Monday, June 14, 2010
Questions on Quantum Mechanics (2)
We continue with the questions-issues many religionists have had with QM aspects:
Many quantum mechnanicians say that even if God exists and created the universe , QM shows He made a world He cannot control
Actually, this is quite true. This was one reason Einstein wasn’t able to accept QM (though he contributed to the photo-electric effect). Recall he said: "God does not play dice with the universe." Meaning, if God DID play dice then random outcomes would be the rule at the foundation level of the cosmos. Would you want a builder fooling around with taking chances on your foundation, before building your new home? Say gambling that he can use a cheap, diluted Chinese cement and get away with it, make more profit? Einstein felt that way! If random outcomes were the rule, at the quantum or building block level, then at its foundation the universe would be indeterminate. Then, if indeterminate, God wouldn’t have total control at this level.
Make no mistake that to Einstein (a determinist) God was a determinist. This meant he could know the position of every particle in the universe at any given time (using Newtonian laws only) . But this was why QM was unacceptable. It implied at root that the quantum level was ungovernable by God.
Following the lead of Niels Bohr's Copenhagen Interpretation (CI ) of QM , many quantum physicists refuse to admit their inability to understand or predict quantum action as a sign of THEIR ignorance . Rather , they claim QM is basically a finished science that reveals a genuinely lawless and irrational world - a brooding cauldron of chance actions and purposeless conclusions
As noted earlier, QM doesn’t denote any emergence of “irrationality” in nature, but rather indeterminism. The true fact here is many quantum physicists (not "mechanicians") have fretted that quantum mechanics is incomplete. David Bohm did, up until his death, which is why he developed the Stochastic theory of quantum mechanics and the use of "hidden variables". (He also framed his Uncertainty Principle in terms of them)
The "Copenhagen interpretation", meanwhile, is accepted by a majority because it provides the correct predictive results, despite being an interpretation that is predicated on the philosophy of logical postivism: e.g. the predictive results trump any inferred meaning. This is because it's based on the conception of the quantum wave function (PSI) as a statistical artifact. This is entirely reasonable. Consider: you want to find the probability that some particle will be found in a region of length a. The probability is given as an integral:
INT (-oo to + oo) PSI* (PSI) dx
where PSI = A sin (2pi x/ a) exp (-iEt/h-bar) and PSI* = A sin (2pi x/ a) exp (iEt/h-bar)
where h-bar = h/ 2pi, h = 6.62 x 10^-34 J-s (Planck constant)
Obviously, without doing the full integration, the complex functions for PSI and its complex conjugate (PSI*) cannot be identified with any real world entity. Hence (Max) Born's conclusion to treat the wave function as primarily statistical in nature is amply justified.
Regrettably, QM is not a descriptive field, i.e. amenable to straightforward English interpretation. It is primarily a mathematical theory. If one ventures outside the bounds of the mathematical descriptions to offer English interpretations, one risks nonsense. I believe it was Feynman, in a Preface to his 'Lectures in Physics', Vol. III, who remarked that once one tries to use purely English descriptions to button hole QM he or she will "disappear down a rabbit hole, never to appear again."
For readers who want a comprehensive and understandable book that provides the basis for the Copenhagen Interpretation, I recommend Heinz Pagels `The Cosmic Code' (Bantam, 1982) - which will dispel a lot of incorrect perceptions and assumptions that have accumulated over the past 25 years. In his book, Pagels endorses the best policy in quantum mechanics as simply being a `fair witness'. That means absolutely avoiding embellishment and exaggeration of the results, including projection of personal `fantasies'. If one insists on reading more into quantum measurement results than their statistical significance allows, self delusion ensues.
This is why the “CI” above all, argues against Mysticism and eastern religions’ uses of QM, such as produced in the books, ‘The Holographic Universe’ by Talbot, or ‘The Tao of Physics’ by Fritjof Capra, or ‘The Dancing Wu Li Masters’ by Gary Zukav.
For all the wild attributes that may hold true in QM , macroscopic reality behaves in a predictable , law-like fashion and everywhere presents us with evidence of its fundamentally rational construction . So even IF quantum particles could do pop in and out of existence naturally , no such thing happens in the realm of everyday objects
Critics are absolutely correct here, at least once. The trouble is that most of the universe is not at the macroscopic scale! While he and other Xtianoids become obsessed with the “orderly” picture of planets, stars, etc. most of the cosmos is not composed of these entities. It is mainly at quantum level gases – as in the ionized plasmas of nebulae or interstellar or intergalactic matter, and also as dark energy. (More than 70% of cosmos). Dark (vacuum) energy certainly has NO "fundamentally rational construction and operation". Indeed, the evidence shows it is literally tearing the cosmos apart, to end in a pathetic "Big Rip"! (See, e.g. 'Supernovae, Dark Energy and the Accelerating Universe', by Saul Perlmutter, in Physics Today, April, 2003, p. 53.) Thus, his perceptual vision is still too limited, too pedestrian to grasp even rudimentary essentials. He also allows his selective biases toward his inconsistent Bible to dictate his efforts at analysis.
Also, as Bohm has shown (op. cit., p. 168-169) quantum mechanics can and does enter at the realm of thought. The reason is that the synaptic cleft in the brain (about 200-300 nm in width) is exactly at the scale the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle applies. Thus, thoughts can evince the same behavior as waves, and collapse at certain times to eigenvalues. Further, Physicist Henry Stapp has shown that the trajectory of calcium ions(Ca++) in the brain's pathways can only be enabled by quantum mechanical processes involving the associated wave function. (See: Mind, Matter & Quantum Mechanics)
Most of the astounding behaviors attributed to QM occur only in highly artificial laboratory settings . There's no certainty that these things can actually happen in real-world settings .
The trouble here is that many QM experiments, such as Aspect’s (1982) hold over what we regard as macroscopic distances. Thus, when two polarizers show a connection over 12m (36.9 ft.) between two photons with the same (or inverted) polarizations, then we are talking about nonlocality over a macroscopic scale.
It would also be very dangerous to “cast an indifferent eye” on them, given that many quantum phenomena, at first believed insignificant or impractical, have subsequently intruded into our practical world in a big way. For example, the phenomenon of quantum tunneling (where low energy particles can penetrate a high energy barrier) by virtue of switching to their wave aspect – now abound in solid state electronics devices that comprise our HD TV sets, as well as ancillary equipment like DVD players, DVD cameras and X-box games. Take the tunneling components out and none of them work.
In addition, tunneling plays an ever larger role in the Sun’s nuclear fusion. Were it not for tunneling of protons to fuse into helium (overcoming the very high Coulomb repulsion barrier preventing fusion – or protons coming too close because of the same charge) we’d have no sunlight, no warmth….a cold, dead planet. We'd better hope that tunneling continues in the solar core!
Science's ability to penetrate the microphysical world is still very rudimentary . This leaves room for exceptionally high degrees of speculation and error . In this light , many of us join noteworthy scientists ( like Einstein ) who insisted that QM should not be the basis for worldview assertions
Join "noteworthy scientists" like Einstein? In fact, Einstein’s rejection of QM (as noted earlier) meant he was forever marginalized from about 1940 on. He was ignored as the main quantum contributors like Paul M. Dirac, Max Born and others made momentous contributions (Dirac himself discovering the positron or positive electron).
Meanwhile, Einstein, toiled in obscurity on a sterile “unified field theory” never to have his name associated with any major discoveries again – though he did briefly come to notoriety for his “cosmological constant” which he later admitted was the greatest “error of my life”.
As far as the ability to “penetrate the microphysical world”, that’s a matter of opinion. Given we’ve applied quantum tunneling to solid state conductors and our high tech devices like HD TVs, I don’t think our ability is that poor. In addition, remember that we’ve used QM to develop the whole basis for modern chemistry in terms of portraying complex atoms in terms of their spectra and wave functions. This wouldn’t be possible if our knowledge was still rudimentary.
Is there more to learn? Sure, but amazing progress especially now in the realm of quantum field theory shows we’re making enormous progress. Much of this led to the construction of the mammoth Large Hadron Collider which will now be put to work to duplicate the conditions of the Big Bang.
Face it, science would be impossible if the universe weren't created by a personal , rational Being who designed both physical reality and human beings to reflect His rationality . Any scientific theory that supports non-rational worldviews is self-defeating “
Once more with feeling, no one rejects rationality. What we assert is that the definition of rationality must be extended from purely classical logic to quantum logic – else no amount of analysis of quantum phenomena will prove useful.
For example, the major quantum discoveries such as applications of quantum tunneling didn’t come via just classical logic (yes-no, binary approaches such as in Boolean Logic).
Nor is QM or its primary interpretation (Copenhagen) a "non-rational world view". It is eminently rational except that its purview is dramatically expanded from what Newton used, for example to deduce his universal law of gravitation. As for “self-defeating” – any branch of physical science that can deliver the latest solid state electronic marvel is certainly not that.
A growing body of experts believes the CI will someday fall out of scientific favor , thus shifting the dominant paradigm of QM to models supporting rationality and natural law
More errors and mixups. First, the CI is not a “model”, but an interpretation. One of about six major ones. There is basically only one model of QM, but we interpret it in different ways. The model is based on probability waves associated with the electrons in atoms, as opposed to the (old) “solar system” model of Neils Bohr (depicting electrons like "planets" orbiting around a central "sun" or nucleus) which was ditched around 1925.
Second, if the Copenhagen Interpretation is nixed, what are the alternatives (the alternative interpretations)? Well, two of the major contenders:
1) Many worlds’ interpretation:
In this case each time a quantum wave collapses on observation the universe splits into an infinite number of “parallel” worlds.
2) Stochastic causal interpretation:
This treats quantum waves as real and undergoing deterministic changes that can be described by a deterministic Schrodinger equation.
It also allows mind to be identified with the wave function, and for mind-consciousness to be unified with matter in a higher dimensionality. This interpretation is the one actually linked to the eastern religions and philosophies. So, I simply can’t imagine millions of theists wanting to replace the CI with it.
Copenhagen Interpretation is the pre-eminent one for a reason: quantum mechanics is a physically-grounded statistical theory that does not address any REAL quantum waves. (Since as we saw one can have PSI and PSI* with imaginary exponents). Hence, one cannot have a genuine quantum wave or wave function. These are statistical artifacts only (Max Born’s point). In addition, CI has delivered the goods and enabled us to obtain useful results as well as applications without trying to figure out the “meaning” of it all.