Monday, August 02, 2010

God of Quantum Flapdoodle

I like that name "quantum flapdoodle". Supposedly, it was coined by Murray Gell-Mann to describe "..stringing together a series of terms and phrases from quantum physics and asserting that they explain something in our daily experience.." In this article, Michael Shermer continues to rebutt Deepak Chopra and his quantum flapdoodle.

Chopra believes that the weirdness of the quantum world (such as Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle) can be linked to certain mysteries of the macro world (such as consciousness). This supposition is based on the work of Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff, whose theory of quantum consciousness has generated much heat but little light in scientific circles.
Inside our neurons are tiny hollow microtubules that act like structural scaffolding. Penrose and Hameroff conjecture that something inside the microtubules may initiate a wave-function collapse that leads to the quantum coherence of atoms, causing neurotransmitters to be released into the synapses between neurons. This, in turn, triggers the neurons to fire in a uniform pattern, thereby creating thought and consciousness. Since a wave-function collapse can only come about when an atom is “observed” (that is, affected in any way by something else), “mind” may be the observer in a recursive loop from atoms to molecules to neurons to thought to consciousness to mind to atoms to molecules to neurons . . . and so on.
In reality, the gap between quantum effects and the world of ordinary events is too large to bridge. In his 1995 book The Unconscious Quantum, the University of Colorado particle physicist Victor Stenger demonstrates that for a system to be described in terms of quantum mechanics, its typical mass m, speed v, and distance d must be on the order of Planck’s constant h. “If mvd is much greater than h, then the system probably can be treated classically,” that is, according to the physical laws discovered by Newton. Stenger computed the mass of neural transmitter molecules and their speed across the distance of a synapse, and he concluded that both are about three orders of magnitude too large for quantum effects to be influential. It is important to note one very common practice with physicists, and scientists/engineers in general. When one makes off-the-cuff supposition, one can make quick back-of-the-envelope calculations to figure out not if something is possible, but if something can be ruled out immediately simply based on what we know. So such a thing that Vic Stenger did in calculating the mass and speed of a neural transmitter may not be accurate, but it is of the order-of-magnitude value that clearly shows that quantum effects are just not significant. This is part of science. This is something people like Chopra can't do and have no skill to do. They typically make handwaving argument with no quantitative analysis to back what they say. Yet, they claim to base their speculation on science/physics.

One would think that, since they're making things up as they go along, that they could make their own reality and use that, rather than piggybacking onto something they clearly do not understand.


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