NeuroTypical

Quantum stuff is scary

Recommended Posts

I'm surprising myself with being able to understand things I never thought I'd be able to understand.  So, electrons and similar things have both attributes of waves, and attributes of particles.  That's easy.

Apparently whether something is behaving like a wave or a particle, depends on whether we are watching it or not.  That's unfathomable.  You set up your stupid electron gun/double-slit experiment and turn it on, the photons act like a wave.  Ok, they're waves.   Then you move a detector into place that does nothing besides watch what slit the electron goes through, and now they act like particles?  Now I understand how giant-brained atheist physicists run their bony fingers through their wispy white hair and wonder aloud if God is playing a practical joke on them.

So then - if you split an electron into two smaller entangled photons, and send one into a screen and one into a detector, both behave like particles.  Ok, whatever - you've gathered the data, it's sitting right there being unmistakable.  I don't get it, but it's the way it is. But apparently (and this is the part I'm still trying to understand), if you erase the data, then the entangled photons somehow erase the past and re-write it as waves?  It changes time?  It retroactively changes it's own nature?

GAAAAH!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In this case, what we call "observation" forces the waveform to collapse to one or another discrete state. (Not to be confused with a discreet state, which we do not talk about openly on this list.) If such a collapse does not occur, the so-called particle is free to act as a wave and, as it were, interfere with itself to produce the wavelike pattern.

Or at least that's what today's QM physicists like to say.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, NeuroTypical said:

I'm surprising myself with being able to understand things I never thought I'd be able to understand.  So, electrons and similar things have both attributes of waves, and attributes of particles.  That's easy.

Apparently whether something is behaving like a wave or a particle, depends on whether we are watching it or not.  That's unfathomable.  You set up your stupid electron gun/double-slit experiment and turn it on, the photons act like a wave.  Ok, they're waves.   Then you move a detector into place that does nothing besides watch what slit the electron goes through, and now they act like particles?  Now I understand how giant-brained atheist physicists run their bony fingers through their wispy white hair and wonder aloud if God is playing a practical joke on them.

So then - if you split an electron into two smaller entangled photons, and send one into a screen and one into a detector, both behave like particles.  Ok, whatever - you've gathered the data, it's sitting right there being unmistakable.  I don't get it, but it's the way it is. But apparently (and this is the part I'm still trying to understand), if you erase the data, then the entangled photons somehow erase the past and re-write it as waves?  It changes time?  It retroactively changes it's own nature?

GAAAAH!

You ought to read Wolfgang Smith. I have 2 of his books - "The Quantum Enigma" which I've finished, and "Physics and Vertical Causation" which I'm still battling through. He's very heavy reading, but he does have some interesting views on  this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I sometimes think about the theological implications of quantum mechanics. I'm sure there are some, but I haven't figured out what they are yet. I suspect that quantum mechanics is one of the tools that God uses to do some of the things that He does.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, askandanswer said:

I sometimes think about the theological implications of quantum mechanics. I'm sure there are some, but I haven't figured out what they are yet. I suspect that quantum mechanics is one of the tools that God uses to do some of the things that He does.

I'd recommend Wolfgang Smith to you as well. I posted a short review of "The Quantum Enigma" on this site a couple of years back, though take what I say about it with a pinch of salt.

Also I definitely recommend you read "The Quantum Enigma" before you attempt to read "Physics and Vertical Causation". The former is much easier-going, and the latter is hard-going even if you do have the grounding from the first book.

 

Edited by Jamie123

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, Vort said:

In this case, what we call "observation" forces the waveform to collapse to one or another discrete state. 

<snip>

Or at least that's what today's QM physicists like to say.

Yeah, this is where I don't understand physicists.  They classify things into the two states particle or wave.  Why can't there be some third state "light" which is its own animal, but in some case "behaves" like a particle, and others, like a wave.  Instead of "behavior" they simply say that it actually "becomes" one or the other depending on the situation.

What is it I'm missing here?

Plasma has its own name and is considered a fourth state of matter.  What is the difference between the fourth state "plasma" and the third state "gas"?  Well, there is a difference in behavior.  It sometimes behaves as a mass much like a liquid; and sometimes even a solid.  But there is no question that it satisfies the definitions of a gas.  Yet, some of its behavior is not typical of gasses.

Light is an electromagnetic wave.  Why try to shoehorn this wave into the same categories as physical/mechanical waves (such as sound)?  If plasma is indeed a gas, but as plasma exhibits response to certain stimuli in a manner more akin to solids or liquids, why can't we simply say that EM waves are indeed waves, but as EM waves exhibit response to certain stimuli in a manner more akin to particles rather than mechanical waves?

Instead, they prefer to think of it as something, dare I say "more mystical"?  Why?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
17 minutes ago, Carborendum said:

Yeah, this is where I don't understand physicists.  They classify things into the two states particle or wave.  Why can't there be some third state "light" which is its own animal, but in some case "behaves" like a particle, and others, like a wave.  Instead of "behavior" they simply say that it actually "becomes" one or the other depending on the situation.

What is it I'm missing here?

I don't really care what they end up calling something.   But the fact that "light" behaves one way when it's not being watched, and another way when it is being watched, is just freaky beyond belief.

Thanks for the book recommendations folks.  I am of small brain, and I've been working for over two years to understand this stuff.  Feynman's Six Easy Pieces really pushes me past my limit.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 hours ago, NeuroTypical said:

So then - if you split an electron into two smaller entangled photons, and send one into a screen and one into a detector, both behave like particles.  Ok, whatever - you've gathered the data, it's sitting right there being unmistakable.  I don't get it, but it's the way it is. But apparently (and this is the part I'm still trying to understand), if you erase the data, then the entangled photons somehow erase the past and re-write it as waves?  It changes time?  It retroactively changes it's own nature?

This is my attempt to sort-of explain how I understand/misunderstand this kind of thing.

First of all I'll define two kinds of uncertainty: "aleatory uncertainty" is the "uncertainty of chance" - e.g. the uncertainty of whether a as-yet-untossed coin will land heads or tails, and "epistemic uncertainty" is the "uncertainty of knowledge", e.g. the uncertainty whether a coin tossed and covered is a head or a tail.

OK, so in the diagram below, space is expressed horizontally and time vertically. At point A we have n "EPR pair", i.e. two particles entangled with each other. They could be photons (with polarization), or electrons (with up/down spin) or whatever. Let's use the quantum computing convention and call them "qubits" with values:

|1> and |1>

or

|0> and |0>

but since we haven't measured them yet they are neither. They are both |Ψ>, where Ψ could potentially (but only potentially) be 1 or 0. Whichever it is, it has to be the same for both particles.

Now let's say that Brenda picks up one particle (very carefully, so as not to collapse |Ψ> into either of its potential states) and similarly Charlie picks up the other. They both carry their particles in opposite directions, so that at a particular time (which I've indicated with a horizontal broken line) they are at positions B and C. Here Brenda measures her particle, causing it to collapse into |1> (though it could just as easily have collapsed into |0>). From this point onwards, Charlie's particle must also be a |1>.

Now the red and blue diagonal lines represent the past and future "light cones" of B and C. Events at B can only influence - or be influenced by - events that happen between the red lines (and similarly for C and the blue lines), since anything else would require information to travel faster than light. But nevertheless, Brenda's decision to collapse her particle's wavefunction at B, causes Charlie's particle's wavefunction to collapse also at exactly the same moment, even though B and C are outside each other's light cones. This is "spooky action at a distance" (I've drawn a little ghost to show this), or what Wolfgang Smith calls "vertical causation".

But think about this: Brenda's action at B transformed her aleatory uncertainty about her particle (as well as Charlie's) to a cold hard certainty. But what effect did this really have upon Charlie? It transformed his aleatory uncertainty into an epistemic uncertainty, but how would he tell the difference? It's not like he could say: "I used to be aleatorily unsure about my particle, but I suddenly find I'm epistemically unsure. Therefore naughty naughty Brenda must have collapsed her particle!"

Now suppose at some future point D (the same point in space as C, but at a later time) Charlie measures his particle, which must of course (thanks to what happened at B) be revealed as |1>. Still Charlie can have no idea that he is not the "collapser", but merely the "revealer" of the wavefunction, since he is still outside the light cone of  B.

Eventually Brenda and Charlie meet up at E, and both agree that the particle collapsed to |1>, and they agree now that it was Brenda (not Charlie) who was responsible for the collapse. But at E the light cones of B, C and D have intersected, so the information was carried in the normal manner - no spookyness needed!

EPR.png

("UNCERTY" = uncertainty. Sorry I can't spell today.)

P.S. Now I've thought about it some more, I'm having doubts. Bell's theorem tells us that there are "no hidden variables" - in other words the final state of the particles is not created at A and merely hidden until one or other of them is "collapsed". It simply does not exist until collapse. It is the collapse of the wavefunction which actually creates the state.

But suppose we could create an "EPR triple", i.e. three particles with the same entangled state. One particle goes to Brenda, and the other two to Charlie. Charlie therefore has an EPR pair which obeys Bell's inequality until Brenda collapses her particle, after which he merely has two particles with the same state. (He just doesn't know what state that is.) Could he devise an experiment to tell the difference, and thus detect whether or not Brenda had collapsed her particle?

I suspect not, otherwise causality would be in big trouble, and I think we'd know about it. I reckon either:

1. It is impossible to create an "EPR triple". I don't think this is the case - check out https://www.quora.com/Can-three-particles-be-entangled). Therefore more likely...

2. Two particles taken from an EPR triple cannot be considered an EPR pair. They were created differently from a true EPR pair, and therefore behave differently. Bell's inequality cannot be applied to them.

Needs looking into...

Edited by Jamie123
Some further thoughts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
24 minutes ago, NeuroTypical said:

I don't really care what they end up calling something.   

But the fact that "light" behaves one way when it's not being watched, and another way when it is being watched, is just freaky beyond belief.

Two different but related issues.  The idea that it behaves differently when being watched is just a messed up idea.  That is what lets them sleep at night.

The fact that they call it something or "categorize" it is the basis upon which the explanation is derived.  Without that quasi-categorization/nomenclature, is what forms the mindset to produce the explanation/description.

Start with incorrect categorization or nomenclature/definitions, then you get incorrect conclusions/explanations.

So, if someone more versed in quantum physics can explain it to me better, it just seems like ivory tower theories to me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Carborendum said:

Why can't there be some third state "light" which is its own animal, but in some case "behaves" like a particle, and others, like a wave.  Instead of "behavior" they simply say that it actually "becomes" one or the other depending on the situation.

Like energy can be hanged from one form to another: electrical energy is turned into heat energy by an electric fire, etc. And energy can be transformed into matter and vice versa (E=mc^2), so it's all essentially different names for thing. But what really is "it", in its essential and naked form?

Like Tom Bombadil says to Frodo: "Tell me, who are you, alone, yourself and nameless?"

1 hour ago, NeuroTypical said:

But the fact that "light" behaves one way when it's not being watched, and another way when it is being watched, is just freaky beyond belief.

It's spooky all right - like the "boggart" in the Harry Potter books. No one knows what a Boggart naturally looks like, because whenever a person looks at it, it assumes the appearance of whatever that person fears most. Observation changes it - just like a coherent quantum state.

Edited by Jamie123

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The biggest problem with quantum physics is that our human intelligence is wired to solve things according to how we want to perceive it.  Let me give a couple of examples.  Our eyes are sensitive  to a very small spectrum of light energy.   That light energy to which our eyeballs are sensitive set off specialized nerve cells that relay the information to our brain.  Our brain takes this information and attempts to make sense of it all and creates images which become part of our memory to be used in the future to resolve vision information.  Strange as it may seem -  there are things that are within the rheum of our vision that we do not see because it does not fit our brane's logical paradigm.   This is in part, the reason one will bump their head on a cupboard door left open.  These same principles apply to our ears and what we think we hear.

Our brain creates an image of  what we think we are seeking and logically our brain tells us this is how things are.  @Vort explained that particles are very sensitive at the quantum level.  We cannot see them with our eye but we do have ways of gathering information concerning the particles.  The problem is that all possible ways to "observe" the very sensitive quantum particles result in an exchange of energy (however so slight) that changes the characteristics   of the particle.  But because of way our brains resolve our vision it does not make sense that anything changes when we observe it.  However, even Newton touches on this principle when he said, in essence, that "things" will remain exactly as they are and continue doing whatever they are doing unless acted upon by an outside force then, when a outside force acts upon it - it will change.  This is the foundation of what is called the uncertainty principle.  

Subatomic or quantum particles have properties of both waves and empirical particles.  What is interesting is that these quantum particle properties always come in pairs that are logically opposite (like waves or particles).  This means that we can only test or observe for one property or the other.  In essence we will always find that property we are looking for.  Of course there is more to all this than what I just explained.  Two additional principles always apply.  The two principles are symmetry and adherence to mathematical principles.  

Once we are tightly coupled to these principles of quantum physics - all the reactions makes perfect and exactly predictable sense - and so scientists believe it.  Therefore the universe is perfectly ordered.  What seems random in quantum physics is the exact opposite - it is preciously ordered and nothing is random.  The problem is that such perfect order is missing something science and logic does not seem able to resolve.  For myself, I find that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has resolution to such perfect order in that G-d is the supreme scientist and is the cause of order (being contrary to chaos or randomness).  That a true understanding of the divine enables a true understanding of our universe and vice versa.  And that we cannot complete our understanding of one without the other - which is why, in scripture, we are given the understand of this tight coupling of creation and bringing of order to the work and purpose of G-d.

 

The Traveler

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've wondered about quantum effects. The best I've been able to make out is that observation itself is not relevant to whether the wave function collapses to a concrete state. Rather, as I think @Traveler touches on, any attempt to make a concrete measurement must necessarily force a wave function collapse. In effect, you cannot touch without being touched.

Let's say you are shooting electrons through a double slit. We assume the electrons must pass through either Slit A or Slit B. Right? So the electrons will end up landing on a sensor screen behind the slit in two bright bars, one behind Slit A and the other behind Slit B. Two bright bars of where the electrons landed.

But that is not what we see. Rather, we see an interference pattern, a scattered spectrum of where the electrons landed on the sensor screen, with alternating darker and brighter lines, the brightest being actually in the center of the screen, right between the two slits. From a "wave perspective", this makes perfect sense, as it's exactly what we would see doing a double-slit experiment with e.g. water waves or sound waves. From a "particle perspective", this makes no sense at all; it's as if we fired bullets through either of two holes in a target, then checked and found out that the bullets didn't actually hit behind where the holes were, but instead were scattered out like a spectrum.

So, to allay our confusion and understand what's going on, we get clever. We set up a little electron detector at each slit. This detector just watched to see (in the electric field) when a negative charge flies through. This way, we can just shoot the electrons out slowly, one by one, find out which slit each electron goes through and watch how it lands on the screen in back of the slits! Voilà! We have brilliantly solved the problem!

Except we haven't. Because we are indeed able to see each electron as it passes through one slit or the other (that is to say, we can measure that the electron passed through Slit A rather than Slit B, or vice versa). But to the astonishment and irritation of the gathering crowds, suddenly, the electrons no longer form an interference pattern. Rather, the back screen shows the electrons landing in two bright strips, right behind the two slits!

What devilry is this?! If we don't look, the electrons act like waves, but if we DO look, they suddenly act like bullets! What, are there magical Interference Fairies checking up on us and turning the wavelike electrons into bullets (particles) if they find us peeking?

My understanding is as follows: The way we measured the electrons was to detect their electric fields. And when our equipment sensed the electric field, it "collapsed the wave function", forcing that electron to be passing exactly through Slit A (or B). So if we could just come up with a cleverer way to measure electrons, we could avoid the wave collapse!

Except we can't, even in principle. Because to "sense" or "measure" the electron's slit passage means to make a deterministic evaluation of whether it went through Slit A or Slit B.

Now this is just plain black magic! It's what NT said! Madness! It doesn't even make sense!

...well, yes, it does make sense, but not in our macroscale universe. The way things really work is not at all apparent to our eyes or to our minds. We draw a distinction between a particle and a wave. We think of them as two entirely different kinds of things. One cannot be the other. A particle is a discrete piece of matter, while a wave is a disturbance in some collection of particles. Not the same thing at all. But QM tells us that we're wrong, that in fact particleness and waveness are literally two sides to the same coin.

As long as the wave function remains uncollapsed, the electron can, in effect, pass 27.3% through Slit A and 72.7% through Slit B, and interfere with itself to produce one spot on the emerging interference pattern. That makes no sense to us, but that is because we don't understand reality, just our very limited perception of reality. (And we don't even really understand our own perception.) But if the wave function actually collapses, e.g. by some device that deterministically localizes a passing electric field, then the electron will indeed behave in a particlelike way, bulleting its way through either Slit A or Slit B, but certainly not both.

I believe this principle has a very strong relationship to our spiritual journey. We are given some teachings and some commandments, and from them we think we understand TRVTH DIVINE and wonder at the terrible injustices we see around us. Some even foolishly conclude that God is fictitious (or, worse yet, malevolent). But that is because we don't understand how things really are. We have only the briefest and most tangential relationship with actual truth. Most of what we think we "know" is false. We know very, very little, and that tiny bit we do know centers almost exclusively in ourselves and our perceptions, rather than on what's actually out there in front of our noses.

It's easy to get cynical at this point, as we see constantly all around us. But cynicism is unwarranted. The fact—and it is a fact—that we truly know almost nothing doesn't mean our search for truth is futile. It just means that we need to search diligently, find trustworthy sources to cling to when we can't otherwise make sense of what we see, and always remain extremely humble about the extent of our own supposed knowledge and the veracity we tend to lend it.

Edited by Vort

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Carborendum said:

Yeah, this is where I don't understand physicists.  They classify things into the two states particle or wave.  Why can't there be some third state "light" which is its own animal, but in some case "behaves" like a particle, and others, like a wave.  Instead of "behavior" they simply say that it actually "becomes" one or the other depending on the situation.

What is it I'm missing here?

Plasma has its own name and is considered a fourth state of matter.  What is the difference between the fourth state "plasma" and the third state "gas"?  Well, there is a difference in behavior.  It sometimes behaves as a mass much like a liquid; and sometimes even a solid.  But there is no question that it satisfies the definitions of a gas.  Yet, some of its behavior is not typical of gasses.

Light is an electromagnetic wave.  Why try to shoehorn this wave into the same categories as physical/mechanical waves (such as sound)?  If plasma is indeed a gas, but as plasma exhibits response to certain stimuli in a manner more akin to solids or liquids, why can't we simply say that EM waves are indeed waves, but as EM waves exhibit response to certain stimuli in a manner more akin to particles rather than mechanical waves?

Instead, they prefer to think of it as something, dare I say "more mystical"?  Why?

There is actual reason behind this. It's not capricious. (Which doesn't mean it's true, but just that it isn't some nonsense idea cooked up for no reason.)

In my example above, I mention electrons passing through slits. That is significant, because electrons are undoubtedly matter. They have location and mass, and exhibit other properties of mass that you find with leptons in general*. Yet they here exhibit unquestionable wavelike behavior. So this "particle-wave duality" that we see in light is not actually limited to photons. If we look really hard, we can see protons exhibit this same duality. Protons! That's the stuff we're mostly made of! So physicists have no real reason to doubt that "particliecity" and "waveicity" are macro effects arising out of realities on a subatomic scale where there is no real distinction between the two, just two sides of a coin.

*Interestingly, last I heard, it appears that electrons have no spatial extent. They look for all the world like true point particles. In contrast, protons and neutrons have a measurable width of about one fermi (femtometer, 10-15 meter). But the electron? No matter how closely we have looked at it, it looks like a point, with no spatial extent. More quantum weirdness.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
45 minutes ago, Vort said:

If we look really hard, we can see protons exhibit this same duality. Protons! That's the stuff we're mostly made of! So physicists have no real reason to doubt that "particliecity" and "waveicity" are macro effects arising out of realities on a subatomic scale where there is no real distinction between the two, just two sides of a coin.

I read an article some years ago reporting an experiment where they detected wave interference properties of large organic molecules, and also of "buckyballs" (large spherical molecules of 60 carbon atoms). As I recall, they found the wave properties disappeared as the level of vacuum was reduced - suggesting that a wave function collapses as it interacts with its environment. (No conscious observer needed.)

45 minutes ago, Vort said:

Interestingly, last I heard, it appears that electrons have no spatial extent. They look for all the world like true point particles. In contrast, protons and neutrons have a measurable width of about one fermi (femtometer, 10-15 meter). But the electron? No matter how closely we have looked at it, it looks like a point, with no spatial extent. More quantum weirdness.

I think this is because protons and neutrons are not elementary particles. Each is composed of quarks, a proton being two up quarks and a down quark, a neutron being two down quarks and an up quark. (The quarks have "colour" as well, but I forget how that works.) The individual quarks on the other hand do have zero dimensions like the electron.

Or do they?

The string theorists reckon that elementary particles do have a finite-sized structure - a vibrating string which gives each particle its properties. A heavy particle like a quark is a rapidly vibrating string, while a light particle like an electron vibrates slowly. These strings however are so tiny - even by subatomic standards - that no experiment could ever be performed to study them. Hence the theory is not falsifiable...so is it really science?

Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory is supposed to be a string theorist.

Edited by Jamie123

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 minutes ago, Jamie123 said:

The string theorists on the other hand reckon that elementary particles do have a finite-sized structure - a vibrating string which gives each particle its properties. A heavy particle like a quark is a rapidly vibrating string, while a light particle like an electron vibrates slowly. These strings however are so tiny - even by subatomic standards - that no experiment could ever be performed to study them. Hence the theory is not falsifiable...so is it really science?

 IMO: No. I don't think it's mere coincidence that string theory, which was all the rage 30 or 40 years ago, seldom gets mentioned any more. It's not falsifiable and you can't make predictions with it. That ain't science, at least no kind of science I'm aware of. (Science fiction doesn't count.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The one property that I believe is left out - for many reasons - is intelligence.  The scientific definition of intelligence is the ability to learn and modify behavior.  The entire field of artificial intelligence as it currently exists is based in binary - sometimes called Boolean logic.   Is quantum or particle physics in essence the basics of learning (intelligence) at a quantum level?

 

The Traveler

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Jamie123 said:

Like energy can be hanged from one form to another: electrical energy is turned into heat energy by an electric fire, etc. And energy can be transformed into matter and vice versa (E=mc^2), so it's all essentially different names for thing. But what really is "it", in its essential and naked form?

This change is due to entropy.   And usually, such change is one direction only.

Does light change back and forth due to entropy?  No.  if it did, I'd wonder which is the lower state of energy.

Therefore, bad analogy.

3 hours ago, Vort said:

There is actual reason behind this. It's not capricious. (Which doesn't mean it's true, but just that it isn't some nonsense idea cooked up for no reason.)

In my example above, I mention electrons passing through slits. That is significant, because electrons are undoubtedly matter. They have location and mass, and exhibit other properties of mass that you find with leptons in general*. Yet they here exhibit unquestionable wavelike behavior. So this "particle-wave duality" that we see in light is not actually limited to photons. If we look really hard, we can see protons exhibit this same duality. Protons! That's the stuff we're mostly made of! So physicists have no real reason to doubt that "particliecity" and "waveicity" are macro effects arising out of realities on a subatomic scale where there is no real distinction between the two, just two sides of a coin.

OK, you've also said just what I said.  But you've added the point that it also works the other way as well.

The point is that there is a difference between "having characteristics" vs. "becoming".  It a masculine woman a trans-man?

I'm perfectly fine saying that a particle appears to exhibit traits normally categorized as "waveicity" and vice versa.  But to say something changes from one form to another for the circumstances that they've been tested in doesn't really make sense.

For instance, the first real test that "proved" the existence of photons left no doubt that this would happen all the time.  It wasn't like if unobserved it wouldn't do it.  What would be the point in finding out such a thing?  We proved that photons exist when we observe them.  So, if we never knew this then we wouldn't have photons?

That sounds an awful lot like the power of thought and belief is much more than we give credit.  -- Which I'd actually agree with. But I'm sure that the atheist scientist would have some 'splainin' to do.

5 hours ago, Jamie123 said:

Like Tom Bombadil says to Frodo: "Tell me, who are you, alone, yourself and nameless?"

Exactly.  We can describe characteristics all day.  But a thing is a thing.  It doesn't change into something else.  It may "behave" like something else for given circumstances.  But it isn't another thing.

5 hours ago, Jamie123 said:

It's spooky all right - like the "boggart" in the Harry Potter books. No one knows what a Boggart naturally looks like, because whenever a person looks at it, it assumes the appearance of whatever that person fears most. Observation changes it - just like a coherent quantum state.

You're attributing characteristics from not only a living thing, but a fictional, magical, living thing to a world bereft of magic and fiction and expecting it to explain everything.  Not really working for me.  But whatever.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Carborendum said:

This change is due to entropy.   And usually, such change is one direction only.

Does light change back and forth due to entropy?  No.  if it did, I'd wonder which is the lower state of energy.

Therefore, bad analogy.

I don't think entropy is relevant here. Entropy is essentially a measure of the number of microstates of a system, e.g. the number of different possible position/velocity combinations for all the different particles in a gas, corresponding to that system's macrostate, e.g. the temperature of that gas. (Well, to be precise it's actually the logarithm of that number.) You're right in so far as that in a closed system, entropy always stays the same or increases - in practice this implies a "spreading out" of energy; a hot object cools by heating up its surroundings, until temperature is uniform across the system and entropy is at its largest possible value. This is how heat engines work - by harnessing the flow of energy between "hot" and "cold" to do work.

But energy can still flow in both directions - just so long as the overall entropy (when you consider the whole system) does not decrease. You could run an electric current through the heating element of an electric fire to convert electrical energy into heat, and then have some of the heat radiation fall upon a thermocouple, from which you could extract electrical energy. A pitiful amount compared to what you put in, of course, but nevertheless this "something" we call "energy" has turned from one form to another and then back into the first.

We take energy for granted these days, but until the 18th and early 19th Centuries no one thought in those terms. Before then, different kinds of energy had quite different names and were considered to be different things. For example, heat was called "caloric", which was considered to be something quite different from "vis viva" (what we nowadays call "kinetic energy"). The idea that both are manifestations of the same interchangable thing was quite a revolutionary concept - just as it seems revolutionary now that something described by a wave could be an alternative manifestation of something which can also be described as  particle. So I don't think the analogy is as bad as you claim.

3 hours ago, Carborendum said:

Exactly.  We can describe characteristics all day.  But a thing is a thing.  It doesn't change into something else.  It may "behave" like something else for given circumstances.  But it isn't another thing.

Again, that's probably the same argument the original proposers of energy faced. "Caloric may behave as vis viva bit it's a different thing..."

Bombadil says this in reply to Frodo asking "Who are you?" He retorts that he's been telling Frodo his name (and what a "merry fellow" he is) since they first met. The point Tolkien makes through Bombadil was that although naming a thing is a poor way of explaining what it is, it's sometimes the best we can do with words. Bombadil is who and what he is, and if you want an answer to "who he is" all he can do is say his name. The reality behind the name is something which escapes words - and that applies as much to Frodo as to him. The thing behind the different forms of energy, as behind the waves and the particles, may be the same. (I don't know that I necessarily agree this is true, but it's a thought.)

3 hours ago, Carborendum said:

You're attributing characteristics from not only a living thing, but a fictional, magical, living thing to a world bereft of magic and fiction and expecting it to explain everything.  Not really working for me.  But whatever.

You speak as though things which exist only in metacosms (such as Tolkien's legendarium, or the Harry Potter universe) have no wider value or applicability. Metacosms are created by people, and they express fundamental truths as perceived by those people - or through those people by the societies that raised them. Or (if you're into Jung) by the architypes they have inherited from the collective experience of mankind. Or even from the God who originally made mankind. Just because its not "real", does the boggart (or Tom Bombadil for that matter) have no relevance to our "real" world?

Edited by Jamie123

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/5/2021 at 6:56 PM, Jamie123 said:

I don't think entropy is relevant here. Entropy is essentially a measure of the number of microstates of a system, e.g. the number of different possible position/velocity combinations for all the different particles in a gas, corresponding to that system's macrostate,

You're confirming my own argument.  Entropy is the 2nd law of thermodynamics.  It is the tendency for all things to devolve into a lower state of energy. Wherever you're going with this longer explanation, it doesn't address that fundamental definition.

Quote

Bombadil says this in reply to Frodo asking "Who are you?" He retorts that he's been telling Frodo his name (and what a "merry fellow" he is) since they first met. The point Tolkien makes through Bombadil was that although naming a thing is a poor way of explaining what it is, it's sometimes the best we can do with words. Bombadil is who and what he is, and if you want an answer to "who he is" all he can do is say his name. The reality behind the name is something which escapes words - and that applies as much to Frodo as to him. The thing behind the different forms of energy, as behind the waves and the particles, may be the same. (I don't know that I necessarily agree this is true, but it's a thought.)

I'm well aware of the scene.  But there is a difference between an object and a person.  An object has a definition.  A person can have traits and a description.  But a "definition" is something that we don't really attribute to sentient beings.

Quote

You speak as though things which exist only in metacosms (such as Tolkien's legendarium, or the Harry Potter universe) have no wider value or applicability. Metacosms are created by people, and they express fundamental truths as perceived by those people - or through those people by the societies that raised them. Or (if you're into Jung) by the architypes they have inherited from the collective experience of mankind. Or even from the God who originally made mankind. Just because its not "real", does the boggart (or Tom Bombadil for that matter) have no relevance to our "real" world?

I'm saying that there is a difference between

  • the way fictional things work and the way real world things work.
  • the way magical things work and the way scientific things work.
  • the way living things work and the way objects work.

So, you're examples can prove your point, if the underlying functionalities had some common referent that would be relevant. But they don't.  As such the analogies are basically tautology.

Edited by Carborendum

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/5/2021 at 10:08 PM, askandanswer said:

I sometimes think about the theological implications of quantum mechanics. I'm sure there are some, but I haven't figured out what they are yet. I suspect that quantum mechanics is one of the tools that God uses to do some of the things that He does.

Inasmuch as prayer is believed to be, or result in, some sort of communication, or transfer of information between God and man, possibly mediated through the Spirit, and that this communication seems to happen at a speed uninfluenced by distance, the idea of quantum entanglement is the only possibility I have been able to come up with so far that might shed some light on how the Spirit communicates with us.

On a related matter, can the influence and operations of the Holy Ghost be understood as some sort of field? (I have only a very vague idea of how the term “field” is used in physics and what it means, even though I have read several definitions)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, askandanswer said:

Inasmuch as prayer is believed to be, or result in, some sort of communication, or transfer of information between God and man, possibly mediated through the Spirit, and that this communication seems to happen at a speed uninfluenced by distance, the idea of quantum entanglement is the only possibility I have been able to come up with so far that might shed some light on how the Spirit communicates with us.

The problem is that quantum entanglement cannot violate causality. Otherwise, we could have faster-than-light communications, something impossible by definition. I cannot show the mathematics behind it, but the idea is intuitively obvious, at least if you believe in causality. (I.e. you're not a startrekkian, voodoo-chanting pseudophysicist. Not that I'm invested in this viewpoint or anything.)

My observation is that gospel truths never, ever conflict with what we might term "true science". If they appear to conflict, then we don't understand the science well enough, and/or sometimes we don't understand the gospel truths correctly. In my view, reconciling speed-of-light communications issues with our understanding of divine communication is a fool's errand, and will remain so until we understand better both the structure of our physical universe and (more importantly) the nature of the mechanism of God's spiritual communication with us. I don't expect to have any such understanding, especially of that latter part, in this lifetime.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think that improving our understanding of theology is one of the most neglected methods of improving our understanding of science. Surely the best way of improving our knowledge of anything is by studying the source of all knowledge? God already knows what we are still trying to find out. I believe that a systematic study of theology can lead to a better understanding of science, and that a systematic study of science can lead to a better understanding of theology and that this focussed study could produce some very early results. I think that at present, science and theology are studied as two seperate things, to the detriment of both. I'm not sure why people don't use their knowledge of one as a means of building their knowledge of the other. The tools required for building both sorts of knowledge  are the same. As President Nelson said, quoting Elder Maxwell, 

Oh, there is so much more that your Father in Heaven wants you to know. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught, “To those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, it is clear that the Father and the Son are giving away the secrets of the universe!”13

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 minutes ago, askandanswer said:

I think that improving our understanding of theology is one of the most neglected methods of improving our understanding of science. Surely the best way of improving our knowledge of anything is by studying the source of all knowledge? God already knows what we are still trying to find out. I believe that a systematic study of theology can lead to a better understanding of science, and that a systematic study of science can lead to a better understanding of theology and that this focussed study could produce some very early results

This sounds so obvious that it's shocking to see how many times it fails.

Those who attempt to use religion to further or bolster their science seem often to fall into something like the "young earth" trap, because the Bible says blah blah blah. Religionists tend to have a very strong mental model of how things work, and are often unwilling to adapt their views to scientific observations. They are used to arguing their way out of conundrums by citing (or twisting) scripture or religious teachings to conform to their will. In many religions, doing this is considered a virtue, almost a high art. This is the polar opposite of a scientific attitude. In other cases, those who would embrace religion are too timid or sometimes just plain too uninformed to reconcile some scientific idea with their religious viewpoint; in such cases, it is often the religious viewpoint that is made to conform, resulting a a viewpoint that is simultaneously bad religion and bad science.

Similarly, those who try to use science to inform their religion commonly fall into all sorts of errors, such as trying to falsify unfalsifiable things or refusing to acknowledge verifiable things. More often, they just bungle the attempt to apply their scientific training or insights to religious concerns in a useful manner. A stellar example of this is Donald Knuth's fascinating 1999 MIT six-lecture series on religion and religious concerns titled "Things a Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About" ("to Others Within His Field", I assume is the unspoken part of the title). Hearing one of the smartest men alive today talking so naively about religion (and Knuth is very religious, actively so—he's a Lutheran) is eye-opening. That's not to say he has no valid insights; the opposite is true. But on the whole, his scientific and mathematical training doesn't really inform his religious insight. Not positively, anyway. Listen for yourself and see if you agree with me. (Note that Dr. Knuth has a pronounced stutter, which some may find distracting.)

It seems to me that the approaches to the two areas are fundamentally different, to the point that there is not as much cross-over as one might at first think. That is not to say there is NO crossover, because there certainly is substantial common ground. But religion and science proceed from two very different viewpoints. In my experience, one area informs the other much less than I have believed in the past that they should and would.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now