Danneskjold

Schrodinger's Cat

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I wasn't talking about the electrons absorbing the energy from a photon. Of course, in such a case absorption must be quantized. I was talking about the geometry of space/time being distorted by the presence of EM waves.

You can't just borrow a notion from general relativity and apply it to electromagnetism. That's no better than explaining everything by the actions of fairies.

I just don't think the particular wave characteristics of the electron itself is necessarily important for understanding the electron's behaviour in the double slit experiment.

It is absolutely essential for understanding the behavior of the electron. Sorry, but if you can't understand that, I'm not going to waste my time here further.

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I wasn't talking about the electrons absorbing the energy from a photon. Of course, in such a case absorption must be quantized. I was talking about the geometry of space/time being distorted by the presence of EM waves.

You can't just borrow a notion from general relativity and apply it to electromagnetism. That's no better than explaining everything by the actions of fairies.

I just don't think the particular wave characteristics of the electron itself is necessarily important for understanding the electron's behaviour in the double slit experiment.

It is absolutely essential for understanding the behavior of the electron. Sorry, but if you can't understand that, I'm not going to waste my time here further.

Dragonfly,

Do you think maybe, just maybe, there has been more thinking involved than just borrowing a notion from general relativity? Is it possible that I just borrowed the concept as a means of illustration, the same way I borrowed Michael's concepts of the Farmer and the Hunter on another thread?

You clearly have problems thinking outside of the establishment box. I won't ask you to waste your time any further.

Paul

Edit: Using a causal analogy, is an understanding of an individual's social intentions absolutely essential for understanding all the behaviour of that individual, or can many of his behaviours be understood in terms of an expression of the individual's identity without social intentions? Can his intentions be expressed in a social context without being social intentions? Isn't this exactly what we do when we behave in a particulate, as opposed to a node-in-the-social-field, manner? Isn't this the distinction of Objectivist ethics and politics from collectivist ethics and politics?

Edited by Paul Mawdsley

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I have been trying to come up to speed on the current understanding of quantum mechanics, at least in a philosophical sense, so that I can understand how it relates to Objectivism. I took one class in quantum mechanics as an undergrad, so I know something of the theory, but we never discussed interpretations of QM or Shrodinger's cat, or the Bell inequalities, so I apologize for any ignorance of the subject.

First, let's start with the Bell inequalities. My understanding is that a Bell inequality should hold for any system in which a pair of particles act independently. There is a limit to the correlation between sets of particle pairs that is a simple result of the assumption of statistical independence. Consequently, in any situation in which the states of two particles depends only upon a hidden variable, there is also a limit on the correlation. However, the quantum mechanical description of a pair of particles that form a singlet state implies that two such particles are not independent, at least until they interact with the environment. Therefore, they may be more highly correlated than is permitted by a hidden variable theory.

Let me be more specific. If a pair of particles forming a singlet state are emitted in opposite directions, and the state of one is measured by a detector, then, according to QM, that measurement affects the measurement of the other particle by another detector some distance away. Moreover, that effect is instantaneous. In any theory in which one measurement is not allowed to instantaneously affect the other one, a Bell inequality must hold. However, Bell inequalities are violated by actual experiments.

The reason that no information is communicated by this process is that only the correlation of the measurements is affected. However, to determine the correlation, one must compare the states of the two particles which requires communicating information at a speed that is less than or equal to the speed of light.

So far so good? I'm not sure I stated everything perfectly.

The next question is, what is the physical reality of the wave? In QM, the wave is often described as a probability wave. But the double slit experiment implies to me that the wave has actual physical existence. There is clearly something that goes through both slits. It may be that at any one time, the mass and charge of the electron only goes through one slit, though we don't know which one, but some aspect of the electron goes through both.

The same thing could be said of the two-particle-singlet. It appears that the two particles actually share something in common that stretches between them until at least one of them interacts with another particle. At that point, the connection is severed. But is that connection something that actually exists?

Another question is whether a system exists in a specific state at every moment in time. The usual interpretation of QM seems to imply that it doesn't, but I find that philosophically unsatisfying. In fact, I don't know of any physical evidence that a system doesn't exist in a particular state. With the double slit experiment, we can imagine that the mass and charge of an electron goes through one slit or the other on every trial and that it is just the wave that goes through both. That does not appear to contradict any of the evidence. The Bell/EPR experiments could be interpreted in a similar light.

Another question: Is randomness physically real? I would say that it is. All of the experimental evidence seems to be consistent with that notion. Moreoever, I don't think this causes any conflicts with Objectivism. An electron must still behave in accordance with its nature. Its randomness is limited. It can't spontaneously turn into a physics professor lecturing at Cal Tech. It can only hit the screen at some point allowed by its probability distribution.

But, that leads to Schrodinger's cat. Although the original description makes no sense in that there isn't a simple wave function with one degree of freedom describing the state of his cat, it is still disturbing that QM allows for the possibility of very low probability events. For example, all of the air suddenly rushing to one side of the room because all of the air molecules just happened to be going the same direction at the same time. (I guess that is classically allowed too). The fact that the probability is very low is not that comforting. Rather, I would suspect that beyond some point, the probability is identically zero. Perhaps something like Shannon's cummunication theorem holds --- if the information transmitted is less than the channel capacity, then the probability of error goes to zero. Or, perhaps it is the phenomenon of wave function collapse. At least wave function collapse seems to imply that the system can't be infinitely entangled. Only certain limited entanglements are permitted.

Darrell

Edited by Darrell Hougen

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Without necessarily agreeing with the specifics of what they say, I'd like to observe that Darrell Hougen and Paul Mawdsley here exemplify exactly how scientific progress is to be aided by philosophic fundamentals. The other approach, in which philosophy is ready to ditch most any principle in the face of puzzling observations, while not stopping progress, greatly retards it.

I suspect myself that physics is just on the verge of momentous discoveries that solve these puzzles, despite the retardent effect of current thinkers.

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Moreoever, I don't think this causes any conflicts with Objectivism. An electron must still behave in accordance with its nature. Its randomness is limited. It can't spontaneously turn into a physics professor lecturing at Cal Tech. It can only hit the screen at some point allowed by its probability distribution.

"An electron must still behave in accordance with its nature."

The problem I have is that I see the above as a meaningless assertion.

I have never seen an Objectivist causality argument that was anything other than classical. And while there is perhaps plenty of arguments against the Copenhagen interpretation of QM, the classical notion of causality is that much more suspect - dead as a doornail would be more accurate.

And I think the Bell's problem calls more than just locality into question. Logic itself is on the table now, along with whether or not reality has any meaning separate from observation. The latter is clearly an extreme Objectivism violation of the highest order.

I've heard the quantum weirdness of the Bell's problem described more profoundly as if you're doing an experiment on classroom students height and weight, and the mere act of measuring some students height "causes" the weight of others to change.

Bob

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Without necessarily agreeing with the specifics of what they say, I'd like to observe that Darrell Hougen and Paul Mawdsley here exemplify exactly how scientific progress is to be aided by philosophic fundamentals. The other approach, in which philosophy is ready to ditch most any principle in the face of puzzling observations, while not stopping progress, greatly retards it.

I suspect myself that physics is just on the verge of momentous discoveries that solve these puzzles, despite the retardent effect of current thinkers.

If you're saying that reality dictates philosophy and not vice versa, I agree. Many folks will argue that you must have philosophy first in order to interpret anything. Perhaps, in a sense, but you also must be prepared to ditch the philosophy if it doesn't correspond to reality.

Bob

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No, because as must be realized, and as I keep saying, philosophy is a science--the one whose subject matter implies that it must guide thought in what Rand often calls the "special sciences." The human imperative is to integrate all the sciences.

Edited by ashleyparkerangel

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Really, as I see it, "Objectivism", shouldn't care either way what happens at the sub-atomic scales, or how physicists come to describe those events. "Objectivism" is a philosophic framework which is rooted in the human context and the human scale. The puzzles presented by QM, or even relativity for that matter, are well outside the human domain, and as I see it, really don't have much of an impact on the veracity (or not) of Rand's thinking about the human and his place in the universe.

RCR

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"An electron must still behave in accordance with its nature."

The problem I have is that I see the above as a meaningless assertion.

I have never seen an Objectivist causality argument that was anything other than classical. And while there is perhaps plenty of arguments against the Copenhagen interpretation of QM, the classical notion of causality is that much more suspect - dead as a doornail would be more accurate.

I am trying to develop an Objectivist argument that is non-classical. I do not believe that determinism is required by Objectivism. In fact, I have argued that it is incompatible with Objectivism because it requires the existence of a physical system capable of storing an infinite amount of information, which contradicts the identity axiom.

And I think the Bell's problem calls more than just locality into question. Logic itself is on the table now, along with whether or not reality has any meaning separate from observation. The latter is clearly an extreme Objectivism violation of the highest order.

Neither logic nor reality are on the table. Existence has primacy over consciousness. Nothing in QM, properly understood, requires an actual conscious observer. The behavior of electrons in the double slit experiment is independent of whether anyone is actually watching them. Moreover, no contradictions can exist in reality. Reality simply is what it is and it could not be otherwise. It is not contingent on any observation.

I'm not saying what I'm saying just because Rand said it. What you are basically advocating is an anything goes philosophy. If logic is on the table, then I can say anything I want and you cannot refute it. You cannot debate anyone. You cannot know anything at all. You cannot even know that you cannot know anything. You are verging on the embrace of a contradiction.

I've heard the quantum weirdness of the Bell's problem described more profoundly as if you're doing an experiment on classroom students height and weight, and the mere act of measuring some students height "causes" the weight of others to change.

People attempt to make things more "profound" than they are in order to make them sound mysterious, that is mystical. There is nothing mystical about the laws of nature, even if they involve randomness.

Darrell

P.S. I cannot seem to fix the quotes in this post. Sorry for the appearance.

(Note from MSK: Sorry to intrude, but I fixed it. You had misspelled one of the code words - quote was spelled as qoute.)

Edited by Michael Stuart Kelly

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Really, as I see it, "Objectivism", shouldn't care either way what happens at the sub-atomic scales, or how physicists come to describe those events. "Objectivism" is a philosophic framework which is rooted in the human context and the human scale. The puzzles presented by QM, or even relativity for that matter, are well outside the human domain, and as I see it, really don't have much of an impact on the veracity (or not) of Rand's thinking about the human and his place in the universe.

The problem with this approach is that philosophers such as Kant have created vast philosophies for doubting the efficacy of the human mind based on their interpretation of the physical world. If man's mind is not competent to know anything about the natural world, then how can be competent to inform man's moral choices? If man cannot be sure of the identity of anything or even sure that anything exists, how can he make moral decisions? If a thing behaves one way today and another way tomorrow, how can man know the effects of his actions and which are the proper ones to take?

That is why this discussion of constrained randomness is so important. It appears that some physical system behave in a random way, but that action is still consistent with the nature of the entity in question. The entity still has an identity. It still behaves in a manner that is consistent with its nature. So, man's mind is still efficacious in understanding its behavior. And, man can still make value judgments about things that exist.

Darrell

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Your second to last end quote is spelled qoute which throws the whole thing off because it makes the previous quote cross over into the next one and then one is left without an ending.

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I am trying to develop an Objectivist argument that is non-classical. I do not believe that determinism is required by Objectivism. In fact, I have argued that it is incompatible with Objectivism because it requires the existence of a physical system capable of storing an infinite amount of information, which contradicts the identity axiom.

Neither logic nor reality are on the table. Existence has primacy over consciousness. Nothing in QM, properly understood, requires an actual conscious observer. The behavior of electrons in the double slit experiment is independent of whether anyone is actually watching them. Moreover, no contradictions can exist in reality. Reality simply is what it is and it could not be otherwise. It is not contingent on any observation.

I'm not saying what I'm saying just because Rand said it. What you are basically advocating is an anything goes philosophy. If logic is on the table, then I can say anything I want and you cannot refute it. You cannot debate anyone. You cannot know anything at all. You cannot even know that you cannot know anything. You are verging on the embrace of a contradiction.

I've heard the quantum weirdness of the Bell's problem described more profoundly as if you're doing an experiment on classroom students height and weight, and the mere act of measuring some students height "causes" the weight of others to change.

People attempt to make things more "profound" than they are in order to make them sound mysterious, that is mystical. There is nothing mystical about the laws of nature, even if they involve randomness.

"Neither logic nor reality are on the table. "

Oh yes they most definitely are.

"If logic is on the table, then I can say anything I want and you cannot refute it. You cannot debate anyone. You cannot know anything at all. You cannot even know that you cannot know anything. You are verging on the embrace of a contradiction."

Nope, you're way off base. It doesn't mean this at all. What it means it that our logic is perhaps incomplete. Why is it not possible to have a 3 valued logic? Not just T and F, but maybe another value like "I" - indeterminate - or others too? It most certainly does not mean that you "cannot know anything". It just means that what we think is logic, isn't REAL logic.

"Reality simply is what it is and it could not be otherwise. It is not contingent on any observation."

Like I said, you can argue against the Copenhagen Interpretation, but lots evidence seems to be against this position. As I understand it, the "concious" part of observation might not be required, but observation does seem to change reality as does the POSSIBILITY of observation in some cases it seems(gotta find that reference).

The first sentence of the quote is meaningless, the second is wild, unfounded and according to current evidence, a dead wrong assertion.

" Moreover, no contradictions can exist in reality"

Well, that's the whole problem with the Bell's inequality violation isn't it? Something is wrong with one or MORE of...

- Locality

- Logic

- Reality independent of observation

Two men say they're Jesus, one of 'ems gotta be wrong - at least.

Bob

Edited by Bob_Mac

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It appears that some physical system behave in a random way, but that action is still consistent with the nature of the entity in question. The entity still has an identity. It still behaves in a manner that is consistent with its nature.

Can we kick this dead horse any harder? Identity is a totally empty and meaningless concept. "consistent with its nature" means nothing. This constrains the properties of something how? This guides our thinking how? It is equivalent to saying that "anything can be anything but it can't be what it's not". There is no context where the concept has any teeth. An empty tautology is worthless. In fact it's worse than worthless when it's used to defend a position (causality for one). In fact, this empty idea POLLUTES thinking.

Bob

Edited by Bob_Mac

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No, because as must be realized, and as I keep saying, philosophy is a science--the one whose subject matter implies that it must guide thought in what Rand often calls the "special sciences." The human imperative is to integrate all the sciences.

I can't agree with this. Fundamental research in physics for example can affect philosophy just as much as vice versa. After all, arguably it is physics research that is far more rooted in reality than Objectivism is. If Objectivism guided scientific thought, anti-Newtonians would have been hanged long ago.

Bob

Edited by Bob_Mac

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Nope, you're way off base. It doesn't mean this at all. What it means it that our logic is perhaps incomplete. Why is it not possible to have a 3 valued logic? Not just T and F, but maybe another value like "I" - indeterminate - or others too. It most certainly does not mean that you "cannot know anything". It just means that what we think is logic, isn't REAL logic.

I think Darrell and you are talking at cross-purposes. Darrell is right in saying that logic is unassailable, and you are right in the sense that not every statement is either true or false, which isn't in any way a contradiction. For some applications one can use multi-valued logic or fuzzy logic; these are fully compatible with "classical" logic.

QM doesn't in any way invalidate logic, it can only exist thanks to a rigorous application of logic. That some of the results seem to be contradictory doesn't imply that they are contradictory, it just means that you should check your premises, as Rand would say. For example the fact that things can behave like particles and like waves isn't a contradiction: it's just that the premise that "particle" and "wave" are mutual exclusive properties is wrong.

Can we kick this dead horse any harder? Identity is a totally empty and meaningless concept. "consistent with its nature" means nothing. This constrains the properties of something how? This guides our thinking how? It is equivalent to saying that "anything can be anything but it can't be what it's not". There is no context where the concept has any teeth. An empty tautology is worthless. In fact it's worse than worthless when it's used to defend a position (causality for one). In fact, this empty idea POLLUTES thinking.

I couldn't agree more.

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Dragonfly, can't you see how you used the principle of identity to counter Bob's ideas about logic?

Edited by ashleyparkerangel

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To clarify: identity is not an idea you invoke consciously most of the time. It is a principle that humans have to keep clearly in mind at all times in the thought process, like the light of day that we all take for granted.

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Can we kick this dead horse any harder? Identity is a totally empty and meaningless concept. "consistent with its nature" means nothing. This constrains the properties of something how? This guides our thinking how? It is equivalent to saying that "anything can be anything but it can't be what it's not". There is no context where the concept has any teeth. An empty tautology is worthless. In fact it's worse than worthless when it's used to defend a position (causality for one). In fact, this empty idea POLLUTES thinking.

Bob,

I would like to qualify this entire statement. Identity and "consistent with its nature" are not meaningless phrases, but their meanings are very limited. If you do not believe that an entity will have a nature that can be discovered where it will act "consistent with its nature," why bother looking? Let it be. You have invalidated your method of thinking about the fundamental nature of reality and nothing is any use anyway. You can't know anything at all because you have no operating instructions for your mind to work with.

The error is that you want "thinking method" concepts to serve as actual information. Here is how it works. You know something will have an identity, but you don't know what that identity is. So you try induction, testing and all sorts of things to discover it. Often you find that its identity is similar to other entities with their own properties, but, as in the case of QM, you find that you have to look deeper to discover a new set of properties.

The only case I can think of where concepts like identity pollute thinking is when they are used in the place of actual information. And that can happen only when what is identified as the nature of one entity (or phenomenon) is projected on another. I can think of no case where trying to discover the nature of something pollutes thinking. On the contrary, it is the foundation of thinking.

Incidentally, I don't think you are aware of the full meaning of the contextual nature of knowledge in Objectivism. Absolute knowledge only exists within a context and the knowledge changes when the context changes. This is how scientific progress is accounted for in Objectivism.

Here is an example. I don't think that anyone can refute the absolute nature of the subatomic knowledge needed to construct an atom bomb. People build it with the knowledge they have and it goes boom. The identities of the subatomic particles within that context are absolute because they work. However, on a QM level, their identities include other variables that go way beyond the previous definitions. Still, knowing about those variables does not, in itself, make the bomb not go boom, even if they seemingly contradict the identities of the subatomic particles as defined previously. What was true before stays true and the bomb still goes boom, but new knowledge is added.

In short, the nature of reality is absolute and it is independent of us. We are part of it, it is bigger (more extensive) than us. We either accept that premise or we don't. There is no proving it. Knowledge about the nature of reality is not absolute, though. It is contextual. But it is absolute when limited by specific contexts and an open end for future knowledge is kept in place. This is the limit of certainty.

This is the Objectivist view of certainty of knowledge as I understand it.

When you object to identity and other axiomatic concepts, I don't think you are talking about this. I think you are talking about how they have been misused in the hands of ill-tempered people as substitutes for actual arguments.

Michael

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Dragonfly, can't you see how you used the principle of identity to counter Bob's ideas about logic?

First of all, he didn't "counter" anything. Second, he didn't use the principle of identity for anything.

He said:

"That some of the results seem to be contradictory doesn't imply that they are contradictory, it just means that you should check your premises, as Rand would say."

In essense, that's just a clearer way of illusrtating my point. Bell's thoerem seems logically airtight on it's surface, but reality rudely throws us an apparent contradiction. Therefore something is not right. The logical process and rules we used to arrive at the conclusion must be called into question. It is a perfectly valid question to ask if OUR logic is sufficient. But the question of whether logic itself is questionable is not what I was getting at.

Bob

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When you object to identity and other axiomatic concepts, I don't think you are talking about this. I think you are talking about how they have been misused in the hands of ill-tempered people as substitutes for actual arguments.

Michael

I don't disagree with this above.

"The only case I can think of where concepts like identity pollute thinking is when they are used in the place of actual information."

Right, like:

"Dragonfly, can't you see how you used the principle of identity to counter Bob's ideas about logic?"

And about a million other examples.

In short, the nature of reality is absolute and it is independent of us. We are part of it, it is bigger (more extensive) than us. We either accept that premise or we don't. There is no proving it.

Not so sure about these ideas. Can't say I can confidently disagree though either.

Bob

Edited by Bob_Mac

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"The only case I can think of where concepts like identity pollute thinking is when they are used in the place of actual information."

Right, like:

"Dragonfly, can't you see how you used the principle of identity to counter Bob's ideas about logic?"

And about a million other examples.

Bob,

I suggest a more generous interpretation of what you read in this quote. Not all people who say things like that are snarky intellectually lazy people who have read a smattering of Rand and think that thereby they have the keys to the universe and the means to invalidate most of the wealth of mankind's knowledge.

Rodney is a pretty good case of why you should look before you leap. His thinking can get pretty complex at times and he is extremely intelligent. For example, see here.

I cannot speak for him, but I believe he holds the same ideas as I do on the contextual nature of knowledge (as given in my last post), and that the crux of his message to Dragonfly was "Be careful with making statements that invalidate both your method of knowing and the nature of reality as an absolute where the components must be discovered and studied to be understood."

Basically I saw his intent as benevolent, not snarky. And ever more basic, I see you and him talking about different things but using the same words.

Michael

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I suggest a more generous interpretation of what you read in this quote. Not all people who say things like that are snarky intellectually lazy people who have read a smattering of Rand and think that thereby they have the keys to the universe and the means to invalidate most of the wealth of mankind's knowledge.

Rodney is a pretty good case of why you should look before you leap. His thinking can get pretty complex at times and he is extremely intelligent.

Michael

I do not assume he is unintelligent, lazy, snarky or anything for that matter. I'm just illustrating another misuse of the identity concept- nothing more.

I do not think you can "use" the concept of identity for anything.

Bob

Edited by Bob_Mac

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