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  #1  
Old 09-27-2011, 11:05 AM
sjh sjh is offline
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Quantum Mechanical Paradox

We seem to have a number of folks here who like physics. If my life had worked out differently I'm sure I would have ended up as a physics professor at some mid-size school and be content sitting in my room with my books and my equations. Regardless ...

If you take a sealed box and put a light source within and then place the box in dark room near a screen you have the start of the situation. Next let's make a very small hole in the box. Light will now stream out and be projected on the screen. So far this is obvious. If you make a second very small hole you now have two sources of light projecting on the screen.

Now I suspect most of know that if the device is setup correctly, the holes are the correct size and spacing, etc what actually occurs is one produces a series of light and dark bands known as an interference pattern. Here's a picture -



So far this is pretty much review. What is being observed is the dual nature of light-matter, particularly at the atomic, sub-atomic level.

If we keep the experiment the same but instead of using light we start shooting electrons or neutrons or protons at the two slits (holes) we get the same results. If we go one step farther and start shooting complete atoms at the slits we again get the same results.

These are all examples of the dual-nature of matter-energy (sometimes called a wavicle). One way to think of those, though it is incorrect, is that one wavicle goes through the left slit and another one through the right. However if you use shoot out one atom at a time and put a photographic plate where you have the screen and repeat the experiment you get the same result.

Let me say that again. If I take one atom and throw it though the two slits it produces an interference pattern consistent with two waves having traveled through two slits. How can one particle behave as two waves? Welcome to QM.

So to see what is actually occurring let's take a very precise detector and monitor which one of the two slits the atom actually travels through. We then sit there and take a look. Our detector now tells us the location of the atom as it passes through. As we sit here and monitor the path of the atom all at once the interference pattern disappears! Heisenberg has raised his head!

If we don't know the location precisely the atom will exhibit wave behavior. As we force the atom to tell us its location it stops exhibiting wave behavior.

Pretty amazing.

Here's a nice overview -

Quantum Waves

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Old 09-27-2011, 11:05 AM
sjh sjh is offline
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Now I say all of this because I find it fascinating.

But I also mention it to point out the limitations of the intellect without experimental verification.

Some of the greatest minds of the late 19th and early 20th century struggled with this stuff for 35 years. We're talking IQ's of 170 kinda of people.

I'm certain that without experimental feedback that these brilliant men (nothing against women but invariably men are more present at the extremes, both high and low, of IQ distribution - it seems that testosterone causes our bell curve to spread out more than women) would have pondered and postulated for ever and not come up with the explanation of what has occurred.

So in an earlier discussion the conversation turned to how one intellectually explores the realms of existence that are outside of scientific inquiry. The proposed answer was a rational pursuit of metaphysics. That's a fine answer but I do not believe it will result in results that are in 'the same ball park' as scientific truth.

In fact I believe if one is honest they will recognize that without experimental feedback, if left to the intellect and words the best one can come up with are rationalizations. These are not truths, these are at best pragmatic approximations and in actuality are often little more than fancy restatements of our conscious or unconscious hopes, dreams and fears.

The only intellectual discipline that I believe can pursue truth without experimentation is pure math. Let's ask what is the difference between math and other pursuits. After giving it some thought I propose it is that math does not use words but more abstract symbols; numbers, operators, etc.

Apparently when using words we have so much emotion and association with them that it is not possible to work with them without invoking and/or engaging other aspects of ourselves. The more abstract levels of mathematical symbols appears to much more divorced from this. As such when I create a construct with words some aspect of mind already knows what the outcome will be and unconsciously ...

to be continued.

Last edited by sjh; 09-27-2011 at 12:03 PM.
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Old 09-27-2011, 12:15 PM
sjh sjh is offline
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... foresees the results and steers in the manner of our choosing. And even if we think that we want to be truthful we are not able to overcome our unacknowledged or unknown biases.

When using more abstract symbols and operations it does not seem to engage the psyche in the same manner and our minds are able to end up with results that may be truly revolutionary, such as there are numbers larger than infinite, but does cause the same level of internal threat as words and their constructs.

So. We mortals acknowledge that existence contains realms that are outside of scientific investigation. I contend that we, as a specie or as a culture have not reached unanimity on how that we do that. In fact I contend we will not be able to reach agreement, that it is an aspect of our nature, our identity.

As such, I suggest that people should be more tolerant of other paradigms than the one they have embraced. In spite of their certainty, it has no unique claim to intellectual superiority or intrinsic greater claim on truth.

These pursuits cannot lead to the same level of rational certainty of science and never will. As such one should embrace both scientific truth and the other 'certainties' that they have embraced, find a way to be at peace internally and treat others with some respect and kindness.
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Old 09-27-2011, 12:27 PM
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I think I get a sense of where this is going. Is 'God' an abstract symbol?
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Old 09-27-2011, 12:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sjh View Post
...If we don't know the location precisely the atom will exhibit wave behavior. As we force the atom to tell us its location it stops exhibiting wave behavior...
That's kinda what happens when I try to troubleshoot some weird noise in my car that only occurs when I'm driving!
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Old 09-27-2011, 01:03 PM
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Originally Posted by sjh View Post
... foresees the results and steers in the manner of our choosing. And even if we think that we want to be truthful we are not able to overcome our unacknowledged or unknown biases.

When using more abstract symbols and operations it does not seem to engage the psyche in the same manner and our minds are able to end up with results that may be truly revolutionary, such as there are numbers larger than infinite, but does cause the same level of internal threat as words and their constructs.

So. We mortals acknowledge that existence contains realms that are outside of scientific investigation. I contend that we, as a specie or as a culture have not reached unanimity on how that we do that. In fact I contend we will not be able to reach agreement, that it is an aspect of our nature, our identity.

As such, I suggest that people should be more tolerant of other paradigms than the one they have embraced. In spite of their certainty, it has no unique claim to intellectual superiority or intrinsic greater claim on truth.

These pursuits cannot lead to the same level of rational certainty of science and never will. As such one should embrace both scientific truth and the other 'certainties' that they have embraced, find a way to be at peace internally and treat others with some respect and kindness.
I would agree with much of the above, I think that we are steeped so long in western and modern thought that the ability to think outside the box is nearly impossible. I am greatly involved in thought like this, however relating to globalization and cultural studies rather than paradigms of "hard" science. I think math is an excellent and perhaps the most pure way that we as humans can rationalize our surroundings with it still making sense, but even our math breaks down sometimes--and lets not forget the errors of those who wield its power. Take for example Einstein, perhaps the most scientifically influential figure of the last hundred years. In black holes his physics break into singularities which logically do not make sense either. Furthermore, check out the study that just came out declaring particles traveling faster than light--while there is much to be debated about that, it serves as an example illustrating how little we truly know.
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Old 09-27-2011, 02:53 PM
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This isn't really about physics is it?
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Old 09-27-2011, 04:21 PM
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Did you know that if you farted consistently for 6 years, 9 months and 21 days, enough gas is produced to create the energy of a small atomic bomb?
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Old 09-27-2011, 04:32 PM
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Originally Posted by sjh View Post
After giving it some thought I propose it is that math does not use words but more abstract symbols; numbers, operators, etc.
Hmmmm? What is the difference between a number and a word? Isn't a number a word with specific properties and relationships? Aren't abstract symbols just shortcuts for a longer set of words?
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Old 09-27-2011, 04:34 PM
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Did you know that if you farted consistently for 6 years, 9 months and 21 days, enough gas is produced to create the energy of a small atomic bomb?
What's the total volume of gas in that amount of flatulence? Has anyone ever tested the speed of light through that medium? We can choose to have a civil, gentlemanly discourse about farts. Shall we? I'm offended by others' intolerance for my farts.
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Old 09-27-2011, 04:39 PM
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Botnst is the media expert. I'm more into the quantum aspects. Did you know that if you look at someone when they are farting, they will not really be farting even though you can smell their fart?
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Old 09-27-2011, 04:42 PM
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. We mortals acknowledge that existence contains realms that are outside of scientific investigation. .
What exactly do you mean by this? That there are some things we don't know? If so, why not simply state that? As you state it, it appears that you are saying that there are areas or places in the universe which are not capable of being scientifically investigated. Where are these areas? How do you know they exist? What methods are you using to detect their existence?
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Old 09-27-2011, 04:48 PM
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Well, where exactly do farts go? Huh? So there.
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Old 09-27-2011, 04:51 PM
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Hmmmm? What is the difference between a number and a word? Isn't a number a word with specific properties and relationships? Aren't abstract symbols just shortcuts for a longer set of words?
Not much, except numbers are a language sharing a common understanding by more people. Ultimately what you are asking is a dissection of both in terms of Saussurean semiotics which separate the sign, signifier, and signified and ultimately proposes the fact that none of our understanding is completely congruent. Mathematics (which btw, don't forget that we use Arabic numbers and are a language on their own) is a language that is easy to teach since the signs are simple (do you have one cookie or two cookies?) and share common ground. However as a language a lot of cultural philosophers would argue that each series of signs and corresponding parole (the areas affected by language such as politics, social interaction, etc) vary from person to person.
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Old 09-27-2011, 04:52 PM
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What exactly do you mean by this? That there are some things we don't know? If so, why not simply state that? As you state it, it appears that you are saying that there are areas or places in the universe which are not capable of being scientifically investigated. Where are these areas? How do you know they exist? What methods are you using to detect their existence?
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