Should Quantum Anomalies Make Us Rethink Reality?

24 Apr 2018 21:00 #320772 by Locksley

Warning: Spoiler! [ Click to expand ]

This sort of thing fascinates me. We're touching on parts of our universe that are honestly incredible. As Carl Sagan was fond of saying: the realities science shows us are far more compelling and bizarre than anything pseudoscience enthusiasts would believe.
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25 Apr 2018 08:51 #320779 by Gisteron
What I don't understand is why the author presumes that classical physics is some sort of current paradigm clinged to for the purposes of describing systems where quantum effects become significant. Nobody does that. That information would be about a century out of date now even if it did reflect on the purposes of science, but even that it gets wrong. Newton and Kepler are not wrong just because Einstein happened. But I digress... Another mistake being made here is that QM is somehow fundamentally incompatible with classical physics. It isn't. There are experimental results the classical models cannot account for to within a reasonable margin of error. That's why a new theory was needed, and why it was developed. It starts with all of the same assumptions held henceto, except the ones that are in the way of building a useful model, and then proceeds with all of the same mathematical logic we'd use for anything else. This idea that QM is this weird unlearnable, unintuitive paramount, far beyond human grasp, that also allows for all kinds of magical woo, just like radioactivity did half a century ago or electricity another half century before then, is just nonsense, harsh though that may sound. And classical physics does not so much stand in opposition to it, as it is a special case of it. As you approach particular limits in relevant properties, QM simplifies to those familiar older models, which is frankly quite a relief, for if it didn't, we couldn't explain why the classical models work as well as they do, nor why QM works at all. And of course finally, the author jumps to a conclusion not even warranted if we were to grant them all their false premises. From none of it follows that the 'mind' (as if that was something we have any reason to assume to be on the same page about without just presuming that we most definitely are, but we would never actually define the thing and make sure) is somehow a solution, or that there is even a problem for it to solve. I've seen this call for the mind-paradigm so often now, yet nowhere do they propose an actual equation, or an ammendment to an existing model that would accomodate it and still result in something consistent with the experiments and other well-working models. One can, of course, try and replace one mystery (I should probably say one thing you don't understand, because it's hardly a mystery to the people working with it day in day out) with another, much bigger mystery (I should probably say gobbledygook, because an empty undefined term is not exactly a riddle to be solved so much as a vacancy to stuff one's own pet magic theories in), but one be better not pretending that this is anything like science or that real scientists are the closed-minded dinosaurs for daring to not waste their precious time and resources on intellectual dead ends like that.

I sympathize with Sagan. The realities science shows us are indeed far more compelling and bizarre than anything pseudoscience enthusiasts would have us believe. I'd like to say 'if they only had a clue', but alas, often times they do. But once you're stuck in "science press", as the author calls it (that is popular science magazines, of course. Not to be confused with scientific literature, publication journals and the like), it looks like one has to leave such things behind and write what people want to read instead. And they want something that is easy to conjure a mental image of, and a pretty one at that, that still has enough technobabble to sound scientific when it is nothing of the sort. People want pseudoscience...

Better to leave questions unanswered than answers unquestioned
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25 Apr 2018 15:37 #320788 by Rickie
QM opens up new ways of thinking and explaining reality but we can't stop there. Discovery is an ever expanding awareness. There is so much we do not know and the more we know only shows the way to more of what we don't know and want to know. It is an exciting time for open minded and thought explorer.

Thirsting for knowledge? Drink up! :-)

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25 Apr 2018 17:25 #320793 by Locksley
"A new paradigm is needed to accommodate and make sense of the anomalies; one wherein mind itself is understood to be the essence—cognitively but also physically—of what we perceive when we look at the world around ourselves."

You know, I think I completely glossed over his conclusion. But, if he's quoting philosophers that makes more sense.

Still, I don't think that there's anything necessarily wrong with the type of philosophical conjecture he seems to be working with -- though, reading through it again, I would say that the author is coming at this from a very specific set of assumptions, ones which I wouldn't personally agree with. Specifically, as you pointed out, the "old paradigms" aren't being destroyed in favor of new ones (this isn't another case of ether). We're learning more about why one model of the universe works, at a very minute level, with some really exciting work happening right now in the realm of quantum gravity that's trying to figure out how both models work together.

And, yes, Scientific American, just like all the other popular science journals, are guilty of padding themselves with less-than hard articles. I don't know if people "want pseudoscience" though, even if it appears that way at times. I found pieces of the article interesting, but you raised some solid critiques that made me go "whoops, I was paying attention to one very small piece of what this guy was saying. How the heck did I miss that the first time through?" And so I continue on my exploration of a subject that I'm grossly unqualified to understand (but I want to, because it excites me). I think that's the key. I think people want to be excited, and that's where popular science authors and the like could (can sometimes do) do a lot of good by, yes, framing these massive concepts in ways which laypeople can understand(ways which allow them to be excited about the grandness of the frontiers we're poking at). And that's important because we do need a scientifically-literate public. Badly. And it doesn't have to be a high level of scientific literacy either, it can be just enough to grasp the edges of what's going on.

Now, I don't suggest that this is what Dr. Kastrup is doing, here. I think he's got his own thing going (which is perfectly fine, in a sense). But, still... we're talking about things now. That's got to be good. Maybe we can have fun somewhere along the way?
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25 Apr 2018 17:47 #320794 by Gisteron
Yea, at times it frustrates me just how "incomprehensible" QM is portrayed to the public. Even in classes some professors insist how some particular findings are oh so unintuitive and so difficult to make sense of. The thing is that this is only the case if you go in without ever hearing about any of it before, or with a very rigid classical foundation. That's the only thing that can actually get in the way. The mathematical formalism isn't new or difficult at all, all the premises are rooted in practical necessity to account for experimental results, and all conclusions follow inevitably and logically from those premises. One feels like one doesn't understand it afterwards to just the extent to which one felt one shouldn't have understood it, back when walking in. I for one would encourage people with a rudimentary understanding of calculus and linear algebra to try an introduction to QM. It helps if you are more savvy at the maths than the mere basics, but if the introduction is any good you'll be just fine. Don't be intimidated by it just because the popular perception of it says that you should be. ;)

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25 Apr 2018 20:34 - 25 Apr 2018 20:36 #320799 by Locksley
Absolutely. I don't find as much of what I read these days incomprehensible (compared to just a couple of years ago), precisely because I've tried to read from the bottom and work my way up, learning the conceptual elements of the theories and proofs as I go. I still run up against all sorts of barriers, not the least of which because I don't have the strongest math skills in the universe, but I haven't let that deter me! Especially because of my interest in the political field I feel a need to be scientifically literate at least at that conceptual level so I can explain to people why they should be excited about something, or why a specific bit of research funding matters, or why a certain law that restricts funding and research is detrimental.

So I keep pushing the envelope of my knowledge. There's always more to learn.

That said, there's a rather solid barrier to my total comprehension of these theories and concepts: my understanding of the mathematics behind them. But I recognize that I don't have the skills required to understand that and work it out for myself; I try to be cognizant of my own limitations in this regard. It's a tough road to walk because I am interested in some of the fringe stuff because, as a Sci-Fi writer that stuff is useful for me. But I also want to have as solid a grounding in the reality as possible so that what I write comes off well to scientists and science enthusiasts (and so I can actually hold a conversation with someone who is a scientist or is astutely scientifically-literate).

The thing is... I don't think all people who jump into an exploration of "science" are willing to recognize the limitations of only understanding at a conceptual level. So you get people who are carried away, either through their own excitement, their own preconceptions, or through the hoodwinkery of people who make their living plying the fringe lands for fairy gold.

I sort of moved away from the point you were making. :P

Now that I've finished my BA I'm considering heading back for an AA in Natural Science focused in Astronomy/Physics while I wait for my MFA applications to go through. Gotta keep learning. :)
Last edit: 25 Apr 2018 20:36 by Locksley.
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26 Apr 2018 01:54 #320808 by Adder
Understanding something probably categorizes it as reinforcement, refinement or perhaps replacement - in terms of existing paradigms. A writer might pitch a story to achieve different things, by using a different balance of each, in science press compared to science literature I'd say the reason its more important to exercise refinement in ones perception rather then any particular paradigm of belief (about reality) is that we probably don't have the mental power to relate to the rate of change in it. I wouldn't be so naive to suggest experimental anomalies should be seen as changes in the time frame rather then space frame, but when it comes to being able to perceive relevance and work outcomes successfully, we can only juggle so many bananas at once!!! I think it might be lost in translation from the experimental and theoretical science across to consumer language. So it's probably more about learning the relevant language, assumptions in its use, and the attributes of the data being used more then how close something might be to solving discrepancies in translation and simplifications of something. You don't want to be limited by a paradigm, but it makes me wonder if belief in one might afford something that just awareness might provide. I would have guessed not but I dunno.

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26 Apr 2018 18:02 #320830 by ZealotX
QM is a very interesting branch of science. However, as Gisteron said in so many words, it needs to be treated as science. I think the fact that it is on the cutting edge, by definition means that it involves a lot of things we, as a general audience, don't readily understand. But many people (not speaking of anyone here) take science (knowledge) and basically use it to advance their own beliefs, counting on the fact that people don't understand it so they often don't even bother to research what's being said in order to correct the person making the claims. They simply believe it as a matter of ease and convenience.

There are computers that operate on a Quantum Mechanical process. I would love to fully understand that but I'm not there yet. I would love to understand the complex theories and formulas behind AI but I'm not there yet. The problem isn't not being there yet. The problem is when other people who aren't there yet try to teach it like its something magical that doesn't need to conform to scientific principles because in their minds it breaks scientific principles. And that's simply not true. On the quantum level of particles QM explains things that normal physics has difficulty with. And maybe that simply because on that small level there are variables that we cannot see or have have the technology to detect. The smallest particle (unless this has changed) is not even one that is observed but one that exists in theory. So there's just too much we don't know at that level to then make QM into some kind of absolute game changer which many people (again, not speaking of anyone here) try to do.
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28 Apr 2018 04:49 #320888 by Reacher
Thanks for the post, Locksley!

I'm not a QM guy, but I do know Kuhn pretty well.

Invoking the Kuhnian 'paradigm shift' is a tried and true method to bring attention to a research area. Plenty of guys call Scientific Revolution! when a number of anomalies emerge in a current theory's normal science practices. Some do it to sell magazines, others to legitimately call for additional focus in explaining something that doesn't quite make sense. Not all result in a classic radical theory change - they're accounted for in other ways that maintain the paradigm.

One thing to be careful of is thinking that a paradigm shift implies that all else previous to it is wrong - far from it. It's simply thinking about the same information in a new way. Same data, different context.

Do I think we are on the cusp of a paradigm shift? Maybe, but I think we need a larger body of data to bring in more anomalies - which may be what Dr. Kastrup is intending here: Attention -> focus -> testing.

If and when crisis does occur, we will definitely need those willing to tinker and play with new ways of thinking. That, I can absolutely get behind.

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