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Conjecture #5: Quantum Solipsism (Part two)

“I’m not afraid of death.  I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”–Woody Allen

I conjecture:  In a Many Worlds quantum multiverse, each individual consciousness represents a distinctly different universe.

Part Two:  Quantum suicide and quantum immortality

Warning:  Professional stunt blogger.  Closed course.  Do not attempt at home.

To recap where we left off in our last episode,  the first part of Conjecture #5 suggested that, in a universe where the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics holds sway, each conscious entity represents its own distinct universe.   I called this Quantum Solipsism.  This differs somewhat from Conjecture #4, which suggested that in a universe governed, at least philosophically, by the Copenhagen interpretation,  our consciousness represents a composite of all the potential, but not real, universes.   This brings us to part two of Conjecture #5.

Quantum Immortality

Bold notions can sometimes breed extreme potential consequences.   When Hugh Everett posited the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum weirdness in 1954,  he didn’t just espouse it, he lived it.  He believed that in a world where every sub-atomic event splits off into a real alternate universe for every possible quantum outcome, that one’s own consciousness would always survive in some of them.  Quantum Immortality.  So he ate, drank and smoked himself to an early death–at least in the universe of everyone reading this post–by the age of 51.  His son expressed anger over his father’s failure to take care of himself.  His wife initially did not comply with his wishes to have his ashes disposed of in the trash, though eventually she did.   You think his views are extreme?  Or did he live on forever in a never ending series of alternate universes?  Consider this:  the quantum view of the second law of thermodynamics is purely a statistical one.  The reason all the air molecules in a room never seem to migrate to one corner is purely a matter of probability.  There are  staggering orders of magnitude more ways for them to be relatively evenly distributed.  But if every possible combination of such molecules actually exists as a real entity,  then somewhere  there is a universe where you suffocated last night because the air molecules in your bedroom did exactly that while you slept.   And somewhere, there is a universe where Hugh Everett’s ashes reassembled themselves and he woke up in a dumpster.

Quantum Suicide

This brings us to the ultimate in extreme ideas.  Quantum Suicide.  Originally conceived by Hans Morovec  in 1987 and further developed by Max Tegmark, it is a thought experiment designed to prove once and for all if the Many Worlds interpretation of Quantum Mechanics is correct.    If you recall from my Quantum Weirdness 101-107 series,  the Copenhagen interpretation sees the cat as neither dead, nor alive, until an intelligent observer intervenes.  The Many Worlds interpretation, sees the the creation of two separate universes, one each for a dead cat and a live cat, and the observer only finds out which one he is in when he looks in the box.   The quantum suicide gun re-creates the Schrodinger’s Cat experiment from the point of view of the cat.  Theoretically, it could prove the many world’s interpretation, though there are a couple of hitches.  If Many Worlds holds true,  the subject would be the only one it would be proved to;  if it does not hold true, the subject would be dead, period.  See the video below for a complete explanation, and as stated in the warning above, do not attempt this at home.  I sure won’t.  On the other hand, I can think of a few people I wish would try it…

(Video Credit: AliceandBobTV)

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Conjecture #5–Quantum Solipsism (Part one)

Note:  It has been so long since I published part I of this conjecture, I feel the need to refresh my memory–let alone yours–before completing it with part II.  You can catch up on all my cockamamie speculations by clicking on the “Millenmium Conjectures” category link to the right.

“Cogito Ergo Sum”–René Descartes

“What if god is our dream, and we’re his?”–Christian Bale as Jamie Graham in Empire of the Sun

I conjecture:  In a Many Worlds quantum multiverse, each individual consciousness represents a distinctly different universe.

I'm pretty sure I do exist most of the time--with the possible exception of some Monday mornings.   Exist tee shirts. http://www.zazzle.com/tshirts

I’m pretty sure I do exist most of the time–with the possible exception of some Monday mornings. Exist Tee-shirts. http://www.zazzle.com/exist+tshirts

I once overheard a friend explaining the multitude of religious beliefs to her young daughter in following manner.

She said, “everyone believes something different, and everyone is right!”

Really?  This seems to be the ultimate illogical statement in the illogical realm of religious beliefs.  If everybody believes something different, it seems to me infinitely more likely that everyone is wrong.  I won’t get into the implications for religious beliefs in this conjecture, mainly because I don’t care.  Suffice to say that stretched to an outre extreme,  this conjecture does suggest a manner in which everyone could be right.  It’s always fascinated me how different individuals could be so certain of world views that are so diametrically opposed.  Of course, one can tie that to cultural and cognitive differences resulting in seemingly different worlds.  But then maybe we’re all just be living in our own distinct quantum  universes.

At any rate, if Conjecture #4 was a possible ontological extension of The Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum weirdness,  the current conjecture–#5–clearly emanates from The Many Worlds Theory.

Let’s be clear on one thing.   In my own head, I’m sitting on the fence between Copenhagen and Many Worlds…a kind of quantum superposition, simultaneously believing both.  But let’s get to the heart of the matter before I get too far ahead of myself.

What, exactly, is solipsism?  The brief dictionary description is simple enough: it’s the notion that only the self exists, or can be proven to exist.  Taken to the limit, it can result in a second definition: extreme self-absorption and egoism.

I don’t buy this and am not suggesting it.  While I’m not 100% certain of anything, external or internal, I still believe that you exist and our interactions do influence each other.   We may be in separate parallel universes, but these planes of existence overlap, in much the same way that these universes interfere with each each other on the quantum level.  (It’s worth noting that the conjecture wording says “distinct different” universe and not “distinctly separate.”)  But the fact remains: if The Many Worlds theory holds true the notion of quantum solipsism in some form must be taken seriously.  It’s as if our observations roll the quantum dice and influence which course through the multiverse each individual consciousness takes.  This notion will be the subject of conjecture #6, though at the rate I am going, this may take place a long, long time from now in a galaxy far, far away.  For more on solipsism including more detailed and nuanced description of it, and its various sub-categories, go here.

In the second part of this conjecture, I’ll deal with two very disturbing and controversial extensions of a “strong” quantum solipsism world view.   Quantum suicide and quantum immortality.  You’ll need to hold on to your metaphysical hats for this one.

And if you don’t get any of this, don’t worry.  I’m just impressed that I used “ontological” in a sentence.

Cheers,

Signature

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Cosmic Quote #44

“Creationists make it sound as if ‘theory’ is something you dreamed up after being drunk all night.”–Isaac Asimov

 “A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that is acquired through the scientific method, and repeatedly confirmed through observation and experimentation.”–Wikipedia.

Period.

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Cosmic Quote(s) #41

“You’re on earth.  There’s no cure for that.”–Samuel Beckett

“We’ve got to reinvest in space travel.  We should have never left the moon.”–Ray Bradbury

“To the moon, Alice!”–Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden on “The Honeymooners”

attribution unknown

Samuel Beckett  clearly never spoke to the cow.  Ray Bradbury should have.  Jackie Gleason obviously did.

(illustration attribution unknown)

 

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Time Out: Time Out Time Out Time Out Time Out Time Out Time Out Time Out…..

“Science is more amazing than science fiction.”–Brian Greene

Bubble, Bubble toil and multi-trouble...

Bubble, Bubble toil and multi-trouble…

As much fun as it is to speculate about alternate or parallel universes,  many have said to me,  it is silly to even try if there is no way to prove or disprove their existence.  You might as well speculate on how many angels can pirouette on the head of a pin.  Because there is no empirical means of proof.  Or is there?  In the last couple of weeks I have seen not one, but two suggestions that physical evidence may have indeed been found for the existence of alternate planes of reality.  And they point to two distinctly different types of alternate universes.  The ideas behind them are not new…but growing evidence is beginning to support the possibility–if not the absolute proof–that they are real.   The first is in the microwave background radiation–the infant footprint of the early universe if you will.  Brilliant and controversial physicist Roger Penrose now asserts that circles in the background radiation–anomalies that should not exist by any known cause within our current universe–are proof of a cyclical universe with repeated big bangs. One might call this a serial, rather than parallel, multiverse. It turns out, though, that this also is possible evidence for the “bubble” multiverse theory discussed by Brian Greene in the video linked below.  His most recent book, The Hidden Reality, is a discussion of the current state, in theory and possible practice, of the various multiverse concepts.

A second possible proof,  of a different type of multiverse (and let’s not forget that Max Tegmark defines four different levels of multiverse) has also been in the news again recently.  It suggest an alternate universe described by M-Theory, where another universe may sit in a higher dimensional space infinitesimally close to us, yet unable to interact in any way.  Except one, that is.  Gravity.  And some astrophysicists interpret otherwise unexplained gravitational influences in the cosmos as possible proof of this theory.

Where do I stand on this?  As stated in my post on possibilianism, I prefer possibilities to certainties; it makes existence far more interesting.  But I must admit:  I am secretly wishing to be able to travel to a parallel universe where that library book I forgot to return in 1989 isn’t 24 years overdue.

http://science.discovery.com/tv-shows/brink/videos/brink-multiple-universes.htm

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Conjecture #5–Quantum Solipsism (Part one)

“Cogito Ergo Sum”–René Descartes

“What if god is our dream, and we’re his?”–Christian Bale as Jamie Graham in Empire of the Sun

I conjecture:  In a Many Worlds quantum multiverse, each individual consciousness represents a distinctly different universe.

I'm pretty sure I do exist most of the time--with the possible exception of some Monday mornings.   Exist tee shirts. http://www.zazzle.com/tshirts

I’m pretty sure I do exist most of the time–with the possible exception of some Monday mornings. Exist Tee-shirts. http://www.zazzle.com/exist+tshirts

I once overheard a friend explaining the multitude of religious beliefs to her young daughter in following manner.

She said, “everyone believes something different, and everyone is right!”

Really?  This seems to be the ultimate illogical statement in the illogical realm of religious beliefs.  If everybody believes something different, it seems to me infinitely more likely that everyone is wrong.  I won’t get into the implications for religious beliefs in this conjecture, mainly because I don’t care.  Suffice to say that stretched to an outre extreme,  this conjecture does suggest a manner in which everyone could be right.  It’s always fascinated me how different individuals could be so certain of world views that are so diametrically opposed.  Of course, one can tie that to cultural and cognitive differences resulting in seemingly different worlds.  But then maybe we’re all just be living in our own distinct quantum  universes.

At any rate, if Conjecture #4 was a possible ontological extension of The Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum weirdness,  the current conjecture–#5–clearly emanates from The Many Worlds Theory.

Let’s be clear on one thing.   In my own head, I’m sitting on the fence between Copenhagen and Many Worlds…a kind of quantum superposition, simultaneously believing both.  But let’s get to the heart of the matter before I get too far ahead of myself.

What, exactly, is solipsism?  The brief dictionary description is simple enough: it’s the notion that only the self exists, or can be proven to exist.  Taken to the limit, it can result in a second definition: extreme self-absorption and egoism.

I don’t buy this and am not suggesting it.  While I’m not 100% certain of anything, external or internal, I still believe that you exist and our interactions do influence each other.   We may be in separate parallel universes, but these planes of existence overlap, in much the same way that these universes interfere with each each other on the quantum level.  (It’s worth noting that the conjecture wording says “distinct different” universe and not “distinctly separate.”)  But the fact remains: if The Many Worlds theory holds true the notion of quantum solipsism in some form must be taken seriously.  It’s as if our observations roll the quantum dice and influence which course through the multiverse each individual consciousness takes.  This notion will be the subject of conjecture #6, though at the rate I am going, this may take place a long, long time from now in a galaxy far, far away.  For more on solipsism including more detailed and nuanced description of it, and its various sub-categories, go here.

In the second part of this conjecture, I’ll deal with two very disturbing and controversial extensions of a “strong” quantum solipsism world view.   Quantum suicide and quantum immortality.  You’ll need to hold on to your metaphysical hats for this one.

And if you don’t get any of this, don’t worry.  I’m just impressed that I used “ontological” in a sentence.

Cheers,

Signature

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Cosmic Quotes) #29

“Science is magic that works.”-Kurt Vonnegut

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”–Arthur C. Clarke

www.cartoonstock.com Used with permission

http://www.cartoonstock.com Used with permission

If I could write like Clarke or Vonnegut, that would be indistinguishable from magic.  The fact that I can still get up in the morning–or most mornings, anyway–that is magic.  Now if that little fairy to the left would only tell me what to write next…

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Time Out: Possibilianism

“Our reality depends on what our biology is up to.”–David Eagleman

“What a life in science really teaches you is the vastness of our ignorance.”–David Eagleman

Note: Regular followers of this blog will have noted that I avoid discussions of religion and faith issues herein.  There is a reason for this:  I am not interested in discussing them.  Anyway, if you have read many of my posts you will likely have figured out where I stand on this by now.  However, I am making an exception with this post for a specific reason.  Possiblianism is to faith, what these Millennium Conjectures are to physics and metaphysics.  I am speculating on what might be the answers to unknown questions, based on what we do know about physics and cosmology–all the while keeping an open mind and not drawing any absolute conclusions.

In between theism and atheism lies a vast limbo generally referred to as agnosticism.   While the dictionary definition of agnostic is someone who believes the answer to the question of god’s existence and/or the meaning of life is unknowable, the term is often used more broadly.  The agnostic may be undecided.  The agnostic may not care and consider the question irrelevant.  Some point to such individuals and say they are just too wishy-washy to make up their minds.  The common thread among all of these, though, is that the agnostic sees no firm proof either way.  Along comes Possibilianism, which might be seen as a sort of proactive form of agnosticism.

The term Possibilianism was coined and defined by neuro-scientist and author David Eagleman, in discussion of his book, Sum: 40 Tales from the Afterlife.  When asked by an NPR interviewer whether he was a theist or atheist,  Eagleman replied that he considers himself Possiblian.   “I’m open to…ideas that we don’t have any way of testing right now,” he said.  That is a good way of explaining what my Millennium Conjectures are as well.

.

I’ve read Sum, which is a compilation of 40 possible scenarios for what happens when we die;  none of these scenarios are typical religious views of heaven or hell,

or atheist views of eternal nothingness.   Many of the scenarios seem over-the-top bizarre.  Except when you stop to think about it.  None of them are really any more preposterous than what most religions already believe.  But all of them do have rather strong moral or philosophical points to them;  they are all excellent fodder for contemplation.   At any rate, it was a best seller that received rave reviews from the likes of The Wall Street Journal, The Observer and The Los Angeles Times.  

Below is a short You Tube discussion of the concept by Eagleman.  There are much longer ones available if you have the time and inclination.  As for my ever getting to conjecture #5,  I think I’m finally done with the preliminaries, so, yes, it’s a possibility!

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Cosmic Quote #27

“Photons have mass?  I didn’t even know they were Catholic.”–Woody Allen

photonI’m pretty sure they aren’t Catholic even if they do have mass.  Einstein was right anyway, no mass moves at the speed of light.  Stay tuned, you might even see some real science soon.  (If you don’t get the gag to the left, go back and review the entire Quantum Weirdness series.)

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Quantum Weirdness 107: Bell’s Inequality

Note:  I said in Quantum Weirdness 106 that I was done with this series for now.  There are two possibilities here.  Either my definition of “for now” is a very short time, or I have branched off into an alternate universe where the term “done for now” has no meaning.**  Then again, I could have branched off into an alternative universe where, instead of writing this post, I would be lying on a Mediterranean beach next to a super-model in a string bikini.   I wish.

**Okay, I might just have have lied.

“God does not play dice.”–Albert Einstein

“Quit telling god what to do.”–Niels Bohr

It’s complicated.  And this just about reaches the limit of my own understanding.

The whole point of Einstein’s comment is that he could not accept the random nature of the quantum world.  He could not accept that quanta of matter and energy, and all their itinerant properties, only exist as probabilities until we observe  them.  He felt that there must be hidden variables that gave them these properties whether anyone was watching or not.  “I’d like to think the moon is there whether I am looking or not,” he said.

He was wrong.  Well, I don’t know about the moon, as that invokes the infamous Schrödinger’s Cat problem and it’s obfuscation of the Copenhagen Interpretation.  But for those tiny little quantum bits of stuff, it seems as if he blew it.

It all boils down to two papers.  The first was a 1935 paper by Einstein, along with colleagues Nathan Rosen and Boris Podalsky that proposed a thought experiment to demonstrate that there are only two possible explanations for certain properties of quantum mechanics: either there are hidden variables governing the quantum world, or else, as Einstein called it “spooky action at a distance.”  This has become known as the EPR paradox.

The second was a 1964 paper by John S. Bell, proposing an equation and related experiment that could be used to determine which of the alternatives is correct.  This became known as Bell’s inequality.

The technology did not yet exist, though, to make the measurements required to determine the solution to Bell’s equation. That did not occur until Alain Aspect, et al, performed an experiment in 1981 that proved, finally, that Einstein was wrong: no hidden variables exist; it’s spooky action at a distance.  At least, that is,  until further notice.

A  fairly facile explanation of the concepts and history is available here (including a brief touching on their relationship to Schrödinger’s Cat) and some subsequent contrary opinions here.  Or for those who can’t (or prefer not to) read, see the video that follows.  Confused?  One of the greatest scientific minds of the 20th century, Richard Feynman, said that nobody understand quantum mechanics.  Boy, does that give me free rein to get crazy with conjecture #5: Quantum Solipsism.   There may actually be a universe where I finally write and post it.

Whew.

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