Tao Of Physics

Discussion continues
June, ’80

“The observer-generated reality stuff,” said Jade, “is just
another aspect of how phenomena manifests at the quantum
level. The classical notions of space, time, and
causality–objective reality, break down at the quantum level.
Remember there are no waves propagating. According to most physicists,
the wave function is not quite a thing, it is more like an idea that
occupies a strange middle ground between idea and reality, where all
things are possible but none are actual. An electron is not a particle
either, it is more like a process, always forming, always dissolving.
It can’t be detected until it interacts with a measuring device and
even if it does interact we don’t know if it interacts with the device
per se, or if it interacts with the last link in the chain of events
that define the experiment—the consciousness of the human observer.”

“Fellows,” Don interjected, “you ain’t seen nothing till you’ve seen
an elephant fly! Come Saturday night–those dissolving particles
ain’t got nothing on my vanishing elephants. If you want to see those
mouse hating critters pop out of existence all you have to do is close
down a couple bars with me.”

“That’s interesting Don; I mean that you should bring up a vanishing
act to illustrate your point,” Jade replied, “because the physicist,
Erwin Schrodinger devised a thought experiment that kind of
illustrates his point with a similar vanishing act, only he wasn’t
talking about mice haters, he was talking about mice lovers. According
to Schrodinger, if you put a cat in a box with some poison gas and
release the gas the cat dies. But here’s the catch, for Schrodinger
the gas release is triggered by radiation decay, which is a random
occurrence. In classical physics, the cat dies at the time of the
decay, but in quantum mechanics the cat dies when the observation is
made, when the last link in the chain of events that defines the
experiment occurs. At the time of observation when the box is opened
the wave function collapses and possibility becomes actuality. Of
course, common sense tells us that can’t be true, but that’s precisely
the point, common sense breaks down at the quantum level, things are
`different’ at that level. So the question remains, `Is it, or when is
it, necessary to include human consciousness in our descriptions of
the world?’ Or, put another way, `what role does measurement play in
an experiment?’ Does it provide a description of the world under study
or does it actually create that world?’ Quantum Mechanics has a hard
time answering questions like that.”

“I’m out of beer,” said Don, “Anybody got an extra one?”

“Maybe one day that situation will be better understood,” I said. “But
until that day comes, talk about `objectivity’ is probably best left
to the Buddhists. They don’t have a problem with `independent reality’
because for them there isn’t any. For them, everything is
co-dependent. My subjective world, and the objective world, is, for an
enlightened Buddhist, just words referring to mutually conditioned
relations woven into one fabric. For the Buddhist, subject and object
are not just inseparable, they are indistinguishable.”


About bwinwnbwi

About me: Marvin Gaye’s song, "What’s Going On" was playing on the jukebox when I went up to the counter and bought another cup of coffee. When I got back, the painting on the wall next to where I was sitting jumped out at me, the same way it had done many times before. On it was written a diatribe on creativity. It was the quote at the bottom, though, that brought me back to this seat time after time. The quote had to do with infinity; it went something like this: Think of yourself as being in that place where infinity comes together in a point; where the infinite past and the infinite future meet, where you are at right now. The quote was attributed to Hermann Hesse, but I didn’t remember reading it in any of the books that I had read by him, so I went out and bought Hesse’s last novel, Magister Ludi. I haven’t found the quote yet, but I haven't tired of looking for it either.
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8 Responses to Tao Of Physics

  1. eof737 says:

    Interesting post and great photos. 😉

  2. I like the substance and direction of this discussion

  3. Pingback: We Interrupt Your Normal Programming | Surface Nuisance

  4. I am stll cracking up at the quantum cat in the box. Fascinating site – thanks!

  5. Ron Krumpos says:

    Erwin Schrödinger was a mystic (now the cat is out of the bag, so to speak). See http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Erwin_Schrödinger and find quotes on mysticism.

    • bwinwnbwi says:

      Thanks for the great info on Schrodinger. I particularly like the following two quotes that I found on the above page. Although I agree with these quotes as stated, I would add that our sensations and thoughts may not belong to the “world of energy” but without the support of this “world of energy” these sensations and thoughts would not be possible.

      “Sensations and thoughts do not belong to the “world of energy.”

      “We do not belong to this material world that science constructs for us. We are not in it; we are outside. We are only spectators.”

      • Ron Krumpos says:

        Heisenberg, Schroedinger, de Broglie, Jeans, Planck, Pauli, and Eddington were supporters of mysticism. A good reference is “Quantum Questions / Mystical Writings of the World’s Greatest Physicists,” edited by Ken Wilber (Shambhala 1984, 2001). That was quoted in the Wiki link. Einstein denied being a mystic. Arthur Eddington, the great British physicist, was a Quaker mystic. See http://silas.psfc.mit.edu/eddington/

    • bwinwnbwi says:

      Yes, I am familiar with some of Eddington’s views. I have his book, The Nature of the Physical World. Quantum Questions is also a very good book. I have quoted from in on several occasions, but probably not in this blog (not yet anyway). Quantum Questions sits on my bookshelf along side of five other Ken Wilber books. Einstein may have denied being a mystic, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t mystical in some of his views. Your comments help me to inform where some of my writing is coming from–thanks loads!

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