Ming the Mechanic:
Quantum Physics and Elections

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 Quantum Physics and Elections2004-12-08 16:59
24 comments
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This article by Paul Levy is supposedly about Quantum Physics and the 2004 U.S. Election. Well, it doesn't actually say much about elections other than at the end, essentially that what actually happened depends on how you look at it. You know, Heisenberg's Uncertainty Theorem. And that the past really is created from the present by how we look at it, so it is somewhat meaningless to talk about what exactly it was. Actually I mostly agree. That is, I agree largely with the cosmology that he presents. He invokes various luminary quantum physicists like John Wheeler, the guy who came up with the idea of the black hole.
The quantum universe is one which pulsates in and out of the void multiple times every nano-second, endlessly recreating itself anew. Each moment brings with it a potentially new past, which we are the ‘builders’ of in the present moment. In this present moment right now there are endless possibilities, it is an infinitely textured moment in time seething with unmanifested potential. In the future, when we consider this multi-dimensional moment we are in now, we will probably focus our attention and only remember a certain slice or aspect of this very moment, solidifying it in time, and this will be our ‘memory’ of that seemingly past event. And yet, by the way we remember this present moment in the future will have an actual effect on the way that moment in the future manifests. So on the one hand, the way we contemplate the past has a creative effect on how the present moment manifests.

What Wheeler is pointing out through the delayed choice experiment, though, is that the past doesn’t actually exist in a solid and objective way that causes or determines our present moment experience like is imagined by classical physics. Rather, he is saying our situation is just the opposite. He is saying that by the way we observe in this present moment we actually reach back into time and create the past. It is not just the future that’s undetermined, but the past as well; just as there are ‘probable’ futures there are ‘probable’ pasts. Our present observations select one out of many possible quantum histories for the universe.

And I think he's right. But the trouble is that so many people, myself included, find the metaphors of quantum physics so inspiring and illuminating, without really having studied quantum physics. It seems to provide such a fabulous cosmology that backs up a new agey "we're creating the universe" view. And I guess it probably does. But it is mainly its metaphors that are inspiring, and it gets a little dangerous to actually invoke quantum physics for their support, when one doesn't really understand them. The trouble is that even though there are greatly respected theoretical physicists who advocate such a radical view of the universe, there are just as many, or more, scientists who consider it complete hogwash. Using quantum physics as a reference for these kinds of cosmologies, as applied to various aspects of every day life, just tends to make those guys really furious. Well, I think it is probably because they're wrong, and they're stuck in a fundamentalist materialist belief system that isn't going anywhere, and eventually our shared ideas about the world actually will catch up with quantum physics, as some of those guys die off, but it will take a while.

While looking around for references, I ran into the story about Alan Sokal, a physics professor who in 1996 carried out what he considered a hoax by getting an article submitted to a serious scientific journal, which he filled with what he considered unfounded nonsense like references to morphogenic fields a la Rupert Sheldrake, and applications of quantum physics to politics. And it created quite a scandal when he later revealed that he did it to see how easily one could fool people by referring to a lot of authorities and by saying post-modern stuff that people would like to hear, without any kind of scientific rigor. So he complained that he was able to get away with publishing an article that wasn't properly peer reviewed and that didn't argue properly for its points. Actually, the crux of the matter seems to be that Sokal believes in one finite objective reality, so therefore he consideres all other views unscientific, and he tried to prove that point by satirizing them. Much of what he was saying, and which he himself considered utterly ridiculous, had been said before by much more respected scientists than himself, like Bohr and Einstein and Wheeler. See here. Some of whom went a good deal further in relating theoretical physics concepts to sociology, psychology and politics.

Maybe the joke is that mutually exclusive views on the world can all be right, because you do essentially get back what you start off trying to prove. So fundamentalist materialist scientists can proceed to stack up more proof for the world being essentially newtonian and objective, and that all the weird stuff like relativity and quantum uncertainty and 12 dimensional space just applies to some remote circumstances and have nothing whatsoever to do with us, and it is all just a theory anyway. And, well, more free-thinking scientists might arrive at a very different world view where reality is fluid and greatly influenced by how we perceive it and think about it, and where wonderous things are possible. For the first group to consider themselves right, they have to consider the second group wrong, as there can only be one objective reality. Whereas the opposite isn't particularly the case. Anyway, I choose to bet on the models that explain the most possible phenomena in the world, rather than the models that have to suppress and ridicule all the stuff that just doesn't fit into them.

Anyway, back to Paul Levy's article.
In a circular, non-linear and acausal feedback loop, the past effects us in this present moment, while at the same time, in this present moment we effect the past. The way we observe the past in this present moment actually effects the past which simultaneously effects us in this present moment in what I call a ‘synchronistic, cybernetic feedback loop.’ The doorway is the present moment, which is the point where our power to shape reality is to be found. In quantum physics the universe wasn’t created billions of years ago in the big bang but rather is being created right now by what Wheeler refers to as "genesis by observership." The mystery of this universe doesn’t lie at some point way back in the past, but rather, right now, in this very living present moment.

This quantum perspective on the past arising or being conjured up out of and into the present moment collapses the sense of sequential time and linear causality. This points to the non-local nature of space and time, in that the past, present, and future completely interpenetrate and are inseparable from each other. In a bit of quantum weirdness, if we ask whether the universe really existed before we started looking at it, the answer we get from the universe is that it /looks/ as if it existed before we started looking at it.

Quantum physics is describing what I call the physics of the dreamlike nature of reality. Like a mass shared dream, we are all literally moment by moment calling forth and collaboratively ‘dreaming up’ this very universe into materialization. And dreams, by their very nature don’t exist in a ‘flat-land’ where they are fixed in meaning, but are extremely multi-dimensional. When we contemplate the past in this very moment, it has the same ontological status of and no more reality than a dream we had last night. Just like this present moment, when we contemplate it tomorrow, will in that present moment have no more reality than a figment of our imagination.

Might or might not be science mumbo-jumbo, according to hardcore skeptics, but who cares. I like it, and I'd say it pretty much works like that.

Doesn't mean we can't discover who won the U.S. election, though. Or maybe it is just that I prefer that we discover one alternate past, rather than the other.


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24 comments

9 Dec 2004 @ 05:46 by Ge Zi @24.127.146.67 : LAX
A very nice place to prove the quantum nature of the universe is Los Angeles and more specific LAX, just around this international airport. Being somewhere on north-west end of that airport from where planes usually land and seeing one of these clunks of metal hanging rather motionless in the air definitely makes you doubt the newtonian physics.
I have been convinced that a 747 would not have been able to fly 100 years ago. the physical laws at that time would simply not have allowed that. starting with the wright brothers these laws have started to slowly change.
one of the last events that made it very clear to me that physical laws are changing so that they say what we need was observing the first civilian space flight here in the mohave desert - what a big deal has it been to bring a space ship back without it burning up on re-entry, and there are still many who maintain these physical laws. But burt rutan with his space ship one has built more or less a bigger long ez with a rocket motor and no heat shields and has gone up to 100 km and back without burning up - Mr. Newton, explain that!  



9 Dec 2004 @ 15:08 by ming : Physical Laws
Yeah, I'm with you on that. Certain things just aren't possible before we've changed our minds enough to allow them to be. I'm still not sure how a 747 can fly, despite very reasonable explanations of aerodynamics, but since I've flown in one, I believe it. And now, here in Toulouse, AirBus is building the A380 which is even bigger, longer and heavier, with two floors of seats. Doesn't seem possible. But, hey, we're ready for it, I guess. And we weren't 100 years ago.  


1 Nov 2005 @ 06:03 by unknown @134.186.87.40 : discussion
I agree with you gentlements, but like the quote said, "If you believe it, anything is possible." We can revert the law of physics if we can and I believe that Albert Einstien would agree with me if he were alive at the current time.  


27 May 2006 @ 12:13 by doojie : Quantum Physics and elections
I'm reminded of Godel's incompleteness theorem here. Any sufficiently complex system, such as number theory, can never be completely described by a formal system. There will always exist truths that are niether provable nor unproveable. A more recent corollary is Chaitin's concept of Algorithm Information theory, stating basically that for every axiomatic system, there is an infinity of undecideable propositions.

Another aspect of Godel's theorem is that we can never demonstrate the truth of a complex system from within that system. This might explain why "reality" is perceived in a certain collective way, since the very act of accepting one version of reality creates the necessity of ignoring the infinity of undecideable propositions that exist within that reality. A shared view is comforting, and gives us a foundation to stand on. Alvin Toffler pointed out in "Future Shock" that religions or cults often form to keep out change brought on by technology and knowledge. A particular worldview reduces complex decisions significantly and creates a linear process from which we can derive our related truths.

Such processes also serve another purpose. By seeking a fixed reality, entropy in the form of complete randomness is avoided. By organizing our reality in a gradual learning process, we may not be as open to proper change, but we can adjust the pace of entropy in our mental lives. The "arrow of time" proceeds from order to randomness as we see it, because we simply "order" the past in our minds, even though we are reacting to a flow of events that could be random. From that "order" of the past flows our decisions to limit the options of the future in a linear fashion. But the mind is "informed" by seeming random events just as an organism is "informed" by a virus, which challenges the physical integrity of the organism. Sometimes the virus is not harmful, but has beneficial effects on the species. By indetifying the virus and successfully defending against it, the "intelligence" of the organism is enhanced because it now has a greater array of defense systems against a toxic environment. Once the virus is embedded in the cells' reproductive system, the organism alters its reproductive process to accomodate both the virus and the changing environment.

This same analogy might apply to time, entropy/information, and human minds.
As the gene pool resists change, the human mind resists change. We ignore the infinity of possibilities that exist in an axiomatic system, but there is always a "random" option that exists which allows us to cope with the changes we face. Existence seems to be a perpetual balance between randomness and order.  



20 Dec 2006 @ 21:43 by Seriously @68.106.88.30 : The World Is Flat eh?
Yeah... except that everyone believed the world was flat, then we went around it and OH NO!! ITS NOT FLAT!! Shit, our thoughts didn't change anything.  


20 Dec 2006 @ 21:56 by Seriously @68.106.88.30 : Ideas
Ideas and thoughts come from without. If anything is shaping reality it isn't ideas and thoughts for ideas and thoughts are shaped by what is already present and in existence, as well as internal emotional responses. The thinking capacity was developed to adapt and respond to the external. It is not thinking and belief that shapes reality (although it does shape individual, societal and moral realities by influencing what we create and observe, I will give you that), but what shapes the physical reality-if something can and does- is some form of being and conciousness which is somewhat seperate from and not the same as our thinking capacity.  


20 Dec 2006 @ 23:49 by ming : Ideas
That's an excellent control mechanism. Preaching that consciousness comes from the outside, from some big thing we're very separate from, and us here, we don't really exist. Some of us can then stand forward and claim that we're in contact with that which really exists, be it as scientists or priests, so that everybody else can suck up to us and try to get a little piece of the action.  


21 Dec 2006 @ 14:12 by Seriously @68.106.88.30 : Incorrect conception
Is conciousness really a by product of our mind or thinking? Do you act every day, do tons of things without ever being really concious of them? Isn't it only after you focus your attention and entire being on something that you are truly concious and aware? Think of everything you do and remember, you only remember those events which you are completely present. It isn't all in the mind my friend. I did not say that consciousness comes from the outside. I said that thoughts and thinking does. Spend a few months observing your thoughts and behavior and trying to figure out where they all come from. Nobody has to suck up to anyone, if they do they are just weak willed and not real people to begin with.  


21 Dec 2006 @ 14:51 by Seriously @68.106.88.30 : Control
In the world you propose, are you not just under the control of the mainstream and the direction of the majorities thoughts? Pretty much like society is right now... everyone is more or less under the control of the mainstream media which creates false identities and needs for individuals.

Just living in ideas one can quickly lose themself. Where are you going to get your imaginings for the world to begin with?  



29 Apr 2007 @ 07:13 by Chelsea Lynn @75.61.99.196 : Control
In the world he proposes, none is under the control of another or any "mainstream" because we are all supposed to create our own realities. Science, although catching up, is still far behind the Yogis of India who understand these things completely and put them to use by their control over reality and there performance of miracles. The problem with most people understanding this world, is that our ability to affect reality at our will is challenged by our lack of understanding and our lack of belief. The Yogis often work a lifetime to be able to live in the nature of true reality. So don't expect to be able to understand this stuff and make a quick judgement on it, because sorry, but for schleps like you and me and the rest of the majority of the world, these concepts are still (obviosly) just a bit out of our reach. And that is no fault of the true nature of reality. That is a fault of our lack to understand it for the past ten thousand years.  


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Other stories in
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2014-09-26 15:15: Brevity
2011-11-06 21:33: Counting what counts
2011-01-23 13:46: Authenticity
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