Deepak Chopra, Cosmic Consciousness and Heisenberg Uncertainty

hei skeptics,

Yesterday I blogged to you about how physicists have discovered the Higgs Boson, after it being predicted 40 years ago. Today I am going to be blogging about a spiritual person abusing and misinterpreting the work of physicists to try to prove his particular ideology. Deepak Chopra has, for a long time, been trying to prove his western ideology that consciousness creates matter, and recently, I got into a bit of a twitter debate with him. I’m fairly sure I came out on top, with him resorting to ad hominem attacks and fallacious reasoning, but here i will post an elaborated explanation of my argument, as it is difficult with only 140 characters.

One of the main arguments Chopra uses which has some reasoning and comes from real science, is the idea of observation of quantum systems. His argument is as follows. If the act of observing quantum systems (wave function collapse) changes a system, then this means that the act of our consciousness observing something has an active effect, which shows that our universe is just created by our conscious, and that matter is an illusion, created by consciousness.

There is one problem with this argument (other than that conscious probably doesn’t exist), and it is his assumption that observation is the only way to cause wave function collapse. He is right, observation is enough to cause the collapse, but it is not the only way. What actually causes the collapse of wave functions is the interaction of particles.

What is important to know is that observation is itself an interaction, but not all interactions are observations. When an interaction occurs, a particle (usually a photon) bumps into another particle, and exerts a force on that particle, and then goes on its way. This force changes the way the particle acts. Now, that is an interaction. An observation is when this photon goes on and subsequently hits somebody’s retina or a sensor designed to detect photons. This is an observation. Observation requires interaction, but not visa-versa.

This interaction, which results in observation, is what makes the uncertainty principle an impossible nut to crack. This photon running into the particle always has an effect on it. And seeing that we cannot observe the particle any other way, we can never find out perfectly where it is and where it is going, but that’s another time.

Deepak Chopra then decided to call this an oxymoron, which is just ridiculous, and called me ‘a materialist kid’ and a ‘teenager’ as insults (ad hominem!!!), before insulting my spelling when my phone auto-corrected consciousness to conscience, and then refusing to debate me until I learnt to spell and use perfect grammar on a social networking site which has a rule of only 140 characters.

He threw many other arguments at me, which I will tackle at later dates, but this one was his most prominent argument, which is based on a false premise (he attacked me for accidentally spelling it premace while debating him) and has no real tangibility with quantum mechanics.

Advertisements

120 Years of the Electron

Hello there skeptics,

This month, June (its June on Australia already, so I’m celebrating), is marking a very special occasion. It was 120 years ago that Hendrik Lorentz published his paper, which is now known as the birth of the electron. The electron is one of the most pivotal ideas in physics, and is crucial to our understanding of electromagnetism, but it was only an idea for most of the 19th century.

For a long time, electrons were thought about in relation to electricity and magnetism, ad was theorized by quite a lot of physicists, but there was no maths for it, until 1864. It was that year that James Maxwell put forward his theory of electrical and magnetic fields. To some people’s surprise, the equations many physicists learn today as ‘Maxwell’s equations’ are not what Maxwell wrote about in 1864. Maxwell’s equations where messy and complicated. Maxwell did not know that what he was writing could have become the biggest set of equations in physics history, he was only  thinking about making his fundamental equations fit with the phenomena observed. He just put the equations on paper as best as he could. The equations today known as Maxwell’s are only a readers digest of the many symbols, scribbles and sprawls which can be found in his exposition.

It took Lorentz, in 1892, to tidy it all up, purify the jumble of equations and symbols in Maxwell’s work, and make physics poetry for the next century. Lorentz had to sort the signals and beauties of Maxwell’s work from the mess. The signal: four equations which describe how electrical and magnetic fields respond to electric charges, and one equation that specifies that force the fields exert on charge. The noise: Pages upon pages of scrawling, jottings, symbols and messiness left behind by Maxwell.

Now that some (relatively) simple equations where around, physicists started to wonder if these equations could be used to rebuild how we think matter works, starting ground up from the electron, and pave the way for particle physics. Lorentz and others set out to test it, and sure enough, they could use this equation to explain phenomenons of the universe one after the other; conduction of heat, conduction of electricity, reflection of light, refraction of light, and many more electron related things.

In 1897, Joseph Thompson provided experimental proof that electrons really do exist, considered now the birth of the electron, after its conception in 1892.

This work set up the next century of physics and beyond, with a lot of the quantum mechanics, special relativity and general relativity work relying upon these equations. One must not forget the role that Maxwell played, but it was Lorentz who paved the way for particle and astro physics for they next 120 years and beyond. Even today, we still use these equations in our physics, and in almost every physics domain, you trace back its roots to Lorentz and his electron, because electrons rule our world.

Another Roy Williams example of idiocy

Hello there, skeptical friends,

Lets all guess what I’m going to be blogging about today? That’s right, I’m sure you all guessed it, I’m going to be continuing my constant crusade against Roy Williams and his idiotic arguments, which seem alright on the surface, but soon seem not so alright when you actually look at them deeply. Today’s post is about an argument which was used by Williams to demonstrate the ‘deep, designed plan’ of the universe. Williams has made the claim that the fact that the moon lines up nicely with the sun, points towards the fact that there is design in the universe.

But unlike ‘the other creationists’, who say that the moon, with its protecting of the earth from asteroids and things, shows that god is looking out for us, Williams makes the claim that the fact that there is a solar eclipse shows proof of a god. This allows for things like the first proof of relativity, (with the measuring of the lensing of the stars) to occur. This is all part of Williams’ “God designed the universe to allow humans to figure out its inner workings.” Idea. I have some rebuttals for this argument.

The first point is that our moon is not that special. The fact that the moon eclipses the sun perfectly once in human history is not a big deal. There are a couple of factors which make this occurrence not all that rare. The distance from the earth to the moon is changing quite a lot, meaning that the size of the moon in the sky changes a lot. This means that sometimes the moon is a bit big for the sun, and sometimes the moon is not big enough to cover the sun completely, this is why you should never look directly at an eclipse. This means that there is a big variance and this leaves a big window.

The other thing that varies a lot in the sun, moon, earth system is the distance from the sun to the earth. This means that the size of the sun in the sky varies a lot. So this opens the window even more. The last thing that would change this is the fact that the moon is getting further and further away from us all the time. This means that at one time in early history, very early history, the moon appeared very large in the sky, and in a few more years, the moon will be very small in the sky, and it will not cover the sun at any time.

The second point against this argument is this. There are a lot of things that could be a certain way, but aren’t, why doesn’t god make them line up nice and pretty?

The last argument I will use is this. The eclipse of 1919 is not the only proof of relativity, there have been thousands of since proofs of relativity, and the only reason why this eclipse is still remembered is because it was the first one.

I will leave you with a humorous quote from Brian Greene, “No matter how hard you try to teach your cat general relativity, you’re going to fail”, If you don’t get it, get of my blog, or read my Quantum Mechanics posts. Brian Greene, A theoretical physicist of some note.

 

Why don’t people like evolution?

Hello to my skeptical follows in the world,

Over the years I have seen that those who do not like evolution have decided to not like evolution, and then find some facts to try to back it up (not saying that is their thought process, but it seems that way sometimes). A lot of people just have a generally negative attitude to the whole idea of evolution, and it really does get on my nerves. It also depends on the context of the situation, and this has been shown by many scientific surveys on people’s beliefs about evolution, but I will get to that topic on another blog post.

Some people do not like the whole concept of evolution for the plain fact that it is incomprehensible. Some people are unable to understand the gargantuan amount of time that evolution takes, nor can they understand how things can change so much in that time, because they cannot understand it. They don’t get how much change occurs, they don’t get how much time it takes, they don’t get how long 3.9 billion years actually is, they don’t get any of it.

As I mentioned before, the context is very important. When Somebody is sitting at home in their armchair, watching the fireplace with a glass of red wine, they have their own beliefs and world view that they will vow to stick to, but almost never will when in a challenging social situation. The human brain is very malleable in its thoughts, and because of emotions and mood, somebody’s thoughts can be altered quite a considerable amount when they are posed a question a specific way or by a certain person. When in a discussion about science and advancements in technology, most people will show a belief in evolution if asked about it, but if they are asked what they feel about evolution in a theological discussion where choosing evolution is ‘to go against god’, most will show a disinterest in evolution.

Many people also hear the words evolution and just roll their eyes and don’t bother to look at it any more because it is just complex science and they will never be able to understand it. This is the approach most of my family seems to take when dealing with any science which may go against Christianity, (whether intentionally to get out of a religious discussion or not) and it gets on my nerve sometimes. It usually goes a little like “Oh, well, this is all to complicated for me, I should have a crash  course on evolution or quantum mechanics before you talk to me about that stuff. I get this one more than the others, but I have dealt with the first two, and they seem to be posed by those with stronger attitudes against evolution.

I will leave you with a quote from Will Provine, ” As the creationists claim, belief in modern evolution makes atheists of people.  One can have a religious view that is compatible with evolution only if the religious view is indistinguishable from atheism.” , an atheist and science historian of some note.

More on quantum theory and the start of the universe(s)

Hello to my google using fellows (the one Bing user out there, get out!),

Yesterday I posted about an argument made in a book I was reading, god actually, which states that a multiverse theory is desperate, has no proof, and is against Occam’s razor. I also showed yesterday how there is indirect proof that multiverses should exist, and that it is logical, not desperate. Today I will be showing you how it is also something which is against Occam’s razor. But first, I will give anybody out there who doesn’t know, the low-down on Occam’s razor.

Occam’s razor is a logical tool to decide on what is the most likely theory to suit observations. It does not mean that what Occam’s razor says is the correct hypothesis, it just says what is the most likely hypothesis, but it is usually correct. Occam’s razor, in a nut-shell, states that the theory which invokes the least amount of new assumptions is most likely the correct theory. This can be applied to our solar system… It is possible to model a solar system which is centered around the earth and holds up to all observations, but this would be highly complex, and it is much simpler to create a solar system which is centered with the sun.

Now I will show how it applies to our god vs multiverse discussion. The stance taken by Roy Williams and Paul Davies is that it is against Occam’s razor to invoke an infinite amount of universes to explain the coincidences of one universe, and it is much simpler to explain these contrivances with a god who designed them to be that way.
This is wrong. In fact, I believe it is quite the opposite. I’m going to list the assumptions made by each side of the argument.

Goddidit: It isn’t really a lot of assumptions, just one MASSIVE assumption, that there is an omniscient, omnipotent, supernatural, existing-outside-of-the-universe deity who, for no apparent reason, decided to create a universe, with intelligent beings in it, just for his amusing.
Multiverses: We know about quantum mechanics and the “all possibilities are achieved” consequences of it, we know how the universe was created, and that if it probably happened for us, then it probably happened for a lot of universes. The only assumption, (if you want to call it that) is the quantum fluctuations occur, and this has been proven.

That means assumptions go as follows, goddidit 1 – 0 multiverse.

Occam’s razor, because it is a scientific tool which requires natural causes, cannot be used to support a supernatural explanation because if there were supernatural forces in the universe, then Occam’s razor is useless.

I will leave you with a quote from Bertrand Russell, “Whenever possible, substitute constructions out of known entities for inferences to unknown entities.” Bertrand Russell, a British philosopher, logican, mathematician, historian and social critic.

Quantum theory and the start of the universe

Hello, skeptics,

The inspiration for today’s post comes from a book I have started reading entitled ‘god actually’ by Roy Williams, an Australian author who claims to be able to show that god probably exists. It provides some interesting points (I said interesting, not valid) on why god should be taken seriously. I will be basing blogs on this book for the next few weeks while I read through it. I will use one quote from this book (this quote was taken from Paul Davies for use in this book.) to start my investigations.

“Invoking an infinite number of other universes just to explain the apparent contrivances  of the one we see is pretty drastic, and in stark conflict with Occam’s razor (according to which science should prefer explanations with the least number of assumptions). I think it’s much more satisfactory from a scientific point of view to try to understand why things are the way they are in this universe and not to invent imaginary universes to do the job.”

There a few things I have to say about this quote, and I may have to spread it over a few posts.
This book also states that there is no proof of a possible multiverse. This is true in the strictest sense, we have no definitive proof that multiverses exist, (we have no definitive proof that atoms are the way we think they are either) but we can make inferences from other observations.
I will also say that we cannot ever know what actually caused our universe to be created, because it is before time was created, and science cannot deal directly with that.
Lets look at this with quantum chance. I have blogged before that there are infinite ways that something can exist, and one way that nothing exists, and this means that something must  occur. scale this up, not only to one universe, but to more than one universe, (if it is certain that one universe must exist, then in this instance, it is also certain that infinite universes must exist) it means that this first spawned universe must also invoke other universes, and an infinite amount of universes must exist.

I will do a little flow chart to show the possible outcomes.

Even if it is very unlikely to happen, when you have infinite universes, they are all going to happen.

Multiverses will always result in some form of intelligent life, and instead of these multiverses being made-up figments of our imagination in a desperate attempt to show that humans can come to be about without a god, they are, theoretically, an essential part of theology and science.

That is all for me today, I will continue this topic tomorrow. I will leave you with a quote from  Douglas Adams, “Yes, I think I use the term “radical” rather loosely, just for emphasis. If you describe yourself as “atheist,” some people will say, “Don’t you mean ‘agnostic’?” I have to reply that I really do mean atheist, I really do not believe that there is a god; in fact, I am convinced that there is not a god (a subtle difference). I see not a shred of evidence to suggest that there is one … etc., etc. It’s easier to say that I am a radical atheist, just to signal that I really mean it, have thought about it a great deal, and that it’s an opinion I hold seriously.” Douglas Adams, English Author and atheist of some note.

Concluding Schrodinger’s cat

Hello to the skeptical gang, and that one creationist (you know who you are.),

Yesterday I made a post about how there may be infinite universes out there where every single possibility is fulfilled in that universe, and I also said that it not only talks about sub-atomic things like nuclear radiation of particles or whether or not the cat dies, but it most likely also relates to everyday things, like tossing coins.

Now, when I first heard about this theory and when I have since described it to other people, we have all had the same initial reaction. It’s just like those times in a TV series or book series where the writer has clearly run out of ideas for the season so decides to do the cliché parallel universe episode, where the personalities are turned around and it provides everybody with some ironic humor.  This is probably not the case for most universes. Out there somewhere in the multiverse, there will be a universe where that happens, but it won’t be the norm. And no, the way to access these parallel universes is not through a mirror.

I must explain, when things like this happen, obviously our universe is the universe which follows one line through the probability tree, there is no way in which we can change it, and there is no way in which we can leap from branch to branch through universes.

I also referenced a crazy experiment where a scientist conducts the Schrödinger’s cat experiment on themselves. This is just suicidal, because in almost every single instance, the scientist will be killed, but in one of the multiverses, he will survive. In this lucky universe, the scientist will survive and live to fight another day and to research more stuff in particle physics. In the other universes however, there will be much mourning for the gallant scientist who chanced his life for science, and will be forever more wondering, “Was there another universe out there with ‘the scientist that lived'”. The only proof for the multiverse so far, other than disturbances in the CMBR, is that experiment. Proof would be a living scientist, and a dead scientist proves nothing.

CMBR image

Circular disturbances to the CMBR are the only other way which we would be able to test the multiverse.

That’s about it for Schrödinger’s cat and the implications this thought experiment has had on current quantum theory. Originally designed to show how ridiculous it all is, it is now one of the most common descriptions of quantum mechanics around today. It is also the only reason why we remember Erwin Schrödinger, and is his lasting legacy.
To be honest, if there is one thing I would like to achieve in my life, is to have something such as a thought experiment like this named after me, it’s the only way for an Atheist to stick around after his death.

I will leave you with a quote from Albert Einstein, “God does not play dice.” Albert Einstein, possibly the greatest mind to reject the theory of quantum mechanics.

More on quantum mechanics

Greetings and salutations to all intelligent people in the meta-nation which is the internet.

Yesterday I made a blog about Schrödinger’s cat and the implications it has for quantum mechanics. Today I would like to talk about a more extreme Schrödinger’s cat experiment where the lowly cat is replaced for an actual scientist. This seems like a very crazy experiment to conduct and it is, because the scientist will most likely die, but maybe, just maybe, he will survive and live to test more stuff another day.

To find out why this experiment would ever be done, I will explain to you one explanation of the “one photon acts like a lot of photons” experiment that I talked about last time. The leading interpretation at the moment is that when something happens, say, a photon goes through a slit, or a radioactive atom decays, or you decide not to use conditioner in the shower, all of the possible outcomes are achieved with their respective wave functions, and these happen in different universes. What is interesting is that when something like Schrödinger’s cat happens, there is one universe in the multiverse where the cat dies almost instantaneously, and another universe where the cat does not die at all, and this happens with everything that happens in the universe, and other universes, and more universes. What this conjures up in my mind almost instantly in a tree, and I think it helps describe this well.

Probability diagram

A probability tree which shows well how this interpretation of quantum theory works

Imagine the world as it is now, there are two possibilities right now, you can continue to read this blog, or you can log off (which would be very rude) There will be one universe where you log off, this is universe A, and one where you continue reading, universe B. Now there are two ‘parallel’ universes. There will now be two choices in universe A, you decide to log back on, because you realize how rude what you did was, and one where you stay logged off. in universe B, you have two choices, you stay logged on because this is completely riveting stuff, and one where you do finally log off.

The universe that we do end up being in will be one of those possibilities, hopefully the one where you stay online. But that does not mean that the other universes do not exist, they still exist, but you and I cannot ever get back to that other universe. This explains the ‘one photon acting like lots’ experiments. It also means that occasionally, unlikely things will happen, like the cat not passing away. It also means that out there, in the multiverse, there is a universe where I am having a conversation with Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley.

That’s all for today, I will leave you with a quote from Michio Kaku, ” In fact, it is often stated that of all the theories proposed in this century, the silliest is quantum theory. Some say that the only thing that quantum theory has going for it, in fact, is that it is unquestionably correct.” Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist, co-founder of string theory, a futurist and a popularizer of science.

The wonderful world of quantum mechanics

Greetings to all thinking people out there,

Today I am going to be blogging about the thought experiment first pondered by Erwin Schrödinger, and was later to become known as Schrödinger’s cat, and the implications it has on quantum theory. Keep it in mind that when Schrödinger first proposed this experiment, it was actually meant to be an argument against quantum mechanics, rather than the explanation of quantum mechanics in large-scale objects.

Right, Schrödinger’s cat. Take a cat, put it in a box which has enough food, water, and air for it to survive indefinitely under normal circumstances. Along with the cat, in the box, you place a small amount of radioactive material which on average will decay once every hour. (This does not mean that one atom will decay every hour, it means that on average, one atom will decay every hour. If you run the experiment multiple times, sometimes it will decay almost straight away, sometimes it will never decay.) Once you have done that, you install a Geiger counter which, upon detection of the decay of an atom, will smash the flask containing the poison, thus killing the cat. You then proceed to seal up the box so that no observations of the interior of the box will occur.

Schrodinger's Cat

It's OK kitty, I would never think of harming you for science.

Now everything is set up, I’ll let you take a guess as to what will happen. Because of the uncertainty principle, where until observation, there is a superposition of all possible states, the wave functions of all of the possible outcomes will be bouncing around inside the box, but untill they are observed, they all exist at once. There will be the wave function of a living cat, the wave function of a dead cat and the wave function of the cat that is not yet dead but has already taken the poison, so amazingly, the cat is both alive and dead!

Of course, you can never actually see this superposition of states, because as soon as there is an observation of this superposition, the wave functions collapse into one, and this will be either an alive cat or a dead cat.

At this point you may be asking, “You believe in this but you don’t believe in psychics?”, I know one of you will because my mother asked this same question while reading over my shoulder. Well, mum, there is some proof for all of this.

Imagine a soccer player shooting lots of balls at a goal, with a brick wall with a gap in the middle of it (about the width of a soccer ball) in front of him. If you were to predict the result of this experiment, you would say that all of the balls that got through to the goal to be in a small cluster right in the middle. Well, this experiment has been conducted with a beam of photons, and it is not as you would expect from particles, but more what you would expect from waves, some splay right of right and some way out left, all because the particles are interfering with each others waves, essential to Schrödinger’s cat, and you can make some probabilities as to what the possibilities are of a photon hitting a particular part of the ‘goal’, say, 1 in 1000 will hit wide right. What is amazing is that this holds up even when you just shoot one photon, meaning that this particle is interfering with itself because it takes every possible outcome, and then collapses into one when it is observed.

That’s all for me for now, this is a very interesting topic and I will definitely be blogging about it again. I will leave you with a quote from Albert Einstein, “I cannot accept quantum mechanics because I like to think the moon is there even when I am not looking at it.” Albert Einstein, possibly the most famous Jewish, German-born American Citizen ever.