Observation and Reality

Discussion in 'Physics & Math' started by Bowser, Dec 30, 2016.

  1. Bowser Life is Fatal. Valued Senior Member

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    Watched a video last week about quantum mechanics. What I found curious was the idea that the outcome of an experiment is dependent on the observer. In other words, depending on the the observer, the experiment can produce more than one result, such as exhibiting both particle and wave characteristics.

    Talked with my wife's nephew about it. He validated that it is one of the stranger things about the micro universe, where macro perceptions just don't work well. Will we ever fully crack the mysteries and understand the atomic world beyond simple workable theories?
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2016
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  3. karenmansker HSIRI Banned

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    Probably (note the statistical reference here?) the outcome of an experiment is somewhat dependent upon the context/conditions of the observation/observer. Answer to OP question: Yes!
     
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  5. Seattle Valued Senior Member

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    Probably but we shouldn't find it to be so unusual that things do work exactly as they do in "our world". Our "common sense" is based on the way things usually work in our everyday lives. We do not live in the quantum world so our "common sense" doesn't necessarily apply there.

    I think (no expert here) in the scenario that you describe it's just about the observing interfering or changing what is being observed. It's on such a small scale that the wave length required to observe is large enough to change the observation.
     
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  7. karenmansker HSIRI Banned

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    IMO, when we are observing 'stuff', processes, experiments, etc at the 'quantum scale' (Note: I prefer subquantum, or subplanckian, <10 exp-35 cm, etc. since quantum infers 'quanta'), we are inferring apparent observations that yield preferred conclusions from a physical scale that is essentially 'not physically' detectible. Does that make any sense to you? . . . . certainly a specious hypothesis, I guess.
     
  8. danshawen Valued Senior Member

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    You mean like:

    https://www.bigquestionsonline.com/...hanics-suggest-about-our-perceptions-reality/

    "Let’s be completely clear about what we’re saying here. We are not just saying that if you know the position of the electron, then you don’t know whether or not it’s moving. We’re saying that if the electron has some position, then it does not have any state of motion. What could this possibly mean? Nobody is quite sure."

    Observing a position implies "freezing time", which effectively robs the electron of any momentum it otherwise might have had. An electron may also have positive or negative half integer quantum spin. If the electron is bound, that spin may be paired and entangled with another electron. In that case, if you observe a spin flip of one electron, you CAN BE ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that the paired electron flipped spin states as well. But that is about the ONLY thing about that electron you can observe that is certain, because robbing it of momentum robs it of both energy and inertia, and when that happens time stops for that electron, because quantum spin, not the speed of light, or the propagation velocity of the electron actually IS time. Whatever composite spin state(s) a unpaired electron may have, when those are observed (usually by means of a spin flip), the electron ceases to be an electron. Is it possible, all electrons are paired?

    Makes perfect sense to any relativist.
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2017
  9. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    I think it would be more accurate to say that the outcome is dependent on what particular experiment you choose to do. If you look for wavelike behaviour in (sub-)atomic particles, that's what you'll tend to see; if you look for particle-like behaviour, you'll see that. Experiments are set up in different ways to see one thing or the other. In fact, it's possible to design an experiment where you can essentially turn a dial to dial between wave-like and particle-like results, with a sort of "fading out" of one kind of behaviour as you turn the dial.

    What you shouldn't read too much into, in my opinion, is the idea that a conscious observer is required in order to determine a particular experimental outcome. Some mystics would have it that, by observing, we create reality in some sense. This is not really what quantum mechanics says.

    This is true. We don't tend to directly perceive quantum events because we live on a much more "macro" scale. In a similar way, we don't tend to directly perceive relativistic effects, because we live our lives at "slow speed" (compared to the speed of light).
     
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  10. danshawen Valued Senior Member

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    It is still up for grabs to decide whether or not the human brain uses superposition of quantum states in order to make sense of massively parallel cognitive processes, but it is likely, IMHO.

    Not convinced? The miracle of integrated circuit semiconductors, LCD and LED flat panel displays are another pervading and ubiquitous application of quantum physics.

    Each and every time you turn on an appliance that uses a motor for HVAC, shaving, a starter motor to turn over the engine in your car, or generate the electricity at the power plant that provides electricity for such purposes, you are using relativity because magnetism is a relativistic side effect of moving electric charges. You could simply use any or all of these without knowing any of that, of course. Nuclear power plants depend heavily on quantum physics and relativity to operate, and the electricity we use from those sources is a side effect of this science.

    Every time you use GPS to determine your location for internet marketers, emergency services or to find the nearest restaurant, you are using relativity to synchronize and make corrections to clocks used to calculate a ranging solution.

    The atomic weaponry aimed at our ideological enemies during the cold war, and the WMDs we maintain and the nuclear powered submarine fleet delivery systems we deploy now to keep hostile forces like North Korea at bay depend on relativity in order to operate and enhance destructive yield.

    So many parts of your life depend on and are affected by science that involves relativity, it is difficult to underestimate its importance. But, yes, for most people, it is just something that is going on in the background, even if they have little or no realization of its importance.
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2017
  11. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    Isn't that what the Copenhagen interpretation teaches? That observation, or the act of measuring, collapses the wavefunction itself? Like with Schrodinger's superimposed dead/alive cat?
     
  12. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    I think it's very _un_likely. We have upwards of 100 billion neurons in our brain and they are all capable of operating at the same time. You don't need some additional undiscovered mechanism to enable massively parallel processing in a network that large.
     
  13. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Yes, dependent on the observation, ie. the measurement being made, or in other words the interaction with the QM system under investigation. I agree with James that it seems false to conclude it is the act of conscious observation that determines it. It is the interaction with the detector that does it.
     
  14. Bowser Life is Fatal. Valued Senior Member

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    It's very curious. Trying to stay away from the metaphysical interpretations, but it sure is easy to read a lot into the possibilities.
     
  15. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    I strongly and emphatically agree. I think that 'observation' in this context means 'physical interaction'. So in order for a "quantum outcome" to exist, one needs to make an observation in which one interacts physically with whatever micro-scale things it is in order to determine what the outcome is. I don't think that it's necessary for that determination to be by something that possesses a "mind" (whatever that word means, presumably something 'spiritual'). A recording instrument would seemingly work just as well.

    The quantum-idealists insist that the instrument itself would be in some kind superimposed state until the spiritual being (the being with a "mind") looks at it and makes the 'wave function collapse' into a distinct reading. (Schroedinger's cat.)But that's just a metaphysical speculation, it seems to me. It's another (of many) examples of physics crossing the line into metaphysics. Quantum physics may indeed be consistent with that kind of interpretation, but only at the cost of adopting a Berkeley-style 'to be is to be perceived' ontology that basically denies physical reality and pretty much the entirety of physical science along with it (things like geological and astrophysical processes would become very problematic).
     
  16. sweetpea Registered Senior Member

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    I'm not sure of any this, but... Whether purposely observed or not, doesn't the wave collapse because of interaction with the environment, rather than a clean collapse, it's more like a quick 'fade in' , because of the many interactions of the different fields of the environment?
     
  17. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    "Physicist John Wheeler suggested that reality is created by observers and that: “no phenomenon is a real phenomenon until it is an observed phenomenon.” He coined the termParticipatory Anthropic Principle (PAP) from the Greek “anthropos”, or human. He went further to suggest that “we are participants in bringing into being not only the near and here, but the far away and long ago.”[Reference: Radio Interview With Martin Redfern]

    This claim was considered rather outlandish until his thought experiment, known as the “delayed-choice experiment,” was tested in a laboratory in 1984. This experiment was a variation on the famous “double-slit experiment” in which the dual nature of light was exposed (depending on how the experiment was measured and observed, the light behaved like a particle (a photon) or like a wave).

    Unlike the original “double-slit experiment”, in Wheeler’s version, the method of detection was changed AFTER a photon had passed the double slit. The experiment showed that the path of the photon was not fixed until the physicists made their measurements. The results of this experiment, as well as another conducted in 2007, proved what Wheeler had always suspected – observers’ consciousness is required to bring the universe into existence. This means that a pre-life Earth would have existed in an undetermined state, and a pre-life universe could only exist retroactively."---https://futurism.com/john-wheelers-participatory-universe/
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    I don't agree with the hard line of Berkeyian idealism that consciousness soley "creates" reality. I am more a soft idealist/interactionist where mind and matter create each other in some timeless spaceless loop. I guess that makes me some kind of a substance dualist. But I dislike labels.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2017
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  18. danshawen Valued Senior Member

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    Observation generally cannot take place BEFORE something has happened. Your only choices are 1) WHILE it happens, in the case of some event connected with one of your own neurons being quantum entangled, with or without an expectation, or 2) AFTER it has happened, more often the case, observed some light distance away. Time's arrow and the nature of time enforces this. Space is light travel time in this context especially. Only entangled events can be "observed" simultaneously in the instant they occur in this universe. EVERYTHING else, if observed at all, is observed some time after the event has occurred.

    Won't read any philosophy by Berkeley. Don't care a whit about what other observers or Berkeley himself may believe, because it is presumed irrelevant to a universe of energy transfer events in timespace.

    If there is no one around to observe it, does an atom of positronium self annihilate producing a single photon in only one direction? How would a single observer, even one entangled with the electron know this had happened? They wouldn't, because the photons produced are also entangled. They simply travel slower than the original form of entanglement. To detect everything that happened along a pair of opposing directions requires both of relativity's paired observers, in the same or different inertial reference frames with respect to the event being observed.

    A quantum entangled superconducting mirror would be a great tool for investigating quantum phenomena. Billions of observers watching the same event more simultaneously than a television broadcast. Zero disinformation about events that have transpired, because there was no time to alter them. The ultimate counterpoint to someone like Berkeley, who seems to think that reality itself is there only for his own observational amusement. Even thinking that requires time.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2017
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  19. river Valued Senior Member

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    Couldn't agree more.
     
  20. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    Yes, but there's no mention of a conscious observer.
     
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  21. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    The experiments mentioned proved no such thing. If they had, this interpretation of quantum mechanics would now be generally accepted among physicists, and it is not.
     
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  22. river Valued Senior Member

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    But itsn't the observer assumed conscious , james ?
     
  23. river Valued Senior Member

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    This always troubled me .

    Why is it that consciousness , OUR , consciousness , is that which brings the Universe into existence ?

    Which is really anthropocentric thinking .

    Which is such a narrow thought .
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2017

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