Quantum quackery

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Quantum quackery

#1  Postby HughMcB » Sep 21, 2010 5:09 pm

How to spot quantum quackery
Some argue that the same quantum processes seen in the universe around us have an effect on consciousness as well, but physicist Lawrence Krauss says that's highly debatable.
by Alan Boyle

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Can the weirdness of quantum mechanics make you well, or make you wealthy? Presentations ranging from "The Secret" to "What the Bleep Do We Know?" suggest that science allows you to capitalize on quantum possibilities, but theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss says it's just a load of bleep.

Krauss has dealt with factual and fictional weirdness for decades — as the author of "The Physics of Star Trek," as the head of Arizona State University's Origins Project, and as the author of a "Quantum Man," a soon-to-be-published biography of pioneering physicist Richard Feynman.

"I begin the book with a quote from Feynman that says, 'Reality takes precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled,'" he told me. "I think the point is that Feynman realized that people can be fooled, but nature can't."

Krauss worries that a lot of people can be fooled by appeals to the admittedly weird world of quantum physics — a world in which particles are said to take every possible path from point A to point B, in which the position and velocity of particles are necessarily cloaked in uncertainty, in which the mere act of observation changes the thing being observed.

In the last of a series of columns written for Scientific American, Krauss says "no area of physics stimulates more nonsense in the public arena than quantum mechanics." His list of "worst abusers" includes inspirational author Deepak Chopra, the best-selling book "The Secret" and the whole field of Transcendental Meditation. So what constitutes quantum quackery? Krauss discussed his criteria ln our interview last week. Here's an edited transcript:

...continues...
"So we're just done with phrasing?"
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Re: Quantum quackery

#2  Postby mindyourmind » Sep 21, 2010 5:13 pm

Great article, thanks for the link.

Krauss is spot-on.
So the reason why God created the universe, including millions of years of human and animal suffering, and the extinction of entire species, is so that some humans who have passed his test can be with him forever. I see.
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Re: Quantum quackery

#3  Postby hackenslash » Sep 21, 2010 8:05 pm

Good stuff.
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Re: Quantum quackery

#4  Postby Darkchilde » Sep 22, 2010 6:39 am

The most interesting fact is that Lawrence Krauss is publishing a biography of Richard Feynman... I will wait for that book with interest.
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Re: Quantum quackery

#5  Postby HughMcB » Sep 22, 2010 9:24 pm

I didn't know that, what an awesome read it should be! :awesome:
"So we're just done with phrasing?"
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Re: Quantum quackery

#6  Postby Juliuseizure » Sep 22, 2010 11:04 pm

With quantum mechanics, there's a notion that observers affect the things that they're observing. That's not always true, but it's often true. That's one of the very strange properties of quantum mechanics. Therefore people get the notion that there's no objective reality, and that you can literally impact on the external world just by doing things internally. That's not the case.


The article does nothing to resolve the grey area surrounding Schrödinger’s cat, quantum superposition and the implied "special properties" of human consciousness.

So when you hear about quantum mechanics and devices, you can say, "OK, that sounds reasonable." But when you hear about quantum mechanics and consciousness, you should assume the author is a crackpot unless proven otherwise. Moreover, assume that they want your money. ...


Does this mean Mikio Kaku should be disowned by Harvard and derided as a woo merchant? He's won awards for being a public educator of science. Or did Raleigh Marsden misquote him hook line and sinker?

http://www.rationalskepticism.org/general-science/consciousness-t12446.html
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Re: Quantum quackery

#7  Postby hackenslash » Sep 23, 2010 1:24 am

Juliuseizure wrote:The article does nothing to resolve the grey area surrounding Schrödinger’s cat, quantum superposition and the implied "special properties" of human consciousness.


Err, grey area? Schrödinger's Cat is a thought experiment designed to show how preposterous QM is, despite much of QM flowing from Schrödinger's work. In reality, macroscopic objects don't behave like that, because of what constitutes an observer. There is also no grey area surrounding quantum superposition. It's real, and demonstrably so. Indeed, I presented a paper detailing and experiment with a 'quantum random walk' in which a state of superposition was actually induced.

As for the 'special properties' of human consciousness, this is nonsense. Certainly there are levels on which we don't understand consciousness, but we do understand many of the mechanisms behind it.

Does this mean Mikio Kaku should be disowned by Harvard and derided as a woo merchant? He's won awards for being a public educator of science. Or did Raleigh Marsden misquote him hook line and sinker?

http://www.rationalskepticism.org/general-science/consciousness-t12446.html


I'd have to see everything Kaku said in context, but he has been known to wibble on occasion. In what was presented there, he was talking about several possible explanations, but somehow didn't mention Feynman's 'path integral formulation' (also known as 'sum over histories'), which deals with probability distributions).

I'll try to find the source of this quote tomorrow.
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Re: Quantum quackery

#8  Postby Darkchilde » Sep 23, 2010 10:23 am

The source is in the post, Hack.

Kaku in that particular interview does not explain consciousness or anything similar. He is just exposing the various theories and what he personally believes. And QM does have the Multiple Worlds Interpretation, to which, as far as Kaku says, is the QM interpretation to which he subscribes. He is not the only one; the multiple worlds interpretation has a number of supporters. It is just one plausible explanation of QM.

Kaku does not say anything new in that interview. I like Michio Kaku, but I think that he is too much of a dreamer at times. He makes a lot of speculation, and although he bases it on sound science, some of the assumptions he makes at times do seem a bit far-fetched.

As long as he does sound research, and follows in his research, the scientific method, he can believe what he wants.
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Re: Quantum quackery

#9  Postby HughMcB » Sep 23, 2010 2:20 pm

Kaku oftentimes sacrifices scientific sincerity in lieu of wowing the masses to attract their attention and inspire their imagination to the wonders of modern physics. It can be a bit foolhardy, but his heart is in the right place. However this means that not everything he says should be taken as gospel.
"So we're just done with phrasing?"
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Re: Quantum quackery

#10  Postby Darkchilde » Sep 24, 2010 7:06 am

Hugh, you are definitely right. Kaku can inspire people with his talks and his imagination; and that is what I like about him. I also like his speculation about the future, but I don't take it at face value. I like reading about the possibilities and how, based on our current knowledge, some things may be possible. But from the may to the certainty there is a long path of research and development.

IMHO, like a lot of physicists, I disagree with the Many Worlds Interpretation, and prefer the Copenhagen interpretation. I think it is more logical, rather than the Many Worlds one.
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Re: Quantum quackery

#11  Postby IanS » Sep 28, 2010 7:28 pm

I took a brief look at the link for How to Spot Quantum Quackery, and was amused to see that the name of Deepak Chopra turns up pretty quickly.

It reminds me of this well known clip of a short interview that Richard Dawkins had with Deepak Chopra.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-FaXD_igv4

I suspect most of us have also seen Chopra’s performance in the lengthy YouTube film of a of 4-way debate with Sam Harris, and Michael Shermer, and Jean Houston -

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-8-Yxdphsg

All of which left me with the distinct impression that Chopra is nothing except a self promoting charlatan who is trying to enlist the concepts of Quantum Mechanics to somehow claim that because QM has revealed a very strange world of sub-atomic particle interactions and "Uncertainty", that somehow points to God.

The general idea seems to be that if things can behave according to an Uncertainty Principle, then we might as well conclude that it's a 50-50 chance that God may exist and that miracles happen.
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