Mod+ [Resources] Physics & Consciousness

S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#1
One thing I'm not sure of here is why MWI doesn't apply as a possibility.

The Reality Tests

...For more than 70 years, innumerable physicists have tried to disentangle the meaning of quantum mechanics through debate. Now Zeilinger and his collaborators have performed a series of experiments that, while neatly agreeing with the theory’s predictions, are reinvigorating these historical dialogues. In Vienna experiments are testing whether quantum mechanics permits a fundamental physical reality. A new way of understanding an already powerful theory is beginning to take shape, one that could change the way we understand the world around us. Do we create what we observe through the act of our observations?...
The only assumption Leggett made was that a natural form of realism hold true; photons should have measurable polarizations that exist before they are measured. With this he laboriously derived a new set of hidden variables theorems and inequalities as Bell once had. But whereas Bell’s work could not distinguish between realism and locality, Leggett’s did. The two could be tested...

....The experiment wouldn’t be too difficult, but understanding it would. It took them months to reach their tentative conclusion: If quantum mechanics described the data, then the lights’ polarizations didn’t exist before being measured. Realism in quantum mechanics would be untenable...
...With eerie precision, the results of Gröblacher’s weekend experiments had followed the curve predicted by quantum mechanics. The data defied the predictions of Leggett’s model by three orders of magnitude. Though they could never observe it, the polarizations truly did not exist before being measured. For so fundamental a result, Zeilinger and his group needed to test quantum mechanics again. In a room atop the IQOQI building, another PhD student, Alessandro Fedrizzi, recreated the experiment using a laser found in a Blu-ray disk player.

Leggett’s theory was more powerful than Bell’s because it required that light’s polarization be measured not just like the second hand on a clock face, but over an entire sphere. In essence, there were an infinite number of clock faces on which the second hand could point. For the experimenters this meant that they had to account for an infinite number of possible measurement settings. So Zeilinger’s group rederived Leggett’s theory for a finite number of measurements. There were certain directions the polarization would more likely face in quantum mechanics. This test was more stringent. In mid-2007 Fedrizzi found that the new realism model was violated by 80 orders of magnitude; the group was even more assured that quantum mechanics was correct...
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#2
More:

Late last year Brukner and Kofler showed that it does not matter how many particles are around, or how large an object is, quantum mechanics always holds true. The reason we see our world as we do is because of what we use to observe it. The human body is a just barely adequate measuring device. Quantum mechanics does not always wash itself out, but to observe its effects for larger and larger objects we would need more and more accurate measurement devices. We just do not have the sensitivity to observe the quantum effects around us. In essence we do create the classical world we perceive, and as Brukner said, “There could be other classical worlds completely different from ours.”

Zeilinger and his group have only just begun to consider the grand implications of all their work for reality and our world. Like others in their field, they had focused on entanglement and decoherence to construct our future information technology, such as quantum computers, and not for understanding reality. But the group’s work on these kinds of applications pushed up against quantum mechanics’ foundations. To repeat a famous dictum, “All information is physical.” How we get information from our world depends on how it is encoded. Quantum mechanics encodes information, and how we obtain this through measurement is how we study and construct our world.

I asked Dr. Zeilinger about this as I was about to leave his office. “In the history of physics, we have learned that there are distinctions that we really should not make, such as between space and time… It could very well be that the distinction we make between information and reality is wrong. This is not saying that everything is just information. But it is saying that we need a new concept that encompasses or includes both.” Zeilinger smiled as he finished: “I throw this out as a challenge to our philosophy friends.”
 
#3
Fascinating. The next question that comes to mind is what is sufficient to act as an observer? How can we define when a measurement has been taken? Personally, I can't see how it can be anything other than consciousness, but what is the opposing view? How can it be anything other than consciousness?
 
#4
Fascinating. The next question that comes to mind is what is sufficient to act as an observer? How can we define when a measurement has been taken? Personally, I can't see how it can be anything other than consciousness, but what is the opposing view? How can it be anything other than consciousness?
Any disturbance qualifies as an observer. You can check this fact for yourself. Find the answer to the first will answer the second question. Quantum processes happen all around you even when your are not aware of them. Think about this. What was the universe doing before life came on the scene.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#5
Fascinating. The next question that comes to mind is what is sufficient to act as an observer? How can we define when a measurement has been taken? Personally, I can't see how it can be anything other than consciousness, but what is the opposing view? How can it be anything other than consciousness?
Well part of the issue for physicists like Stapp is that the line between quantum and classical is, to my understanding, arbitrary.

One way of arguing for the importance of consciousness is to note that the measuring device and its user itself will become part of the system in superposition, as noted by the controversial "Wigner's Friend" argument:

The Wigner's friend thought experiment posits a friend of Wigner who performs the Schrödinger's cat experiment after Wigner leaves the laboratory. Only when he returns does Wigner learn the result of the experiment from his friend, that is, whether the cat is alive or dead. The question is raised: was the state of the system a superposition of "dead cat/sad friend" and "live cat/happy friend," only determined when Wigner learned the result of the experiment, or was it determined at some previous point?
Kaku actually talks about this in the appendix of his new Future Mind book. If you see the book in the store, flip to the quantum consciousness section. ;)

Any disturbance qualifies as an observer. You can check this fact for yourself. Find the answer to the first will answer the second question. Quantum processes happen all around you even when your are not aware of them. Think about this. What was the universe doing before life came on the scene.
I think you're talking about decoherence, which AFAICTell is referenced when the article states:

Late last year Brukner and Kofler showed that it does not matter how many particles are around, or how large an object is, quantum mechanics always holds true. The reason we see our world as we do is because of what we use to observe it. The human body is a just barely adequate measuring device. Quantum mechanics does not always wash itself out, but to observe its effects for larger and larger objects we would need more and more accurate measurement devices.
Admittedly sussing the above out from the paper's conclusion (I'm guessing it's this one) is rather complex:

We showed that the time evolution of an arbitrarily large spin cannot be understood classically, as long as consecutive outcomes in a spin component measurement are resolved. For certain Hamiltonians, given the limitation of coarse-grained measurements, not only is macrorealism valid, but even the Newtonian time evolution of an ensemble of classical spins emerges out of a full quantum description of an arbitrary spin state—even for isolated systems. This suggests that classical physics can be seen as implied by quantum mechanics under the restriction of fuzzy measurements.
 
#6
Well part of the issue for physicists like Stapp is that the line between quantum and classical is, to my understanding, arbitrary.

One way of arguing for the importance of consciousness is to note that the measuring device and its user itself will become part of the system in superposition, as noted by the controversial "Wigner's Friend" argument:



Kaku actually talks about this in the appendix of his new Future Mind book. If you see the book in the store, flip to the quantum consciousness section. ;)



I think you're talking about decoherence, which AFAICTell is referenced when the article states:



Admittedly sussing the above out from the paper's conclusion (I'm guessing it's this one) is rather complex:
The human body can be considered a measuring device.
 
#7
Well part of the issue for physicists like Stapp is that the line between quantum and classical is, to my understanding, arbitrary.

One way of arguing for the importance of consciousness is to note that the measuring device and its user itself will become part of the system in superposition, as noted by the controversial "Wigner's Friend" argument:



Kaku actually talks about this in the appendix of his new Future Mind book. If you see the book in the store, flip to the quantum consciousness section. ;)



I think you're talking about decoherence, which AFAICTell is referenced when the article states:



Admittedly sussing the above out from the paper's conclusion (I'm guessing it's this one) is rather complex:
The human body can be considered a measuring device.
 
#8
Fascinating. The next question that comes to mind is what is sufficient to act as an observer? How can we define when a measurement has been taken? Personally, I can't see how it can be anything other than consciousness, but what is the opposing view? How can it be anything other than consciousness?
Here is what Neils Bohr said about the obersever:
And what predictions we base on such findings depend on the way we pose our experimental question, and here the observer has freedom of choice. Naturally, it still makes no difference whether the observer is a man, an animal, or a piece of apparatus, but it is no longer possible to make predictions without reference to the observer or the means of observation. To that extent, every physical process may be said to have objective and subjective features. The objective world of nineteenth-century science was, as we know today, an ideal, limiting case, but not the whole reality. Admittedly, even in our future encounters with reality we shall have to distinguish between the objective and the subjective side, to make a division between the two. But the location of the separation may depend on the way things are looked at; to a certain extent it can be chosen at will. Hence I can quite understand why we cannot speak about the content of religion in an objectifying language. The fact that different religions try to express this content in quite distinct spiritual forms is no real objection. Perhaps we ought to look upon these different forms as complementary descriptions which, though they exclude one another, are needed to convey the rich possibilities flowing from man's relationship with the central order.
On a related topic, I find it interesting that most of the originators of quantum theory were not materialists. Max Planck clearly expresses a type of idealism:
I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.
And one of my favorites from Werner Heisenberg:
The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.
Erwin Schrodinger frequently sounded like an eastern mystic:
Again, the mystics of many centuries, independently, yet in perfect harmony with each other (somewhat like the particles in an ideal gas) have described, each of them, the unique experience of his or her life in terms that can be condensed in the phrase: DEUS FACTUS SUM (I have become God). To Western ideology, the thought has remained a stranger... in spite of those true lovers who, as they look into each other's eyes, become aware that their thought and their joy are numerically one, not merely similar or identical...
Any of these types of expressions are not really acceptable things for a scientist to say anymore. Someone like Randi or French would show up immediately to call Schrodinger a woomeister.
 
#11
Any disturbance qualifies as an observer. You can check this fact for yourself. Find the answer to the first will answer the second question. Quantum processes happen all around you even when your are not aware of them. Think about this. What was the universe doing before life came on the scene.
So a disturbance of matter causes a collapse of the wave-form into matter? You can see how circular this argument is. Taking this stance you either have to give up classical causation, or add another element to the mix that is outside of matter that is the causation (consciousness).

I'm genuinely interested, how to standard materialist physicists get around this circularity?

You can't just say the body is a measuring device, without consciousness it is just physical matter which is itself is in a state of superposition before observed by a 'measuring device' (hint, consciousness). I can't see how a closed system of matter works in QT where measuring devices are of the same 'stuff' as the thing they are measuring.

I'm aware that many of the founders of QT have the view that consciousness is necessary, I'm just curious as to how the standard view gets around this. Is there another valid argument that I'm missing?
 
#12
So a disturbance of matter causes a collapse of the wave-form into matter? You can see how circular this argument is. Taking this stance you either have to give up classical causation, or add another element to the mix that is outside of matter that is the causation (consciousness).

I'm genuinely interested, how to standard materialist physicists get around this circularity?

You can't just say the body is a measuring device, without consciousness it is just physical matter which is itself is in a state of superposition before observed by a 'measuring device' (hint, consciousness). I can't see how a closed system of matter works in QT where measuring devices are of the same 'stuff' as the thing they are measuring.

I'm aware that many of the founders of QT have the view that consciousness is necessary, I'm just curious as to how the standard view gets around this. Is there another valid argument that I'm missing?
I think the current most popular view of QT among physicists is "Shut up and calculate". In other words, work on the models and math behind them and ignore the interpretations. That doesn't really answer your question though - It only pushes it off until later. I would also like to hear a better materialist explanation.
 
#13
I think the current most popular view of QT among physicists is "Shut up and calculate". In other words, work on the models and math behind them and ignore the interpretations. That doesn't really answer your question though - It only pushes it off until later. I would also like to hear a better materialist explanation.
Yes, that's what I suspect as well. I just can't believe that the current state. Physicists often seem to get very angry when people interpret that QT supports, or even demands, things like consciousness or idealism to be real, how can they do that if they don't have their own interpretation? I'm fine with physicists being agnostic when it comes to this issue but how can they then knock down other peoples interpretations?
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#14
You can't just say the body is a measuring device, without consciousness it is just physical matter which is itself is in a state of superposition before observed by a 'measuring device' (hint, consciousness). I can't see how a closed system of matter works in QT where measuring devices are of the same 'stuff' as the thing they are measuring.
Yeah, this is what I believe is referred to as the Von Neuman Chain. I don't see how the human body as measuring device resolves the problem.

I thought it was decoherence that fixed this but Brukner and Kofler had shown macroscopic superposition in 2007 and, IIRC, macroscopic superposition has been shown experimentally after that. Not to mention what I recall being the warm and wet coherence in plants using quantum mechanics for photosynthesis?

But Many Worlds would probably account for the quantum strangeness without surrendering to immaterialism. I'm guessing there are other potentially valid materialist interpretations, just not familiar with the varied possibilities. So no smoking gun yet, but it does seem realism is not necessarily the obvious choice. Prof. Schafer, for example, is leaning toward Idealism.
 
#15
Yeah, this is what I believe is referred to as the Von Neuman Chain. I don't see how the human body as measuring device resolves the problem.

I thought it was decoherence that fixed this but Brukner and Kofler had shown macroscopic superposition in 2007 and, IIRC, macroscopic superposition has been shown experimentally after that. Not to mention what I recall being the warm and wet coherence in plants using quantum mechanics for photosynthesis?

But Many Worlds would probably account for the quantum strangeness without surrendering to immaterialism. I'm guessing there are other potentially valid materialist interpretations, just not familiar with the varied possibilities. So no smoking gun yet, but it does seem realism is not necessarily the obvious choice. Prof. Schafer, for example, is leaning toward Idealism.
A least I feel better that I'm not the only one not to know of any counter arguments :). Yes, I think the excuse used to be that QT was only valid on the small scale, or cold temperatures, but as you say these have both been shown to be false now. I was just wondering what the current interpretation was. As for Many Worlds, at least that is an attempt at an interpretation, but I don't think many take it seriously (and rightly so in my opinion).
 
#16
Any disturbance qualifies as an observer. You can check this fact for yourself. Find the answer to the first will answer the second question. Quantum processes happen all around you even when your are not aware of them. Think about this. What was the universe doing before life came on the scene.
Why do we talk past each other in this way? I assume you know that QM is typically formulated with particle detectors that are treated classically - but that is clearly not really an answer, because detectors are themselves made of particles that obey QM. Thus, when an electron (say) interacts with a detector, we can either view that as a wave function collapse, or as an entanglement of the electron wave function with the (rather large and complex!) wave function of the detector.

The question as to where 'real' observation takes place is very obscure - but some of the founding physicists thought this must be consciousness.

David
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#17
Here's Kaku's description for Wigner's Friend:

In 1967, the second resolution to the cat problem was formulated by Nobel laureate Eugene Wigner, whose work was pivotal in laying the foundation of quantum mechanics and also building the atomic bomb. He said that only a conscious person can make an observation that collapses the wave function. But who is to say that this person exists? You cannot separate the observer from the observed, so maybe this person is also dead and alive. In other words, there has to be a new wave function that includes both the cat and the observer. To make sure that the observer is alive, you need a second observer to watch the 1st observer. This second observer is called “Wigner’s friend,”and is necessary to watch the 1st observer so that all waves collapse. But how do we know that the second observer is alive? The second observer has to be included in a still-larger wave function to make sure he is alive, but this can be continued indefinitely.Since you need an infinite number of “friends” to collapse the previous wave function to make sure they are alive, you need some form of “cosmic consciousness,” or God.
Now I thought Wigner decided against this Idealism later - though why exactly I'd have to look up - but according to Kaku:

Wigner concluded: “It was not possible to formulate the laws (of quantum theory) in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness.” Toward the end of his life, he even became interested in the Vedanta philosophy of Hinduism. In this approach, God or some eternal consciousness watches over all of us, collapsing our wave functions so that we can say we are alive.

This interpretation yields the same physical results as the Copenhagen interpretation, so this theory cannot be disproven.But the implication is that consciousness is the fundamental entity in the universe, more fundamental than atoms. The material world may come and go, but consciousness remains as the defining element, which means that consciousness, in some sense, creates reality. The very existence of the atoms we see around us is based on our ability to see and touch them.
p.s. The first resolution is just the Copenhagen Interpretation, and the third is MWI.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#19
Here's a list of interpretations that attempt to solve/explain the measurement problem.

One thing I'd note is Bohm's ideas of Implicate Order were more akin to Neutral Monism than materialism, as noted by John Macguire in the sadly gobbled up Bohm thread. Here's the interview with Bohm biographer D.Peat.

Paul Levy has been going through the physicist John Wheeler's thoughts on QM at Reality Sandwich:

The Physics of Dreaming (Part 1)

The Physics of Dreaming (Part 2)

Wheeler refers to quantum phenomena as untouchable, indivisible “elementary acts of creation”[vi] which reach into the present from billions of years in the past, and he views them as the building material of all that is. He openly wonders, “Are billions upon billions of acts of observer-participancy the foundation of everything?”[vii] In other words, are “billions upon billions of acts of observer-participancy” by innumerable beings over countless eons the very quantum process which has created our world, literally dreaming our world into materialization? Wheeler ponders whether the very term “big bang” is merely a shorthand way to describe the cumulative effects of these billions upon billions of acts of observer-participancy.[viii]
 
#20
Why do we talk past each other in this way? I assume you know that QM is typically formulated with particle detectors that are treated classically - but that is clearly not really an answer, because detectors are themselves made of particles that obey QM. Thus, when an electron (say) interacts with a detector, we can either view that as a wave function collapse, or as an entanglement of the electron wave function with the (rather large and complex!) wave function of the detector.

The question as to where 'real' observation takes place is very obscure - but some of the founding physicists thought this must be consciousness.

David
Casual proximity does not cause entanglement from what I have read making it extremely unlikely any detector is part of any specific quantum system. If that were a truth then I'd always know what my wife is thinking or wants. Most of the time I have no idea. Your detector isn't in a superpositions of states is it? No. So there's no practical possibility it is entangled. Consciousness can't account for the wave collapse because it is believed here that it is immaterial; immaterial things can't by their nature affect material things.

Where collapse to an eigenstate takes place could reasonably said be the eye.
There are other theories that do not need a living being.
The founding physicists were stepping beyond their expertise with their philosophical conjectures. It does help this position for consciousness.

Some links
Can photons tell if they're about to be watched? John Wheeler first proposed a means of resolving this bizarre possibility by coming up with a new twist on the double slit experiment almost 30 years ago. Now, physicists in France have performed the experiment for the first time (Science 315 966) http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/2007/feb/15/photons-denied-a-glimpse-of-their-observer

Critique of “Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters
Consciousness”
Abstract
The central claim that understanding quantum mechanics requires a con-
scious observer, which is made by B. Rosenblum and F. Kuttner in their book “Quan-
tum Enigma: Physics encounters consciousness”, is shown to be based on various
misunderstandings and distortions of the foundations of quantum mechanicshttp://physics.ucsc.edu/~michael/qefoundations.pdf
 
Top