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quantum, Schrodinger's Cat

Vodcast Episode Two: Quantum Absurdities, Part One

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Today we are going over quantum absurdities and showing how quantum physics is in fact highly absurd. This is part one of a two part series.

Click here to download the PDF transcript or read below the video.

You may also listen to or download an audio only version above.

[Note: Please note that this transcript may not exactly match the audio. However, there should be no significant differences.]

Intro

Metaphysics of Physics is the crucial voice of reason in the philosophy of science, rarely found anywhere else in the world today.

We are equipped with the fundamental principles of a rational philosophy that gives us the edge, may make us misfits in the mainstream sciences but also attracts rational minds.

With this show, we are fighting for a more rational world, mostly by looking through the lens of the philosophy of science.

We raise awareness of issues within the philosophy of science and present alternative and rational approaches.

The irrationality of modern physics is the focus of this channel. We have covered topics such as:

The irrationality of Stephen Hawking. The universe and the Big Bang. The philosophy of Niels Bohr. The achievements of Isaac Newton.Optical illusions and the validity of the senses.

If you think that science is about explaining a knowable reality, then this is the channel for you.

If you want to learn more about the irrationality of modern physics, then you are in the right place.

I am your host Ashna. My husband, Dwayne Davies is the primary content creator and your guide through the hallowed halls of the philosophy of science.

We will discuss the problems in modern physics and more and how we can live in a more rational world!

Check out our website at metaphysicsofphysics.com.

The Show Itself

Hi everyone! Welcome to the second episode of the Metaphysics of Physics video podcast. Today we are going over quantum absurdities and showing how quantum physics is in fact highly absurd.

While this is not an exhaustive list, it covers many of the essential absurdities.

What is the purpose of this? Yes, the mathematics of quantum theory is incredibly useful and impressive. But we want to show that the physical interpretations of quantum mechanics make no sense.

This is part one of a two-part series.

Particle Wave Duality

Quantum physics asserts that particles can be described as both a wave and a particle.

Albert Einstein had this to say about particle-wave duality:

It seems as though we must use sometimes the one theory and sometimes the other, while at times we may use either. We are faced with a new kind of difficulty. We have two contradictory pictures of reality; separately neither of them fully explains the phenomena of light, but together they do.

Albert Einstein

Until the early twentieth century, light was widely considered to be a wave, as demonstrated by Thomas Young.

Thomas Young
Thomas Young

But then Einstein showed that light seemed to have particle behavior! And Planck showed that light seemed to come in discrete packets.

So, was light a particle or a wave? Which was it? Later physicists alleged to show that light sometimes shows particle behavior and sometimes wave behavior.

This led them to conclude that light is somehow both a particle and a wave at the same time. And that it, somehow, sometimes behaves as a wave and sometimes behaves as a particle.

Does this make any sense? Well, of course not.

A wave is an abstract description. It describes the motion of something. It describes various relationships.

Take a sound wave. It is an abstract description of the movement of air that can be mathematically represented as a wave.

Or take a water wave. When we say “wave” in this context, we are describing water arranged in a certain pattern.

The pattern of rise and fall with peaks and troughs.

The concept of a water wave describes the relationship of positions between water molecules that makes this pattern.

In common speech, it is often said that a “water wave” or the like refers to the water molecules. This is the noun form of “wave” that describes something arranged like this (something that is waving).

We are using wave in its verb form, as a description of motion or behavior, or a description of some kind of relationship.

A wave is a behavior that a physical entity does. Water may move in a wave motion. Air molecules move in a wave pattern and we experience this as sound.

A wave is the behavior of physical entities. It is not a form of physical entity.

Saying that light is a wave is saying “Light is the movement or behavior of something”. It does not tell us what it is that is waving.

It is like if I held up a ball and asked what it is and you said “That is a bounce”.

You have told me something that the ball does but not what the ball actually is. Bouncing is what the ball does, it is not what the ball is.

Physics is the science of explaining the nature of the fundamental physical constituents of the universe. You want to explain what those things are and how they interact.

Saying “light is a wave, an abstract description of behavior” does not further that in any way and evades the question of what is doing the waving.

We do not even have to get into the issue that something cannot be a wave and a particle at the same time. Because a wave is a description of behavior while a particle is a description of what something is, its form.

The idea of particle-wave duality reifies an abstraction and attempts to reduce physical entities to an abstraction.

It also evades the Law of Identity that says that things are what they are. Something is either a particle or not. It is not a particle, a form of matter and also a wave, an abstraction.

Contradictions do not exist. If you think you see a contradiction in reality then check your premises, because one or more of them are wrong.

quantum, Schrodinger's Cat
That means no dead and alive zombie cats…

Indeterminacy

It is said that until they are observed, particles do not have a definite state. Instead, they exist in a state of “superposition”.

That is, they exist in multiple different, mutually exclusive states all at once. And then when an observation takes place, they take on definite values for their properties.

A property is merely an aspect of somethings existence. But any property of any particle can only exist in one state at a time. That particle’s property can only take one value at a time.

That is just another way of saying something is what it is and that it has a nature and its properties are determined by its nature. Its properties are simply an aspect of its nature and cannot be any different than what they are.

This implies that properties must have single, definite values, as determined by the nature of the entities in question.

Saying that particles exist in a superposition of states is equivalent to saying that those properties have no values and do not exist.

It is denying that a particle is what it is and instead treats it as some kind of Platonic combination of possibilities.

This reifies the idea that a particle can have different possible states and pretends that these possible states are all somehow real, independent of the particle and its nature.

Untangling Quantum Entanglement: Realism and Locality

In his article, we are going to study the issue of “quantum entanglement”. This is complicated issue and we will return to the issue of entanglement in a future article. Today we will cover the issues of realism and locality.

First, we will set the stage for why any of this matters by looking at what “quantum entanglement” is and why we might want to discuss it.

Introduction to Entanglement

Entanglement is the physical phenomenon that is said to take place when groups of particles interact in a certain way.

It is said that any number of particles can interact in this way, but for the sake of simplicity, usually it is discussed in the context of two interacting particles.

What is this certain way in which they interact? Well, to understand this we must first introduce the idea of a “quantum state“.

Briefly, the “quantum state” is a mathematical description of certain properties of a particle. The mathematics is fairly complicated, so we will not go into detail.

Entanglement says that if two particles are “entangled”, that their “quantum states” cannot be described independently of the state of the other particle, even when separated by a large distance.

One might well ask what on Earth that means?

Quantum physicists tend to describe fairly simple ideas in an overly complicated manner. So, let me translate this fairly accurately into laymen’s terms.

If two particles are “entangled”, it means that some of their properties are related to one another. If you measure the value of the property of one particle, then that says something about the property of the other particle.

Let us take a hypothetical example and consider the “spin” of two particles that are entangled.

In quantum mechanics, there is a property called “spin”. We will not go into the complicated issue of what spin is (it is not the same thing as rotation from classical mechanics).

Suppose that if you have two entangled particles, A and B. Suppose you then measure the spin of A to be “up”. In our example, this means that the spin of B must be “down”.

One might wonder what the issue here is?

After all, so what if we can deduce something about particle B by looking at particle A? After all, we know that macroscopic things can be related in this way.

If we bring the north poles of two magnets together and magnet A experiences a force pushing it to the left, then we can deduce that there is a force pushing magnet B to the right.

We should not expect any issue with being able to infer things about two different parts of a system. So, again what is the issue here?

The problem is that quantum mechanics tends to make this issue far more nonsensical than it needs to be. Measurements have been performed of “entangled” particles that seem to indicate that particles over very long distances are correlated.

Quantum mechanics being unreasonable? Unheard of!

The problem is that this entanglement is said to work instantly!

That if you observe or change the quantum state of any one of the entangled particles, it may potentially change the quantum states of all the other particles it is entangled with.

Instantly! That is, without any physical interaction! As though the particles are somehow linked by some kind of telepathic magic.

Or, more accurately as though the mere fact of observing/changing the state of one particle can somehow affect the state of the other particles, again without any physical interaction!

Now, we accept that entangled particles might be able to affect other particles. They just need to interact with the other particles by some physical means. Some non-instantaneous physical means.

We reject the notion that simply observing something can cause it to change/acquire states. Or that simply observing an entangled particle magically influences the quantum states of other particles without requiring any physical interaction.

Now let us look at a few terms, “realism” and “non-locality”.

entanglement
Einstein had a lot to say about entanglement, especially locality and realism.

Realism

Realism, as used in physics, is the idea that physical reality exists independently of the human mind. More specifically, as used in quantum mechanics, it is the (allegedly unreasonable) “assumption” that particles have well-defined properties that exist independently of measurement.

That is, particles have certain properties regardless of whether we measure those properties.

For instance, an electron will always have a certain “spin” direction, even if nobody bothers to check what it is.

Perhaps an example from the macroscopic world would help to make this more clear.

Suppose that we consider a ball. It has various properties, even if nobody is currently observing the ball. It has a radius, it has hardness, it has a velocity (which might be zero), it has various chemical properties. These properties exist even if we stop looking at the ball.

This might seem rather obvious and so it should. What we call the “properties” of the ball are simply various aspects of the ball’s nature. The “properties” of the ball simply describe the ball and its nature and/or what it will do under given conditions.

It should be obvious that these properties will exist regardless of measurement. A ball will always have a certain radius or a certain temperature, regardless of whether we are measuring those properties or observing the ball.

The act of observation does not create these properties. We do not create these properties simply by measuring them. Just as we do not create the ball’s radius when we take a measuring tape to it and measure it. We do not create its temperature when we measure its temperature. 

Measuring a property does not create that property. “Property” refers to some attribute of something and those attributes are simply aspects of something. Aspects which exist whether or not they are being observed.

Now, can we apply this to the quantum world? Of course, we can. We should not expect that just because subatomic particles are very tiny, that they are somehow not subject to basic metaphysical principles. These entities also have attributes that exist independently of the human mind.