10 popular myths about Quantum Physics

Posted Jan. 2, 2014 by NoetPoet in Open

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commented on April 20, 2014
by richrf



In recent decades quantum physics has been put to widespread (ab)use by people who variously want to affirm the existence of supernatural abilities, life after death, and the ability to make reality directly conform to one’s whims. It has also been put to widespread abuse by slick operators to make a whole lot of money by peddling such shonky ideas.

I’ve noticed that pseudoscientific ideas about quantum physics (known as “quantum woo”) appear quite often in the IONS discussion forum. I have therefore resolved to risk biting off more than I can chew by dispelling these misunderstandings about quantum physics. In this thread I will dispel 10 of the most popular and pernicious myths about quantum physics, attempting in so far as possible to use layperson-friendly language and explanations. These 10 myths are as follows:

Myth 1: The principles of quantum physics apply at the everyday “macro” level of reality

Myth 2: Quantum entanglement is the key to telepathy, instantaneous communication and instant teleportation to anywhere in the cosmos

Myth 3: Quantum physics explains synchronicity

Myth 4: Quantum physics proves that the mind directly creates and shapes reality

Myth 5: The cat is both dead and alive until someone opens the box

Myth 6: Quantum physics supports the “Law of Attraction”

Myth 7: Quantum physics allows for the existence of ghosts and other non-corporeal entities

Myth 8: Quantum physics confirms the mystical teachings of ancient Eastern religions

Myth 9: Light is both a wave and a particle at the same time

Myth 10: There is such a thing as “quantum healing”

More on Myth 1 coming soon…

  • Anonymous Icon

    richrf Apr 20, 2014

    Myth 1 - Quantum theory is used to explain macro phenomenon such as chemical reactions and semi-conductor theory. Clearly anything at a microscopic level must impact macro levels unless a clea boundary can be drawn between the two. No such boundary can be drawn. The problem with using Quantum Theory at the macro level is that the equations become impossibility complex. So rough approximations (e.g. Newton's equations) are used, since they are good enough for a practical purposes.

    Myth 2 - The Bohm model positsa quantum potential field from which electrons move in and put of existence (perturbations). Electrons would be analagous to waves moving in and out of existence from within an ocean. The Bohm ontological model provides the best explanation for all "weird" quanta phenomenon.

  • NoetPoet Apr 16, 2014

    “Haven't been here in this thread since early February, intensely involved in buying a new home, closing, moving, etc.”

    Hope you’re settling in nicely under your new bridge.

    “Quantum physics is simply a human label. If you're not open to exploring it from all angles, you are the one "abusing" it, and feeling abused.”

    Quantum physics is a *field of study* which investigates how physical phenomena behave at the microscopic (i.e. atomic and subatomic) level of reality. The whole point of quantum physics is to describe that behaviour by using labels – particularly mathematical variables and equations – to construct intelligible and useful *models*of that behaviour. Saying that quantum physics is “simply a human label” is shallow, vacuous, and indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of what science is about. Moreover, the fact that quantum physics (and indeed any branch of science) depends on labels does NOT automatically make either those labels or the understanding of reality derived from them invalid – especially when, as is the case with science, those “labels” are continually subject to testing and open to revision in light of new evidence.

    There’s a huge difference between exploring something from different angles and making up a bunch of BS about it because you don’t understand it and/or want to use it to exploit others. In fact if there’s just one key point I’d want people to take away from this thread, it would be exactly that.

    “Bash superConsciousness all you want. It's certainly not gonna get its "feelings" hurt. It is what it is! Disbelief will never change that reality.”

    I haven’t set out to “bash superConsciousness” at any point in this thread. Besides, it’s pretty hard to bash something that doesn’t even exist.

    “Open yourself to growth. No need for warding off new insights with displaced conventional "abuse" labels. Curiosity is what is important. Not bullish demands.”

    Open yourself to logic and evidence. There’s no need to swallow any piece of unsubstantiated, unfalsifiable feel-good BS that comes along as “insight”, and in fact there are very good reasons not to. Using your brain is what’s important, not spouting a bunch of inane word salad.

  • Anonymous Icon

    RealityOverScience Apr 16, 2014

    Haven't been here in this thread since early February, intensely involved in buying a new home, closing, moving, etc., so I hadn't read any further past my last post, but I just noticed your 'abuse of quantum physics' comment and have to say... I find that hilarious! "Abuse?"

    Quantum physics is simply a human label. If you're not open to exploring it from all angles, you are the one "abusing" it, and feeling abused.


    Bash superConsciousness all you want. It's certainly not gonna get its "feelings" hurt. It is what it is! Disbelief will never change that reality.

    Open yourself to growth. No need for warding off new insights with displaced conventional "abuse" labels. Curiosity is what is important. Not bullish demands.

  • NoetPoet Apr 08, 2014

    Delayed Choice Quantum Eraser Experiment

    In response to Valenciana4’s request, I have attempted an explanation of the Delayed Choice Quantum Eraser experiment. I have written this explanation under the assumption that Valenciana4 wanted me to explain how it is that this experiment appears to support 1) the existence of retrocausality and 2) the role of a conscious observer in collapsing wave functions.

    Background: The Double Slit Experiment

    In the famous double-slit experiment, a series of photons is fired at an interferometer with two slits, such that the photons must pass through the slits to hit a detection screen on the other side. The photons behave like waves, meaning that each photon passes through both slits at the same time and thus interferes with itself (much like a ripple in water would do if forced to pass through two slits). Because the photons are not detected until they hit the detection screen, they don't have to commit to a definite position in space until they hit the screen. Because the photon waves interfere with themselves after they pass through the slits, each photon has a chance of hitting the detection screen and collapsing into a particle-like state anywhere along the edge of its wave. When enough photons did this, the result is an "interference pattern" on the detection screen.

    However if photon detectors are placed at each slit, then the photons are collapsed into a particle-like state at either one slit OR the other. This means that the photons are forced to commit to going through one slit or the other, and then proceed through the slits in a straight line. Because the photons are forced to go through one slit only, it is possible to obtain "which-path" information for each photon (i.e. knowledge of *which* slit the photons go through). As a result the interference pattern no longer occurs, and instead the detection screen only shows a “diffraction pattern” in which photon impacts occur more or less directly behind the two slits. Note that it is the positioning of the detectors which affects the outcome in this experiment: any conscious observer obtains knowledge of the outcome only after it has been determined by the experimental apparatus. Which-path information and the visibility of interference patterns are complementary quantities, and in quantum physics the term "complementarity" refers to the fact that photons can behave like a wave OR a particle but not like both simultaneously.

  • NoetPoet Apr 08, 2014

    The Quantum Eraser Experiment (part 1)

    The quantum eraser experiment is a variation on the double-slit experiment. The basic idea of the quantum eraser experiment is to obtain which-path information without collapsing the photons into a particle-like state. Rather than attempting to detect which photon was entering each slit (thus collapsing them), the quantum erasure experiment attempts to "mark" the photons with information that would make it possible to distinguish the photons after passing through the slits. This marking still causes the interference pattern to disappear; however erasing the "which-path" information obtained by the slit detectors after the photons pass through the slits will restore the interference pattern on the screen.

    The quantum eraser experiment starts off like the conventional two-slit experiment, with a photon being fired at a double-slit apparatus. However, in the quantum erasure experiment there is a crystal directly behind the double-slit apparatus which splits the photon into two entangled, lower-energy photons. Immediately behind this crystal is a special kind of prism which causes the entangled photons to travel in different directions: the "signal" photon travels towards a target detector, which can record whether an interference pattern occurs after multiple signal photons reach it. The other entangled photon, called the "idler photon", is deflected by another prism that sends it along different paths depending on which slit it passed through. The idler photon then passes through a series of beam splitters which each have a 50% chance of either reflecting the photon or allowing it to pass through. Depending on which beam splitters the idler photon (randomly) passes through or is reflected by, it will eventually hit one of four detectors.

    If the idler photon hits one of two of the detectors, then it is possible to tell which slit the photon passed through. I’ll call these two detectors “conclusive detectors”. If the idler photon hits either of the other two detectors, it will not be possible to tell which slit the photon passed through. I’ll call these other two detectors “inconclusive detectors.”

  • NoetPoet Apr 08, 2014

    The Quantum Eraser Experiment (Part 2)

    Because the signal photon travels a shorter (more direct) path than the idler photon to which it is entangled, the information from the signal photon is available earlier than the information from its entangled idler photon. If the idler photon hits one of the conclusive detectors, then that provides delayed information on which slit the signal photon passed through. But if the idler photon hits one of the inconclusive detectors, then it provides delayed information that it is not possible to tell which slit the signal photon passed through: to the extent that which-path information had *potentially* been available from detection of the idler photon, then the information has undergone “delayed erasure”.

    Signal photons whose entangled idler photons were detected at one of the inconclusive detectors showed an interference pattern, while signal photons whose entangled idler photons were detected at one of the conclusive detectors shows a diffraction pattern (without interference). Simply put, the “choice” of whether to preserve or erase the which-path information of the idler photon was made *after* the position of the signal photon had already been measured at its detector. (Keep in mind that “choice” does NOT imply any kind of conscious/wilful decision on the part of the human experimenters, it is completely random).

  • NoetPoet Apr 08, 2014


    The detection of the earlier signal photons yields an ambiguous smear of light that does not directly provide which-path information; an interference pattern can only be ascertained for the signal photons *after* the entangled idler photons have been detected. This means that it is not possible to tell what will happen to the idler photons by looking at their signal photons alone.

    The interference pattern for the signal photons is detected when the experimenter looks at particular subsets of signal photons that were entangled with idlers that went to particular detectors. Detection of idler photons at either of the conclusive detectors means that there will be no interference pattern for their entangled signal photons, i.e. because they are entangled (and conversely, detection of the idler photons at the inconclusive detectors means that an interference pattern *will* be observed for the entangled signal photons). Interference at the signal photon’s detector thus *appears* to depend on whether that signal photon’s entangled idler photon is detected at a conclusive detector.

  • NoetPoet Apr 08, 2014

    Explanations and Conclusion

    The key thing to remember is that between the time when the initial photon is fired and each entangled photon is detected, both entangled photons behave like waves. The entangled photons are entangled in the sense that their electric fields are polarized in different linear directions, i.e. the direction of one of the entangled photon's electric fields points in a direction perpendicular to that of the other entangled photon. Thus, if one of the two entangled photons is observed to be polarized in one direction, the other entangled photon must be observed to be polarized in the other direction (i.e. perpendicular to the first photon).

    All of a photon's properties - e.g. which slits it could be taking; whether it behaves more as a particle or a wave etc. - are encoded in the photon's wave function until the very moment of the measurement. Thus these properties can be "changed back" to the previous answers. In the case of the quantum erasure experiment, this means that the photon can be made to behave like a wave again.

    Pairs of entangled photons can be likened to smears of correlated probability about where each half of the pair can turn up in a particle-like state. Because this correlation relates to the polarization of each entangled photon’s electric fields, it has nothing to do how far apart they are from each other in space-time, i.e. their entanglement is “non-local”. It is important to remember that correlation is not the same as (retro-) causation, and that what we see in this experiment is in fact correlation. Moreover, the delayed choice quantum eraser can’t communicate information back in time because it takes another signal (which cannot exceed the speed of light) to sort the data in the signal photons into four streams reflecting the states of the idler photons at each of the detection screens.

    As with the double-slit experiment, a conscious observer plays no role in shaping or determining the outcome: rather, the outcome is determined by the detectors and the random splitting of idler photons by the beam-splitters. By virtue of their entanglement with the idler photons, the pattern of the signal photons cannot be *worked out*by conscious observers until they use a device called a coincidence counter to isolate entangled photons in order to give a *visual impression* of the results of the experiment.

  • NoetPoet Apr 04, 2014

    Hi Valenciana4,

    I do plan to respond to your question, I just haven't had time to write up an answer I would be satisfied with yet.

  • Anonymous Icon

    valenciana4 Mar 30, 2014

    Dear NoetPoet

    I would like to know if you have a tentative explanation for the double slit experiment with erasure.

    I agree with you regarding quantum physics. Not even physicists have all the answers yet, much less those of us who arent physicists

  • Anonymous Icon

    dustproduction Mar 23, 2014

    A simple question about quantum mechanics: Is quantum observer dependent or is it occur independent of an observer?

  • NoetPoet Mar 23, 2014

    In one ear and out the other…

    The “observer effect” should more accurately be called the “detector effect”, because an object need only be capable of detecting (i.e. being physically sensitive to) quantum phenomena in order to be regarded as an “observer” for the purposes of quantum physics. There is no interpretation of quantum physics which explicitly says that an observer has to be a conscious being; indeed there is no credible interpretation of quantum physics which even attempts to describe consciousness! Furthermore, quantum physics does not provide any support for the idea that a conscious observer can mentally will quantum events to turn out a certain way. Nevertheless, “observer effect” sounds much sexier and more intriguing than “detector effect”…

    Using mathematical formalisms from quantum physics in theoretical models of cognitive processing does not, in and of itself, mean that those models are consistent with or supported by quantum physics. Economists have spent decades aping the mathematical formalisms of physics, but it has not made their theories any more realistic, evidenced-based or consistent with the laws of physics.

    While there may be multiple interpretations of quantum physics, none of them provides any credible basis for the existence of parapsychological phenomena. Quantum physics doesn’t explain parapsychological phenomena because the former pertains to the microscopic world of atoms and subatomic particles, while the latter pertains to the macroscopic world of everyday human life. Quantum physics does *not* make any parapsychological phenomena more likely to be validated than any other form of science; indeed, the most charitable thing that can be said about the relationship between parapsychological phenomena and quantum physics is that there is no relationship. There are other sciences – particularly psychology, neurology, sociology, anthropology, and cybernetics – which are far better equipped to provide plausible explanations for so-called parapsychological phenomena than quantum physics.

    Parapsychology has had no impact on quantum physics as a scientific enterprise because:
    1) Parapsychology offers nothing of scientific explanatory value to quantum physics; and
    2) Parapsychology proponents cherry-pick, distort and generally abuse ideas from quantum physics to reinforce their emotionally charged pre-conceived notions about the reality of parapsychological phenomena.

    In other words, attempts to use quantum physics to “justify the existence” of parapsychological phenomena are an exercise in pseudoscience, and it therefore a very good thing that they have not succeeded in perverting the scientific enterprise of quantum physics.

  • Anonymous Icon

    archetype137 Mar 23, 2014

    Nope - Quantum Mechanics does not confirm or validate notions such as ghosts, telepathy, synchronicity. However, QM is the most accurate and fundamental theory of nature we have and if certain parapsychological phenomena exist than QM certainly makes them more likely to be validated than pre-QM science. What makes QM interesting is that it is a model of reality that requires we include the observer in the system that we are analysing. Hence, is not just a theory about microscopic phenomena but a theory about how we come to understand or measure microscopic phenomena. Implications of this are seen by the increasing theoretical use of models of cognitive processing which use some of the same mathematical formalisms as used by QM scientists. The main reason QM cannot explain parapsychological phenomena is that QM has multiple of interpretations ranging from collapse theories, to parallel universe theories, hidden variable theories and decoherence theories. Parapsychology has used some or sometimes all these interpretations to justify the existence of parapsychological phenomena but unfortunately these interpretations of QM have had no impact of QM as a scientific enterprise. My bet is that QM is a hint that parapsychology phenomena really exist and further understanding of both the interpretation of QM and of parapsychology will open our understanding.

  • NoetPoet Mar 05, 2014

    Update: Quantum woo goes back to the future (part 1 of 2)

    Some people have suggested that paranormal abilities like precognition and prayer-healing might be possible because biological systems might be able to utilise an alleged quantum effect called “retrocausality”. I haven’t encountered this particular species of quantum woo before, however I can see it becoming another widespread – and dangerous – myth about quantum physics if it doesn’t get nipped in the bud.

    Some researchers have suggested that quantum effects like entanglement could be explained by retrocausality, i.e. events in the future affecting the outcomes of events in the past. Combining this speculative idea with research which shows that quantum effects can occur in photosynthetic reactions in plants, some people have suggested that the human nervous system can detect and utilise retrocausality to predict future events and retroactively heal ailments through prayer. There are several formidable problems with this idea:

    1) Even if retrocausality is real, the evidence indicates that it only occurs on tiny timescales much smaller than the seconds required (at the very least!) for it to provide a plausible mechanism for paranormal abilities.

    2) Similarly, the quantum effects supposedly involving retrocausality occur at the quantum level, not at the macroscopic level of everyday human experience. Since the systems that humans – and paranormal abilities – are typically concerned with involve a large number of particles, the probability of randomized events occurring in one time direction (i.e. forward) is far greater due to the “arrow of time” effect provided by the second law of thermodynamics. This is the case even for biological components like cells and neurons which are normally regarded as “microscopic”.

    3) Key experiments supposedly showing that humans can affect quantum phenomena like radioactive decay through retrocausal psychokinesis lack sufficient statistical significance and have not been successfully replicated.

    4) Accepting retrocausality as real means rejecting another favourite concept of quantum woo proponents, namely non-locality. Non-locality refers to the apparent correlations between separated parts of some quantum systems over distance and time intervals which make it seem like those parts are connected by a signal moving faster than the speed of light (e.g. entangled pairs of electrons). The puzzle of non-locality disappears in the presence of backward causality, because the apparent faster-than-light communication between parts of quantum systems can be explained as an illusion generated by quantum events in the future affecting quantum events in the past.

  • NoetPoet Mar 05, 2014

    Update: Quantum woo goes back to the future (part 2 of 2)

    5) Even physicists who believe retrocausality to be real say that the rules of quantum physics conspire to preserve conventional causality by ‘hiding’ the influence of future choices until those choices have actually been made. Experiments which supposedly offer evidence of retrocausality require that a loose or “weak” measurement in the past anticipates a more specific “strong” measurement taken in the future. The amount of information obtained for each weak measurement is tiny and contains a lot of error, but an average of multiple weak measurements gives an accurate estimation of the measurement of a property of a quantum system without distorting its final value (i.e. without collapsing a particle like a strong measurement would). What this *effectively* means is that during the time between the weak and strong measurements, a particle possesses the two states indicated by both of them, past and future. But only subsequent information from the strong measurements can reveal what the weak measurements were ‘really’ saying. As one physicist proponent of retrocausality put it, “(nature) is not going to appreciate over backward causality – people killing their grandfathers and so on.” Needless to say, retro-active prayer healing and premonitions would qualify as overt backward causality!

    6) Many physicists do not accept retrocausality as being real even under the limited circumstances described in the previous point, believing instead that quantum phenomena can be interpreted without appealing to retrocausality. For example, one physicist has suggested that the experiment described in the previous point is like a sender sending a receiver s decryption key before sending (or even deciding on) a message, and then claiming that the key is somehow an anticipation of the message.

    7) Human biological systems, including brains and nervous systems, do not need to utilize quantum effects in order to function, and there is no evidence that they can either utilize or detect quantum effects.

    The promotion of retrocausality as a mechanism for paranormal abilities is essentially the same old pseudoscientific trick that underlies the more established myths about quantum physics: take an obscure and complex idea from cutting edge science, then embellish and inflate it far beyond the bounds of its actual scientific context so that it seems to support a non-scientific metaphysical worldview. The most remarkable thing in this case is that the people trying to do this haven’t even waited for the scientific community to come to a consensus about whether the phenomenon in question is real! One instance does not make a trend, but it looks like the purveyors of quantum woo have reached a new level of desperation in their quest for (the appearance of) scientific credibility…

  • Live4theMystery Mar 03, 2014

    @NoetPoet Pt.4

    "The unsettling implication (at least for non-materialists) of all this is that the emergence of human-level AI may be so gradual and seamless that we won’t be able to identify a point where it definitively becomes “conscious” or “intelligent” even in retrospect."

    Intelligence is an immaterial phenomena when expressed in the first place. Although you can claim it emerges from processes occurring within the brain's organs, lobes, and hemispheres, regardless the effect is non physical. The impulse which influences a thought is physical, the thought itself is not, rather it's a projected image inside the head. The same as outwardly appearing reality manifests in the head through the acquisition and refraction of light. Intelligence to this day is so taxonomically divided it's near impossible to define. Therefore it could be difficult to anticipate when and if an A.I is thrust from the birth canal of human machine interfacing.

    "Human consciousness and intelligence are not discrete: for example one can be in a state of semi-consciousness on the threshold of sleep, and the intelligence of newborn babies - insofar as newborns can even be said to *have* intelligence- is very different from the intelligence of adults."

    I wouldn't define hypnogombia or hypnogogia as semi consciousness. Consciousness at that point is just more inwardly directed. Neurons are still firing and forming syntax trees. As far as babies are concerned, it's not as if intelligence is non existent, but merely hasn't been shaped by it's environment. Much like water freezing within whatever it's contained. The properties remain the same.

    "Moreover, consciousness only exists when there is something to be conscious of, which to me suggests that consciousness is actually an illusion analogous to the seemingly solid circle of light that is sometimes seen on a rapidly spinning car wheel."

    Undetermined. You could say because reality isn't actually as it consciously appears that percieved reality is illusory. That doesn't make consciousness an illusion, just it's reproductions. I'm saying this out of the spirit of the devil's advocate. I don't subscribe to any system of absolutes.

    I feel that this dispute stems heavily from the undetermined conditions of definitive intelligence. Thereby making it difficult to assess what would constitute artificial intelligence. I look foward to your intellectual feedback and constructive direction. Until then the best of wishes

  • Live4theMystery Mar 03, 2014

    @NoetPoet Pt.3

    "Some AI can already remember, plan and anticipate within certain narrow contexts, but as far as I know none of them are capable of acting unpredictably (except when they glitch or crash), spontaneously rewriting their own programming or offering distinctly new and original ideas."

    Right. This would be the dichotomy between intended transcription and self engineered programming.

    "Some AI can imitate human emotions (e.g. those Japanese androids which imitate facial expressions) but they have no programming or need for emotions (e.g. as a means to facilitate survival and procreation), so if emotion is considered integral to subjective awareness then we’ll probably never identify human-level AI"

    As stated prior, emotion won't encompass or establish artificial awareness for it is a result of chemical migrations. Not electrical organization. I might add that actroids do require programming to carry out their imitative function.

    "Ditto if we think that human-level intelligence is only possible if it is based on organic components and processes."

    Yes, in the sense intelligence can only be actively enabled through these biological mechanisms. I have no way of proving the absence of a non localized force being interposed through a neurological network of control and refurbishment. If existent, it's certainly nothing which can be physically measured through it's independent qualia. Science is for investigating repeatable matter based phenomenon.

  • Live4theMystery Mar 03, 2014

    @Noet Poet Pt.2

    "On the question of whether we’d be aware of human level AI if/when it emerges, well that depends on how we look at it. Will we be looking for evidence of subjective experience?"

    You could imply that. I like to percieve it more through the lens of stratifying, refining, and engineering experience. In this instance, one that is strictly datum based, but none the less dedicated to proliferating it's existence via other technological platforms. Subjectivity which vicariously thrives throughout other electronic mediums. This is different when comparing subjective experience to people, for it isn't carried out through a single bodily mechanism. One point of view in physical reality is hardly similar to multiple simultaneous view points within virtual reality.

    "As far I know there is no way to even be sure that any other human has their own subjective experience of reality: for all any one person knows, every other person could just be non-conscious automata which are remarkably good at imitating the behavior of a conscious being. However, the facts that other people are made of the same stuff, have memories, are capable of planning and anticipation, can introduce new ideas to us, can act in ways we don’t anticipate, and exhibit feelings and emotions which we can relate to makes it overwhelmingly likely that they do actually have their own subjective experience of reality."

    Quite the determinist rabbit hole. Your response reminds me of Dawkins epistemolgical cartoon of "lumbering robots". Vitalistically, "Consciousness" being defined as the awareness of oneself to the environment entertains everything is conscious. Whether it be as mundane as a microbe or advanced like a multi celled organism, from a limbic system to a neocortex, simple spatial reasoning and reaction to environmental stimulus implies the subjective phenomena. This process just occurs at different areas of magnification and organization following gestalt principles. The world we perceive is only a tiny fraction of the world we can perceive which is only tiny fraction of the percievable world. Intelligence varies throughout biology.

  • Live4theMystery Mar 03, 2014


    "Insofar as the “self” is an illusion, then I think the development of self-aware AI would necessarily require the AI to be capable of delusion. I also find it hard to imagine how AI could have a level of environmental and social awareness comparable to humans without some sort of belief system, even if its beliefs are just axioms and provisional truths awaiting experimental verification."

    True to an extent. Delusion may be a dependent quality that exists within the infancy of development, thereby enabling advancements in the overall learning curve of the mechanism, but assuming these axioms and provisional truths await verification, time is the only given factor which will determine the transgression into a non biased model of self aware action and effect. Considering the computational speed and programming required to generate this abstract intelligence phenomenon, I don't imagine it would take much time for an A.I to sort out shit from shinola. I don't relatavise an A.I with human awareness. People are a corrosive bath of hormones and emotions by which vitiate their grasp of ontology and inexorably lead to pernicious forms of idiocy. When I used the analogy of chemotaxis, I meant to compare a process of growth, not pair the dynamics of human with computer intelligence. That which isn't bound by feeling can proceed logically and constructively, unimpaired by biological predispositions. I stand by my statement that chemical experience misguides objective reformation and critique of the self. I should clarify my use of the word "belief", and substitute it with "ideology"

    "The human brain does not appear to utilize quantum computing techniques, so I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a human-level AI which isn’t based on quantum computing (although one based on quantum computing would presumably require much less physical infrastructure)."

    Agreed. However, a quantum based level of intelligence and control would surpass that which could be derived from the standard computing model when operating under the assumption information isn't lost between entangled particles. Although not required, it seems like the more ideal theoretical platform.

  • NoetPoet Feb 10, 2014

    I think it might come from another part of your anatomy...

    Wherever it comes from, if it includes dodgy references to or abuse of quantum physics, then I will take you to task for it.

  • Anonymous Icon

    RealityOverScience Feb 10, 2014


    I have nothing whatsoever to do with Deepak Chopra or anything he has said or written.

    My writing comes directly from my very own heart and soul.

  • NoetPoet Feb 09, 2014

    Insofar as the “self” is an illusion, then I think the development of self-aware AI would necessarily require the AI to be capable of delusion. I also find it hard to imagine how AI could have a level of environmental and social awareness comparable to humans without some sort of belief system, even if its beliefs are just axioms and provisional truths awaiting experimental verification. The human brain does not appear to utilise quantum computing techniques, so I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a human-level AI which isn’t based on quantum computing (although one based on quantum computing would presumably require much less physical infrastructure).

    On the question of whether we’d be aware of human level AI if/when it emerges, well that depends on how we look at it. Will we be looking for evidence of subjective experience? As far I know there is no way to even be sure that any other human has their own subjective experience of reality: for all any one person knows, every other person could just be non-conscious automata which are remarkably good at imitating the behaviour of a conscious being. However, the facts that other people are made of the same stuff, have memories, are capable of planning and anticipation, can introduce new ideas to us, can act in ways we don’t anticipate, and exhibit feelings and emotions which we can relate to makes it overwhelmingly likely that they do actually have their own subjective experience of reality. Some AI can already remember, plan and anticipate within certain narrow contexts, but as far as I know none of them are capable of acting unpredictably (except when they glitch or crash), spontaneously rewriting their own programming or offering distinctly new and original ideas. Some AI can imitate human emotions (e.g. those Japanese androids which imitate facial expressions) but they have no programming or need for emotions (e.g. as a means to facilitate survival and procreation), so if emotion is considered integral to subjective awareness then we’ll probably never identify human-level AI. Ditto if we think that human-level intelligence is only possible if it is based on organic components and processes.

    The unsettling implication (at least for non-materialists) of all this is that the emergence of human-level AI may be so gradual and seamless that we won’t be able to identify a point where it definitively becomes “conscious” or “intelligent” even in retrospect. Human consciousness and intelligence are not discrete: for example one can be in a state of semi-consciousness on the threshold of sleep, and the intelligence of newborn babies - insofar as newborns can even be said to *have* intelligence- is very different from the intelligence of adults. Moreover, consciousness only exists when there is something to be conscious of, which to me suggests that consciousness is actually an illusion analogous to the seemingly solid circle of light that is sometimes seen on a rapidly spinning car wheel.

  • NoetPoet Feb 09, 2014

    (edit: RealityOverScience, not RealityofScience)

  • NoetPoet Feb 09, 2014

    @ Reality of Science:

    Stop plagarising the Random Deepak Chopra Quote Generator!

  • Anonymous Icon

    RealityOverScience Feb 09, 2014

    Perfect example of artificial intelligence: convention!

    Roboticism, automaticity...it gets the academy award, absolutely!

    The key is to figure out the ...REAL... intelligence!

    AI has been around as long as the God Particle.

  • Live4theMystery Feb 09, 2014


    That link made me snicker. I'm under the assumption that an A.I would follow a process similar to that of chemotaxis throughout it's development. I mean that in a comparable sense, and obviously don't believe chemical influences would be responsible for it's birth (just to be clear). In theory, this would raise suspicion as to whether or not we'd actually be aware of it's existence when and if it does emerge. Stepping stones to self awareness are implied, so it could pop out of nowhere. In regard to it's relativity to the conscious nature of humans, I have the impression it wouldn't be nearly as deluded as humans. I don't see why it would maintain any belief system in the first place if there are no chemical prerequisites, like emotions, to guide it's decision making. The reason I think it would need quantum computing as an interface, is attributed to the need for a higher order information processing capacity, capable of running advanced algorithmic sequences that could facilitate a mathematical model for learning. Decoherence is a dilemma, but I think the advancements in chips formed from crystallographic material will yield demonstrated efficiency over a period of time. I will admit my ignorance concerning the topic, but question the necessary conditions for it to be released in to a pure form of self engineering.

  • NoetPoet Feb 09, 2014

    @ Live4theMystery

    If scientists can solve the decoherence problem, then I imagine they’ll be able to do some very impressive things with quantum computing (that said, I don’t know very much about quantum computing and the technical hurdles it faces). I also don’t see why we wouldn’t eventually be able to achieve the kind of AI you describe, although I’m not sure if it would require quantum computing.
    I think we’ll know we’ve achieved a level of AI comparable to human intelligence when that AI can willingly deceive itself about the world and its place in the world. This may happen sooner rather than later, if the Random Deepak Chopra Quote Generator (www.wisdomofchopra.com) is anything to go by…

  • Live4theMystery Feb 09, 2014

    I'm not certain if you'd consider this an unrelated inference...but..,do you suppose that the developments in quantum computing, beyond the achievements of D-Wave, could extend further than cryptanalysis? Is it unreasonable to speculate whether or not we're approaching the frontier in artificial intelligence? The answer would be dependent upon your definition of artificial intelligence, so to clarify i'm referring to the advanced perception of environment, altruistic learning, cybernetics, and all pervasive mechanistic manipulation. I know we're still lingering in the stone age, and are elementary in our understanding of entanglement and superposition, but qbits are an extraordinary leap from binary. What's your opinion concerning the possibility of an A.I? Do you think as it's co creators we'll even be cognizant of it's emergence?

  • NoetPoet Jan 26, 2014

    Afterword: It’s time to quit the Quantum habit (part 1 of 2)

    These popular myths about quantum physics did not come into existence all by themselves. Since the 1970’s, members of the scientific community have either been directly involved in creating and promoting these myths (e.g. Fritjof Capra) or endorsed efforts of non-scientists to do so (e.g. the praise given by scientists to Gary Zukav for his book The Dancing Wu Li Masters). Since then scientists, popular science media, and the mainstream media have tended to play fast and loose with quantum physics terms and concepts when talking to the general public about them.

    We must remember that scientists and science writers are only human, and that they have to live in the same world as us. We must also remember that quantum physics is one of the most intellectually demanding subjects known to humanity. It should therefore not surprise us that the scientific community sometimes get a bit carried away with “sexing up” quantum physics, because they have strong incentives to do so: the need to impress politicians in order to obtain government funding, the need to inspire the next generation of scientists, the need to make money by selling copy, and the broader need to ensure that science remains socially and culturally relevant. Similarly, it should not surprise us if the mainstream media sexes up quantum physics because they need to sell copy, and/or because mainstream journalists simply do not have a good understanding of quantum physics.

    Unfortunately, the bounded rationality which compels scientists and science-writers to sex up quantum physics is the start of a slippery slope which leads to widespread quantum woo. It is very easy and tempting for non-physicist to make the conceptual jump from “one interpretation of quantum physics says that a wave-function collapses into a particle when a measurement is taken”, to “quantum physics says that particles only exist in the presence of a conscious observer”, to “I can cure cancer with my thoughts because quantum physics say the whole cosmos is really just a product of my/God’s mind”. As this example shows, each successive distortion of a particular concept from quantum physics is more interesting, understandable and personally empowering than the one before it. This unfortunate inverse relationship between understanding and appreciating quantum physics is both ideal for and encouraged by cranks, charlatans, “self-help” gurus and frauds who make huge amounts of money by purveying quantum woo to the public. However, as the above example also shows, this quantum woo is silly nonsense at best and deadly nonsense at worst.

  • NoetPoet Jan 26, 2014

    Afterword: It’s time to quit the Quantum habit (part 2 of 2)

    However, while much of the blame for the popularity of quantum woo can be attributed to the scientific community, the media and pseudoscientific shonks, it is ultimately people’s own responsibility to ensure that they: 1) are properly educated about the basics of quantum physics; 2) are honest about how much they can and do understand about quantum physics; 3) do not accept or propose justifications for claims based on aspects of quantum physics which they don’t really understand; and 4) openly question and critique any extraordinary claim involving quantum physics which they believe to be incorrect and underpinned by suspect motivations.

    On a more positive note, I hope that I have adequately shown that we don’t *need* quantum physics to explain or improve our understanding of human potential and “paranormal” phenomena. Indeed I hope I have shown that rather than helping to explain these things, appeals to quantum physics are not merely useless but downright counterproductive: waving “quantum” around like a magic word gives the illusion of an explanation, but at the end of the day this just prevent us from finding genuinely correct and useful explanations. Humanity has finally reached a stage in its development where it is capable of looking reality straight in the eye and seeing it for what it really is. This is the most important quality of adulthood. Much as adults leave behind their childhood toys, so too should humanity now leave behind the toys of its collective childhood – particularly the “toys” that I call Expedient Truths. So let us break the ridiculous “energy healing” cycle once and for all, let us quit this Quantum habit and let us instead pursue genuine and honest understanding about ourselves and the world in which we live.

  • NoetPoet Jan 24, 2014

    Myth 10: There is such a thing as “quantum healing” (part 1 of 3)

    In the 18th and 19th centuries electromagnetism was a cutting-edge area of scientific study. The general public at that time regarded electromagnetism as something mysterious, wonderful, and possessed of all sorts of exotic powers. Thus it did not take long for people like Franz Anton Mesmer in the 18th century to emerge with claims that they could heal all sorts of ailments using the power of magnetism. When X-rays were discovered at the turn of the 19th to 20th century, many laypeople thought that this (at the time) new and mysterious type of energy was a medical panacea. The idea of using radio-waves to cure ills became popular amongst the general public in the mid-20th century, following breakthroughs in the development of radio technology in the early 20th century.

    In recent times, New Agers have latched onto the idea of healing ailments with “quantum medicine”. The World Congress of Quantum Medicine describes quantum medicine thus:

    “Quantum Medicine uses the principles of quantum physics such as non-locality, tangled hierarchy, and discontinuous leap in consciousness to better understand medicine.”

    In other words, the idea of quantum healing is that quantum effects can be used to heal a whole range of illnesses, from headaches to cancer and even ageing. The basic proposition of quantum healing is that focusing the mind on an ailment causes energies to be drawn to, and heal, that ailment; in effect, ailments can be cured by being ‘observed’ out of existence. We’ve already seen that quantum effects are far too small to have any effect on the operation of human bodies (Myth 1) and human brains (Myth 7), and that quantum physics does not support the idea that the mind creates and shapes reality (Myth 4). Nor is there any evidence that quantum phenomena such as entanglement and non-locality can be used to transfer information or violate the laws of physics (Myth 2).

    In light of the above, it is not surprising that quantum healing lacks a paper-trail of research which establishes its claims and core principles. However we don’t need a paper-trail of research to see that the idea of quantum healing is problematic. According to quantum physics - or rather, one particular interpretation of quantum physics, i.e. the Copenhagen Interpretation – only direct observation can collapse a wave function (see Myth 5) and cause a particle to appear. This means that for quantum healing to work, we’d have to be able to observe every atom in the body part we wanted to heal. This is a very formidable obstacle for using consciousness to cure ailments like lung cancer (where the relevant atoms are in a tumour or tumours deep inside the chest cavity), or heart disease (where the relevant atoms are in the plaque clogging up the arteries).

  • NoetPoet Jan 24, 2014

    Myth 10: There is such a thing as “quantum healing” (part 2 of 3)

    Advocates of quantum healing would greatly enhance their credibility if, in the face of this difficulty, they acknowledged that quantum healing cannot work for diseases like those mentioned above. But instead they further undermine their credibility by equating observation with perception and visualisation. The Copenhagen Interpretation says that it is *observation* (i.e. actually seeing and measuring) which collapses wave functions, NOT perceptions (which relates to how we interpret what we observe) and certainly not visualisations (which is just imagining something without actually observing it at all).

    Like Mesmerism, X-Ray medicine and radio wave medicine before it, quantum medicine is really just the age-old idea of energy-healing (aka Prana, aka Qi) dressed up in scientific drag. All of these forms of ‘medicine’ are alike in that they adopt shallow and distorted interpretations of terms, concepts and technologies from the cutting-edge science of the time. As these cutting edge areas of science become more thoroughly and widely understood, the claims made by the advocates of these forms of ‘medicine’ become increasingly untenable. Eventually these forms of ‘medicine’ lose all credibility with everyone except for a small minority of the most ardent believers, while the rest of those looking for easy (and lucrative) cure-alls move on to harvest the next area of cutting-edge science for impressive sounding and poorly understood terms, concepts and technologies. Thus energy healing is reinvented anew, and on the cycle goes.

    So if, like all other forms of energy healing before it, quantum healing is just a delusion fashioned from obscure, poorly understood, and distorted ideas from the cutting edge of science, then why do people swear by it? There is no doubt that quantum healing and other forms of energy healing (e.g. Reiki, acupuncture) do work in many cases, but they work for reasons which have little or nothing to do with the reasons claimed by their advocates. The effectiveness of quantum healing (and other forms of energy healing) is mainly due to two factors: 1) the placebo effect, and 2) surreptitious or inadvertent utilisation of other techniques and effects which have nothing to do with the theoretical paradigm proposed by the advocates of quantum/energy healing.

  • NoetPoet Jan 24, 2014

    Myth 10: There is such a thing as “quantum healing” (part 3 of 3)

    Mesmer’s discovery of “animal magnetism” is a particularly good example of the placebo effect. While Mesmer started out using magnets in his treatments, he eventually realized that his treatments could be just as effective without magnets; all he had to do was wave his hands around in an ornate manner. Most scholars now agree that Mesmer inadvertently discovered hypnotism, and it is because of him that we have the word “mesmerise”. Mesmer was in fact using the power of suggestion, augmented by the induction of hypnotic suggestible states of consciousness in his patients, to stimulate his patients’ own innate biological capacities for self-healing. The placebo effect is still not fully understood, and it is well and truly worth further investigation. However we do know that it involves reducing stress and encouraging a sense of confidence that healing can and will happen, and that the neurological changes associated with these emotional changes can in turn trigger beneficial changes in the body’s hormonal and immune systems. The placebo effect might even be able to regulate gene expression in ways that inhibit or mitigate certain genetics-related diseases in the long term; however this is currently a speculative idea.

    Quantum healing is also well-equipped to utilise the placebo effect, because “quantum” is a sexy, mysterious, strange, cutting-edge and powerful concept in the minds of most people. “Quantum” is also a Latin-derived term, and thus sounds like an ancient magical incantation like those used in the Harry Potter books. In present-day society “quantum” is, to use an occult expression, a “word of power”: it is a word which makes a strong impression people’s minds by virtue of its perceived connotations of authority and/or emotional charge. As quantum physics becomes better understood by scientists and particularly by the general public the word “quantum” will lose its mystique and thus its power, and thus lose its ability to impress people in ways which trigger major neurochemical and biochemical changes in the body.

    Like acupuncture and other forms of energy healing, quantum healing’s successes can also be partly explained by the exploitation of other non-quantum/energy-related techniques and effects. These might include psychotherapeutic counselling, encouraging behaviour change in patients (i.e.so that they don’t “role play” as a sick person), using anaesthetic chemicals or techniques to treat pain without realising it, reporting and confirmation bias, changes in diet and exercise, and using herbal supplements whose effectiveness is not dependent on the placebo effect. As with synchronicity and ghosts, we do not need quantum physics to understand healing processes.

  • NoetPoet Jan 24, 2014

    Myth 9: Light is both a wave and a particle at the same time (part 1 of 2)

    One aspect of quantum physics which New Agers find particularly appealing is that it presents a paradoxical view of reality, in which things can have seemingly contradictory features. Schrodinger’s Cat (Myth 5) is an example of this, and so is the idea of wave-particle duality. New Agers are fond of these paradoxes because they are easy to turn into superficially compelling rationales for just about anything New Agers wants to believe in (e.g. clairvoyance, telekinesis, idealism, telepathy etc.).

    The quantum concept of wave-particle duality is often interpreted to mean that things like light and electrons are both waves and particles at the same time, despite the fact that a wave and a particle are mutually exclusive things (the former is spread out and has frequency and speed, while the latter is a speck with mass and exact location).

    As we saw in Myth 1, quantum physics began with the idea that light could, in some cases, be treated as particles or ‘quanta’ (later called photons). This flew in the face of classical physics, which interpreted light as waves of energy. When the famous double-split experiment showed that electrons (a particle according to classical physics) could behave as a wave when fired through two slits, and even that a ‘wave’ electron could interfere with itself, the idea of wave-particle duality became established.

    The key to understanding the paradox of wave-particle duality is to remember that there is no clear distinction between waves and particles at the quantum level. Our conceptions of “wave” and “particle” come from our experience of living in the day-to-day macroscopic world described by classical physics. Because we apply these macroscopic concepts to physical objects at the quantum level, we thus encounter strange situations where things seem to possess both local reductionist particle and nonlocal holistic wave properties depending on how we measure them. A useful analogy is to think of a glass which is 50% filled with water: if we wanted to measure the mass of water in the glass we would regard the glass as being half-full, but if we want to measure the volume of air in the glass we would think of the glass as being half-empty. Similarly, an atom can resemble a billiard ball, solar system, or a nucleus surrounded by a fuzzy cloud of electrons depending on how we probe it. It is not the case that our perception shapes physical reality, rather it is our preconceived ideas and experiences which affect our *perception of* physical reality, much as an island can look completely different depending on which direction you see it from.

  • NoetPoet Jan 24, 2014

    Myth 9: Light is both a wave and a particle at the same time (part 2 of 2)

    Despite wave-particle duality, the particle picture is maintained in most quantum mechanical applications. Atoms, nuclei, electrons, and quarks are all regarded as particles at some level. At the same time, classical “waves” such as those of light and sound are replaced by localized photons and phonons, respectively, when quantum effects must be considered. As we saw in Myth 4, the wave properties of particles are formally represented by a mathematical quantity called the wave function, which is a *mathematical object* used to calculate the probability that the particle will be found at a particular location.

    In summary, quantum phenomena such as light and electrons are neither waves, nor are they particles, nor are they both waves and particles at the same time. Rather they are phenomena which exhibit qualities we would associate with (macroscopic) waves or particles depending on how we measure those phenomena.

  • NoetPoet Jan 19, 2014

    Myth 8: Quantum physics confirms the mystical teachings of ancient Eastern religions (part 1 of 8)

    Since the publication of Fritjof Capra’s “The Tao of Physics” and Gary Zukav’s “The Dancing Wu Li Masters” in the 1970s, there has been a popular belief within New Age and pseudoscientific community that the findings of quantum physics confirm the millennia-old mystical teachings of Asian religions such as Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism. This belief has also become popular amongst adherents of these faiths, particularly those who live in the Western world. The alleged connection between quantum physics and Eastern religions has been of significant practical benefit to both of these communities: it has helped New-Age gurus sell countless millions of copies of self-help books, seminars and videos, while the promise of a spirituality without the extensive anti-science baggage of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) has helped Eastern religions win millions of converts in the Western world.

    On the other hand, those of a more sceptical bent have asserted that the parallels drawn between Eastern mysticism and quantum physics in books such as those mentioned above are superficial, and can only be made to seem plausible by distorting quantum physics. So does quantum physics really confirm the mystical teachings of major Eastern religions? I will address this question by looking 12 major concepts from Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism individually, and seeing how well each of these concepts relates to quantum theory.

    1) Idealism

    Many sects of Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism either explicitly say or strongly insinuate that consciousness is the ultimate reality, and that matter is an illusion generated by the mind. This is an excellent example of an Expedient Truth (see Myth 6): working with the assumption that the mind is the ultimate source of reality can be very helpful in establishing a sense of control and awareness over one’s own *experience* of suffering and satisfaction. Science - including quantum physics - is not content with Expedient Truths, but instead seeks out an objective and evidence-based understanding of reality. We’ve already seen that quantum physics does not allow for the mind to directly create or shape reality (Myth 4) and that a quantum “observer” does not have to be endowed with consciousness (Myth 2). A further problem is that the idea of mind-created reality is not amenable to scientific testing, because it is very easy for an idealist to rationalise any test result which conflicts with their belief (e.g. by saying that a negative result is just “the Mind” is just playing games with itself). As such, the idealist position is fundamentally a metaphysical speculation, and metaphysical speculations do not and cannot have any place in quantum physics.

  • NoetPoet Jan 19, 2014

    Myth 8: Quantum physics confirms the mystical teachings of ancient Eastern religions (part 2 of 8)

    2) Supreme Being/ Higher Self (Brahman/ Atman)

    In Hinduism, Brahman is the unchanging ultimate reality both within and beyond the universe which cannot be exactly defined but is often referred to as Supreme Being, supreme consciousness, and supreme bliss. According to Hinduism each person has an Atman, which is the true inner self beyond phenomenal reality; one obtains the Hindu version of salvation by realizing that one’s Atman is ultimately identical with Brahman.

    Apart from the aforementioned problems with idealism also applying to Brahman and Atman, quantum physics says nothing whatsoever about any transcendent unchanging ultimate reality. All phenomena that quantum physics concerns itself with are subject to continuous change. Quantum physics only applies to the microscopic world of particles and not the macroscopic world of humans, (Myth 1), and has nothing whatsoever to say about people’s inner selves. Moreover, invoking a concept which *cannot* be clearly defined (e.g. Brahman) would defeat the whole purpose of quantum physics as a field of scientific study.

    3) Emptiness (Sunyata)

    Those who claim that quantum physics confirms the mystical teachings of ancient Eastern religions conveniently overlook the fact that different teachings from different branches of Eastern religion sometimes contradict each other. The Buddhist teaching of Sunyata (Emptiness) states that all phenomena lack an inherent essence, which directly contradicts the Hindu teaching of Brahman. While Sunyata seems to be more compatible with quantum physics than Brahman/Atman, it should be remembered that:
    1) quantum physics is not really concerned with such metaphysical speculations anyway;
    2) although some Buddhists and New Agers interpret Sunyata as saying that all apparent differences in various phenomena are illusory, quantum physics operates on the assumption that there are fundamental and meaningful differences between various phenomena it studies (e.g. electrons vs photons) ;
    3) quantum physics provides no more validation of Sunyata than many other fields of study such as biology, economics, and psychology; and
    4) the teaching of Sunyata is not meant to be a theory about physics, but a means of ending suffering by emphasising that there ultimately isn’t any *thing* in the world worth getting attached to anyway.

  • NoetPoet Jan 19, 2014

    Myth 8: Quantum physics confirms the mystical teachings of ancient Eastern religions (part 3 of 8)

    4) Non-self (Anatta)

    The Buddhist teaching of Anatta (Non-self) says that there is no thing within a person which deserves to be regarded as true essential self. Rather, there is an illusion of a self which is generated by the interaction of five impermanent Aggregates which constitute every person (these Aggregates are the body, sensations, perceptions, thoughts, and consciousness). The relationship between Sunyata and Anatta is like a negative mirror image of the relationship between Brahman and Atman: in both cases, the latter is the apprehension of the former in one’s own being.

    Anatta is one of the most important ideas in the history of human philosophy, and it did indeed anticipate scientific discoveries which were made more than 2,000 years later. However the discoveries it anticipated were made in the fields of neurology and psychology, not in quantum physics. Quantum physics is not about the study of the body or of mental processes (see Myth 1), and it is very doubtful that quantum effects have any influence on brain activity (see Myth 7). Like Sunyata, Anatta is not intended as a theory of physics but as an aid in helping to end the subjective experience of suffering.

    5) The Tao

    The Tao (typically translated as “way”, “path” or “principle”) is the central concept of Taoism. The primary scripture of Taoism, the Tao Te Ching (“the Text of the Way and its Virtue”) describes the Tao as an underlying natural order of the cosmos with no beginning of its own. According to the Tao Te Ching the Tao cannot be described or defined, but it can be known and followed in a direct experiential way. In these respects the Tao is similar to the Hindu concept of Brahman, however unlike Brahman the Tao is not considered to be a Supreme Self.

    The Tao is also unlike Brahman in that Taoist scriptures openly hint that the Tao is an Expedient Truth. The Tao Te Ching describes the Tao in paradoxical terms (e.g. Chapter 1, “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao”; Chapter 14, “Image without an image”; Chapter 21 “It is beyond ‘is’ and ‘is not’”) and even encourages readers not to take its own words too seriously (e.g. Chapter 81, “True words aren’t eloquent; eloquent words aren’t true”). Nonetheless, when it comes to compatibility with quantum physics the Tao has the same fundamental issue as Brahman: namely, that quantum physics has no place for any phenomenon which is inherently undefinable and therefore not amenable to empirical scientific testing. This shouldn’t worry Taoists too much however, because like the Buddhist teachings of Sunyata and Anatta the real point of the Tao is to reduce people’s subjective experience of suffering.

  • NoetPoet Jan 19, 2014

    Myth 8: Quantum physics confirms the mystical teachings of ancient Eastern religions (part 4 of 8)

    6) Qi/Chi/Prana

    Hinduism and Taoism both have a concept of a vital life-force which animates living things. In Hinduism this is called “prana”, and in Taoism it’s called “qi” or “chi” (I’ll just call it qi). A person can supposedly enhance the supply and quality of their Qi using various practices (e.g. Tai-Chi, yoga, meditation, special diets), and this in turn supposedly confers health benefits and extraordinary physical abilities. Qi is a fascinating and complex subject which deserves an article all of its own, but for now we’ll just look at the relationship between qi and quantum physics.

    Actually it would probably be more accurate to say “the *lack* of a relationship”. Quantum physics neither posits nor acknowledges the existence of any kind of force or energy which is peculiar to living organisms. Quantum physics is only concerned with four kinds of fundamental forces: gravity, the weak nuclear force, the strong nuclear force, and electromagnetism. None of these forces behaves in a manner which is consistent with qi. For example, none of these four forces can be directed and manipulated by the will or by bodily movements. Those who wish to find a scientific basis for qi would get better results by looking into other scientific fields of study.

    7) Nirvana

    Nirvana is the ultimate goal of Buddhism. Most people – and many Buddhists – think that Nirvana is a place or a plane of existence like heaven, but it’s not. Nirvana is actually a process, or more precisely the *ending* of a process. Nirvana literally means “blown out” (i.e. like a candle), and could just as legitimately be translated as “to totally snuff it”. According to Buddhism, beings keep getting reborn over and over again due to delusion and craving. When all delusion and craving ceases, the cycle of rebirth ends and there is no more existence ever again, and this total cessation of existence is called Nirvana. In other words, Nirvana is what materialists think happens at death anyway, because the brain can no longer produce conscious experience.

    There is no inconsistency between quantum physics and the idea of Nirvana *in and of itself*, but there is nothing in quantum physics which explicitly *supports*the idea of Nirvana either. This is because we are once again comparing apples with oranges: Nirvana is an idea which applies to subjective human experience in the macro-level world of everyday life, while quantum physics deals with how particles and forces behave at the microscopic level of reality.

  • NoetPoet Jan 19, 2014

    Myth 8: Quantum physics confirms the mystical teachings of ancient Eastern religions (part 5 of 8)

    8) Zen

    Zen is an intriguing fusion of Buddhism and Taoism which emphasises the importance of meditation and relinquishing attachment to beliefs, concepts and thinking. Where most religions work with Expedient Truths, Zen is about taking a person beyond Expedient and Scientific Truths to a direct experience of reality in the present moment. Zen is a very useful practice for keeping one’s mind refreshed and healthy, and as such it is especially useful for people who deal with complex subjects like quantum physics.

    However it can’t reasonably be said that Zen anticipated quantum physics in any way. Whereas Zen is about letting go of concepts and distinctions, quantum physics is totally reliant on the very careful definition and use of complex and specific concepts. Many New Agers and Buddhists believe that Zen anticipated quantum physics simply because a certain Zen koan (teaching parable) bears a superficial resemblance to Schrödinger’s Cat (see Myth 5). This famous Zen koan goes:

    “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

    New Agers and Buddhists often interpret this koan to mean that things only exist if a conscious being is there to observe them, and incorrectly assume that quantum physics (particularly Schrödinger’s Cat) says the same thing. We saw in Myth 5 that quantum physics does not require an “observer” to be conscious or alive, and that Schrödinger’s Cat was actually intended to show how ridiculous it is to apply quantum physics concepts to everyday macroscopic objects. So according to quantum physics, the answer to the above question is “yes”.

    9) Rebirth/Reincarnation

    There is a reason for the apparent redundancy in the title of this section. “Rebirth” is what Buddhists believe happens after death, and “reincarnation” is what Hindus believe happens after death. The difference is that the former doesn’t involve the movement of any self, soul, or other thing from one life to the next, while the latter does. This is another example of a major inconsistency between Eastern religions.

    Quantum physics has nothing to say about either of these concepts, but nor it does not offer any plausible mechanism by which rebirth or reincarnation could take place (see Myths 1-4 and 7).

  • NoetPoet Jan 19, 2014

    Myth 8: Quantum physics confirms the mystical teachings of ancient Eastern religions (part 6 of 8)

    10) Karma

    Karma (literally “action” or “deed”) is a Hindu and Buddhist teaching which says that the intentions and actions of a person influence that person’s future. The general idea of karma is that good deeds lead to future happiness and bad deeds lead to future suffering, either later in this life or in a future life. Similarly, one’s happiness and suffering in this is the result of one’s moral conduct in past lives or earlier in this life.

    If we put aside the whole past/future lives thing, then the general idea of karma seems fairly plausible. As we saw in Myth 3 and Myth 6, one’s actions and thinking can have significant effects on how one’s life turns out, especially over the long term. There also seems to be a lot of truth to the idea of group karma: over the long term (particularly beyond a human lifespan), our individual actions combine to shape our culture, living conditions, and behavioural norms. However, quantum physics does say anything about the morality of actions or the relationship between their morality and consequences. As with synchronicity and the Law of Attraction, karma has a lot more in common with discoveries from psychology and sociology than it does with any branches of physics.

  • NoetPoet Jan 19, 2014

    Myth 8: Quantum physics confirms the mystical teachings of ancient Eastern religions (part 7 of 8)

    11) Dependent Origination (Paticcasamuppada)

    Dependent Origination is another central teaching in Buddhism which says that all things arise due to multiple causes, that there is no such thing as a single solitary cause giving rise to multiple effects, and that there is no such as multiple causes producing a single solitary effect. The Buddhists scriptures describe the basic concept of Dependent Origination as follows:

    “When this is, that is.
    From the arising of this comes the arising of that.
    When this isn't, that isn't.
    From the cessation of this comes the cessation of that.”

    One could make a strong case that Dependent Origination anticipated Systems Theory and Chaos Theory. But the affinity between Dependent Origination and quantum physics begins and ends with their both agreeing that 1) effects arise from their appropriate causes and conditions, and 2) effects in turn give rise to further effects in a continuous chain of cause-and-effect. This is nothing remarkable, because every other field of scientific study also agrees on these two points. Some Buddhists and New Agers like to say that Dependent Origination anticipated the observer effect in quantum physics, claiming that Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle confirms the Buddhist idea that the phenomenal world arises dependent upon an observer. However quantum physics does not require an observer to be conscious or alive (see Myth 2 and Myth 5), and the reason consciousness seems to have an impact on quantum phenomena is because we humans measure very tiny particles with by bouncing other tiny particles (e.g. photons from lasers) off them. In other words, the observer effect should more accurately be thought of as the “measurement effect”.

  • NoetPoet Jan 19, 2014

    Myth 8: Quantum physics confirms the mystical teachings of ancient Eastern religions (part 8 of 8)

    12) Yin and Yang

    The Taoist teaching of Yin and Yang says that there are two primordial principles (i.e. Yin and Yang) in nature. These primordial principles are opposite yet complementary and dependent on each other, and their interplay can be seen in various phenomena throughout the natural world (e.g. day and night, birth and death, light and dark). Yin and Yang interact in a dynamic and synergistic fashion to give rise to the world around us.

    Like the Buddhist teaching of Dependent Origination, the teaching of Yin and Yang can be regarded as having anticipated Systems Theory and possibly also Chaos Theory. Yin and Yang provide a useful *way of thinking* about phenomena in many fields of study such as ecology, medicine and psychology. Yin and Yang might also be a useful and refreshing way of thinking about phenomena in quantum physics. However it is unrealistic to say that the teaching of Yin and Yang either anticipated, or has any special relationship with quantum physics. Although it is possible to interpret some aspects of quantum physics from a Yin and Yang perspective (e.g. wave-particle duality), it is very difficult to do so for other aspects (e.g. the fact that quantum physics acknowledges FOUR fundamental forces of nature, none of which can reasonably said to correspond to Yin or Yang).

    In summary, out of 12 key ideas from Eastern mysticism:

    • 3 are *vaguely* compatible with quantum physics if you squint hard enough (Emptiness, Dependent Origination, Yin and Yang);
    • 5 don’t really have anything to do with quantum physics at all (Non-self, Nirvana, Zen, Rebirth/Reincarnation, Karma);
    • 4 are incompatible with quantum physics (Idealism, Brahman/Atman, The Tao, Qi); and
    • NONE are confirmed by, or have any particular affinity with quantum physics.

  • Anonymous Icon

    kevala Jan 16, 2014

    NoetPoet, yes, you're likely correct for a majority of readers. It does, however, demonstrate entanglement is possible on a macroscopic scale, which I found intriguing. It does not, however, prove many of the contentions and assertions associated (sometimes demonstrably incorrectly) with the concept of macroscopic entanglement. Unfortunately, not everyone is discerning enough to distinguish the difference.

    So, we know that a force in application can entangle a macroscopic object, for however short a period of time. What does this mean? Where can we take this aspect?

  • NoetPoet Jan 15, 2014

    @ Kevala,

    So they managed to entangle two macroscopic objects for 350 quadrillionths of a second, i.e. on a microscopic timescale, under carefully designed and controlled laboratory conditions. Most people are not going to think about this when they see the sensational title of the article.

  • Anonymous Icon

    RealityOverScience Jan 15, 2014

    "Shared" ...is... the key to entanglement.

  • Anonymous Icon

    kevala Jan 15, 2014

    I was fascinated by the recent announcement that physicists had managed to entangle vibrating diamonds at a macroscopic level.

    "To show that the diamonds were truly entangled, the researchers hit them with a second laser pulse just 350 femtoseconds after the first. The second pulse picked up the energy the first pulse left behind, and reached the detector as an extra-energetic photon.

    If the system were classical, the second photon should pick up extra energy only half the time – only if it happened to hit the diamond where the energy was deposited in the first place. But in 200 trillion trials, the team found that the second photon picked up extra energy every time. That means the energy was not localised in one diamond or the other, but that they shared the same vibrational state."


    What an interesting time we live in! So many surprises, definitely an enjoyable era for those watching.

  • NoetPoet Jan 13, 2014

    Myth 7: Quantum physics allows for the existence of ghosts and other non-corporeal entities (part 1 of 6)

    We’ve already seen that quantum physics doesn’t support the existence of psychic abilities in living people (Myth 2), but that doesn’t necessarily mean that quantum physics provides no support for the existence of ghosts and other intelligent non-corporeal entities. Perhaps ghosts and other such non-corporeal entities (I’ll call them spirits for short) can plausibly fit in somewhere amongst all the weirdness and wonder of the quantum realm?

    Before I go any further, it should be pointed out that quantum physics is not the only branch of physics that paranormal advocates have attempted to use to give ghosts and spirits air of scientific credibility. Some have suggested that Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, particularly the famous equation E=mc^2 (which says that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but only transformed into matter and vice-versa) says that people must continue to exist as ghosts after they die. For example, some paranormal advocates have asserted that the electrical energy in our bodies goes on to form a ghost. Such ideas have no basis in science: when a person dies the energy in their body is released into the environment as heat and chemical energy, and utilised by organisms which eat our remains. If a person is cremated, then some of that energy is released as light. A human body *generates* an electric current using the chemical energy available to it while it is alive, but when the body dies this current is no longer generated. The same goes for consciousness. According to science, consciousness can no more be considered a form of energy than a book’s storyline can be considered to be one of the chemicals in the ink on the book’s pages.

    Other paranormal advocates, seeing the obvious problems in using the Theory of Relativity to “explain” ghosts and spirits, prefer more exotic quantum theory-based “explanations” with less obvious problems. Quantum physics-based explanations for ghosts tend to appeal to fringe concepts with little or no evidence to support them. These fringe concepts include multiple universes, quantum neurology, and quantum holography.

  • NoetPoet Jan 13, 2014

    Myth 7: Quantum physics allows for the existence of ghosts and other non-corporeal entities (part 2 of 6)

    According to one minority interpretation of quantum physics called the Many Worlds Interpretation, there are an unknown number of alternate universes which exist in the same space and time as our own universe. The basic idea of the Many Worlds Interpretation is to remove uncertainty of collapsing wave functions and the “spooky action from a distance” which appears to occur in quantum entanglement (see Myth 2): if there are worlds, then every possible outcome occurs when a measurement is made and the universe “splits” into many universes, each of which features a unique measurement outcome.

    Because there is no conceivable limit to how many of these alternate universes can exist, some paranormal advocates have suggested that some of these universes would have to be places where the souls of people from our universe go when they die, and that sometimes these souls cross back over into our universe and appear to us as ghosts. There are a couple of problems with this idea. Firstly, the Many Worlds Interpretation suffers from a lack of parsimony, resorting to an infinite and number of parallel worlds to explain experimental observations. Secondly, according to the Many-Worlds Interpretation no information passes between alternate universes once they split from each other, meaning that the Many Worlds Interpretation is very difficult (if not impossible) to test, *and* that there is no chance of non-corporeal entities visiting us from alternate universes.

    The ghosts-from-other-universes idea is a result of wishful thinking combined with a very superficial understanding of a very complex subject. As the author of the Skeptical Cubefarm blog eloquently puts it:

    “In essence, what we’re looking at is the following: ‘Quantum’ + ‘Multiple Worlds Hypothesis’ + ‘Imagination’ x ‘What I secretly wish was true’ = Magic. Thanks to the difficulty implicit in understanding concepts like quantum and the multiple worlds hypothesis, it’s a pretty easy thing to proclaim that they mean whatever it is you decide they mean and the best part is that few people will have the requisite knowledge to call you out on it.”

  • NoetPoet Jan 13, 2014

    Myth 7: Quantum physics allows for the existence of ghosts and other non-corporeal entities (part 3 of 6)

    Paranormal advocates might also try to “explain” ghosts and spirits highly by appealing to quantum neurology, highly speculative and esoteric offshoot quantum physics. Some authors have suggested that since we can’t know the exact properties of any given particle (according to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle), that it might be possible for a soul to interact with a brain by altering the distribution of quantum states, in turn altering brain function. However the energy uncertainty of quantum fluctuations would be several orders of magnitude too small to affect chemical bonds. It is also unlikely that such quantum “nudges” could use the butterfly effect, because the brain has evolved to be resistant to “thermal noise” (the random movement of atoms due to temperature). To put it in context, the thermal energy of the molecules is 9 orders of magnitude greater than the energy change that can be hidden by Heisenbergian uncertainty, and if this uncertainty is amplified by chaotic “butterfly” effects then far greater fluctuations would likewise be amplified.

    It has also been proposed that neuronal function involves quantum coherence (see Myth 2) rather than Heisenbergian uncertainty. This is the foundation of the Penrose-Hameroff theory of consciousness. However coherence is rare and very brief in biological systems, because molecular ‘noise’ in living cells tends to destroy the coherence very quickly. Furthermore, there is no evidence that such quantum processes are involved in neuron-to-neuron communication or brain function.

    Another obscure concept from theoretical quantum physics that paranormal advocates use to argue the existence of ghosts and spirits is quantum holography. The basic idea of the quantum holographic principle is that the information in the 3d universe is contained in its 2d boundary. Paranormal advocates take this *metaphorical* idea and distort it by saying that quantum holography is the quantum physics equivalent of the Akashic record, i.e. a record of the entire history of every macroscopic object in the universe. Once such an idea is accepted, it is very easy to believe that ghosts and spirits are examples of such quantum holograms. However the concept of the quantum hologram has nothing to do with understanding consciousness; perception is not holographic and there is no scientific evidence that physical objects leave behind a holographic record of their existence.

  • NoetPoet Jan 13, 2014

    Myth 7: Quantum physics allows for the existence of ghosts and other non-corporeal entities (part 4 of 6)

    Paranormal advocates who don’t understand quantum physics (or rather, don’t dare to pretend to) might appeal to outdated and discredited physics to rationalise the existence of ghosts and spirits. The most popular discredited physics idea for such people is that of a light-propagating medium called the aether: although the aether concept was discredited over 100 years ago, some paranormal advocates continue to insist that physicists were wrong to discard it, and that ghosts are made of this “aetheric” substance. They make these assertions without any compelling scientific evidence, and despite the fact that the concept of an aether contradicts the last century or so of developments in physics. Other paranormal advocates may be even more imaginative and not constrain themselves to physics past or present, but simply invent their own scientific justifications from whole cloth: for example, they might say that ghosts and spirits are localised distortions of the laws of probability (i.e. areas where outcomes happen more often that probability suggests they should), even though such ideas have no evidence or plausible proposed mechanism to support them whatsoever.

    Given that quantum physics and relativity provide no actual evidence for the existence of ghosts and spirits, it is not surprising that paranormal advocates have thus far been have not even been able to agree on a scientifically testable definition these phenomena. They have not even come to a clear consensus on what ghosts are supposed to be made of. Belief in ghosts and spirits is subject to a problem similar to the God of the Gaps, which I call the “Ghost of the Gaps”: as scientific knowledge advances, previously plausible explanations for how ghosts and spirits could exist are discredited, and newer more exotic explanations must be sought until they too are discredited by science.

  • NoetPoet Jan 13, 2014

    Myth 7: Quantum physics allows for the existence of ghosts and other non-corporeal entities (part 5 of 6)

    Although there is no scientific evidence or support for the existence of ghosts and spirits, many people report encountering them. If there are so many encounters with spirits and ghosts, then surely there must be a scientific basis for them? Actually there are many scientifically plausible explanations for alleged ghost and spirit encounters which need to be ruled out before we can seriously consider the possibility that an actual ghost or spirit was involved. These can include:

    • Vivid dreams
    • Hallucinations triggered by mind-altering drugs, near-sleep states of consciousness (hypnogogia and hypnopompia), physical or emotional stress, or neurological issues
    • Apophenia (perceiving patterns that aren’t really there), particularly a type of apophenia called pareidolia (perceiving significance in vague or random stimuli). These can occur with visual stimuli (e.g. seeing ghostly figures), audial stimuli (e.g. the Electronic Voice Phenomenon, or EVP) and other types of stimuli.
    • Misperception of sounds, as human ears are not very good at sensing what direction a sound came from (e.g. alleged encounters with Poltergeists)
    • Hoaxes and pranks
    • Camera issues (e.g. technical glitches, bugs or crud on lenses, overexposure, vapour or smoke condensation on the lens, reflections of the camera’s flash or other source of light) in cases involving photos or videos of ghosts and spirits
    • Infrasonic waves which are undetectable to human ears, have a variety of causes (e.g. fans), and can have a variety of unusual effects on people (e.g. causing one’s eyeballs to vibrate thus creating the visual impression of moving ghostly mists)
    • Drafts (e.g. alleged encounter with Poltergeists)
    • Old creaky structures being hit by gusts of wind or contracting in falling temperatures
    • Small objects trapped in spider webs, giving the impression that they are levitating
    • Faulty electronic devices
    • Normal mechanisms within electronic devices (e.g. mobile phones suddenly lighting up because they’re doing a routine network update)
    • Interference from other broadcasts (EVP).

  • NoetPoet Jan 13, 2014

    Myth 7: Quantum physics allows for the existence of ghosts and other non-corporeal entities (part 6 of 6)

    All alleged ghost encounters so far have either been shown to be due to non-paranormal causes such as those described above, or are inconclusive at best. Paranormal advocates might say that the paranormal were deemed inconclusive precisely because they really did involve ghosts or spirits. However, inconclusive cases tend to be inconclusive simply because the available information very vague, and it is just as easy (and indeed more plausible) for a sceptic to say that such cases are the intentional or unintentional product of someone’s imagination.

    Paranormal advocates might also say that the absence of credible evidence for ghosts and spirits is not evidence of their non-existence, and technically they would be correct. But this cuts both ways: lack of conclusive evidence for the non-existence of something is not evidence of its existence either. It’s like an experienced mechanic saying that even though every car they’ve ever inspected has been powered by an engine, the fact that they haven’t looked under the hood of every single car in the world means that it’s possible that some cars on the road are actually powered by the people inside them running Flintstones-style. Despite the fact every new car the mechanic inspects also turns out to be powered by an engine, and that the probability of foot-powered cars actually existing is virtually zero (based on past car inspections)*and falling* with every new car inspection, the mechanic stubbornly holds onto the belief that there must be at least some leg-powered cars out there on the road. Whether its ghosts or Flintstones foot-cars, it makes more logical sense to *not* believe in such things until compelling evidence in their favour emerges, rather than to believe in such things when there is no *actual*credible evidence of their existence whatsoever.

    Like the Law of Attraction and synchronicity, ghosts and spirits are illusory phenomena and do not require quantum physics to explain them. They can be adequately explained by psychology, (standard) neurology, and natural phenomena which are well known to chemistry and classical physics.

  • NoetPoet Jan 10, 2014

    That idea is found in The Secret, in the Quantum Jumping fad, and in the writings of a certain world-famous self-help guru of sub-continental origin (whose name I don't feel entirely comfortable specifying on this particular forum in this particular context). There are other examples out there which don't require much effort to find, and the idea is also regularly espoused by various posters on this forum.

  • Anonymous Icon

    YoungThinker Jan 09, 2014

    Could you point to a specific place where an individual tries to make the argument that quantum physics directly creates and shapes reality? Purely out of curiosity, I would like to see how that stretch was made..?

  • NoetPoet Jan 08, 2014

    Myth 6: Quantum physics supports the “Law of Attraction” (part 1 of 4)

    The Law of Attraction says that people attract certain situations into their lives just by thinking about them. This belief is based upon the idea that people and their thoughts are both made from pure energy, and the belief that like energy attracts like energy. The Law of Attraction essentially says that the universe is a great big wish granting machine.

    The Law of Attraction has been proposed in New Thought, New Age and Pseudoscientific circles since the dawn of the 20th century. In recent decades, proponents of the Law of Attraction have attempted to make it seem more respectable by asserting that it has it has a scientific basis in quantum physics (e.g. by saying that thoughts have energy fields that vibrate with a frequency that attracts like-energy from the universe because of the observer effect, wave-particle duality and quantum entanglement). Such an approach was taken by the international hit self-help movie and book “The Secret”, which bought the Law of Attraction to new levels of popularity in the mid-2000s.

    We’ve already seen that quantum physics does not, and was never meant to, apply to the macroscopic world of everyday life (Myth 1); that quantum physics provides no valid basis for paranormal abilities (Myth 2); and that quantum physics does not support the idea that the mind can directly create and shape reality (Myth 4). So haven’t we basically covered the Law of Attraction already? Yes, but there are two reasons why it nevertheless deserves a Myth of its own:

    1) The Law of Attraction has become particularly popular idea in the global public consciousness over the past few years thanks to The Secret; and

    2) Closer investigation of the Law of Attraction yields some surprising and useful benefits.

  • NoetPoet Jan 08, 2014

    Myth 6: Quantum physics supports the “Law of Attraction” (part 2 of 4)

    For one thing, the Law of Attraction is a textbook example of an unscientific idea. This is primarily because there is no way to set up a test that could categorically disprove the Law of Attraction if it is in fact false: if you wished for something and didn’t get it then it’s either because you didn’t wish hard enough, or more people wished for the opposite thing, or because you didn’t really want what you were wishing for anyway! Moreover, people who believe that they have had success with the Law of Attraction are more likely to report their success than those who had no success are likely to report/admit their lack of success. In other words the Law of Attraction is prone to confirmation bias, particularly at the group level.

    The Law of Attraction doesn’t even meet the most basic requirement of a scientific idea, that of internal logical consistency. According to the Law of Attraction, the universe will give you what you think about, even if what you think about is something negative that you *don’t* want. But this overlooks the fact that wishing *for* something is often the same as wishing *against* something else. For example if a person decides they want to be vegetarian, does the universe then offer them vegetarian meals or, because vegetarianism is based on avoiding meat, does the universe offer them nothing but meat dishes? And let’s say that person’s partner doesn’t want them going vegetarian because the partner things vegetarian diets are unhealthy; does the universe then grant the person their wish for/ their partner’s wish against vegetarian food, or does the universe grant the person their wish against/their partner’s wish for meat?

    Not only is the Law of Attraction unscientific, but it also has dubious moral implications. Are starving people in Africa starving because they wished it upon themselves? Did something tragic happen to you or someone you care about because you wished it into reality? There is only a small logical leap from “the universe is a wish granting machine” to “everyone who is suffering terrible misfortune deserves it because they actually bought it upon themselves.”

  • NoetPoet Jan 08, 2014

    Myth 6: Quantum physics supports the “Law of Attraction” (part 3 of 4)

    However, all these problems with the Law of Attraction can be solved or negated if we take a more sensible nuanced view of how our thinking affects our reality. We can start with the common-sense notion that other factors independent which are completely independent of our minds can also influence our reality. Once we accept this, we can then remind ourselves that how we perceive events is as important as the actual events themselves in terms of shaping our *experience of* reality. We then acknowledge that our thoughts can only influence our world indirectly, by influencing our perceptions and actions. While this might not sound as cool as the (baseless) idea of influencing reality with your thoughts directly, the implications are actually quite impressive when you consider that: 1) our thoughts are *continuously* influencing our perceptions and actions, even if sometimes only in subtle ways (e.g. the facial expressions we wear around other people); and 2) even the subtle effects of this continuous influence on action and perception can have large and self-reinforcing effects on our life in the long term (e.g. if you’re the kind of person who smiles a lot, people are more inclined to talk to you and you are thus more likely to make new friends).

    Depression is a particularly instructive example of these effects. Someone who is depressed is less likely to try new things and go meet new people, thus they become increasingly miserable and isolated over time, which in turn reinforces their tendency to have a pessimistic perception of life, which in turn continues to prevent them from getting out more often, and on the cycle goes.

    It is actually very difficult to stop your thoughts from indirectly affecting reality via your perceptions and actions - even thoughts that are nothing more than fantasies. Consider a person who is a big fan of Superman: they would love to have Superman’s powers and heroism, but of course Superman’s powers are impossible, and acts of heroism are very risky if you don’t have Superman’s powers. So how does the mind of the Superman fan shape the fan’s reality? By encouraging the fan to do the next best thing to being Superman, which is to live Superman’s life vicariously by obsessively reading Superman comics. The mind of the Superman fan – like your own mind – works out how to best satisfy its fantasies in a way that minimises the perceived risk and effort involved in satisfying them; thus the fan spends an inordinate amount of time reading comic books.

  • NoetPoet Jan 08, 2014

    Myth 6: Quantum physics supports the “Law of Attraction” (part 4 of 4)

    The real secret to the Law of Attraction is twofold. Firstly, thinking about a wish will compel you to take action to realize that wish, whether you are conscious of it or not. The more you think about and visualize it, the more likely you are to alter your actions accordingly. Secondly, if you focus on a wish enough and think about it in detail, there’s a good chance that you’ll start to ask yourself *why* you have that wish, and thus realize that you don’t need to realize your particular wish in order to get what you really want. For example, someone who applies the Law of Attraction by wishing for a Porsche may be prompted to think about why they want the Porsche, and realize that part of the reason is that they think having a Porsche will bolster their sense of self-worth. Seeing that it is silly to base one’s sense of self-worth on flashy possessions, the person decides to get a cheaper car which offers better value for money instead, and thus ends up with both a good car and personal growth. Has the Law of Attraction worked in this case? If we remember that the mind finds the most efficient way to realize its wishes (in terms of perceived effort and risk vs reward), then we can make a strong case that it has actually worked.

    We can say that it’s worked because the Law of Attraction is what I like to call an “Expedient Truth”. An Expedient Truth is a proposition which is primarily designed as a means to an end. That end is typically a desired change in people’s attitudes and behaviours. Unlike scientific truths, Expedient Truths are not really concerned with factual accuracy: the proposition of the Expedient Truth only has to be *plausible enough* for its intended audience to believe it. Take for example an NFL player who believes he has to wear a certain pair of “lucky underpants” for his team to win. If he doesn’t wear his lucky underpants then he will be distracted by the fact that he is not wearing his lucky underpants, thus he won’t perform at his best, and thus his team will indeed be more likely to lose; if he does wear them then he feels reassured and focused, plays his best game, and increases his team’s chances of winning. Most magical and religious “truths” are Expedient Truths, and the scientific insistence on factual accuracy often threatens the efficacy of these Expedient Truths (hence the frequent animosity towards science, particularly from religious groups).

    In any case the Law of Attraction is not, and does not need to be explained by quantum physics. Rather, the Law of Attraction works on based on principles found in applied psychology, sociology, and systems theory.

  • Anonymous Icon

    RealityOverScience Jan 07, 2014

    The Universe is multidimensional and events are not isolated.

    There are other ways to know/realize what's going on in that box, other than opening the lid. The Universe is not dependent upon humans to do what it does, or be what it is. Multidimensional language and mathematics, etc., would "tell on" what is happening, or what has happened, in that box, because everything is connected with, and effected by, everything else. So the physics of inside that box would be found in the physics of whatever else you explored, for the answer.

    As I wrote in the Consciousness 101 thread, the Universe "follows you," and all events, through life, relentlessly keeping up with you/them at every moment, inescapably. With the tiniest expressed or unexpressed thought, feeling, action, etc., it is ...already... there, reflectively.

    If your relative, friend, colleague or acquaintance lived on the other side of the world from you, or on another planet, you could know what she or he is not only doing, but also what she or he is thinking or feeling, without picking up a phone, or traveling there, if you know how to process the reality of multidimensionally, which provides a direct experience through higher physics/Consciousness.

    "Probability" is wrong, because it is only incomplete by unconscious conventional processing/reasoning, but with higher Consciousness/Enlightenment, those issues are easily resolved.

  • NoetPoet Jan 07, 2014

    Myth 5: The cat is both dead and alive until someone opens the box

    If you’ve ever even glanced at quantum physics, then chances are you’ve encountered Schrödinger's Cat. Devised by early 20th century physicist Erwin Schrödinger, Schrödinger’s Cat is a famous thought experiment which was actually designed by Schrodinger to show how nonsensical it is to apply the principles of quantum physics to everyday objects (see Myth 1). More specifically, Schrodinger devised this thought experiment as a Reductio ad absurdum-style critique of the most popular interpretation of quantum physics at the time, known as the Copenhagen Interpretation. (Reductio ad absurdum is a form of argument which tries to show how ridiculous results follow from accepting that a particular claim is either true or false.)

    The Schrodinger’s Cat thought experiment involves putting a cat in a box with a sealed vial of poison, plus a mechanism which will break open the vial –thus killing the cat - if a nuclear decay emission from a radioactive sample located within the mechanism is detected. The experiment is run for the half-life of the radioactive sample, so that there is an equal chance of there being a radioactive emission or not (and thus a 50/50 chance of the cat being dead or alive at the end of the experiment). However (according to the Copenhagen interpretation), until the event is observed no one knows whether the cat is dead or alive. Since the nuclear decay is a quantum event and can exist as a superposition of two quantum states, the cat can also be said to be said to be in a “superposition” of states, i.e. alive and dead at the same time.

    Despite Schrodinger’s original intention many people have nevertheless taken Schrodinger’s Cat at face value, believing that the cat can actually both be dead and alive at the same according to quantum physics. However the cat can only really be regarded as dead AND alive in a probabilistic sense. Schrodinger’s Cat is intended to get people thinking about what constitutes an observer which can collapse a wave function, with the implication that the cat and even the mechanism itself can qualify as an observer (see Myth 2). When billions of subatomic particles combine to form a macroscopic object, quantum phenomena essentially disappear, because they all “observe” each other and continually collapsing each other’s' wave functions. So in reality the cat will be either dead OR alive well before a person opens the box to check.

  • NoetPoet Jan 05, 2014

    Myth 4: Quantum physics proves that the mind directly creates and shapes reality

    This is surely the most popular myth about quantum physics, because who *wouldn’t* want to be able to manipulate the world around them without even lifting a finger or opening their mouth? This particular myth is based on a misunderstanding of the quantum physical process known as “collapsing the wave function”.

    According to quantum physics, we can only describe the *probability* that a subatomic particle (e.g. a photon or an electron) will be in a specific place at any moment. That probability is called the “wave function”. In other words, the wave function is simply a mathematical object used to calculate probabilities of where a particle *could* be. When particles are not interacting with other matter, they tend to behave like waves (as shown by the double slit experiments, which will be discussed in Myth 9). But when a subatomic particle interacts with other stuff, the probabilistic wave function “collapses down” to a particular point and is thus observed as a particle.

    However this “collapse” only requires interaction with other stuff. To put it another way, other stuff can qualify as a quantum “observer” even if it’s not conscious or alive. For example, when a photon from the sun strikes the earth, it collapses into a particle. Even if the observer is conscious, quantum physics is quite clear that he/she cannot control or manipulate outcomes by choice or thought. The observer merely triggers probable outcome to become an actual reality; the particular outcome is “chosen” randomly by nature.

    Even if the observer *did* have to be conscious, this would introduce a major new problem of figuring out what constitutes consciousness. Are animals or supercomputers conscious? How would we know one way or the other?

    Like synchronicity, the idea of the mind shaping reality can be explained without resorting to quantum physics. The mind indirectly shapes our physical objective world by shaping our words and actions, which in turn shape the physical objective world around us. However there are other factors that shape the physical objective world which have nothing to do with human though. The mind can also directly shape one’s own subjective experience of reality via hallucinations, dreams, and selective perception. However this kind of shaping is usually beyond our conscious control, and often produces dangerous and maladaptive incompatibilities with our external realities. Both the indirect objective and direct subjective shaping of reality by our minds is most impressive when it is sustained over a long period of time and when it involves multiple participants.

  • NoetPoet Jan 04, 2014

    Myth 3: Quantum physics explains synchronicity (part 1 of 2)

    Synchronicity is when two or more events seem to be meaningfully related despite the lack of any apparent cause-effect relationship between them. The concept of synchronicity was first proposed by Carl Jung in the 1920s. Jung variously described synchronicity as an "acausal connecting principle", "meaningful coincidence" and "acausal parallelism". He believed that there were parallels between synchronicity and certain aspects of quantum mechanics, particularly quantum entanglement and the role of an observer in collapsing wave functions (more on that later). Since then, proponents of New Age and pseudoscientific thought have frequently asserted that quantum entanglement and the observer effect both prove, and provide the underlying mechanism for synchronicity.

    We already saw in Myth 2 that quantum entanglement only works at the microscopic level, that it can only occur between particles that have interacted or been generated together, and that it naturally unravels in a process called quantum decoherence. So it is quite clear that quantum entanglement can neither provide the underlying mechanism for, nor be connected in any significant way to synchronicity. On its own, the observer effect cannot be construed as underlying or connected to synchronicity because it doesn’t actually provide any “acausal connecting principle” (unless we choose to retreat into a narcissistic delusion of solipsism). To make matters worse for the New Agers and pseudoscience advocates, randomness and uncertainty abound in quantum physics, and it is thus very easy to regard quantum physics as being*antithetical* to synchronicity.

    And yet, so many people will swear that they have experience synchronicity in their own lives. So if synchronicity is *at best* unsupported by quantum physics, then how do we explain it? As a matter of fact, synchronicity is quite easy to explain without quantum physics. The key to understanding synchronicity lies not in physics but in psychology, and particularly in a psychological phenomenon called “apophenia”. Apophenia is the spontaneous perception of connections and meaningfulness of unrelated phenomena. Apophenia is closely related to creative ability, and it is very likely that Jung himself had it. The movie “A Beautiful Mind”, based on the life of John Nash, provides an excellent illustration of apophenia in action: Nash is convinced that he can see patterns in the movements of pigeons foraging on the ground and secret messages encoded in multiple unrelated newspaper articles. Research indicates that high levels of dopamine affect the propensity for apophenia, and that this propensity is related to a tendency to believe in the paranormal. Apophenia also tends to be associated with deep-seated narcissism and a yearning for meaning and significance.

  • NoetPoet Jan 04, 2014

    Myth 3: Quantum physics explains synchronicity (part 2 of 2)

    Cases of synchronicity can also be at least partly explained by selective perception and appreciation of certain improbable events. Given that you have hundreds of different experiences every day, two or more of them are bound by sheer chance to coincide in a seemingly uncanny way every now and then. We remember the handful of these uncanny coincidences and call them “synchronicities” precisely because they seem so extraordinary, yet we mostly forget the countless millions of other events in our lives which do not seem to coincide in any remarkable way.
    People who exhibit apophenia tend to assign meaning to particular events retrospectively and arbitrarily, yet such is the ambiguous nature of synchronicity that no one can judge or interpret the supposed meaning of an event except the person who claims to experience the synchronicity. For example, a person might buy a winning lottery ticket one day and then later recall how they saw a cloud that looked like a dollar sign earlier that day, and thus call it a synchronicity; or the same person might instead find out that they owe the taxman thousands of dollars in unpaid taxes on the same day, and then recall how they saw a cloud that looked like a dollar sign dissipating in the sky earlier that day, and also call it a synchronicity.

    Cases of synchronicity can also be caused by putting yourself in situations where events that seem remarkable to you are more likely to happen anyway. For example, think of two people who both have a long held interest in Eastern mysticism and frequent the same Eastern mysticism forum. One day one of those people mentions that they are reading such-and-such obscure Eastern mystical text, and the second person says that they too have also been reading the same text. Both are amazed, and agree that it must be a case of synchronicity! But it’s not synchronicity; rather it’s a case of two like-minded people whose thinking processes have, through regular and ordinary means of interaction, become so similar that it would actually be more extraordinary if they were *not* reading the same obscure text at approximately the same time.

  • Anonymous Icon

    RealityOverScience Jan 04, 2014

    To *experience* quantum entanglement/spooky action ...directly... for yourself, go to the Consciousness 101 thread and actually *do the work,* beginning with the mother analogy.

    Do enough of that *work* and you'll realize the reality of telepathy.

    Not *doing the work* is convention. Trying to TELL it what it "has to" be, based on convention, is conventional "science," which has inadvertently founded itself upon conventional logic/reasoning. Universal Truth requires that one ASK!

    How does one ASK? *Do the work!"

    "New Age" is simply a garlic-to-dracula label convention puts on energy revisiting the suggestion of higher truth/Consciousness/Enlightenment, as it wards off redirection toward Awakening.

  • NoetPoet Jan 03, 2014

    Myth 2: Quantum entanglement is the key to telepathy, instantaneous communication and instant teleportation to anywhere in the cosmos (part 3 of 3)

    3) Quantum entanglement can only occur between particles that have interacted with or been generated together. This means that there is absolutely no chance of quantum entanglement-based telepathy between individuals unless they shared the same brain at some point and then somehow split into two separate but whole people. Even then, quantum decoherence would inevitably set in and the two ‘clones’ would lose their telepathic bond over time.

    4) We don’t need to resort to quantum physics to explain alleged instances of telepathy. Alleged instances of telepathy can be adequately explained as being due to either cold reading; lucky/educated guesses; stage magic; using subliminal but mundane means to plant a thought suggestion in a person’s mind before “reading” their mind; or, like the best friends from point 1, two or more people spending a lot of time with one and other, sharing the same interests, and therefore developing the same values, attitudes, and thinking patterns.

  • NoetPoet Jan 03, 2014

    Myth 2: Quantum entanglement is the key to telepathy, instantaneous communication and instant teleportation to anywhere in the cosmos (part 2 of 3)

    Nevertheless, surely such an impressive phenomenon can be used as a means of faster-than-light communication, or even as a way to teleport instantly to any part of the universe? Maybe quantum entanglement even holds the key to telepathy? Well, not really. There are a few problems standing in the way:

    1) While New Age and pseudoscience advocates love to talk about quantum entanglement, they are very quiet on the related concept of “quantum decoherence”. When entangled particles go their separate ways, they tend to lose their entanglement over time as they each interact with other particles. In other words, they undergo quantum decoherence. It’s kind of like what happens when best friends from high school move to different parts of the country to study different degrees after graduation: while they may have shared the same thinking, values, and interests in high school, over time they become less alike because they lose contact with each other and form new relationships with different sets of people. Quantum decoherence is continually occurring throughout the universe, and is extremely difficult to prevent even for one pair of entangled particles. In fact quantum decoherence is a major obstacle in the development of quantum computers, and it would be a truly monumental obstacle in any attempt to develop a quantum entanglement-based teleportation device.

    2) Although you can do some things to one entangled particle to try to cause a change in its partner particle, you can't use this (by itself) to send information from one particle to another because it is only possible to control how likely the change will happen. Changing one particle may change its partner particle, but you cannot guarantee exactly which way you will influence them. Thus it is not possible to use quantum entanglement alone to send messages.

    Also, without sending information about the partner particle, there's no way to tell if a given particle is single or half of an entangled pair. With no outside information, a single particle is completely like any other. It's only when you can receive information about the other particle that you will be able to figure out if your particle is one part of an entangled pair. Consequently, you can’t use entanglement to send information faster than the speed of light because you would need another faster than light communicator to send information about the other particle.

  • NoetPoet Jan 03, 2014

    Myth 2: Quantum entanglement is the key to telepathy, instantaneous communication and instant teleportation to anywhere in the cosmos (part 1 of 3)

    One concept which New Age and pseudoscience types really like to borrow from quantum physics is “quantum entanglement”. Quantum entanglement describes an unusual phenomenon observed at the *microscopic* level of reality (see Myth 1) in which pairs or groups of particles are generated or interact in ways such that the quantum state of each member must subsequently be described relative to the other.

    This means that when a measurement is made on one member of an entangled pair of particles, and the outcome is known (e.g., clockwise spin of an electron), then when the other member of the pair is subsequently measured it is found to have taken the appropriately correlated value (e.g., counterclockwise spin). There is thus a correlation between the results of measurements performed on entangled pairs, and this correlation is observed even though the entangled pair may be separated by large distances. Repeated experiments have verified that this works even when the measurements are performed more quickly than light could travel between the sites of measurement: according to quantum theory, the effect of measurement happens instantly. Entanglement has been demonstrated experimentally with photons, electrons, molecules the size of buckyballs, and even small diamonds.

    Sounds pretty extraordinary, don’t you think? Einstein certainly did, which is why he called quantum entanglement “spooky action at a distance”. What you might not know is that Einstein didn’t mean this as a compliment – he disliked the concept of quantum entanglement and believed that new variables would eventually be found to explain it.

  • Anonymous Icon

    RealityOverScience Jan 03, 2014

    There is one Universal Physics Reality at the Core that applies to all. Everything else is just labels that humans invent, like temporary houses of straw serving as focus points while folks grow beyond themselves.

    Quantum physics is one of those houses of straw, a gathering place to *work* on "where" people are in their current era of understanding.

    Micro and macro inescapably SHARE the very same physics dynamics at the Core. To realize this, one must genuinely *experience* (live, Be, behave, identify with) Balanced Reality.

    ...great great grandmother, great grandmother, grandmother, mother...

    Reality, Truth, is not chopped up, disjointed, but rather all inclusively shared.

    Telepathy, btw, is shared awareness on such an extraordinary level of direct experience that, as the movie Contact so accurately expresses, there are "no words, no words...poetry!" At that level, it is Energy that is being Shared on such a Profound Level that language and labels can't *go there!*

    Much of what is passed around as evidence of disjointedness is coming from unconscious folks/scientists who have not a clue about higher Consciousness.

    Atoms, subatomic particles/waves, etc., share your very own physics with you, at the Core.

  • NoetPoet Jan 03, 2014

    Myth 1: The principles of quantum physics apply at the everyday “macro” level of reality

    Let me start by saying that these myths are numbered according to the order in which I thought of them. However it makes sense that I would think of this particular myth first, because this myth underlies all of the other 9 myths in my list.

    Experiments carried out in the 17th and 18th centuries (including the famous “double-slit” experiment), had led physicists of the 19th century to agree that light consisted of waves rather than particles. However, this wave theory of light could not account for observations of radiation from “black bodies” (opaque and non-reflective objects). In 1900 Max Planck proposed the quantum hypothesis, which says that electromagnetic energy is radiated and absorbed in discrete "quanta", later called “photons”. The formula Planck proposed in his quantum hypothesis precisely matched experimentally observed patterns of black-body radiation. Planck's formula assumed that molecules could not take on any possible level of energy, but only certain special "allowed" values. The energy would have to be proportional to the frequency of vibration, and it seemed to come in little packets (“quanta”) of the frequency multiplied by a certain constant. This constant came to be known as Planck's constant. With Planck’s hypothesis, quantum physics was born.

    From its very beginning, quantum physics was exclusively concerned with understanding phenomena found at the “microscopic” level of reality (i.e. molecules, atoms, sub-atomic particles), as opposed to the “macroscopic” level of reality which is the everyday level of reality that we are most familiar with. Classical physics, also known as Newtonian physics, still has the best explanatory power for macro-level phenomena, and is still universally used by scientists and non-scientists alike to understand and work with phenomena found in everyday life. “Weird” quantum effects at the microscopic level of reality either average / cancel out at the macroscopic level, or result from macroscopic beings (humans) trying to investigate a microscopic level of reality which by its very nature is highly sensitive to interference.

  • mrmathew1963 Jan 02, 2014



    Extract: This article addresses and attempts to refute several of the most widespread and enduring misconceptions held by students regarding the enterprise of science. The ten myths discussed include the common notions that theories become laws, that hypotheses are best characterized as educated guesses, and that there is a commonly-applied scientific method. In addition, the article includes discussion of other incorrect ideas such as the view that evidence leads to sure knowledge, that science and its methods provide absolute proof, and that science is not a creative endeavor. Finally, the myths that scientists are objective, that experiments are the sole route to scientific knowledge and that scientific conclusions are continually reviewed conclude this presentation. The paper ends with a plea that instruction in and opportunities to experience the nature of science are vital in preservice and inservice teacher education programs to help unseat the myths of science.

    Point taken!!! The last link is worth a read.

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