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Quantum And Consciousness - Gah!

01/25/08

  03:05:38 am, by Nimble   , 602 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Common Sense, Science

Quantum And Consciousness - Gah!

If discoveries with the advance of time have taught us anything, it's that despite how special humans are, we have been removed from occupying front and center stage of the entire universe. The corollary of this is that if you look into the universe and see something pointing right back at you, you should double-check your work.

It seems, though, that wherever we have anything for which we lack all the details, and one of those things involves humans, someone is trying to tie them together. It's Human Chauvinism of the Gaps, and it often travels under some respectable cover.

Quantum physics and consciousness are two of the most popular things to tie together. Well, popular with physicists and mathematicians, anyhow; consciousness always seems more tractable to working biologists without as much need for quantum woo.

It looks like we're still rehashing the god-awful Copenhagen Interpretation, at least the version of it where the observations that collapse quantum wave functions come back to somehow relying on human consciousness. If you have instruments to measure things, it seems that it must be the act of a human taking those readings that causes the instruments to have collapsed on the correct observations. It even extends so far as the "Honey, I Doomed the Universe" scenario:

These measurements might have reset the decay clock of the "false vacuum" back to zero, back before the switching point and to a time when the risk of catastrophic decay was greater than now, said Mr Dent and Mr Krauss.

"Incredible as it seems, our detection of the dark energy may have reduced the life expectancy of the universe," said Mr Krauss.

"We may have snatched away the possibility of long-term survival for our universe and made it more likely it will decay."

Who knew that human observation could have such power?

My prediction: it doesn't. We are not the quantum superposition-collapsing observation power in the universe.

Perhaps decoherence is actually the real, not just an apparent, collapse of the waveform, or perhaps we will find something else. Certainly, this undercurrent of beams-of-waveform-collapsing-radiation (such as it were) pouring out of our eyes is borderline lunacy.

Despite all the stars, I think I'm going to find the book Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness really, really annoying. Right on page four, in the excerpt, the inserted parenthetical which grates me like sandpaper:

Quantum mechanics challenges each of these intuitions by having (conscious) observation actually *create* the physical reality observed.

Quantum mechanics is counterintuitive, it's an extraordinarily accurate model, albeit a statistical one*, and it's very cool.

(*Most systems that are described in statistics are presumed to be composed of 'real' events. There are some interesting limitations on providing underlying 'real' events in quantum mechanics, though, including Bell's theorem, which means that there can't be anything hiding in the system at or below the speed of light)

Save me, though, from quantum woo.

I suppose there are still many, many fans of the dualistic brain - that there is somehow a "mind" floating out there with a separate existence interacting with the brain, driving our bodies around like bulldozers.

Having discovered that there is no bridge to this ethereal mind through the pineal gland (in Descarte's view, the "seat of the soul") and the effects of chemicals and physical injury on the personality of this purportedly independent interface, the science-driven fans of the dualistic brain are content to cast the mind's net over the brain in terms of "mysterious quantum interactions".

Oops - my wife observed me and collapsed my waveform into the state of having finished this post. I guess that means bedtime :)

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