Monday, November 12, 2007

Surprise!! More Bastardization of Quantum Mechanics

Remember that I had already mentioned that, when people do not understand the mathematical description of quantum mechanics, they only get to see all of these things appearing out of nowhere, and conclude that anything is possible. What's worse, they can't tell the difference between QM phenomena, and things that come out of mysticism and other psychic pseudoscience. They seem to think that one can easily extrapolate all the "weirdness" of QM into other realm, without any justification that such extrapolation is valid. In other words, they learn about physics in bits and pieces, and ignore the rest, such as the concept of decoherence that I've covered in the last few blog entries here.

If you don't believe me, here's one example. This appears to be a news article out of the Philippines, where they are claiming that there's no difference between what QM is saying, and what mystics are saying.

This negative attitude may soon change. Psychics and mystics have found an unexpected ally within the ranks of a relatively new scientific field called by various names like quantum mechanics, modern physics, particle physics and, lately, quantum physics.

In fact, the way pioneers of quantum physics describe the ultimate nature of physical reality is often indistinguishable from the way mystics talk about it.
This uncanny and incredible parallelism in the thinking of both mystics and modern physicists was not lost on several keen observers of recent developments in science.


I suppose when one is scientifically illiterate, that issue never crossed one's mind.

The "weirdness" of QM are well-tested, not only qualitatively, but also QUANTITATIVELY! And they can be produced almost on demand - just look at your modern electronics. We know QM well enough that we USE it for practical purposes.

Now when was the last time your local neighborhood psychic can produce a transistor?

So yes, there is a HUGE difference. But if you are blind, how can you tell? So the bastardization continues.



Anonymous said...

If physicists were able to put a sock in their mouth and stop using phrases like "if you think you understand quantum mechanics, then you don't understand quantum mechanics!" then maybe we'd get somewhere ;)

Physicists maybe understand that this quote should *really* mean "if you think you understand quantum mechanics, to the extent that you feel capable of publishing your Theory of Everything that you invented yesterday afternoon while sitting on the toilet, then you don't understand quantum mechanics".

Many lay (!) people, I think, know this quote but think it means that even the physicists don't have a clue. In which case, what's the problem with linking QM to telepathy, homeopathy, dowsing, copper bracelets, etc, etc...?

ZapperZ said...

What's the problem in linking, you ask? Show me where such "linking" has been proven to be valid experimentally? You seem to be forgetting (as is the common theme here) that before you connect something, there has to be BOTH a theoretical formulation and an experimental verification that such a link actually exists and is valid! Example: the link between the BCS bosons and BEC boson. Until recently, no one knows whether these two are "connected" either via a smooth transition or a phase transition. This is important because a smooth transition means that one can derive one from the other. A phase transition means that there is a ABRUPT discontinuity in some parameters between those two and you simply cannot extrapolate one from the other.

There's no such thing here. 2 things are missing:

(i) Where exactly are QM-like effects in these pseudoscience? Remember that in QM, things are verified ON DEMAND and via experiments, which means one has to show quantitative and qualitative agreement. No such pseudoscience phenomena have even come close not only to QM-like verification, but even to verify its validity of existence in the first place!

(ii) that no valid formulation has been shown to allow for extrapolation of QM principles into the realm of mysticism.

BTW, if you think that *I* am pushing my "theory of everything", I suggest you first read this before making such statements.

I'm a condensed matter physicist. There is no such thing as a "theory of everything".


Anonymous said...

Er... Sorry, but I think you've completely misunderstood my comment. I am not critising what you wrote.

I am saying: lay cretins, who know nothing about science, but do like shiny things like crystals and copper bracelets hear physicists saying "aarrghh, quantum mechanics, it's so weird even *we* don't understand it" (physicists *do* say this, frequently, usually when they're trying to explain complicated stuff to a lay audience and trying to make the proles feel better about themselves) ... But too many physicists say this, about quantum mechanics, so that the lay person is bound to think that it really isn't understood by physicists.

You said: "What's the problem in linking, you ask? Show me where such "linking" has been proven to be valid experimentally? You seem to be forgetting..."

I'm not forgetting!!! What I am saying is, that the general public (that general public who know nothing about the importance of experimental verification) cannot see any problem in using 'quantum mechanics' as mere fluff, since the message they usually seem to get from physicists is 'yeah, it's all a bit weird isn't it, even we don't understand it'. Look, I'm doing a PhD in theoretical solid state physics. I'm perfectly aware that physicists understand quantum mechanics... (up to a point!) The problem is that when they start talking to non-specialists, they all seem to insist on claiming it's "all weird", leaving it open season to the charlatans to come in and say "don't worry, we've worked it out instead".

"BTW, if you think that *I* am pushing my "theory of everything", I suggest you first read this before making such statements."

I am certainly not thinking that you are pushing a TOE. I hoped my original comment would be clear: I am talking about morons who've read A Brief History of Time and think that they're now on the same level as cutting edge research into quantum mechanics. People who post comments in internet forums saying "here's my model of the universe that can explain the unification of all natural forces, that I made up while cooking dinner last night. I must be right because I sat through a Steven Hawkings public lecture, once, and therefore know everything there is to know about quantum mechanics". The problem, I am suggesting, is really that the physicists are reluctant to turn round and say no, you moron, you do not have a clue. Instead they just waffle things like --shrug-- "well, it's all a little bit weird, isn't it?!"

ZapperZ said...

Oh, I apologize. I obviously misinterpret completely what you were writing.

Sorry. I've been getting a lot of "hate" mail each time I post something like this. The last few comments that I've received in the last 3 or 4 blog entries on this seemed to have ruffled a few feathers from people who think such a criticism wasn't warranted. So naturally, all my defense mechanism was up, causing me to not read your comment carefully.