Posts Tagged ‘quantum’

Quantum Strangeness Structurally Explained The Problem

April 25, 2010

The Problem

Part 1 of 4 posts

Sometimes thoughts and ideas arise out of thin air and that’s what happened the other day when I got the idea to blog about Quantum Strangeness, and how it becomes less strange when viewed through the prism of what I call the structure of existence. So, welcome to my theory of everything (TOE).

Life is lived in terms of a series of events: appointments, muscle aches, down time, paychecks, road trips, shopping, phone calls, work, work, etc., etc. My TOE, however, is suggesting a more meaningful universe. You see, in the same way that the constancy of light’s velocity moved Einstein to think “outside the box,” (actually he imagined the constancy of the velocity of light since in 1905 that phenomenon had not yet been confirmed)leading him to deduce the required relationship between an observer’s reference frame and the predictability of events, so too, in my thinking about quantum phenomena, existential phenomenology, and religion’s aesthetic traditions, I was lead to think “outside the physical event.” What could possibly exist outside a physical event you ask? That something is logic, and, in my case, that something is structured in such a way as to account for our experience of temporality, rationality, and predictable events; furthermore, that structure is a lot easier to understand than Einstein’s theories. Logically speaking, the structure I am suggesting is the simplest possible structure imaginable, and yet it is flexible enough to contain the whole of the space-time continuum (Einstein, 1915). This structure exists on three levels, the two higher levels preserving the integrity of the bottom level. It’s not as if this structured existence will change the way science gets done, but, in the overall scheme of things, the reality explained by science is not as emotionally gratifying (or encompassing) as the reality suggested by this structure.

My theory, as with most structuralism, has two components, a diachronic timeline of events (think evolution here), and the frozen in time structural aspect of experience (think logic and mathematics here). Because the universe, in my theory, takes place in the space that separates, embeds and connects—connects to the “space of logical implication,” the universe is comprehensible. Whoops, I’ve put the cart before the horse, so to speak, so I now digress to a brief discussion of the strangeness of quantum phenomena.

At the quantum level, the universe looks and behaves differently from the way we typically perceive it. At the level of the very small, we loose track of independently existing things. For some physicists, it becomes difficult to think of the universe as a collection of objects because it’s more like a complicated web of relations, a web of relations existing between the various parts of a unified whole. An elementary particle, under certain conditions, is no more than a set of relationships that reach outward to other things. What’s happening in physics today is a far cry from what happened in the past, and its telling us new and exciting things about the universe, and maybe even about ourselves! This new vision of reality is inclusive, as opposed to exclusive. When humanity is brought into the mix with everything else, a whole new ballgame arises. The center of balance shifts, and overtime, possibilities open, even if in the short run, the rules remain the same. Humanity will be in for immense benefits if this new vision catches on. Here’s a little bit of the history behind this strange new science.

It all started with Max Planck’s black body radiation experiments at the turn of the century. He discovered that radiation or light propagates in discrete packets. Those packets are called the quantum of action. The energy in a quantum of action varies, but its discreteness does not, and that discreteness is known as Planck’s constant. Particles in classical physics evolve in a continuous manner, and in three dimensions of space, but in atomic physics that just doesn’t seem to be the case. With the discovery of the quantum of action, there was a merging of the dynamic state of the elements under study with their localization. The particles’ independence dissolved, as it became impossible to simultaneously determine position and momentum, an impossibility for which the uncertainty relations of Heisenberg became the precise expression. After the uncertainty principle, Cartesian space and time co-ordinates ceased to be applicable, and physicists were forced into learning new rules for a new game. In fact, all the conjugate variables of analytical mechanics–energy, time, momentum, position, had to be dealt with as approximations; they had to be dealt with in terms of statistical analysis. Ultimately, with the loss of space and time localization, physicists were forced to abandon their concept of a deterministic physical universe and, because of that, Einstein spent the rest of his life (after publishing his major accomplishments) trying to put “determinism” back into the universe.

It’s true that our knowledge, at the quantum level, is limited by statistical analysis, but it works, and it works well. That, according to Niles Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, was pretty important in itself. According to the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics, the model attributed to Bohr and Heisenberg, it doesn’t matter what’s going on at the quantum level, what matters is that in all possible experimental situations we can, within certain limits, predict the outcomes. Understanding reality, according to the Copenhagen Interpretation, lies beyond the capabilities of rational thought. The laws governing individual events are, at the quantum level, completely discarded. Only mathematical laws governing aggregations apply. According to quantum mechanics, it is not possible, even in principle, to know enough about the present to make a complete prediction about the future. Even with the best possible measuring devices, it is still not possible. Overcoming all the history that’s still building in quantum mechanics is a daunting task for anyone. Einstein wasn’t the only physicist who disliked the theory. Many have tried to dislodge the Copenhagen interpretation. In every instance, however, the physical world has intervened and said, “Your questions are meaningless.” No physicist likes to hear that! When a wave behaves like a particle and a particle behaves like a wave, the concepts that used to define the physical world no longer apply. Nature now requires a marriage of ideas that in the past were designed to live apart. Neil’s Bohr just got tired of fighting the inevitable. That’s when he started seeing things in a complimentary light. He basically said that there are no waves out there. There are no particles running around, either. That strange animal that interacts with the experiments, the quantum of action, is all there is. Because Bohr believed that, he introduced the idea of complementarity. He considered the particle picture and the wave picture as two complementary descriptions of the same reality, each description being only partly correct and having a limited range of application. For Bohr, the entity “electron,”–just like the other elementary entities of physics—had two irreconcilable aspects, which must be invoked in order to explain, in turn, the properties of the entity. To give a full description of atomic reality, each picture is needed, and both descriptions are to be applied within the limitations given by the uncertainty principle. In fact, when the queen of England knighted Bohr for his work in physics, he was forced to pick a family coat of arms, and so he picked the Chinese symbol of Tai-chi. Because he believed that reality had to be visualized in both its complimentary and contradictory aspects, but not at the same time, he felt that, at least at the level of the quantum of action, the basic idea of Eastern mysticism’s yin/yang reality had been confirmed. But, there is more to quantum strangeness than yin/yang reality! There’s another level to this relationship of mutually exclusive opposites coming together in same reality and it’s called “observer-generated reality.”

The classical notions of space, time, causality,–objective reality, — break down at the quantum level. Remember there are no waves propagating. According to most physicists, the wave function is not quite a thing, it is more like an idea that occupies a strange middle ground between idea and reality, where all things are possible but none are actual. An electron is not a particle either, it is more like a process, always forming, always dissolving. It can’t be detected until it interacts with a measuring device and even if it does interact we don’t know if it interacts with the device per se, or if it interacts with the last link in the chain of events that define the experiment—the consciousness of the human observer. The physicist, Erwin Schrödinger, devised a thought experiment to illustrate that point.

You put a cat in a box with some poison gas. When the gas is released, the cat dies. The release of the gas is triggered by radiation decay that is totally random (cannot be predicted). In classical physics, the cat dies at the time of the decay, but in quantum mechanics the cat dies when the observation is made, when the last link in the chain of events that defines the experiment occurs. At the time of observation when the box is opened the wave function collapses and probability becomes actuality. Of course, common sense tells us that can’t be true, but that’s precisely the point, common sense breaks down at the quantum level, things are “different” at that level. So the question remains: Is it (or when is it) necessary to include human consciousness in our descriptions of the world? Or, put another way: What role does measurement play in an experiment? Does it provide a description of the world under study or does it actually create that world? Quantum Mechanics has a hard time answering questions like these. Maybe one day that situation will be better understood, but until that day comes, talk about “objectivity” is probably best left to the Buddhists. They don’t have a problem with “independent reality” because, for Buddhists, there isn’t any; everything is interdependent. The subjective world and the objective world are, for an enlightened Buddhist, just words referring to mutually conditioned relations woven into one fabric. Keeping the Buddha in mind, along with the strange universe described above, I want to begin my discussion of structured existence by revealing the shape of my TOE—it’s shaped like a V, yes, it looks like the letter v, but that’s just the beginning.

Quantum Strangeness Structurally Explained The God of Immanence

April 24, 2010

The God of Immanence

Part 3 of 4 posts

Since the divinity aspect of structured existence is wide open at this point, I’d like to say a few words concerning God, and then let a dialogue that I wrote a while back say the rest. The dialogue is something I had hoped would happen (no such luck) between Mike (an old schoolyard friend of mine) and I when we were bicycling the Canadian Maritime Provinces. The Affirmative Ideal is what allows people to believe in God; that is, they believe because they can! God certainly exists in affirmation, but God also exists in the flesh, yours, mine, and all the rest of humanity. God exists in all the rest of nature too, but God is made self-aware in self-consciousness. Think about that; the more you do the more the barriers between God and self-consciousness fall away. It’s not an unpleasant experience.

In Every Human Being God Pulses–The Depth And Center Of All There Is

“Okay,” I said, “but what I’m about to say is not exactly user friendly. It’s about a different kind of God, one that, as far as I can tell, nobody is familiar with.”

“Well, does God have foreknowledge or not?” Mike responded.

“He knows everything that is known,” I said. “It’s hard to describe, but He knows it all without foreknowledge.”

“You’ve got my attention now,” Mike replied, “How exactly does He pull that off?”

“It’s in his freedom,” I said. “In nature, life, and culture we find God’s ‘self-expression’, and that–is an affirmation of God and God’s freedom.”

“Oh, this ought to be good,” replied Mike, “what kind of image is that? Is He still the old man on high, divine worker of miracles, dispenser of rewards and punishments, or am I missing something?”

“That image is a bit outdated, wouldn’t you say?” I said.

“Well is He limited by time or not? replied Mike.”

“No,” I said.

“Is He omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient?”

“Yes to all three,” I replied.

“Well, I rest my case. It’s the same-o, same-o,” Mike responded. “We humans are bound by law and limited by death. We don’t like it, so we imagine a God without limits. We get sick, but God does not. We are caught in space and time—not God. We face horrendous hardships and suffering—not God. Both Freud, and Feuerbach before him, had it right; god is a product of our own desires because, as cripples, we need a crutch. We need god, but he remains forever out of reach. Religion was born out of that need. God is our security blanket. In reality God is based in false hopes and promises, and exists only in our dreams.”

“There’s more to the story than that,” I responded. “The theologian, Paul Tillich, had a different idea. In fact, he believed the image of a superhuman God should be replaced by a more internalized ‘depth image.’ Instead of believing in an external God, he chose to believe in a God that was the ground of all that is. God, for him, became ‘infinite center,’ a ‘presence,’ a feeling, a reality, an opening to all sacredness and divinity. That’s kind of what I’m talking about when I talk about God, but I came to that image in my own way. And, by the way, as far as gender is concerned, God doesn’t have any.”

“That sound’s a bit pantheistic to me,” Mike responded. “So who or what is this god?”

“Pantheism is part of it, but there’s more,” I said. “I have always been attracted to those images of deity that identify God with nature. Spinoza, Lao Tsu, Whitman, Black Elk, all those guys believed nature to be sacred. God is nature, but nature is also an expression of God’s freedom, and further, God’s freedom is something ‘other’ than God. It is God when God is ‘not being God’–God’s own non-being. I know that sounds strange, but I can’t help it. That’s the way it is.”

“Sure,” Mike responded, “cut to the chase why don’t you, and we’ll see just how strange that idea really is.”

“I’m getting there,” I said. “All nature is a ‘way’ of non-being. And, this non-being is peculiar in that it is not a singular thing. It is dualistic in character, and takes the form of a double negation. In this double negative we find God as affirmation. We find God as freedom, and we find God as environment. Just as a receptacle is defined by empty space, non-being defines God. God, in the form of the ‘other’, is both God and freedom, and through reasoned analysis we can derive the meaning and significance of God. In fact, both freedom and reason, on some level, are present in all non-being, all nature.”

“That’s the chase,” Mike replied. “That’s it?”

“I told you, my god is not user friendly,” I said. “Freedom exists at every level of nature. It also goes through changes, and these changes represent freedom at more complex levels. After a sufficient level of complexity, freedom becomes less restricted. When it experiences its own double-negatives in the space of higher negation, it becomes alive. In that sense, freedom is always ‘stretching itself’ and ‘reaching out’ for more freedom. At a sufficient level of complexity, inorganic nature becomes organic, and freedom becomes freer. At death, nature’s double negation must be conserved, so higher expressions of freedom dissolve into less free states, and, ultimately, into God because God is affirmed in double negation—in being non-being. This is my religion. This is what I believe. God is not separate from nature, life, and/or culture. That’s how I understand the meaning and significance of God.”

“What has culture to do with anything?” Mike said. “Its just part of life. Hell, social insects have culture!”

“True,” I replied, “but they do not bring self-consciousness to culture; consequently, they are not free to expand that culture into self-determined orders of complexity. Only humans can do that. Humans are free in a way other animals are not.”

“That’s bullshit,” Mike said. “Culture keeps us alive. It’s the same with insects. It’s a matter of degree, not kind, and the same goes for what you call freedom.”

“Suit yourself,” I replied, “but at least hear me out. According to the way I perceive God, human culture is a product of God’s freedom. In culture, God acts out the self-aware expression of freedom. This higher-level experience is two levels removed from God’s least free expression. This freedom brings with it an ‘empty box,’ a box of negation—a box attached to consciousness. Other animals are boxless. Consciousnesses–self-consciousness—uses this box to see what’s not, and ask ‘why?’ With the good comes the bad, however. This box also permits ruthless people to value greed over knowledge, violence over peace, and vengeance over beauty. Without this box, though, agreements for the purpose of securing peace and preserving beauty would not be possible. Judgments would not be possible. Self-expression would not be possible. The history of civilization would not be possible. In fact, the history of civilization is the history of this box, the history that records the struggles for liberty and the freedom to overcome that which prohibits liberty. When we seek the origin of freedom, we end up in religion.”

“You think religion can save the world!” responded Mike. You think if only people believed as you do, they would act differently? How ignorant! How pretentious! Who is shortsighted and stubborn now?”

“I don’t know,” I said, “Actually, I try not to think of it in those terms. It’s too scary. After searching all these years, it’s enough for me to have a security blanket that works for me.”

“You deserve an ‘at-a-boy’ for that,” Mike replied. “Everybody’s entitled to their beliefs; that is, as long their beliefs do not deny the beliefs of others. Even if you wanted to change the world, in my opinion, you couldn’t, not with what I just heard. The truth is I don’t understand a thing you just said. But, if it’s any consolation, I did enjoy hearing it. I don’t know why. How about another beer?”

“Sounds like a winner,” I replied, “but indulge me for just a little bit longer. I will be specific.”

“If you must,” Mike replied, “Waitress, two more beers pa’ lease.”

“First, God is the inescapable depth and center of all there is. The immanence of God is what I call freedom and this immanence is present as nature. When freedom achieves self-consciousness it is able to name and create truth and beauty. In fact, it calls us forward into life, love, and wholeness. The biblical Jesus was, most likely, so completely transformed by his awareness of the divine that his thoughts, words, and deeds were recognized as divine. Not surprisingly, the gospel writers saw him as the Son of God, and translated his story into the Passion Play that it was, — it is. My religion has nothing to do with ‘revealed truths,’ and it is not about heavenly rewards or punishments. Rather, it is simply a way to perceive and process the God experience, the experience that pulses in every human being. As far as proselytizing goes, all I want to do is open people’s minds to the idea that ‘terra firma’ is hallowed ground. I mean that both literally and figuratively. In our relationship with others we share that ground, and that ground becomes sacred or profane depending on how it is shared. That is what I believe, and that is really the end. Now I’m finished.”

Quantum Strangeness Structurally Explained-Question and Solution

April 23, 2010

The source of the question and the solution to the problem

Part 4 of 4 posts

It’s time to say a few words concerning where the idea of ~bb (the Implicative affirmative of the not-me-self) came from. Unfortunately, it didn’t drop out of thin air, but once I found it, I could see it lingering in many disparate places (I identified some of those places in my thesis). As it is with many discoveries, it occurred in a flash of insight after many years of muddled thinking. My muddled thinking came mostly from reading Sartre’s Being And Nothingness. Sartre is, more than anyone else, responsible for the concept of ~bb in the structure of b~b~bb, (Simone de Beauvoir, Sartre’s life-long companion is, in my opinion, every bit the equal of Sartre in matters of philosophy, so she gets equal credit here). Sartre’s Being And Nothingness and Heidegger’s Being And Time, by explaining the inseparable nature of time and consciousness, helped me conceive ~bb, as did my studies in Nietzsche, Kierkegaard and Jaspers. Kierkegaard helped me connect “nothingness” with God, and Jaspers helped me connect reason and freedom with everything else. Here’s a quote from Jasper’s Reason And Existenz:

“The distinctions of empirical existence, consciousness as such, and spirit do not imply separable facts. Rather they represent three starting points through which we can come to feel that comprehensive Being which we are and in which all Being and everything scientifically investigable appears. These three modes taken individually are not yet the Encompassing as we represent it. Consciousness as such, the location of universally valid truth, is in itself nothing independent. On one side, it points to its basis in empirical existence. On the other it points to spirit, the power it must let itself be dominated by if it would attain meaning and totality. In itself, consciousness as such is an unreal articulation of the Encompassing. Through it, the
Encompassing is differentiated into those modes according to one of which the Encompassing can become individuated and knowable as empirical natural processes, and, according to the other of which it is understandable, a self-transparent, totalizing reality or Freedom. Empirical existence and spirit produce forms of reality; consciousness as such is the form in which we envisage the
Encompassing as the condition of the universally valid and communicable.” (p. 58-59)

In the following journal entry (I kept a journal while reading Being And Nothingness), Sartre directly references the ~bb (the for-itself) in the b~b~bb structure:

Knowledge is found everywhere except in the being of the for-itself. Worldliness, spatiality, quantity, temporality, instrumentality, etc. arise in consciousness as objects for the for-itself, but the for-itself can never become a conscious object—just like a knife blade cannot cut itself. Were it not for the inherent nothingness found in the being of the for-itself, there would not be a consciousness of knowledge. Sartre has described the for-itself as the “pure reflection of nonbeing,” and it is this negation of being which let’s knowledge come into the world. In this respect, the knower-known dichotomy is reduced to mere fabrication, since the knower does not exist. “For-itself nothingness” permits consciousness of reality, but the for-itself remains just outside the reach of that reality because there is no knower to be known.

Sartre also tells us that the ever-elusive present is a further consequence of this negation. Our location in time, to put it mildly, is not very precise. I am conscious of being conscious of something other than myself, and that something is my past self. What I grasp in self- consciousness is my past self—the self that has become being-in-itself. But, being-in-itself is being, so it follows that consciousness is always conscious of being. I have a body and I have a history; these are my objects of consciousness. I am never, however, conscious of the for-itself’s negation– its lack, hole, nothingness, (it makes no difference how you say it, all are equivalent), because this negativity for Sartre is the pre-condition for consciousness to be conscious. And further, it is this non-being of consciousness, which becomes the basis for my freedom.

To recap: Self-consciousness, or my relationship to consciousness, brings to consciousness the pure negative of my own nothingness. Self-consciousness denies itself a coincidence with itself. It denies itself a coincidence with the objects of consciousness–the consciousness-belief dyad. It is in consciousness, however, as presence-to-itself, but it denies itself the possibility of ever becoming fully aware of itself. Self-consciousness is its own negativity. Thus, I am conscious of it as what I am not, as what I lack, as a “hole” in my consciousness, as a “hole” in my very being. — End journal entries.

The basis for ~bb in the structure of b~b~bb was first disclosed by Sartre. Ironically, he interpreted consciousness—being for-itself– as proof of the non-existence of God. Actually, what I got out of his reasoning was that freedom (restricted by its environment) is all that we are. We are the being that is being what is not, while not being what is. We are the negating for-itself as it frees up the consciousness of anything except the for- itself. We are the lack that continually references the lacked. This condition of consciousness is written into Sartre’s definition of consciousness:

“Consciousness is a being such that in its being, its being is in question in so far as this being implies a being other than itself.”

Given the above, is it any wonder why self-help books line bookshelves; why people “who think too much,” are the most likely to suffer from angst, anomie, depression, drug abuse etc.; why life speeds down the tracks of boredom, desire, satisfaction, dissatisfaction, emptiness, desire, (repeat) leaving us with the unanswerable question why? Again, given Sartre’s for-itself (~bb), we are left with (and this is significant) 1) the source of the question and 2) the space that connects to the “space of logical implication.” (think Descartes’ “cogito ergo sum” here). In anthropomorphic jargon, at this level of freedom (b~b~bb), think of God as placing the baton of “logical implication” into to open hand of the relay team money guy, the guy expected to glorify the team by being the first to cross the finish line of the “good race.” Sometimes I wonder if God picked the right money species for the job!

Quantum Strangeness Structurally Explained

“Relativity,” according to Laszlo (2004), “did away with space and time as the backdrop of deterministic motion of mass points, but it preserved the unambiguous description of the basic entities of the physical universe.” In my structural theory opposites are necessary in order to preserve “wholeness,” so discontinuity, indeterminism, and non-locality become just as essential for a description of the physical universe as determinism, continuity, and locality. The levels of negation in my structural theory answer why contradictory aspects separate the macro world of Relativity from the micro world of quantum physics. Predictions are possible because the evolution of the universe takes place in this space that separates, embeds and connects—connects to the “space of logical implication.” So now we may ask: What are the pre-conditions for this state of affairs?

Determinism, locality and continuity allow for reductionist methods of science to work; that is, until science penetrates deep into that area where the integrity of the physical universe breaks down, where the deterministic motions of mass points no longer exist. At the depths of the “material world” there exists a fuzzy world that exhibits only statistical behavior, behavior only when we observe it– when we separate ourselves from it. There we find a physical reality with no uniquely determinable location, a physical reality that exists in several states at the same time, a physical reality structured by a mathematical equation. In God’s non-being, or, in this context I guess I should say, in the theory of freedom’s structural form, two “forms” stand out as a way to better understand the contradictory concepts, which remain at odds with one another in the theory of relativity and quantum physics.

The same attributes (discontinuity, indeterminism, and non-locality) that characterize self-consciousness characterize also the “double negation” that serves as the ground of freedom. Both of these “forms” generate implication. At “ground” implication remains open, while in self-consciousness, implication opens up the human world-historical-process. In other words, the negation that lies at the center of self-consciousness, the negation that permits our capacity to solve mathematical equations, lies also at the “ground level” of our experience with quantum physics. Because observation takes place in the space of continuity, determinism and locality– self-consciousness’s negative space— there is an unavoidable clash of worlds—the world of continuity, determinism and locality (relativity) clashes with the world of discontinuity, indeterminism, and non-locality (quantum physics). Bottom line—the theory of relativity accurately describes natural phenomena. Einstein’s equations, when applied to the world of physical events, provide accurate information concerning our status as participating agents in the physical universe. Likewise, quantum mechanics accurately describes natural phenomena. Only the phenomena being described are “fuzzy” because, as it is throughout freedom’s dialectic, the space that separates also embeds and connects. In other words, on the quantum level, self-consciousness confronts its own ground condition in the form of the “phenomenal strangeness” of quantum physics.

Ultimately, from its most holistic perspective, dialectical freedom’s structural form tells us: Were it not for the negative space/condition of determinism, continuity, and locality, the human consciousness of discontinuity, non-locality, and indeterminism (opposites are necessary to conserve wholeness) would not be free in a world of our own experience (by degrees, experience of our own choosing), seeking truth, justice, and religious meaning.