Food for thought - debunking some folk-science

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catweazel
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Food for thought - debunking some folk-science

Post by catweazel » Sat Oct 26, 2019 6:46 am

This concerns the movie Interstellar (2014) and contains spoilers.

I've decided that I'll be retiring from the forums in coming weeks or months so I thought I'd give you a taste of one of the things that give me immense pleasure, besides helping LM users. So, here is a sample...

I had the opportunity to watch Interstellar for the first time last night and, being a retired physicist, couldn't help laughing at the movie's premise, that the protagonist, Cooper, could go into the future via a black hole, which was accessed via a wormhole, to directly influence the future by altering the past using a mechanism established by future humans who were no longer bound by time and space. That's what I will focus on here, but to give the movie credit, the portrayal of the wormhole as a sphere, and what the dust disk around a black hole might look like due to gravitational lensing were fairly accurate, as were the effects of relativity, but that's as far as it got. There is a major folk-science problem with the rest of the premise, that a person can directly influence the future by altering the past using a mechanism established by future humans.

In modern physics, quantum physics that is, not your clockwork universe Newtonian physics, we know that the future can directly influence the past. While this may seem completely off the wall, it is modern physics, and it can be proven. You only need to see the double-slit experiment to know this is true.

How do we know from this experiment that the future can influence the past?

Well, it's quite simple. If you place an observer at the screen where the photons hit, after the slits, an interference pattern appears, proving that the photons are behaving as waves. However if you place an observer at one of the slits, photons behave as particles and will go through one slit or the other. It's as if our very act of conscious observation has forced the photons into behaving as particles, but ... and it's a big but ... the photons are not coming out of the photon generator as waves and suddenly transforming into particles, they are, in fact, coming out as particles. It's as if the photons know ahead of time that they must behave as particles or waves. The only explanation for this that makes sense is that the future is directly influencing the past. This is the principle involved in Interstellar's premise.

Now, back to the premise. It isn't so far fetched that one can travel through a wormhole. It takes a good dose of skepticism to believe that one can travel into a black hole and remain unscathed, but, for this discussion, let's grant the assumption that it is doable. We are now left with future humans establishing a mechanism for Cooper to transmit vital information about the physics inside a black hole, which is what is called a singularity. I've made that bold-italic because I have something more to say about singularities, but at the end of this post. So, without this information about what's going on the innards of a singularity in the movie's 'present', it would not have been possible for the future humans to establish the mechanism for Cooper to transmit vital information about the physics inside a black hole back into the 'present'. This is where the script-writers have gone full tilt into folk-science.

If it is true that the future (B) humans had to create a mechanism for Cooper in the present (A) so that humans at (A) could set the groundwork for humans to get to (B), how did humans get to (B) in the first place? Anyone familiar with programming should immediately recognise this as an infinite loop. This premise of the movie is utter hogwash, plain and simple. You see, if the movie's portrayal of backward influence through time is correct then the present state (A) could never get (A) to the future state (B) without (B)'s assistance, so if (A) can never get to (B), there's a gaping hole somewhere because (A) did get to (B), and if (A) did get (B) then why did (B) need to give (A) a leg-up?

I hope your collective heads are spinning :)

Now, about that singularity. You read it here first. The word 'singularity' is a physicist's euphemism for 'My calculations exploded!' I won't go deep into this, but some folk-scientists claim that black holes, hence singularities, were predicted by Einstein's general relativity (general relativity is just a generalisation of his special theory of relativity) but this is completely false. What is happening is mathematical schadenfreude perpetrated by the cosmos, a serendipity of sorts; Jung would call it synchronicity. It just so happens that the equations explode because the result is infinite gravity, infinite energy and infinite temperature in a space of absolute zero volume, in short... BOOM! Your equations get plastered all over the walls.

The point is, if a singularity is possible, irrespective of our equations exploding once the values approach infinity, it was just sheer pot luck that the equations seemed to predict singularities. Why is it so? Even after more than 100 years, we currently cannot do better than Einstein so we must assume that the equations are correct. Singularities are an assumption. And equations do not explode unless something is very, very wrong.

Cheers.
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Re: Food for thought - debunking some folk-science

Post by Pippin » Sat Oct 26, 2019 6:57 am

Everything is electric.

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Re: Food for thought - debunking some folk-science

Post by catweazel » Sat Oct 26, 2019 7:11 am

One must be wary of whackjob pronouncements from self-proclaimed 'scientists'.

"What this site is about is a new form of science to replace classical theory..."

What on earth does he suppose contemporary theory (QM) did? And he can't spell 'straight'... strait????

lol
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Re: Food for thought - debunking some folk-science

Post by gm10 » Sat Oct 26, 2019 7:28 am

catweazel wrote:
Sat Oct 26, 2019 6:46 am
In modern physics, quantum physics that is, not your clockwork universe Newtonian physics, we know that the future can directly influence the past. While this may seem completely off the wall, it is modern physics, and it can be proven.
Not exactly proven. There are several theories trying to explain observed quantum effects, and retro-causality/time-synchronicity is just one of them.

But be that as it may, time travel as a movie device plot works a certain way to tell a story, not to explain quantum mechanics.
catweazel wrote:
Sat Oct 26, 2019 6:46 am
If it is true that the future (B) humans had to create a mechanism for Cooper in the present (A) so that humans at (A) could set the groundwork for humans to get to (B), how did humans get to (B) in the first place? Anyone familiar with programming should immediately recognise this as an infinite loop. This premise of the movie is utter hogwash, plain and simple. You see, if the movie's portrayal of backward influence through time is correct then the present state (A) could never get (A) to the future state (B) without (B)'s assistance, so if (A) can never get to (B), there's a gaping hole somewhere because (A) did get to (B), and if (A) did get (B) then why did (B) need to give (A) a leg-up?
It's interesting you would pick that one as the logical hole to expose, because I remember the movie's premise being so full of holes that I ended up greatly disliking it (unlike most other people apparently), yet yours could actually be dismissed as B trying to get A to C instead, without having to go through what led to B. Or at least that's as much as I remember of this otherwise very forgettable movie - sry. :P
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Re: Food for thought - debunking some folk-science

Post by catweazel » Sat Oct 26, 2019 7:47 am

gm10 wrote:
Sat Oct 26, 2019 7:28 am
catweazel wrote:
Sat Oct 26, 2019 6:46 am
In modern physics, quantum physics that is, not your clockwork universe Newtonian physics, we know that the future can directly influence the past. While this may seem completely off the wall, it is modern physics, and it can be proven.
Not exactly proven. There are several theories trying to explain observed quantum effects, and retro-causality/time-synchronicity is just one of them.
I used the term very loosely, it's not something I would do in the presence of another physicist. The problem with some theories is that they're totally crackpot. Take Everett's many-worlds interpretation. Supposedly there are an almost infinite number of our selves out there somewhere not doing what we're doing because the entire universe splits every time one person makes a binary decision. It is, all-in-all a crackpot theory that was invented to get around the collapse of the wave function by conscious observers, which it does very well. The sad part is, many scientists, mathematicians and theorists, have devoted their entire lives to it. Die-hard materialists like Everett are on the way out; to quote Max Planck, “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”
gm10 wrote: But be that as it may, time travel as a movie device plot works a certain way to tell a story, not to explain quantum mechanics.
The untold back-story is that there was a lot of ooh-ahh and hoopla in the press about the movie's 'accurate portrayal' of physics.
gm10 wrote:
catweazel wrote:
Sat Oct 26, 2019 6:46 am
If it is true that the future (B) humans had to create a mechanism for Cooper in the present (A) so that humans at (A) could set the groundwork for humans to get to (B), how did humans get to (B) in the first place? Anyone familiar with programming should immediately recognise this as an infinite loop. This premise of the movie is utter hogwash, plain and simple. You see, if the movie's portrayal of backward influence through time is correct then the present state (A) could never get (A) to the future state (B) without (B)'s assistance, so if (A) can never get to (B), there's a gaping hole somewhere because (A) did get to (B), and if (A) did get (B) then why did (B) need to give (A) a leg-up?
It's interesting you would pick that one as the logical hole to expose, because I remember the movie's premise being so full of holes that I ended up greatly disliking it (unlike most other people apparently), yet yours could actually be dismissed as B trying to get A to C instead, without having to go through what let to B. Or at least that's as much as I remember of this otherwise very forgettable movie - sry. :P
I'm a sci-fi fan. I love a good sci-fi movie. I allow myself to get absorbed so I don't have to think. I find it quietens the ongoing inner narrative. It's interesting from the standpoint that the problem with the premise just popped into my consciousness, completely out of nowhere, while I wasn't doing any thinking :)
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Re: Food for thought - debunking some folk-science

Post by AndyMH » Sat Oct 26, 2019 7:59 am

because I remember the movie's premise being so full of holes that I ended up greatly disliking it
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Re: Food for thought - debunking some folk-science

Post by Flemur » Sat Oct 26, 2019 8:26 am

catweazel wrote:
Sat Oct 26, 2019 7:47 am
It is, all-in-all a crackpot theory that was invented to get around the collapse of the wave function by conscious observers, which it does very well.
Any ideas about the physical world which depend "consciousness" or a "mind" are religious rather than scientific.

"This is a horrible viewpoint. Do you seriously entertain the idea that without the observer there is no reality? Which observer? Any observer? Is a fly an observer? Is a star an observer? Was there no reality in the universe before 10^9 B.C. when life began? Or are you the observer? Then there is no reality to the world after you are dead? I know a number of otherwise respectable physicists who have bought life insurance." -- Feynman
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Re: Food for thought - debunking some folk-science

Post by Spearmint2 » Sat Oct 26, 2019 8:49 am

One of the stupidest and most ridiculous space movies is this one from 1979 I saw called "The Black Hole". People say the effects were great, but I felt they were completely unrealistic.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Black_Hole

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1002497_black_hole

I still consider it the stupidest Sci-Fi movie I ever wasted money to see.

https://filmschoolrejects.com/disney-the-black-hole/
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Re: Food for thought - debunking some folk-science

Post by cliffcoggin » Sat Oct 26, 2019 9:05 am

Despite being a chemist not a physicist for most of my life, I do recall enough classical and quantum physics from 50 years ago to know that most sci-fi stories have little basis in reality, yet that is precisely why they appeal to me. To become stalled by the mechanics of the story, (i.e. how faster than light travel is achieved or how to travel through wormholes in space,) ignores the greater concepts that should be at the heart of such stories. I said "should" because too many films prefer the more visually spectacular and hence profitable aspects of sci-fi, whereas books tend more to the imaginative and thought provoking results of those effects. 2001 was one of the few sci-fi books that translated to a good film without losing the essential concept in all the special effects.

By the way I do like Catweazel's description of photons as being prescient.
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Re: Food for thought - debunking some folk-science

Post by catweazel » Sat Oct 26, 2019 9:21 am

Flemur wrote:
Sat Oct 26, 2019 8:26 am
catweazel wrote:
Sat Oct 26, 2019 7:47 am
It is, all-in-all a crackpot theory that was invented to get around the collapse of the wave function by conscious observers, which it does very well.
Any ideas about the physical world which depend "consciousness" or a "mind" are religious rather than scientific.

"This is a horrible viewpoint. Do you seriously entertain the idea that without the observer there is no reality? Which observer? Any observer? Is a fly an observer? Is a star an observer? Was there no reality in the universe before 10^9 B.C. when life began? Or are you the observer? Then there is no reality to the world after you are dead? I know a number of otherwise respectable physicists who have bought life insurance." -- Feynman
Flemur wrote:
Sat Oct 26, 2019 8:26 am
catweazel wrote:
Sat Oct 26, 2019 7:47 am
It is, all-in-all a crackpot theory that was invented to get around the collapse of the wave function by conscious observers, which it does very well.
Any ideas about the physical world which depend "consciousness" or a "mind" are religious rather than scientific.
Yes, I do. However the arguments require one to take a position opposed to many religions in order show that one or two other religions aren't necessarily all that far off the mark in some very, very general terms. I feel it's not something we should be discussing in these forums.
"This is a horrible viewpoint. Do you seriously entertain the idea that without the observer there is no reality? Which observer? Any observer? Is a fly an observer? Is a star an observer? Was there no reality in the universe before 10^9 B.C. when life began? Or are you the observer? Then there is no reality to the world after you are dead? I know a number of otherwise respectable physicists who have bought life insurance." -- Feynman
The above personal view seems to be misguided in more ways than one; it's an unscientific pejorative. A simple thought experiment will put the lie to the implication in the questions he posed there, in particular the last question vis-a-vis there is no reality at all, anywhere, if there is no observer. It rudely presumes, contrary to what we know about how the brain (not the mind) works and what it does with the data coming from its senses, i.e. it presumes that reality is external, when the fact is that all reality is all internal. We have no direct access to an external reality. What is "out there" is not much more than a mere assumption. The entire diatribe is wholly geocentric in denying the possibility of conscious observers prior to 1 billion years ago on some unknown planet, for example. It's also childish in that it implies that if consciousness is a necessary condition for QM then single-celled bacteria observed the universe.

In other quotes, Feynman engaged in what is called called promissory materialism by physicist and Anglican theologian, John Polkinghorne. Promissory materialism is the claim that materialistic science will eventually explain phenomena it is currently unable to explain.

Einstein was equally misguided when he stated that the moon exists when nobody is looking at it. In order to make that statement, Einstein had to deliberately set aside his knowledge of a whole lot of science to create the pejorative. In the very same sense that it is not possible to un-see what has been seen, it is not possible to un-collapse a wave function. In other words, once an observer has observed some thing then that thing is set for all subsequent observers,
"... I know a number of otherwise respectable physicists who have bought life insurance."
He's talking about religion, not science. That said, I would love to have seen the look on Feynman's face when he woke up to the realisation that he was dead :mrgreen:

I've made some very broad, potentially interesting statements there for you to pick out but let's try to stay off religion.
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Re: Food for thought - debunking some folk-science

Post by Portreve » Sat Oct 26, 2019 5:35 pm

I'm not going to enter the discussion here regarding physics. I'm not qualified to even hold an opinion, and in any event lack the math skills and other background data to begin to comprehend any of it on anything more than a philosophical level. However, I will opine on a few specific things.

I grew up a science fiction fan. I'll probably die a science fiction fan. However, I find that I just lack the interest in watching much stuff any longer. Part of me thinks maybe I've simply outgrown it. Another part thinks the caliber of much of what comes out of Hollywood — hyper impressive CGI, cinematography, and full-on naturalistic acting and writing notwithstanding — has simply gone to crap. Both may be true, and likely as not there's also other factors at play.

I remember when Interstellar came out, but mostly I heard ex post facto from third party sources that there was a lot of hype about the movie. It's yet another one of thousands of movies I've never seen and probably never will bother to, not because of catweazel's commentary or anyone else on here, but simply because the story concept just isn't of interest.

I'm far more interested in seeing the impact of events on characters involved in a story, and/or (given sufficient means / effort / time) the supremacy of an individual over the presumed superior side. Take, for example, Hulk vs. any of Thor's species. Or, take Babylon 5 as another general example.

Many, many years ago, back when I was still working at Sony in their call center, I started working on a writing project which I spent countless hours on over the course of several years, which was based on a fanfic crossover between 70s Buck Rogers and Battlestar Galactica. I spent something like 99% of my time and effort trying to deal with the lack of sophistication of the story telling and attention to detail. It's still a passion of mine, and I want to pick it back up because, even with Ron and Dave's 2004 BSG series, I believe the earlier series still has a compelling, character-impacting story to tell, and I desperately want to tell that story.
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Re: Food for thought - debunking some folk-science

Post by Mage of Maple » Sat Oct 26, 2019 10:09 pm

Nice! A thread about the interpretations of quantum mechanics. This is a subject that really interests me. I'm no physicist but I've read as much as I can without needing to get too deep into the math.
Take Everett's many-worlds interpretation. Supposedly there are an almost infinite number of our selves out there somewhere not doing what we're doing because the entire universe splits every time one person makes a binary decision. It is, all-in-all a crackpot theory that was invented to get around the collapse of the wave function by conscious observers, which it does very well.
I don't think the large number of universes necessarily makes it crackpot, but I'm certainly not buying it. But the reason I'm not buying it seems to be something you disagree with so I'm really curious. My problem with many worlds is that, as far as I can tell, it doesn't solve the measurement problem. We can still observe an electron behaving as either a particle or wave depending on how we set up the experiment. It seems the "universe splits in two" only if we are able to determine which slit the electron passed through. If we can't tell the electrons path, we see the interface pattern, so the universe didn't split. So, yeah, many worlds eliminates wave-function collapse, and replaces it with this universe splitting thing (which is completely untestable), but it doesn't seem to solve the measurement problem which is the real mystery IMO. Is there something else to many worlds that I'm missing? If it doesn't solve the measurement problem then what the heck is the point?

For any readers who are interested but aren't well versed in quantum physics I'll make a couple of comments about the measurement problem since there is a lot of stuff written about this that is either poorly worded, misleading, or flat-out incorrect. The "measurement problem", put simply, is that the universe appears to function differently when a measurement is made. Fire an electron at a pair of slits and where it can impact the wall beyond the slits is influenced by whether or not we are theoretically able to determine through which slit it passed. Now, a few notes about this:

NOTE 1: It is NOT just light. People usually refer to light, but I used an electron in my example because that is an actual thing with mass - clearly a particle - and the wave-like properties can still be observed. We have now been able to show this effect with buckey balls, which are molecules with 60 carbon atoms (big molecules.) We believe all matter has these mysterious wave-like properties.

NOTE 2: We do not need to make an actual observation or measurement. All that is required is that the experiment is set up in such a way that it is possible to determine which slit was trespassed. That said, read about the quantum eraser experiments if you really want your mind blown. Apparently we can "mark" the particle to determine which slit it used and then, through clever experimental setup, make it such that we lose the ability to read the marking before there is any possibility of reading the marking, and we get an interference pattern again!

NOTE 3: It requires more than just the particle interacting with another particle to destroy the interference pattern (although I don't recall the counter-example.) So what counts as a measurement? That's the $64,000 question.

Also, yeah, I agree that Feynmann's view is missing the point entirely. "With no observer there is no reality?" The wave-function guided by Schrodeger's equation is still reality. Perhaps without an observer the wave-function never collapses from a set of possible outcomes to any specific outcome but the universe can continue to evolve into an ever more complicated wave-function that records the probabilities of all possible outcomes that will be observed when an observer finally comes along.

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Re: Food for thought - debunking some folk-science

Post by catweazel » Sat Oct 26, 2019 10:30 pm

Mage of Maple wrote:
Sat Oct 26, 2019 10:09 pm
NOTE 1: It is NOT just light. People usually refer to light, but I used an electron in my example because that is an actual thing with mass - clearly a particle - and the wave-like properties can still be observed.
Here's a mind-bender for our readers... theoretically, there is absolutely no reason why we cannot fire elephants through the slits and see an interference pattern, though it might be difficult to see because of all the splattered giblets running down the screen.
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Re: Food for thought - debunking some folk-science

Post by Spearmint2 » Sat Oct 26, 2019 11:12 pm

All matter vibrates,so all matter gives off waves. I seem to be missing a post here. Maybe I forgot to clk the post button, I can repost later if it's lost.
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Re: Food for thought - debunking some folk-science

Post by RollyShed » Sun Oct 27, 2019 12:22 am

catweazel wrote:
Sat Oct 26, 2019 10:30 pm
.... there is absolutely no reason why we cannot fire elephants through the slits and see an interference pattern, though it might be difficult to see because of all the splattered giblets running down the screen.
I'm sure the Cruelty to Animals Act will get you for that....

A few books to cover the items discussed (that I've recently read) -

The quantum universe : everything that can happen does happen - Cox, Brian

The perfect theory : a century of geniuses and the battle over general relativity - Ferreira, Pedro G.

Why it's not all rocket science : scientific theories and experiments explained - Cave, Robert.

What is real? : the unfinished quest for the meaning of quantum physics - 2018 - Becker, Adam,

If they seem "too heavy" to some readers, maybe not as they also cover the history of the science, who thought of what, when, who debunked it, who was right, etc.

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Re: Food for thought - debunking some folk-science

Post by trytip » Sun Oct 27, 2019 12:46 am

if time travel was fact you would have to calculate and take into consideration that the earth and all celestial objects orbit at a velocity of whatever speed per second. you would also need to calculate your position in the universe, otherwise you could materialize inside a wall or a tree or a person walking. calculating speed and velocity of expanding universes and orbits of celestial objects may be mathematically possible, but calculating the randomness of traveling in time on planet earth is impossible unless you already know the future.

all this talk about infinite universes and infinite possibilities is nonsense. if i knew that there were an infinite number of ME would i sacrifice myself in order for another me to exist? nope, suddenly you're not a unique individual but an insignificant expendable ant. would you envy your other "you" if he was able to get the girl that got away? or would you take over their life? he is you, so by all means you are entitled to anything that belongs to that "you" right?

if you go back in time and try to fix a mistake you did the last time hop would you really allow yourself to dictate what actions to take? at what point do you recognize yourself as the enemy of yourself? and in the end which "you" gets to keep the perfect reality?

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Re: Food for thought - debunking some folk-science

Post by Flemur » Sun Oct 27, 2019 12:36 pm

catweazel wrote:
Sat Oct 26, 2019 9:21 am
It rudely presumes, contrary to what we know about how the brain (not the mind) works and what it does with the data coming from its senses, i.e. it presumes that reality is external, when the fact is that all reality is all internal.
In a sense, yes, but then the observer isn't really observing anything other than himself. But in a sense no, because the internal state is partially caused by external reality. That's why you don't leave your hand on a hot stove.
The entire diatribe is wholly geocentric in denying the possibility of conscious observers prior to 1 billion years ago on some unknown planet, for example.
It applies to those imaginary "observers" also; if you're positing that some conscious observer(s) existed before the physical universe, have at it.
It's also childish in that it implies that if consciousness is a necessary condition for QM then single-celled bacteria observed the universe.
His point was that conscious observers are not necessary. Besides, bacteria react to their environment, like humans do: what else does "observing" consist of? In that old cat-box thought experiment the cat, the geiger-counter, the box and the air in the box, etc, etc are all "observers" in that they react to the environment, and that's why, in the real world, someone could open the box and figure out that the cat died two hours before the human observed anything, by measuring the cat's body temperature, etc. That would be true even if a regular cat were replaced by an unconscious cat or by something like a chemical which reacts to the gas.

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Re: Food for thought - debunking some folk-science

Post by Mage of Maple » Sun Oct 27, 2019 2:01 pm

RollyShed wrote:
Sun Oct 27, 2019 12:22 am
The quantum universe : everything that can happen does happen - Cox, Brian
I read this one. It was decent, but, based on the title, I was expecting more discussion of the many worlds theory. But it was hardly mentioned. I'm still looking for someone knowledgable who actually believes this theory to make a defence of it. Supposedly there are physicists who believe it and it is rising in popularity but it sure doesn't seem that way.
RollyShed wrote:
Sun Oct 27, 2019 12:22 am
What is real? : the unfinished quest for the meaning of quantum physics - 2018 - Becker, Adam,
This looks interesting. Would you recommend this book?

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Mage of Maple
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Re: Food for thought - debunking some folk-science

Post by Mage of Maple » Sun Oct 27, 2019 2:05 pm

Flemur wrote:
Sun Oct 27, 2019 12:36 pm
His point was that conscious observers are not necessary. Besides, bacteria react to their environment, like humans do: what else does "observing" consist of? In that old cat-box thought experiment the cat, the geiger-counter, the box and the air in the box, etc, etc are all "observers" in that they react to the environment, and that's why, in the real world, someone could open the box and figure out that the cat died two hours before the human observed anything, by measuring the cat's body temperature, etc. That would be true even if a regular cat were replaced by an unconscious cat or by something like a chemical which reacts to the gas.
Wrong. Particles can interact with other particles without collapsing the wave function and destroying the interference pattern. What constitutes a measurement? We don't know, but we do know that it is more complex they you claim.

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Re: Food for thought - debunking some folk-science

Post by all41 » Sun Oct 27, 2019 2:31 pm

It seems logical to conclude that science fiction movies are indeed fictional.

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