically.

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  • Tom G

    What if there were an experiment where the particles had no interaction with a measurement device at all? What is the cause of collapse in that case?
    https://youtu.be/vOv8zYla1wY