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Prince of Darkness

Aww crap.

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Quantum entanglement is to electrons as voodoo dolls are to Doomguy.

I have read a fair amount about quantum mechanics and have found that most of it is much easier to understand if you don't try and make sense of it. Like, how are photons both a wave and a particle? They just are, because there's no other way to explain stuff like the dual-slit experiment. (Or was that with electrons? I can never keep all this straight.)

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It also sounds like compressed sidedefs and split sectors.

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StupidBunny said:

Like, how are photons both a wave and a particle? They just are, because there's no other way to explain stuff like the dual-slit experiment. (Or was that with electrons? I can never keep all this straight.)

No, I think you are right. The double slit experiment uses a single photon, which somehow appears through both slits like a wave, even though photons are also particles.

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So they're slitting photons now? I have a bad feeling the whole universe is going to look like a .wad from 94 with horrible vis plane errors.

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StupidBunny said:

Quantum entanglement is to electrons as voodoo dolls are to Doomguy.

I, for one, welcome our new voodoo doll overlords.

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The double slit experiment works with electrons, too. To be clear on what happens. When you send waves through the two slits, you create an interference pattern because waves cancel each other out. It's not unusual that it happens with photons - after all, photons make up light, and basically behave like waves. It gets weird when you start doing it with electrons, because electrons are supposed to behave more like particles. It gets even weirder when you send the electrons through one at a time, because then, not only are the electrons acting like waves, but an interference pattern is created. How can you create an interference pattern when they're going through one at a time, and so have nothing to interfere with? That's the bizarre part. It's like they know they're supposed to create an interference pattern.

One popular theory holds that what's happening is that they are interfering with other electrons, but other electrons in other universes. In other words, the electron follows one path in our universe. In a parallel universe, the exact same experiment is being conducted, except the electron takes a slightly different path. In yet another universe, the electron takes a path separate from the other two. And somehow, all these electrons are able to interact with each other. Thus, because there's a virtually unlimited number of parallel universes, even sending one electron through, it's like releasing a large stream of electrons.

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This isn't news, and luckily for us it doesn't doom the Earth, because this is how the building blocks of the universe have been functioning for as far back as we can theorize.

It's possible to understand quantum physics, as long as you always preface your thoughts with this key point: your understanding is grossly inaccurate and insufficient. The greatest quantum physicists in the world know this to be true for themselves. (And at the other end of the spectrum, I've seen this comment on a quantum physics blog: "i think the theory seems easy and i am only twelve years old so it cant be that mind boggleing to other people they just dont think.")

I've done a lot of research on quantum physics (for a paper, which I ultimately never finished) and I like to feel that I have a better-than-average grasp on it. I've started to understand the classic paradoxes. Unfortunately, I can't make heads or tails of the mathematics behind all the classic experiments (and I have a pretty good head for math).

@Geekmarine: I don't like many-worlds theory. I feel that it creates more problems than it fixes, and is more a convenient calculative tool than the way the universe works, but that's just my own opinion, as naive as that of the twelve-year-old girl mentioned above.

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Creaphis said:

I don't like many-worlds theory. I feel that it creates more problems than it fixes, and is more a convenient calculative tool than the way the universe works, but that's just my own opinion, as naive as that of the twelve-year-old girl mentioned above.

I actually think that makes a pretty good explanation of the universe. Or at least to some degree. Think about it. We cannot percieve the forth dimension of space-time, even though we can attempt to measure it with clocks and such. By that logic, I don't think it's too far-fetched to theorize that there may be even more dimensions that cannot be percieved nor measured, yet still have an effect on our own universe. Now, I don't know how they came up with eleven, or however many the String Theory thinks there are, but I'd say it's likely that there are more than four, and the many-worlds may fit into one of them. It's hard to say really. It may just be like "infinity", a convienient mathematical construct for figuring things out, despite the fact that everything in the known universe is quantized. But "infinity" still helps us figure out real live scenarios though, so maybe this many-worlds theory is still useful nonetheless.

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If you believe the universe to be infinite, it's more than possible that every scenario imaginable can and will happen eventually, given enough time and chance. There could even be a world that is a mirror of ours. It's kind of mind boggling when you consider how vast the cosmos is.

Edit: A good example of this is the old saying that if you have enough monkeys banging on typewriters, eventually they will write the entire volume of Shakespeare's work.

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OK. I personally think that there is no reason why this theory of "spooky" physics may not turn out to be true, in the same way that "flying" turned out to be true, even though to someone from the middle ages, flying would appear to be just as "spooky".

Sometimes I wonder whether the universe grows more complicated, literally changes before our eyes into something much more complicated, so as to stay one step ahead of us. Like some cosmic teacher introducing a new concept to the class. Tho as Creaphis said, it may well have always been there, waiting for us.

If you look at the universe as a whole, it seems that life itself is designed to force us to grow. There are always consequences for not growing. At the same time, there are rich rewards for having the courage to push onwards and upwards. Perhaps this is true on a quantum level as well.

And now ask yourself whether our minds have actually "created" the reality of spooky physics. You know the drill about changing the thing observed just by observing it. Heisenberg's uncertainty and all that. Shrodingers cat has just killed the family budgerigar.

Anyway, I haven't explained this very well. It makes so much more sense in my head than it does typed out in front of me.

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Unfortunately, according to the "open universe" theory, the universe will exist forever, but not as it is now. Over innumerable years, the stars will all die and leave behind black holes, white dwarfs and neutron stars; the white dwarfs and neutron stars will eventually become unstable and collapse into more black holes; and the black holes, over more eons, will evaporate, leaving only radiation. In other words, the infinite future of the universe, according to this theory, will be a nearly empty void of only sparse radiation and neutrinos.

EDIT: I forget what prompted me to bring this up. :P

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I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with the "many worlds" hypothesis - it's no more improbable than suggesting that mysterious phantom particles suddenly spring into existence when we're not looking, just as quickly disappear when we turn around, and yet nonetheless manage to make their presence known regardless.

Really, though, I feel that ultimately, the main thing that quantum mechanics does (in terms of our understanding of the universe around us) is it reminds us that the fundamental nature of the universe is far more bizarre than it appears on the surface, and in fact, we may never understand it. Sorry if that came off a bit... stoned... but really, I mean, when you actually study what goes on at the quantum level, it's crazy.

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geekmarine said:
I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with the "many worlds" hypothesis - it's no more improbable than suggesting that mysterious phantom particles suddenly spring into existence when we're not looking, just as quickly disappear when we turn around, and yet nonetheless manage to make their presence known regardless.

It's quite different from merely noting such particles seem to appear. Besides, it seems too similar to traditional explanations of the unknown, which have generally said more about ourselves than the universe or its workings. From what we know simply saying "hmm, it seems kind of like DOOM voodoo dolls" seems wiser than "ah, I bet there are other universes* at play here".

* Whatever that may be.

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I attempted to write a post that explained my issues with many-worlds theory in a way that could be understood without extensive prior knowledge of quantum physics. This proved to be completely impossible. So, let me just skip to the end remarks. Point one quickly explains something for your benefit. It can be faulted for not using the language of quantum physics correctly, but that would take all day. Point two would be best read after poring over Wikipedia's excellent line of quantum physics articles for several weeks.

1. Many-worlds theory doesn't just refer to additional spatial dimensions beyond those we can see, or to a number of parallel universes that we can easily conceptualize, but to this: Every particle in the universe, in every second of its ten-billion-year-long life, has spawned infinite parallel universes. According to quantum physics, the future location of a particle is unpredictable, therefore it could be in infinite possible places after any amount of time has past, and according to many-worlds, all of these possible locations become equally real - there is a universe for each possible particle destination. That's a lot of universes, isn't it? Now, if you keep in mind that every single one of these universes is branching new universes at the same rate, the metaverse gets uncomfortably crowded. I don't like it.

2. Despite the conceptual challenge of accepting that that so many universes exist simultaneously, many-worlds theory is still an elegant solution to the problem of the observer effect. However, it solves this problem by entirely removing the significance of the observer, which is a difficult philosophical position to take when we, the scientists, are observers, and still only observe a single universe around us. Even if wavefunctions never collapse in many-worlds theory, there still appears to be some mechanism by which our consciousness is placed in one universe instead of another, and many-worlds cannot provide any such mechanism. Of course, by including consciousness within my understanding of the physical universe, I'm verging into the ground of theories that are usually written off as grossly unscientific (and usually deserve to be). Still, I feel that observation and consciousness deserve to be taken seriously as scientific concepts. After all, if the motion of the particles in our brains leads to parallel activity in our conscious mind, then isn't it fair to say that consciousness should have some bearing on our understanding the of physical universe? Even Newton's third law of motion implies this. Phrased another way; if A affects B, then B affects A, and if matter affects consciousness, then consciousness and observation must affect matter in at least some way.

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Anyone want to buy a good second-hand Infinite Improbability Drive?

The many-worlds theory sounds like a refugee from the Star Trek universe. Attributing events that defy logical explanation in our universe to actions taking place in a parallel universe strikes me as little different to describing natural disasters as "acts of God". It's the sort of catch-all solution I would have expected from the Intelligent Design crowd and a leap of faith that I'm not prepared to take.

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Well, you have to understand what the many-worlds interpretation is. This is going to be a thoroughly sloppy explanation, but try to bear with me. Basically, one of the major concepts in quantum mechanics is that of waveform collapse. Especially at the subatomic level, there is a certain randomness that cannot be reconciled with traditional physics.

Let's say I fire an electron at a screen, and I want to determine the path the electron will take. As it turns out, because of the effects of quantum physics, I can't simply say the electron will take a straight path from the emitter to the screen. The best I can do is calculate the probabilities of the electron taking different paths. Some paths are more likely than others - for instance, it's much more probable that the electron will head straight to the screen than for it to swirl around the room a couple of times first, but even so, you cannot determine the specific path the electron will take until it reaches its destination. The sum of all of these paths is the quantum waveform. And, as the double slit experiment shows, this is not just a hypothetical construct - in a sense, the electron is actually taking all of those paths at once.

Waveform collapse is what happens when the electron actually reaches the screen - at this point, the electron is observed, and the waveform collapses into a single, distinct path. It's almost as if the electron, knowing that it's been seen, realizes it has to start acting like an electron again, and stop all this being-in-multiple-places-at-once nonsense.

So there you have it. Really, though, waveform collapse is a thorn in the side of physicists for a number of reasons. However, the consequences of it cannot be ignored. This is where the many-worlds interpretation comes in. According to it, the waveform doesn't, in fact, collapse, as there is a universe in which every possible outcome happens.

The real issue with it is not that it's a catch-all or that it doesn't actually explain anything, but, as has been pointed out, you close one Pandora's box and open another. From the point of view of an outsider, the whole thing works out great. However, from our perspective, there's a major problem - what determines which universe, and therefore which outcome, our consciousness observes. Eh, quantum mechanics is one great big mess, if you ask me. Unfortunately, it's a great big mess that is inescapable if we wish to understand the universe around us.

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geekmarine said:
The real issue with it is not that it's a catch-all or that it doesn't actually explain anything, but, as has been pointed out, you close one Pandora's box and open another. From the point of view of an outsider, the whole thing works out great. However, from our perspective, there's a major problem - what determines which universe, and therefore which outcome, our consciousness observes.

From what I see (not much, of course*) the issue is that it does explain something... in a potentially premature way. I'd say skepticism towards our senses (I don't really trust the words perception or consciousness) is rather necessary when to discover further facts we need to distance ourselves from our senses more and more. None of this information is possible without technology, which serves pretty much as an alien extension of our senses. The more we learn, the more indirect the means to know it.

* I don't think this could change much unless I were one of the people making breakthroughs in the field; hence my opinion comes from what such people seem to say to each other.

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Quantum physics seems to be all about "Yeah we think we're here now but is it really here, is it really now, and are we really us, man?". Which the hippies could have told them back in the 60's for free.

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Many-worlds tells us to doubt our senses: it states that perhaps the reality that we observe is no more real than any other. But, I agree with Geekmarine and Myk - this is premature; this is a doubt which may need to be doubted. It's impossible to scientifically evaluate our existence and our universe from outside of ourselves, yet this is what many-worlds tries to do. Our specific reality and our own seemingly unique existence need to be part of our scientific theories, or else our theories will have no foundation.

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Creaphis said:
It's impossible to scientifically evaluate our existence and our universe from outside of ourselves, yet this is what many-worlds tries to do.

I think it's more complex than that, because science relies precisely on what is outside ourselves, and scientists have advanced their knowledge by not trusting their senses and making tools to work around them. If currently our senses baffle us in regard to quantum physics, we need to keep working. Much of what is being studied is well beyond our senses and requires extra perceptive technology to "see" and computers to administer, while we work on details and correlate the finds.

I think the problem is making assumptions that serve no purpose but to possibly cause confusion. Still, the many worlds interpretation could actually be on the right track after all (at least to a degree), which even then does not necessarily imply there aren't ways to "see through worlds".

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Death-Destiny said:

Oh, snap. That means our minds could be imprisoned in the Matrix and we'd never be the wiser. It's too bad our limited human senses and thoughts are the extent of our understanding of the universe. Who can say if we're living in a Matrix or not, or if we're even real for that matter?


Even if we are not real, I think it works best if you work off the assumption that you are, and that gives you a framework, some sort of basis to work out your life, even if that life is a figment of yours (or somebody elses imagination).

The same is true of the concept of right and wrong. While it is true that right and wrong may not actually exist at all, merely being useful constructs to help us survive and grow in the "Real world" (assuming it is real), humans in general do not function without some sort of moral code, even if they totally invent it for themselves.

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myk said:

I think it's more complex than that, because science relies precisely on what is outside ourselves, and scientists have advanced their knowledge by not trusting their senses and making tools to work around them. If currently our senses baffle us in regard to quantum physics, we need to keep working. Much of what is being studied is well beyond our senses and requires extra perceptive technology to
"see" and computers to administer, while we work on details and correlate the finds.


What I meant is that whenever we make a scientific theory, we must remember that we are human beings making that theory from this standpoint. By stripping all importance from human observation of this one reality, many-worlds theorists seem to forget that they are, unfortunately, human observers. Sadly, we can't see reality (or realities) from any divine standpoint - that would push the dividing line between physics and metaphysics back some ways.

It's still a valuable theory, though, and may indeed prove to be accurate. My complaints at this point have still mostly translated to "I don't like it." It seems that any "complete" physics needs to have a major conceptual rift somewhere, and this is as good a place as any.

As for the question "Are we real?" Even though Descartes quickly went off-track afterwards, I think that "Cogito ergo sum" is a pretty safe start.

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Kyka said:

Even if we are not real, I think it works best if you work off the assumption that you are

Good point - an AI construct run over by a simulated bus is just as dead as someone in the real world - assuming we don't start over with a handgun and 50 bullets in one or more of the countless alternate realities.
The many-worlds theory probably raises as many questions as it claims to answer. for example - are computer games any less real than we are? If I was fired at a double slit would I leave an interference pattern or a bloody mess? Think I'd better abandon this thread while I can maintain some semblance of sanity.

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Kind of OT, but then again not really.

Interesting reading in this thread, and before i knew it i had something like 6 windows opened in search of relating matters, as i suddenly remembered a news bulletin a some months back on Danish tv, regarding the construction of an alledged potential DOOMsday Engine...

CERN (UAC?!), near Geneva in Switzerland, are well underway completing the build of the largest particle-accelerator in the world, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which is sceduled to be up and running...eh, now actually.
Furthermore the LHC is scheduled to perform its first high-energy collision by october 21 2008.

According to Wikipedia:

"When activated, it is theorized that the collider will produce the elusive Higgs boson, the observation of which could confirm the predictions and "missing links" in the Standard Model of physics and could explain how other elementary particles acquire properties such as mass...In addition to the Higgs boson, other theorized novel particles that might be produced, and for which searches are planned, include strangelets, MICRO BALCK HOLES, magnetic monopoles and supersymmetric particles."



...Creating a Black Hole on here on Earth, microscopic or not, seems a little...idunno, risky?

In response to...concerns, the LHC Safety Study Group, a group of independent scientists, performed a safety analysis of the LHC and concluded in a report published in 2003 that there is "no basis for any CONCEIVABLE threat".



I really don´t like the use of the word "conceivable" in this quantum-physics context, since the unconcievable is a conceivable and often considerable variable in this science...

History repeats itself, and if we´ve ever learnt anything from history, then it is that we´ll never learn from history!

Sometime not so long ago, scientists and scolars debated, prior to the first full-scale test of the Hydrogene bomb, whether it could cause a catastrophic chain-reaction with all the hydrogene on this planet...
The result was, as it apparently is here again: Inconclusive = 3-2-1 deep breath and push the button

Here´s the entire wiki on the LHC-subject:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micro_black_hole

Good night and sleep tight! ;)

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