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General Epistemology        Chapter IV-2       

 

IV-2
Quantum physics

 

(Permalink) (Was the chapters 31 and 32 in version 1)

 

One of the two basis of physics today is Quantum mechanics. Hence the point of starting with it.

 

This chapter has no pretension of explaining the whole quantum mechanics, with its mathematical formalism. It rather presents some reminders within reach of everybody, about quantum mechanics, of what it is, so that everybody could comprehend my thinking, and see how quantum mechanics matches with the metaphysics thesis of the third part, while no other interpretation of physics can. (In Popperian language, this can be said to be a valid test of my metaphysical thesis. And this metaphysical thesis is the only one to successfully pass it)

The way Quantum Physics is presented here is known as the Copenhagen Interpretation, which is the standard physics today, and the one which works with my metaphysical thesis.

Basis of physics for beginners

(Permalink) Science popularizing reviews present a vision of the atom where electrons are small balls of matter rotating around the nucleus, like planets around a star.

This vision of the atom, dating back to the 19th century, is completely false.

Let us take the simplest atom, the one of hydrogen, which has only one electron. This unique electron does not really «rotate». It does not have either the appearance of a small ball of matter. In facts, if we could approach the atom with some miniaturized vehicle, we would only see a blurred cloud of electric charge around the nucleus, without really something rotating. Physics says that the electron propagates like a wave, but this wave is trapped around the nucleus, like a water wave trapped around a whirlpool. And what we observe is only a probability of presence, the probability that the electron has of manifesting its presence and its action into a given place.

This blurred cloud, called an orbital, has a spherical symmetry, and its density goes lower and lower when we go farther of the nucleus. Its average diameter defines the diameter of the hydrogen atom.

However the equation which describes the movement of the electron has other solutions, where the electron can go further, and especially the wave will form nodes and antinodes, as on a piano string. Then the orbitals take the shape of lobes around the nucleus, still as blurred clouds. The atoms with several electrons will then have each electron in a different orbital, i.e. in a different lobe.

The dimensions and angles of orbitals are responsible of the dimensions and shapes of the molecules, and of all the chemical and mechanical properties of bodies. We then understand the importance given to the study of electrons around atoms, as soon as the 19the century!

The equation which defines the shape and dimensions of the clouds of probability of presence is called the equation of Schrödinger, and its different solutions are like numbered, with the help of four integers, called the quantum numbers. The higher these numbers, the farther the electrons go away from the atom, and the more lobes they make. So hydrogen has no lobes, but carbon has four, usually placed in a tetrahedron. It is this tetrahedron shape which governs all the structures of organic chemistry, and which gives its hardness to diamond.

In facts, an electron around an atom can occupy any solution of the equation of Schrödinger, but the higher the quantum numbers, the more energy the electron has. So the electron will usually occupy the lowest available energy level (if it is not already occupied by another electron, when the atom has several).

However the electron can receive light, which will then make it jump on a higher energy level. On the reverse, it can jump back on a lower level, and give back this energy, under the form of light. Each energy level having a very accurate value, the exchanges then happen by energy jumps, of accurate and invariable values: the energy quanta. These things were discovered and studied in the beginning of the 20th century, leading to the theory of Quantum Mechanics.

So these emissions of light happen by grains, called photons. In facts, light is entirely formed of such grains, each having a given energy. But each energy has its own wavelength, which also determines its colour. Then most of the colours we see are caused by quantum phenomena of emission or absorption of light.

That light is formed of grains goes straight against our intuition. Everybody can however check it, with a small and simple experiment, although delicate to succeed:

A quantum experiment on our kitchen table

(Permalink) When it is dark enough, but not too much, for instance our window, shutters closed, at nigh, without excessive lights outside, we can notice a snow effect of this weak light, exactly like the snow effect on a analog TV screen when we are off-station. (The effect is somewhat difficult to catch: we have to relax and not to grasp or force; we must not confuse with the spots and images which are seen even in absolute darkness or in the blue sky, which are neuronal effects; it works better if our vision is blurred: do not focus on the window, look through a magnifying glass, or get off short-sighted glasses; it is hardly visible with a too weak light, when only the rod cells of the retina work, so we must try with different levels of weak light). I think this snow effect is a manifestation or the quantum grain of photons of the light, visible with the naked eye.

Left: perception of photons. Middle: neuronal background.
				Right: 	photons in an interference pattern

Left image is the snow effect we should see. Middle image is the neural activity that we need to ignore for this experiment (but it is fun to explore on its own). Usually our brain suppresses both visions as irrelevant, making them difficult to see, and even to notice by accident.

The right image is what we should see with the the next experiment: If we compare with the interference experiment in the barn, in chapter III-5, we get a sensitive grasp on one of the most profound mysteries of modern physics, the fact that light is made of grains, while being at the same time a wave. Ideally, a good handyman may arrange the interferences in such a way to see the snow effect, bringing the two experiments in one!

The elusive behaviour of the photons

(Permalink) Let us take an atom (for example in the lamp of your kitchen) which emits a photon (particle of light) which is then absorbed by a sensitive molecule of your retina. The light is a wave, like the wave which appears on water when we throw a stone. We can follow the rays of this liquid wave, and measure its intensity in each place. It propagates in all the directions, and will reach the bank in various places more or less far away, where it will make feel its effects at various times, more or less late depending on distance. If it reaches a close bank, it continues to be propagated in other different directions, toward more remote banks where it will still have effects. The light, made of a great number of photons, behaves like the wave on the water. We can measure its intensity in various places, which will receive more or less photons, and it will make feel its effects at various distances in the room, but at the speed of light.

But the individual wave of a single photon reaching your retina does not at all behave like that. This wave is also spread in all the directions, as we are accustomed to see on the surface of water. In a few nanoseconds it occupies all the room, towards the lampshade, the table, you, the window where it can escape up to the infinite. But contrary to the wave, it ignores all these objects, and has strictly no action on them. It does not have any effect on the lampshade, nor on the table, nor on the walls. Admittedly these objects guide the wave, according to laws of optics, but they do not receive any information from the photon, and can even not suspect its existence. It is only when the wave of the photon reaches your retina, that it interacts with a sensitive molecule. Only at that moment appears the punctual photon, which matches the image we have of a particle, and all the energy which was contained in the wave of the photon in the whole room instantaneously condenses in this point. By a series of chemical reactions and messages, the eye has a feeling of light. And the part of the wave which continues to be propagated in the other directions, by the window, towards the sky, towards the infinite? Nobody knows what it becomes. In fact nobody knows either what it did on the way to your retina, where nobody saw it. There must however be a mean to detect it, will you say, with placing a light detector between the retina and the lamp. Indeed, it is detected, but then the retina does not see it any more, since there is an object which interposes. The wave which really went from the lamp to the retina is perfectly and completely undetectable, it strictly does not have any effect on anything.

The light we know does not seem to behave in this way. This is because it is made of an immense number of photons. Then nothing forbids to place a detector on the path between the lamp and the retina, which will show this path, while blocking only a small part of the photons. Nothing either forbids a part of the light of your lamp to escape toward the infinite through the window, as we use to see. But these familiar behaviours are only a statistical sum of the bizarre quantum behaviour of an immense number of individual photons, each with a different trajectory.

Light interferences

(Permalink) We can see the wave nature of light with interferences experiments, like the one described in chapter III-5.

In a well parallel beam of light, we interpose an opaque screen with two thin slots. The light passing through the slots falls on a screen. Into certain conditions, the light wave coming from each slot arrive in phase (in rhythm) or in phase opposite (off beat). Into the first case, they add, and we have on the screen a luminous fringe. Into the second case, they subtract, and we have a dark fringe. These luminous or obscure fringes are called interferences.

 

That light more light can give darkness shocks our intuition. However, this is really what is observed, and which proves that light is really a wave. So light is not a magical entity, but a wave obeying accurate mathematical laws.

This double nature of light caused tens of years of debate among physicists, before they get used to this idea of the non-duality (chapter I-3) between wave and particles.

 

But there is better...

Interferences between electrons

(Permalink) After all, light being immaterial, a vibration, we can admit that it can interfere, and self-cancel, like a sound, or like a wave. The problem is that material particles can also do this! A similar method (but impossible to carry on in a kitchen) also allows for making an electron to interfere with itself. The experiment was made, with two slots and a fluorescent screen sensitive to the shock of the electrons. And we really observe interferences, including dark fringes.

 

We could admit that an electron passes into one of the slots, and another in the other slot. Their interactions would then create interferences fringes, where no electron would arrive. But in sending electrons one per one, the fringes are still here. Thus an electron passes through the two slots at a time, to interfere with itself!

Strictly speaking, to observe this phenomenon requires very special conditions, where an electron is able of going through the whole trajectory from the emitter to the screen, without any quantum interaction with other object.

Tunnel effect and de-materialization

(Permalink) Normally, an electric current is the passage of electrons through a conductive material. The current cannot pass through an insulating material: as sees our materialistic intuition, the electron and the insulating material are two different matters, which then cannot occupy the same place. To go through an insulator, the current needs to force a passage: it is a spark, which makes a hole through the insulating material.

However, if the barrier is thin enough, the electron can go through without breaking anything. How? As we seen, an electron linked to an atom occupies some volume of space, where its probability of presence, strong near the atom, decreases very quickly with the distance. We can picture it as a fuzzy ball of fog. If we interpose an insulating barrier, the electron normally cannot pass. But if this layer is thin enough, then the fuzzy cloud of probability of presence will in a way show on the other side. If an electric voltage pushes the electron, then it can really reappear on the other side, without having manifested its presence into the insulating layer (Which would break it). So we cannot detect its passage inside the insulating layer. This is the quantum way of electrons to behave and move, as the photons seen previously.

The common comparison sees the barrier as a bump: a ball rolling on the ground does not have enough speed to cross it. However, if the barrier is sufficiently thin, it happens that an electron goes through, without requiring extra energy, without breaking anything. Simply it ceases existing on a side of the barrier to re-materialise on the other side. As if the ball passed through the bump by a tunnel, hence the name.

The tunnel effect is used into some electronic components, such as the NAND memories which are found in memory sticks and MP3 readers. It is also involved in many biochemistry reactions, and we suspect that it may influence the activity of the neurons. Strictly speaking, after quantum mechanics, it is not impossible that a car running up against a plane tree goes through still intact, but in the case of objects of our daily life, considering their size and the enormous number of particles which compose them, to observe a tunnel effect through a plane tree is extremely improbable, and it is advisable that those who drive under the influence of alcohol do not rely on this for their survival!

The Aspect experiment

(Permalink) It is again an experiment with photons. This time, they are emitted by pairs of two photons of the same frequency, but with opposite direction and polarisation (some atoms do this naturally). So these two photons go away of each other at twice the speed of light. The first will pass through a polarizing glass, which will impose it a given polarisation. The second will pass through a polarisation detector, situated in the same distance, but in the opposite direction.

The result is that the second photon has the reverse polarisation of the one imposed to the first... despite they have no mean to communicate! This is called quantum simultaneity: the two photons in facts form only one quantum system, which will manifest simultaneously in two separate places. It is said that the quantum world is non-local.

The experiment was successfully conduced in Geneva, with the two receivers as far as 10 kilometres of each other. So the result is perfectly sure.

(Added April 2012) After the theory of the logical self generation presented in this part, the arrival of each of the two photons on its polariser is in facts an unique quantum event (an unique nib), which however manifests in two separate places. Then the equations of Special Relativity explain exactly what we observe, coming from each of these two places. And an unique event is an unique causality, and not a «communication at infinite speed».

(Added April 2012) The only question left open (already asked in version 1, chapter 35) is then: if we place the detector too close, and we bring it farther and farther, from which moment shall we observe the interaction? when the two distances are equal... or otherwise? The experiment needs to be attempted. It would also be interesting to test the case of a non-physical event, such as telepathy or ESP.

The science popularisation reviews were saying that the Aspect experiment could be used to send information at a virtually infinite speed, for instance between two planets, while bypassing the speed of light limit. On this basis, I myself developed this aspect in chapter 35 of the first version of this book, in 2000. Since, scientists voiced their disagreement: as a matter of facts, the polarisation induced on the first photon is at random, and thus the one of the second is too. So we can only compare these two photons for demonstrating the non-locality, but not transmit information.

I am however not totally convinced of this reasoning: I remember these physicists who were saying that we shall never build quantum computers, as we cannot avoid the decoherence of the quantum states (note 35) to happen in a much too short time. The ink of their speech was not yet dry, that other physicists were coming along with a simple glass of water, saying it had a decoherence time of several minutes, thanks to a MRI system commonly used in medicine. Could the same thing happen with the Aspect experiment? I hope it will, but I do not know, so I abstain of any extrapolation. But I shall also abstain of any pessimism, and I do not deny the «quantum telescopes» which are the basis of my science-fiction novels of the series Dumria.

Classical interpretation

(Permalink) Since the end of the 19th century, scientists made numerous efforts to try to conciliate such strange observations with a classical vision of the world where the fact that a particle is «material» magically gives it the property of being «real».

In the case of the electron interfering with itself, it was supposed that there would really be only one electron, passing through only one of the two slots. But it would be accompanied by a wave, which on its side would be able to pass through the two slots without difficulties, and interferes with itself. Then the electron would just have to land in a zone where the interference is constructive, instead of a zone where it annihilates.

Classical«ball of matter» electron in the interference experiment

Here the electron as seen in the 19th century, is a ball of matter, an unique object which would have the magical property of «existing concretely» in a definitively unique and determined place. It is already difficult that it exerts its influence through the two slots in the same time, through its mysterious wave. But it would necessarily pass by only one of the two slots.

 

The trouble is that this makes two objects instead of one... The debate raged for several tens of years into the science community, before a group of scientists, gathered around Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, in Copenhagen, resolve the problem. Or rather alleviates it, is it is still shocking the classical materialistic common sense.

The Copenhagen interpretation.

(Permalink) This Copenhagen interpretation is rather frustrating, as it relinquishes any attempt to try to understand what is underlying the experiments like the electron going through two slots at a time. Is there «something» which «however» goes through only one of the two slots? Or is the electron really able of duplicating itself? The quantum mechanics theory does not allow to reply to this question. Historically, other scientists, including no less than Einstein, opposed it. However, they had to accept it: we found nothing better since. So, still today, scientists make excellent predictions with a theory already one century old, than nothing yet proved wrong, but which does not allow to understand «why» things are like they are.

Copenhagen Electron in the interference experiment

The electron as seen by the Copenhagen interpretation has no determined place, and it exerts its existence only at the time of its emission or its reception (which are quantum interactions, red ¤ signs). Between the two, everything happens as if it did not existed, as with the tunnel effect when it goes through obstacles.

The reappearance place of the electron is however determined by the waves of probability of presence. Then, nothing forbids that the reappearance place is determined by the interferences of these waves, implying that the two slots have their word to say. Then everything happens as if the electron passed by the two slots, without anyway nothing such as a ball of matter which would duplicate. We can consider that the slots (or any other object) act on it, and dictate its probable point of reappearance.

Feynmann diagram of the electron in the interference experiment

This is a Feynmann diagram: only the quantum interactions (red ¤ signs) are observable (here, the emission and reception of an electron). The Feynmann diagrams link these events with arrows, but they are not trajectories in space, just the abstract transmission of the properties of the electron. So the arrow is free to pass through anything, one slot, two slots, a wall. We remark that the screen with its two slots influences the place of reception (second arrow), but it receives no information of the electron. Between the emission and the reception, the electron is totally unobservable.

 

 

 

There are numerous other experiments where we do not know what happens between the quantum interactions, but still the mathematical gears of Quantum Mechanics allow to predict exactly the result. Despite this fundamental limitation, Quantum mechanics allowed to create all the marvels of electronics, lasers, chemistry, etc.

Cretinous Copenhagen grocer throwing quantum potatoes to passer-by

In Copenhagen, a grocer has fun throwing quantum tatters to passer-by. The police could never catch him, as nobody knows through which window the potato passed.

 

 

Ultimately the only defined physical reality is the quantum interaction. The quantum interactions are events with a null duration, happening at a precise time and in a precise place. After the interpretation of Copenhagen, there is simply no sense to search for anything which would be «between» the quantum interactions, or «smaller» or «more fundamental».

 

Especially, there is no sense at looking for a trajectory or a place for the particle between two quantum interactions.

The quantum interaction.

(Permalink) We saw a little higher that when a photon is emitted, a «wave» is emitted, which propagates in every directions. So we cannot define a place for this photon, while it is travelling. But when it arrives somewhere, then all what constitutes the photon is instantly reported into this place.

In a general way, the elementary particles spend their time to this: In a quantum interaction, a particle is in a determined and observable state. But after, the particle behaves like a wave, and gradually as time passes, and new possibilities of interactions become available to it, many waves are superimposed. For example an electron has two possible values for its spin (its magnetization), the two values then propagate simultaneously. A photon has the choice of its polarization angle: all the values then propagate simultaneously. And each of these waves determines the likelihood of a future interaction.

But when this particle will actually interact, then only one of these waves, one of these possibilities manifests. All the others disappear! This is what is called the wave function collapse. For instance, a photon passing through a polarizing glass will have only one polarization, instead of all the possible orientations.

What is important to understand, is that between two quantum interactions with other particles, a quantum particle has no defined state, it does not interact with others, and we can not detect it (We could try to detect it with another quantum interaction, but then it is a different story that we would observe). A particle between two quantum interactions has no defined state, but it carries all the potential states which it can take, each with its own probability. However the environment (other particles, fields, etc..) influence these different probabilities. The state which will appear is then a random draw among all these states, each with its probability. This is the quantum randomness. This quantum random is an absolute and perfect random. It is with quantum randomness that makes the best random numbers generators.

Why quantum mechanics looks absurd, while it is very logical

(Permalink) This vision of a particle which exists only at times, jumping in space without intermediate path and materializing perhaps here, perhaps there, forms the basis of today physics. It is particularly frustrating for us commoners, because it goes right against our idea of matter existing continuously, and having to do its path through space, eventually with piercing through a wall. We can only wonder «how» a ball of matter can thus disappear, be unobservable and unpredictable, occupy all the space, and then suddenly reappear instantly, a little further, in a single point, without any apparent cause. Scientists too are frustrated, because they have nothing better to say, no theory, no explanation, not even the slightest hypothesis. In the beginning of the quantum theory, some, including nobody else than Einstein, wondered if there would not be «something» accompanying the wave and which would determines the point of arrival. But nothing was found, and in 1927 the Copenhagen School (Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg) ruled out all such explanations as purely pointless. Today, the large majority of the physicists think, after the Copenhagen School, that we need to give up all the prejudices we got from our common experience, and just accept that the microscopic world of the particles behaves like this. Into these conditions, we really not need to wonder why and how, and all the «illogical» quantum mysteries effectively disappear, as soon as we stop trying to explain them with the matter of our daily experience. We shall even see further in this part, that quantum physics is finally much simpler than if the particles were «made of matter» like billiards balls.

Interpretation after the metaphysical thesis of this book

(Permalink) This Copenhagen interpretation makes me smile a bit: because there is no material explanation, there would be no explanation at all. How our physicists, so smart and so knowledgeable, could think they would find a material explanation to matter?? Such an explanation cannot be one, as it forcibly bites its own tail. Our physicists just forgot that an ultimate explanation to physics is necessarily beyond physics, that is meta physical. But gargl choke whatisthis must not speak of this and especially no touch it. From there my smile, as our physicists are much closer of the ultimate truth than they think, just refusing to see it, entrenched as they are behind a veil of mystery and darkness... that they weaved themselves during two centuries of materialism, to the point of even no more be aware of its existence!

Scientists wondering how the world is, while they are in

Without the taboo on metaphysics, the scientists would normally have found circa 1940 the metaphysical thesis explained in the third part. This would have been much more useful than atom energy, at least...

 

As truth is very simple: this metaphysical thesis explains precisely quantum mechanics, even the pure and hard one, the one of Copenhagen, without any need to modify it, without any need for any unknown ingredient, without any «alternate physics». It even excludes any ingredient of this kind, in the very spirit of Copenhagen. And this explanation is simple and perfectly satisfying, allowing to perfectly understand why the world of particles behaves in this way.

 

We just have to admit that, as we saw in the third part on metaphysics, particles and photons are NOTHING ELSE than the effect of logical relations. So there is not «something» mysterious behind all this, and, these relations being already known of the physicists, they are much closer than they think to have completely mastered the topic.

 

More precisely, we can say that our physical universe would be a logical self generation process, like the ones seen into the third part, especially in chapter III-4.

 

So the quantum interaction would be quite simply the «nib» of our universe (¤ symbol).

 

The only defined reality of our universe is its «nib»: the quantum interaction.

 

So our universe self-generates, just like the nibs system seen in chapter III-4.

 

Even the particles, which seem to exist continuously, exist only as a succession of quantum interactions, which transmit to each other the properties of the particle, such as its charge, mass, energy, etc. giving the illusion that the particle continuously exists and moves along a path in space. (Do not confuse nib and particle: a nib, or quantum interaction exists only at a given time and place. For a particle to appear and follow a path, there must necessarily be a chain of nibs)

And between two nibs, there is no defined reality, not of objects, and even not of space and time. So the wave of the photon does not exist as a physical object, this wave is quite simply a mathematical relation, and nothing else, which describes the way in which the photon will reappear somewhere. It is not visible after this reappearance; it is not visible before. It is not visible «on the path» of the photon; it is no more visible on other paths. It is not in a peculiar place, it is no more in the whole universe. It is only a mathematical entity, useless to seek for it, useless to try to see it: we cannot materially observe mathematics entities. It is as atemporal and non-spatial as a number. This is really what we observe with the quantum non-locality of the Aspect experiment. There is really no mystery into the quantum non-locality: nobody ever seen a mystery in 2+2 making 4 everywhere simultaneously. It is just a very common property of mathematical objects, to exist in total independence of time and space.

 

So we are going further than the Copenhagen interpretation. This interpretation says that there is no sense at seeking an underlying reality to quantum phenomena, for instance a «matter ball» electron which would guide the wave and its point of reappearance, while going by only one of the two slots. The metaphysical thesis presented here says that there is really nothing! Nothing more at least than what Quantum Mechanics says, and especially nothing «material» which would magically make the particles to «exist concretely».

 

 

I thus propose here a new formulation of the Copenhagen Interpretation, which would be nor negative neither masochistic (We do not know why it is that way, but we apply the formula): The relationship between its elements are enough to describe the observable universe, without needing anything else, especially without supposing that any of its elements would exist absolutely. (no hidden variables, no continuum, no fields, no particles, no mysterious creation) This formulation describes exactly one of the main properties of the logical self-generation systems.

 

 

With these conditions, all the oddities of quantum mechanics appear as simple behaviours, and even obvious and familiar behaviours. There is no more mystery to see a mathematical relation influencing the world without having to change of place, through a wall or at an arbitrary high distance, as in the Aspect experiment. There is no mystery into seeing a particle, ultimately immaterial, to «dematerialize» and to «rematerialize» a bit further, as in the tunnel effect. And there is no more any need to suppose anything «more fundamental» or «smaller», which would «guide» the interaction. We shall see further in chapter IV-3, that even space and time are generated into a simple and clear way, even into «vacuum», understand without particles around: our space-time would be itself a logical self-generation process, as the ones we saw in chapter III-4. And all this without any contradiction with known physics, without any need to add any hypothesis, right on the contrary while suppressing one: the materialist hypothesis, this bizarre hypothesis which forbid the particles to do what they want (and people too, as materialism is really the most anti-freedom religion, the most sadomasochist).

 

At last, this abstract quantum world, formed only with logical relationship between nibs (quantum interactions) without «concrete existence», shows us the illusion of being «observable» and of «existing concretely», for the reason seen in chapter III-5: as our sensory organs and our brains are formed of the same particles than the remainder of the universe, into the same logical self-generation process, then they can receive informations from this universe, and from this one only. So these sensory organs and this brain can bring information and feelings to our consciousness, either «scientific observation», or our familiar feeling of «concrete existence». So there is no mystery, if an abstract universe, without any «ultimate matter», appears to us «material» and «existing». Billions others may have the same property, but only to the eyes of their own inhabitants, not ours.

All this is in fact extremely simple, once we stop to make knots in our brains, seeking an «ultimate explanation of matter» which would distinguish our universe of all the others. Even quantum mechanics now seems simple and familiar... except the calculations, that we have unfortunately not simplified.

Comparison with the chess game

(Permalink) I state loud and clear that, once we no more try to bring it back to materialistic conceptions, the quantum world loses any strangeness, and it can even be described in a very familiar way.

A blatant example of familiar quantum system is the chess game. Thus, at each «interaction», the particles (the chessmen) «jump» from a case to another, in a quantified space (the chessboard, divided in cases) and a time, also quantified (the turns). The positions of the chessmen set determines the possibilities of moves for each of them, and a «field» (the threat) determine a special type of interaction (taking). We have a chessman (the knight) able of «tunnel effect» (jumping). We even have the most «bizarre» quantum feature: the wave function (the number of possibilities a player must account with) which «collapses» each time a player does a move!

I state that, except for the rules, quantum mechanics and chess game work in the same way.

(This comparison holds of course for the game in its abstraction, not for the material objects which may represent it. On a wooden chessboard, we are able to slip the chessmen from a case to the other, into any intermediary position. But for a normal game, it is considered that each chessman is in a case and each movement is in a turn).

In the extreme, if we imagine a three dimensional chessboard, extending to the infinite, where enough evolution would take place, until «scientists» could appear, who, exploring their world, would find it «quantum» exactly like ours, with just different mathematical laws for the reappearance of the «particles». And if from ill luck these scientists are materialist, they they will find the chess game extremely bizarre, ununderstandable, «esoteric», «impossible to explain in an intuitive way».

How does the usual world looks non-quantum?

(Permalink) How a world made of evanescent and volatile particles, ultimately only of mathematical relations, can appear solid and stable? Let us take an example: the chair you are sitting on is made of quantum particles which appear only at time of their interactions with the neighbouring particles. But as their energy is low, at the time of the next interaction with your bottom, each elementary particle will reappear very close to its last position, so that it will keep the same relation with its neighbouring particles, into the same molecule, into the same structure, etc. So the chair will keep the same shape. From here the persistent illusion of having «solid» and stable objects, when nothing such exists, ultimately, into an universe formed only of mathematical relations.

In a general way, quantum phenomena are produced by particles which are very small, or live for very short time. To have quantum phenomena at our usual scale, such as for instance a car passing through a plane tree by tunnel effect, would require that an incredible number of particles would be protected from any interaction destroying their quantum states. This is allowed by quantum laws, but it is very unlikely to happen in practice, as the quantum states quickly dissipate, because of the constant presence of light and other particles interacting with them. This is called decoherence (note 35), and it is a major obstacle to the use of quantum states.

There are however some exceptions, where quantum states escape decoherence and produce quantum phenomena at our human scale. Let us quote the laser, magnets, the MRI (kind of medical scanner), superconductivity and super-fluidity.

False views

(Permalink) We often hear that we cannot know the quantum reality, as the thought of the experimenter would modify it. Oh, how flattering. In facts the thought of the experimenter has nothing to do with this: what actually modifies the experiment, and forbid to see the «pure» result, is not his thought, but quite simply his measurement apparatus: the detector which is placed on the trajectory of the photon, and which intercepts it, quite simply. If we place a detector, we see, but nothing happens. If we don't place it, we cannot see what happens. The causal element is the measurement apparatus, and the mind of the experimenter comes only later, after a long chain of consequences: electric signal, display, vision, nerves, etc.

It is the same problem as with starting to read a novel by the end: it becomes much less interesting. But this does not mean that our mind has modified the novel...

And there is not either parapsychology in there, and anyway the experiments of the PEAR laboratory shown that an individual quantum event is no more sensitive to telekinesis than an ordinary random event.

At last, comments on quantum mechanics seem to often lead to sad and down the mouth statements on a supposed unknowability of the world, and other masochist philosophies. But in the Copenhagen view, as well as into mine, there is no unknowability, as, quite simply, there EXIST nothing hidden, and thus nothing unknowable. And again, there are many who would be very happy if their schemes would remain unknowable. But you can trust me, particles bear no responsibility in this.

 

It is interesting to note that the presentation of the Copenhagen school was affected, since its creation, by the Popperian, and especially the Vienna Circle, a current of positivist and hyper-materialist philosophy (Chapter II-7). From their rage to deny the human spirit, these people have seen in quantum mechanics a very good opportunity to fight metaphysics. Thus arose the vision, attributed afterwards to the Copenhagen school, as what the intermediate phenomena (the wave) between two points being «unobservable», thus they would be «metaphysical» and therefore they would not exist. These guys are lucky, when they start hating something, this thing stops existing. By the way, to reduce the quantum mechanics to only the «observable» may have quite complicated its mathematical formalism, which was already stocky. In addition, this made it more difficult to grasp by the intuition of common people.

The view that I propose is different: the wave between two quantum interactions is certainly not «material», but it exists nonetheless, as a mathematical relationship. We have interaction, wave, interaction, wave, etc. exactly as in a series by iteration we have value, relation, value, relation, etc.. So the «observable» quantum interaction and the «unobservable» wave have exactly the same existential statute of mathematical facts, there is not one superior to the other, or different. Certainly only one of the two is observable, but we can however infer with certainty the existence of the other. Just as in mathematics, to know only the values of a series still allows to assert the existence of the iteration law, and often to find it. This way of seeing things looks much more sane than the allergy to metaphysics, while perfectly acceptable from the point of view of Copenhagen.

So anyone can easily visualise the basic operation of quantum physics as punctual quantum interactions, from which abstract waves radiate, which will determine the next quantum interactions. It's just like in the chess game, where each movement (quantum interaction) creates new threats (the wave) which will influence the next turn (the next interaction). Certainly there is nothing material between the threatening chessman and the threatened chessman. But to say that the threat would not exist because it is physically unobservable is not science, it is intellectual sodomy, and if we explained the chess game without explaining the threat, nobody would understand it.

Remarks on the quantum chance

(Permalink) The fact that a particle can be reified into a random time and place, with random properties, is called the quantum chance, or more accurately the quantum indetermination.

Quantum chance, which is a perfect random, not determined in advance, is used into some experiments in physics and parapsychology, where we need totally unpredictable events, or in statistics.

(It is to be noted that ordinary random is ultimately the result of a large number of quantum drawings, and thus it is not fundamentally different. However it is likely to be biased in many ways. Finally pseudo-random generators used in computers are in fact deterministic, offering only the appearance of a chance, however enough for the considered use)

One of the strangest consequences of quantum chance is about the free will of the persons (that we shall study in chapter V-3). As a matter of facts, an electron in a molecule has only a probability to be, let us say simply, here or there on this molecule. Then, if another reactive molecules chances upon nearby, the chemical reaction has a quantum probability to happen or not. And this goes very far: the functioning of the neurones in our brain is based on such chemical reactions, where only some molecules of a neuromediator may have drastic effects in terms of consciousness experience. So the quantum chance could play a primordial role into our inner life. Especially numerous scientists supposed that quantum chance could provoke our free will choices. It was even theorized that consciousness itself would result of quantum states into fibrin molecules inside the neurons.

The explanations we shall see in the fifth part on consciousness are rather going against these hypothesis. In more, it would be logical that neurones protect themselves from quantum random «noise», with reacting only to enough neuromediator molecules, in order to achieve a more reliable functioning. So that quantum random would not play any specific role, compared to ordinary random. Even ordinary random would play little role into the functioning of the brain: we saw how the random neural noise is eliminated, with the above experiment. So it is probably not here we must seek free will. And the functioning of the brain may be much more deterministic than generally thought.

Others scientists think that quantum effects may explain some parapsychology phenomena (telepathy, ESP, premonition) with quantum interactions at a distance, on the model of the Aspect experiment. But the experiments done at the end of the 20th century in the PEAR laboratory in the Princeton university rather shown that telekinesis no more influences a random generator using only one quantum event than a non-quantum generator (such as a waterfall) This does not point at a peculiar role for quantum chance, and instead goes against a quantum explanation of consciousness. Anyway strong parapsychology phenomena cannot be explained with quantum chance, and even not by any other known physics theory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

General Epistemology        Chapter IV-2       

 

 

 

 

 

 

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