The November issue of Science News, Beyond Spooky, was dedicated to “quantum weirdness” (1). I love this side of physics. This “weirdness” may be how it is possible, despite nature’s bio-hoodwink (p.11), to sense more than just the tip-of-the-iceberg of reality. Biology requires living things to perceive reality in a way that promotes survival and evolution. I can’t imagine any biological reason why any living thing would be able to perceive more than that, but living things can and do, as humans demonstrate. I suspect all living things do at some level.
I can see why biology needs to make it difficult for life to perceive anything but what is necessary for survival. The indistinct and shadowy side of reality conceals itself behind the bio-hoodwink’s effect on living things. Frankly, an ability to know, and especially feel, the quantum non-locality connecting ALL things would weaken any competitive instincts driving living things to survive. We’d all easily personify chapter 64’s, Therefore the sage desires not to desire, And does not value goods which are hard to come by. That’s not how nature works. That sounds good only because we innately do mostly the opposite, and yet we are able to catch glimpses of this non-local universality.
As it happens, science enables us to perceive how nature works enough to learn how to use stones to crack nuts, to harness fire, to work with clay, to fly to the moon… and now it allows us to begin to perceive shadows of nature’s whole despite the bio-hoodwink. How? Is it not because, we are part-and-parcel of nature’s whole (2).
Google [Like fate of cat, quantum debate is still unresolved] by the Editor in Chief, Tom Siegfried for links to the quantum entanglement articles. I’ll paste the introduction here.
In the tapestry of 20th century physics, virtually every major thread is entangled with the name of Albert Einstein. He was most famous for the theory of relativity, of course, which rewrote Newton’s laws and set modern theoretical cosmology in motion. But Einstein also played a major role in the origins of quantum theory and in perceiving its weird implications — including entanglement, a mystery named by Erwin Schrödinger in a paper based on an experiment imagined by Einstein.
Entanglement is now one of the hottest research fields in physics. It is pursued not only for insights into the nature of reality, but also for developing new technologies, as Laura Sanders notes in a special section marking the 75th anniversary of Einstein’s entanglement paper (and another quantum legend, Schrödinger’s half-dead, half-alive cat).
Despite his contributions to quantum theory, Einstein didn’t like it. He believed that its weirdness indicated an incomplete theory that accounted for observed phenomena but was silent on invisible elements of reality that produced the weirdness. As I describe in this issue, Einstein clashed with Niels Bohr, who found it meaningless to ascribe reality to anything unobservable. Bohr outdebated Einstein, but adherents to Einstein’s views remain vocal today.
Today’s debate sometimes gets acrimonious. It was not that way with Einstein and Bohr – their disagreement did not erode their deep mutual respect. Their conflicting ideas simply reflected differences in their worldviews, shaped by their personalities and scientific backgrounds. Einstein valued simplicity and clarity; Bohr embraced ambiguity. Einstein was a loner, working for the most part in isolation; Bohr surrounded himself with the brightest physicists of the day at his Copenhagen institute. Einstein’s initial scientific success came from finding unities in phenomena – matter’s identity with energy, for instance. Bohr explained the atom by emphasizing the incompatibility of classical and quantum physics.
For Bohr, quantum mysteries such as the dual wave-and-particle nature of light reflected the richness of a complicated universe. Einstein wanted a simpler, unified theory from which complexity would emerge logically, sans weirdness. Physicists have pursued Einstein’s goal within a quantum framework, without much success. It’s unclear whether future progress will come from avoiding quantum weirdness, or by making it even weirder.
The first article is Clash of the Quantum Titans. I’ll paste here a few choice passages that caught my eye and stirred my commentary:
At the heart of these disputes is the very nature of reality itself, and whether quantum physics is the last word on how to describe it. Zeilinger, of the University of Vienna, advocates the standard quantum view of reality’s fuzziness. “It turns out that the notion of a reality ‘out there’ existing prior to our observation … is not correct in all situations,” he points out.
Yet some physicists cling to the prejudice that cause-and-effect determinism will someday be returned to its privileged status, and physics will restore objectivity to reality.
“I basically understand why people have this position,” Zeilinger responds. “But the evidence is overwhelming that this approach would not succeed.”
Physicists who hold fast to cause-and-effect determinism demonstrate the power of nature’s hoodwink. We are neurologically set up to see things that way, which makes non-locality so mind-blowing. The Taoist view expressed in chapter 1, These two are the same, but diverge in name as they issue forth, and chapter 2, Thus Something and Nothing produce each other (3), slams the door shut on cause-and-effect. Cause-and-effect offers a linear view of reality, while produce each other offers a more circular one, so to speak. One that is more consistent with quantum weirdness. It is intriguing how people millennia ago, with only intuition guiding them, could realize what modern scientists with high tech instrumentation can now verify. Having verification certainly appears to help us see through nature’s hoodwink.
“The particles and fields are very, very crude statistical descriptions,” Hooft says. “Those particles and those fields are not true representatives of what’s really going on.”
Zeilinger, on the other hand, does not expect the future to return physics to the past. It is more likely, he suggested at the Turin conference, that an advanced theory going beyond today’s quantum mechanics will be even more counterintuitive.
“At the end of the day,” he says, “the situation is such that when we ever succeed — and I think we will succeed to build a new theory even beyond quantum physics — when we have the new theory, people who attack quantum theory today … would love to have quantum mechanics back.”
The Taoist world-view seems to go “even beyond quantum physics”. Why? Because it acknowledges the essential role of Nothing and weakness that chapter 40 notes. Up to now science only allows itself to deal with the something side of reality. This is necessary now, but eventually science must seriously recognize the other side of the coin—Nothing.
The other article to google is [Everyday Entanglement: Physicists take quantum weirdness out of the lab]. I’ll paste a few choice excerpts and my comments.
The first revolution peaked when Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger introduced the term entanglement (a translation of the German Verschränkung) in a 1935 paper, inspired by a thought experiment proposed the same year by Albert Einstein and collaborators Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen. The thought experiment demonstrated that when two objects interact in a particular way, quantum physics requires them to become connected, or entangled, so that measuring a property of one instantly reveals the value of that property for the other, no matter how far away it is.
“No reasonable definition of reality” could permit two objects to be mysteriously entwined across great distances, Einstein and his collaborators complained in Physical Review (SNL: 5/11/35, p. 300). There must be more to reality, Einstein believed, than quantum theory described. But rather than undermining quantum physics, the EPR paper, as it became known, became fodder for other scientists who showed that this unreasonable connection was in fact real. If quantum rules applied in everyday life, as soon as Peyton saw his quantum coin land in Seattle, he would know the outcome of Eli’s toss — even if Eli’s game were across the country or on the moon.
The entwining between objects across great distances supports the Oneness of which many religions speak. This parallels chapter 32’s the uncarved block when it says, only when it is cut are there names. As soon as there are names one ought to know that it is time to stop. Nature’s hoodwink can’t totally conceal a sense of Oneness (non-local reality) from an impartial consciousness. The problem is that cutting the uncarved block inherently biases perception, making impartial awareness nigh impossible. (See Tools of Taoist Thought: Correlations, p.565).
Yet despite all the progress, there remains a deep mystery at the core of entanglement. “I want to be able to tell a story,” Gisin says, “and I cannot tell you a story of how nature manages the trick.”
Perhaps telling that story requires using a teaching that uses no words, as chapter 43 puts it. Is the nature of how we think standing in the way?
“Most of us, at least in the year 2010, are prepared to live with the weird properties of quantum mechanics at the level of single atoms or electrons,” Leggett says. “Most people are much less happy to live with it at the level of Schrödinger’s cat.”
Like the heft of NFL players, the size of entangled objects is steadily creeping upward. The superconductors entangled by Martinis’ team are large enough to see with the naked eye. And a blob of thousands of photons and a centimeter-long crystal have, in separate experiments, been entangled with a single photon.
The entanglement occurring on a real world scale disturbs some scientists. This reminds me of how the Catholic Church freaked out on evidence that the earth revolved around the Sun. Historically speaking, that was like yesterday. Science is just at the dawn of knowing the world as it really may be, at least materially.
With all the grand promise that entanglement has for changing the way information is handled, the biggest question around it — why it happens — remains unanswered. It’s easy to explain why an egg changes as it fries and why a car runs, Gisin says. Even though scientists can measure it, at its heart, the disconcerting quantum effect remains a mystery. “There is simply no story in spacetime that can tell us how this happens,” he says
Science rests on a foundation of provable facts. This creates an irresolvable problem if a deeper truth lies in what chapter 14 calls, the image that is without substance. In a sense, the question is the answer. This entangled way to see the mystery becomes a way to resolve it. In the end, chapter 10 brings us back to reality… When your discernment penetrates the four quarters are you capable of not knowing anything?
(1) For background, google [quantum entanglement] and [quantum nonlocality] and YouTube [nonlocal, entangled, quantum], [Menas Kafatos], and [Donald Hoffman]. See also, http://www.sciencenews.org/article/fate-cat-quantum-debate-still-unresolved#stories
(2) How can one ever see beyond the biological hoodwink? My guess is that quantum entanglement influences consciousness at the synapse level. If so, our most subtle perceptions must be entangled with ALL. This would affect people in numerous ways and could account for some of the “weirdness” found in human cognition.
(3) Interestingly, the “observer effect” in quantum physics seems to parallel chapter 2’s complementary view of opposites.
The whole world recognizes the beautiful as the beautiful, yet this is only the ugly;
The whole world recognizes the good as the good, yet this is only the bad.
Thus Something and Nothing produce each other;
The difficult and the easy complement each other;
Only here, physics describes these opposites as wave vs. particle, i.e., wave vs. particle correlate to yin vs. yang, Nothing vs. Something, etc. Briefly, a particle cannot manifest in reality—that is, ordinary space-time as we know it—until we observe it. Until observed, it is both a wave and a particle… profound sameness. Quantum physics calls this observation affect phenomenon “collapse of the wave function” or the “observer effect.” In Taoist terms, this means that when we observe and categorize one aspect of nature we disclose, or perhaps more accurately create, its opposite. Does this feel nonsensical? Luckily, there is no need to ‘understand’ this; simply trusting your perceptions less is more than enough. Again, as chapter 71 advises, Realizing I don’t’ know is better; not knowing this knowing is disease.
Hmmmm, will they have to blow something up or implode something using the collider to find out that what they seek is in reality nothing?
What next for physicists
Lynn Cornish says
Just awesome Carl. I love the idea that science cannot move forward until it recognizes the significance of nothingness and weakness, the other side of the coin.
I need to take this to my reading spot.