Monday, June 02, 2014

Just Because A Lot Of Things Are Mysterious, That Doesn't Mean They Are Connected

It looks like I am not the only one who is frustrated by the likes of Michio Kaku and Deepak Chopra when they delve into something that they have little knowledge about. This "rant" is almost on points as far as pointing out the ridiculousness of someone who delve into an area that he/she has little knowledge in and thinks that he/she has formulated a meaningful idea.

I hold degrees in physics and have spent a lot of time learning and teaching quantum mechanics. Nonphysicists seem to have the impression that quantum physics is really esoteric, with those who study it spending their time debating the nature of reality. In truth, most of a quantum mechanics class is lots and lots of math, in the service of using a particle’s quantum state—the bundle of physical properties such as position, energy, spin, and the like—to describe the outcomes of experiments. Sure, there’s some weird stuff and it’s fun to talk about, but quantum mechanics is aimed at being practical (ideally, at least).

Yet the mysterious aspects of quantum physics and consciousness have inspired many people to speculate freely. The worst offenders will even say that because we don’t fully understand either field, they must be related problems. It sounds good at first: We don’t know exactly how some things in quantum physics work, we don’t know exactly how to go from the brain to consciousness, so maybe consciousness is quantum.

The problem with this idea? It’s almost certainly wrong.

Just do a search on Deepak Chopra or my rant on The Secret book on here and you'll see my similar argument.

The essay also took shots at physicists who dipped their toes into areas that they had very little expertise in.

Some of them think that the overwhelming success of modern physics gives them the ability to pronounce judgment on other sciences, from linguistics to paleontology. Celebrity physicist Michio Kaku is a particularly egregious example, getting evolution completely wrong (see this critique) and telling infamous crackpot Deepak Chopra that our actions can have effects in distant galaxies. Then there are the physicists—including Freeman Dyson, one of the architects of the quantum theory describing interactions between light and matter—who contradict climate scientists in their own area of expertise.

The take-home message is contained in the very last paragraph, which I strongly endorse.

The problem with Klemm’s assertions, as well as those of many others who misuse the word quantum, is that their speculation is based on a superficial understanding of one or both fields. Physics may or may not have anything informative to say about consciousness, but you won’t make any progress in that direction without knowing a lot about both quantum physics and how brains work. Skimping on either of those will lead to nonsense.

You can take that, and substitute it with any particular knowledge, and you'll have a very respectable way of living a life. One can argue that a lot of the major political and societal problems that we face are due to people who make decisions and arrive at conclusions based on incomplete or faulty knowledge of a particular matter.



Hamish J said...

I think that description of a physicist's view of quantum mechanics is slightly dated. Particularly "Sure, there’s some weird stuff and it’s fun to talk about, but quantum mechanics is aimed at being practical (ideally, at least)." I think what's really exciting about quantum mechanics over the past decade or so is that the newish field of quantum information has got physicists thinking about the "weird stuff" again. So instead of calculating expectation values and ignoring the various paradoxes that bothered Schroedinger and Einstein etc, that weirdness is actually being put to use in quantum computers, cryptography, metrology etc.

Anonymous said...

Ya...what you said is right. Every one is speaking and jumping into conclusions connecting many complex thoughts with quantum physics. A true Physics argument should be a solid one with sound mathematical conclusion even to predict something. It survives years together with its mathematical structure ,still, it may be proved wrong later but only with more reasonable and rigorous equations. All these people now a days are at best only science-fiction-story tellers but not real scientists with sound mathematical proofs which moves human knowledge close to the reality of Nature.

mvs saketh said...

totally agreed :D This baseless rant about quantum mechanics causes people who barely know electromagnetism of newtonian mechanics to speak about stuff they have no idea about and make physics really baseless and boring. rather i fear that if this continues people might start seeing physics less like the awesome method of using math and observation to explain and understand nature and more as some philosophical never ending circular debate.

Also i dont understand why some scientists explain quantum mechanics in such superficial qualitative ways that too in a wrong manner . That can barely qualify for even fiction.

It is lot more worthy to teach them the three laws of motion in detail than to teach them the whole universe on such superficial manner that it wil only mess their mind to deviate more and more from physics and maths.