Thursday, May 5, 2011

double-slit, redux

We finished the semester this afternoon with several interesting reports, including Warren's on the infamous double-slit electron experiment, which I now recall was featured in the film "What the [Bleep] Do We Know" and came up in an old class discussion last Fall, too. (It'll probably come up again next Fall in "Happiness and the Secret of Life.")

One implication seemed to be that, because observations at the quantum level alter experimental results, "we're not supposed to know" reality. Or "magic is real," or "God exists," or... I'm not quite sure what. [bleeping banality...e-Skeptic review... debunked...Secret... Shermervs. Chopra]

 Steven Novella thinks this particular example of quantum weirdness is a species of a broader pattern of misunderstanding, often perpetrated by the likes of Deepak Chopra In the wave-particle duality of matter, illustrated by the double-slit experiment, "the collapse to a particle is not dependent on any observer – just interaction with other stuff. No observer is necessary." Chopra has interpreted this experiment as showing that the future can mysteriously alter the past. Novella says nonsense. "Physicists do not pretend to understand the fundamental nature of quantum entanglement."

Well, me neither. But Novella's observation rings true to me:

Chopra is using a common trick of the pseudoscientist – exploiting cutting edge science, which the public is not likely to understand, and pretend as if there is proof where there is uncertainty. Take some interesting experiments, then leap way ahead to conclusions that serve their metaphysical purposes, but which are not settled science.
In short – beware of anyone pretending to understand the ultimate implications of Quantum Mechanics  and that it supports their far out philosophy.
Don't get tangled up in woo: solid advice. And, reservations aside, a good provocative report, too.

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