Comments from NoodleFood


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Comment #1

Saturday, November 24, 2007 at 13:23:29 mst
Name: Jim May

There is a novel called "Quarantine: A Novel of Quantum Catastrophe" which did the same thing as these guys, which was to take the Copenhagen interpretation to its logical (absurd) end result.



Comment #2

Saturday, November 24, 2007 at 13:59:12 mst
Name: John Kim

As I understand it, the majority interpretation of the Quantum data is that the observer "creates the observed." This is the conclusion that these types draw from Schroedenger's cat; ie the cat was both alive and dead and only an unsophisticated fool would believe otherwise. For those who know of him, Ralph Anton Wilson has been saying this for years: that Aristotelian logic is flawed that non-binary "maybe logic" is the way to go and A can be non-A. So it is not surprising to see that those who believe that the observer creates the observed would also believe that the observer can destroy the observed merely by observing.

Is it an exaggeration to say that today's physicists are a modern version of medieval priests arguing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?



Comment #3

Saturday, November 24, 2007 at 14:34:21 mst
Name: John Dailey

~ The prob I have with this stupid idea of 'observing' determines the existential status of what's observed is: since observing X supposedly determines/creates (shades of Berkeley) the existential actuality of 'X', why don't these believers try 'observing' non-X? THAT'll fix the prob, right?

LLAP
J:D



Comment #4

Saturday, November 24, 2007 at 14:55:47 mst
Name: John Dailey

PS:

~ Just think about how this methodology can affect...'Global Climate-Change Warming'!!!!!!!!

~ Who needs recylability and hybrid cars? Just...'observe' differently!

~ Man...why didn't we think of this sooner? ALL of mankind's (and, our personal) probs are now so easily solvable; 'observe'...with a wish.

LLAP
J:D



Comment #5

Saturday, November 24, 2007 at 15:00:58 mst
Name: Dan G.

Ah, the problem of floating abstractions. Taking a perfectly good concept like "sensor loading" (i.e. the sensor must remove energy from the measured system to report its state) and allowing it to float off into absurdity (the act of giving attention to something changing it essentially).



Comment #6

Saturday, November 24, 2007 at 18:01:33 mst
Name: Adam Reed
URL: http://www.calstatela.edu/faculty/areed2

The Copenhagen Interpretations (Bohr's and Heisenberg's are different) date to a couple of decades before it was possible to measure information and its interactions with attributes of matter and energy, so they confuse information (which can only exists as relations among physical attributes) with knowledge (which is a function of consciousness.) The only way to make sense of QM is to reformulate the CIs in terms of the information-carrying capacity of the quantum system. But that would take a physicist who actually understands that existence is identity.

And by the way, I think that Schroedinger was pulling Bohr's and Heisenberg's legs with the Cat. Of course a real cat would have been killed by the bullet the moment it struck. Schroedinger's point was that CI contradicts a plain fact of reality, but without having the concept of information-carrying capacity of physical attributes, he could not say exactly what was wrong, and the poor cat has been suffering ever since.



Comment #7

Sunday, November 25, 2007 at 5:31:06 mst
Name: Adrian Hester

"And by the way, I think that Schroedinger was pulling Bohr's and Heisenberg's legs with the Cat. Of course a real cat would have been killed by the bullet the moment it struck. Schroedinger's point was that CI contradicts a plain fact of reality, but without having the concept of information-carrying capacity of physical attributes, he could not say exactly what was wrong, and the poor cat has been suffering ever since."

Not quite. Schroedinger knew exactly what he was doing, which was to show the nonsensical results of taking one of the basic postulates of the Copenhagen Interpretation seriously, that until the state of a system is measured it exists in a superposition of possible measurable states--that is, that each possible measurable state is superimposed on or mixed with the other states with a certain probability (indicating the fraction of times a measurement of the system will give that state), and that this probability is an irreducible fact about the world rather than an indication of what we know and do not know. If this is so, then his thought experiment was meant to argue that if you project this view of probability into the macroscopic world you get a result he considered nonsensical. In fact, the whole bundle of paradoxical claims about such things as the multi-world interpretation and the special position of a conscious observer is due to this view of an irreducible view of probability combined with a frequency view of probability in the actual process of measurement (or more precisely of observing things consciously). The trouble is trying to come up with a theory that relies on a frequency interpretation of probability all the way down--it would probably require some form of local variables, and a large class of those theories is excluded by experiment.



Comment #8

Sunday, November 25, 2007 at 8:13:31 mst
Name: Adam Reed
URL: http://www.calstatela.edu/faculty/areed2

Adrian,

Thank you. After I wrote what I did I realized that this was something that I had not looked into the literature on for over a decade, and maybe someone had come up with an interpretation in terms of information-carrying capacity by now. I found

"A Foundational Principle for Quantum Mechanics" by Anton Zeilinger, Foundations of Physics, vol 29, p 631 (April 1999)

which seems to be on the right track epistemologically, although Zeilinger's ontology is still off (he's not an Objectivist!) in that he now gives information primacy. Of course primacy should still go to the entities that carry the information, but the principle - that indeterminacies come from inadequate information (because entities can only carry finite amounts of information in their attributes) - is likely to be right.

And in neurophysiology, where I actually have some background. the implications of Zeilinger's interpretation seem right on: Ayn Rand put free will in terms of "focus," that is in terms of getting more information into one's decision-making, and that would make the outcome non-deterministically less random, and more reliable, as one increases one's mental focus and increases the information and decreases the contribution of randomness to the outcome. I suspect that free will may be embodied in emergent properties of quantum-level interactions among neurons. Information systems have lots of emergent properties, and this looks promising. Too bad I never got any experience, and thus have no skill, in doing physics.



Comment #9

Sunday, November 25, 2007 at 11:51:30 mst
Name: Mike

Shelly Goldstein recently wrote a paper about the Bohmian interpretation and quantum information <http://math.rutgers.edu/~oldstein/papers/bmqi.pdf>.



Comment #10

Sunday, November 25, 2007 at 14:01:22 mst
Name: Adam Reed
URL: http://www.calstatela.edu/faculty/areed2

Mike,

Thank you for the link. A word of caution about the Bohmian interpretation, and the idea of the "wave function of the universe:" the concept of space, on which the concept of wave function depends, depends on the concept of position. But the concept of position is grounded by the fact that the effects caused by an entity are observed earliest in locations close to that entity, an observation called "locality." And Bohm denies locality. So in the context of entity-causation, it looks like Bohm's "wave function of the universe" is what Ayn Rand called a "stolen concept."

A question for Bohmians: am I wrong in the paragraph above? Or have physicists missed this objection to denial of locality because they don't accept entity-causation? Or is there a way to ground the concept of position without using locality?

Given the popularity of the Bohmian interpretation among Objectivists, it is kind of strange that there is no comment that I could find about (at least the appearance of) a stolen concept at its base.

Am I wrong about Bohm's idea?



Comment #11

Sunday, November 25, 2007 at 15:01:53 mst
Name: kishnevi

"Of course primacy should still go to the entities that carry the information, but the principle - that indeterminacies come from inadequate information (because entities can only carry finite amounts of information in their attributes) - is likely to be right."

Maybe I'm merely putting my ignorance on display, but I've always understood that the whole point of Heisenberg's principle was exactly that--that because of the limits of the observing entity, it is impossible to precisely observe another entity in full, and that it is not the observed entity which is indeterminate in any way, but our observations must be indeterminate. Schrodinger's cat is never both alive and dead at once; we just can't tell which it is until we open the box. It's the Copenhagne Interpretation, in its standard presentation, at least, which allows the paradoxes in to the litterbox, so to speak.



Comment #12

Sunday, November 25, 2007 at 17:36:25 mst
Name: Adam Reed
URL: http://www.calstatela.edu/faculty/areed2

Kishnevi,

If I understand Zeilinger correctly, he's saying that a particle carries information (or, as I would prefer, has an information-carrying attribute with a specific value) that is only translated to the attribute that is being measured at the time of measurement. So if it has one bit, and we measure one of two possible attributes, this translates the value of the bit (-carrying attribute) to the attribute that we are measuring, and then the particle is out of information, so that the other of the two gets a random value.

In the case of "Schroedinger's cat" the translation takes place in the detector, and everything else from then on, including the conditional death of the cat, is a specific result of translating the information into the value of the attribute that was measured. In other words, the "superposition" ends _in reality_ when one of the two possible attributes is measured in the detector; and the other gets a random value. Everything from then on is a necessary consequence. The cat is never in an indeterminate state.



Comment #13

Sunday, November 25, 2007 at 20:50:52 mst
Name: Mike

Adam,

Travis Norsen has a paper on Bell's concept of causality that I found helpful. <http://www.arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0707/0707.0401v1.pdf>

My understanding is that Bohmian mechanics requires faster-than-light causation, and that is the only relevent sense in which it is non-local. Hopefully an expert will chime in to clarify.



Comment #14

Sunday, November 25, 2007 at 20:51:30 mst
Name: Mike

That should say, "Bell's concept of LOCAL causality."



Comment #15

Monday, November 26, 2007 at 3:34:10 mst
Name: Jim May

Dan G. -- "sensor loading", thank you! Now I know the term for that.

I've always had a mental picture for this, in terms of what would happen if the highest resolution of measurement available to us were one-inch steel ball bearings. The measurement of phenomena getting down to the scale of said ball-bearings would take on this indeterminacy, because to see what something is doing, we have to collide a ball-bearing with it and observe the resulting change in its momentum/velocity vector etc. -- but doing that means that what we measured is no longer the case, since the object being measured will now have a new velocity vector thanks to the collision.

kishnevi writes: "...because of the limits of the observing entity, it is impossible to precisely observe another entity in full, and that it is not the observed entity which is indeterminate in any way, but our observations must be indeterminate."

This reminds me of the concept of "resolution" as applied to perception; the amount of information gained from observation is a function of resolving power, i.e. the size of the smallest unit of measurement. The trick with this issue is not to jump to the Kantian conclusion that since there is always that indeterminacy or error in observation no matter how high the resolution (since zero error would require "infinite resolution", i.e. a unit of measurement of zero extent), then we cannot ever be 100% certain of our measurements -- i.e. they can never be "exact", leaving us to deal not with "things as they "exactly" are, but only as they appear to our resolution-limited perception.

The context that is dropped there is the *purpose* for which the measurement is made; "exactness" does not mean "zero error", it means "negligible error" or "error tolerance", which is the size below which errors become inconsequential for the purpose. Resolving to within a tenth of an inch is sufficiently exact for building a shed in the back yard, but constructing a CPU with billions of transistors in it requires much tighter tolerances.



Comment #16

Monday, November 26, 2007 at 9:49:29 mst
Name: John Dailey

~ Man, I've heard of 'beating a dead horse to death', but Jeez...this poor kitty-cat Schrodinger exemplified apparently will stay in a live-dead Limbo for eternity.

~ Unless QM gets more advanced (who's to say it doesn't need such?) in its...'theories.'

A cat-lover
LLAP
J:D



Comment #17

Monday, November 26, 2007 at 17:59:36 mst
Name: Adam Reed
URL: http://www.calstatela.edu/faculty/areed2

Mike,

Thank you for the link to Travis Norsen's paper on Bell's concept of local causality. Bell's probabilities will be easier to understand knowing his ontology...

However, I don't think that you are right when you write that "My understanding is that Bohmian mechanics requires faster-than-light causation, and that is the only relevent sense in which it is non-local." Bohm is quite explicit that the wave function of the universe is non-local, so that if an entity interacts with it in one place, the effects of this interaction can instantaneously change other entities' interactions with it elsewhere, regardless of distance - there is no other way for his theory to account for entanglement.

Of course one may interpret Bohm's mechanics as an approximation to a mechanics of fields that propagate at some supra-luminal speed. In that sense it may be right, in the same sense that Classical Mechanics is right as an approximation to relativistic mechanics. But Bohm is clear that this is not what he means or intends. He has spoken of taking "the simultaneous wholeness of the Universe" very seriously.



Comment #18

Monday, November 26, 2007 at 20:51:52 mst
Name: Mike

Adam,

Bohm himself seems like a mixed bag (or worse), so I'm not too concerned with what Bohm himself said about his theory. I've been told that he thought his theory implied or necessitated a lot of things which it does not. For example, all of his presentations make use of the "quantum potential," which I am told is completely arbitrary and unnecessary for the theory to work.

As to locality: My understanding from talking to Bohmians is that some of them think the action-at-a-distance causation part should be taken as a free variable of sorts; we don't yet know what it is or at what velocity it propagates (if velocity is even the right concept) so that is something to be explored by experiment. That sounds reasonable to me.

Speaking generally, and not about Bohmian mechanics, I'm skeptical about attempts to philosophize away non-locality or action at a distance. Say for the sake of example that the farthest distance two things can be separated is 500 billion light-years. Say furthermore that some causation (whatever it may be) propagates at 500 trillion light-years per second. For all practical purposes (FAP to steal from Bell), that would be "instantaneous" action. FAP, that would mean any theory of entanglement can ignore propagation speed and just write the equations like the causation is instantaneous.

What do you think?



Comment #19

Tuesday, November 27, 2007 at 6:33:27 mst
Name: Adam Reed
URL: http://www.calstatela.edu/faculty/areed2

Mike:

"if velocity is even the right concept" looks authentically Bohmian to me: no locality, therefore no position, therefore no velocity (or energy, or momentum, or even wave function) etc. Bohm is a mystic with an agenda, and that agenda is to destroy the conceptual coherence of physics.

Whether his theory is right enough as an approximation is difficult to say: it might be. But between Zeilinger and Bohm, Zeilinger at least has good epistemology on his side. Or maybe Zeilinger does not go far enough, and the real information bottleneck is not even in information-carrying capacity, but in the losses in translation between information carried by the particle and the attributes being measured. I'll get to find out if I live long enough, and if the physicists do the work.



Comment #20

Tuesday, November 27, 2007 at 10:27:56 mst
Name: Richard Watts

In regard to my comment;
"So somebody wants us to sacrifice to spare the rocks now? What will they say tomorrow -- that we should sacrifice for the pristine vacuum of empty space?"

I did mean that as sarcasm toward the environmentalists. But I didn't mean it as my suggestion for a course of action, not even jokingly.