Friday, January 14, 2011

The quantum conspiracy

I gave a talk at Google the other day entitled, with tongue-in-cheek, The Quantum Conspiracy: What Popularizers of Quantum Mechanics Don't Want You to Know. It's basically a recap of this paper that I wrote ten years ago. Despite my efforts to enlighten the world, you will still read in the popular press nonsense like, "When an aspect of one [entangled] photon’s quantum state is measured, the other photon changes in response, even when the two photons are separated by large distance."

No, nothing changes when you "measure" an entangled photon. Watch the talk (or read the paper) to find out why. Physicists have known this for decades now. Why does the popular press have such a hard time getting it right?


Don Geddis said...

And often they add, "...and it changes instantly, faster even than light!"

Oh yes, and the whole "the universe doesn't even seem to exist, until a conscious being observes it!"

Oh well. It's fun for new-age crystal/chi/astrology wackos to think that real physics supports their delusions.

Ron said...

> the universe doesn't even SEEM to exist, until a conscious being observes it [emphasis added]

That is actually more or less true :-)

Don Geddis said...

Yeah, yeah, all right. But don't confuse people. You're now making a statement about human minds, not about the external world (which is what most people mean).

Just watched your video. Nice job! I especially like the physical props at the beginning. Those were cool. I expected just powerpoint; much better to have macroscopic physical examples.

(I myself prefer Multiple Worlds, but in the context of the confusions you're arguing against, we're basically on the same side.)

James said...

Thanks for linking the paper here! I enjoyed the Google presentation (vicariously, through Youtube) and while I cannot claim any expertise with the physics or the math, I do enjoy examining the theoretical underpinnings.

So here is a question I had, stemming directly from the talk. At one point you said something to the effect of 'If we ignore the real part' of a description of the wave function; what is that supposed to mean, exactly?

In the meantime, I'm chuckling in anticipation of proving to this webform I'm not a computer, by doing as I'm told...

Ron said...

> 'If we ignore the real part' of a description of the wave function

Not sure what you're referring to. Can you tell me the time code where I make this statement?

Anonymous said...

Hello Ron,

I'm just a rondam person from the internet -- I found your talk by way of a link posted on a list I belong to (the Everything List... it's cool, you should check it out!) and I became very intrigued by your 'zero worlds' approach, but also very puzzled. Puzzlement aside, I thought you might like to know what other people on the internet are using your GoogleTechTalk as evidence for:

Besides your talk, the blogger over there also refers to "Seth," which I gather is some kind of channeled entity(??)
Anyway, guess my question was -- what do you think about this use of your interpretation to support what seem to me pretty far out (and far from substantiated) claims about how the universe is? It seems to me (and I am almost certainly wrong) that if you do away with the underlying "reality" of the world in favor of a weaker principle of "consistency," you have to explain that consistency, but in order to do that, you have to do something like give primacy to consciousness, and then that just opens the door to a lot of crackpottery and woo -- any thoughts?


Publius said...

Recent news on pilot wave theory:
Pilot Wave Theory Gains Experimental Support

Ron said...

This was discussed extensively on HN when the article was first published: