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Atheist Experience
Last week's show - the quantum physics guy


During last week's show that guy called in claiming something like the universe must be observed in order to exist and so there must have been a first observer, and that this is supported by quantum physics. In the Science podcast for 2 November 2012 ( a physicist describes a simple experiment that refutes the idea that the thoughts of the human observer influences the behavior of quantum particles. I thought you might find it interesting.

Thanks for reading this and thanks for the show!

Best Regards, Chris Jones from Halifax, Nova Scotia

I watched this show called the holograhic universe on Youtube the other day. And it was basically saying the same thing this guy was saying. That in order for matter to turn into matter it must be observed and god must have been the first observer etc.

While quantum physics is tricky stuff....i don't it says that God must of been the first observer. It has something to do with the Double Slit experiment I think

The podcast I mentioned above addresses the double-slit experiment. Toward the end of the podcast the researcher indicates that his results refute the idea of a causal link between the mind of the investigator and the behavior (as a particle or as a wave) of the proton or electron under investigation. I get the impression that this result supports the consensus already held by physicists anyway.

These ideas come from the 19th century 19th century Danish Christian Niels Bohr. According to Niels Bohr, physical reality is that which can be observed. Quantum particles have both "wave-like" behavior and "particle-like" behavior, but can exhibit only one kind of behavior at a time. Bohr argued that since you couldn't physically perform a simultaneous measurement of position and momentum, there is no way to prove that they coexist as definite properties. Einstein found Bohr's reply unconvincing, since it carefully avoided any attempt to say what was going on behind the scenes.

"Disentangling the wave-particle duality in the double-slit experiment." This experiment shows that you can observe particle and wave-like behavior at the same time by entangling photons to determine which path they take.

Light's ability to behave as either a particle or a wave, depending on how and when it is observed was a problem. The Danish physicist Niels Bohr proposed that this wave-particle duality eliminated the concept of a reality separate from one's observations. In his "Copenhagen interpretation" he outlines that the act of measurement affects what is observed. We would discover in time that the source of particle duality is a condition called "entanglement". Entanglement simply states that in the quantum world, objects are not independent if they have interacted with each other or come into being through the same process. This process causes them to become forever linked, or entangled, to such a degree that altering one will affect the other, regardless of how far apart they are.

Scientific Method/Science and Exploration "Disentangling the wave-particle duality in the double-slit experiment." Photons act like they go through two paths, even when we know which they took. by Matthew Francis - May 21 2012, 5:00pm CDT The subtlest experiment in quantum mechanics is also one of the simplest: send a stream of particles through two openings in a barrier, and you'll produce an interference pattern because the particles act as waves. Amazingly, this also works if you send the particles through one at a time--the interference pattern builds up slowly as more particles go through. The double-slit experiment has been replicated with photons, electrons, atoms, and even entire molecules.

Typically, the particle nature and the wave nature have to be observed separately; if you track the particles through a single slit, the interference pattern vanishes. However, Ralf Menzel, Dirk Puhlmann, Axel Heuer, and Wolfgang P. Schleich entangled two photons and allowed one to pass through a barrier with two slits. The entanglement enabled them to determine which opening the photon went through, but a detector on the other side still picked up an interference pattern, demonstrating light's wave- and particle-like characteristics simultaneously etc...."

It was not people observing that changed the behavior it was the act of detecting which slit the electron went through that caused the behavior to change. When we know the path of the electron it acts like matter and when we do not know it acts like waves. Experiments have been conducted to prove that the detection device itself was not breaking down the wave pattern. Look up the "Delayed Choice Quantum Eraser" to learn more about how this was accomplished.

The double-slit experiment "double-slit" experiment, in which the experimenter shines a light on a barrier with two narrow openings in it, and study the interference pattern it produces on a screen.

Light famously has two natures: it is wave-like, interfering in the same way that water ripples cross each other; it is also particle-like, carrying its energy in discrete bundles known as photons. Matter also has this dual character; interference of electrons and atoms has been observed experimentally.

The original point of the paradoxical thought experiment named "Schrodinger's Cat" was to illustrate some of the problems of observing subatomic systems and drawing conclusions when the act of observation could skew the results. "Schrodinger's Cat" is essentially an object lesson on the problems of relying on observation alone when dealing with subatomic systems. Theoretical mathematics can get quite complex and abstract, making it difficult to understand what Schrodinger was trying to explain. Schrodinger's cat is a thought experiment in quantum mechanics, from the cat's point of view, Schrodinger experiment had nothing to do with being dead-and-alive at the same time

Our lack of knowledge about the definite existence or non-existence of a particle before it has been actualized does not imply that it manifests some kind of strange reality between existence and nonexistence. We know it does in fact exist but we may have to predict where it exists. It's not supernatural. Various claims are made about quantum mechanics to make it support the ideas of religious philosophies that do try to use new scientific theories to support their specific ideologies that they promote. The most usual way they have gotten their ideologies to conform to new scientific discoveries is through twisting scientific theories (quantum mechanics) in order to prove what they already believe. They have written books that are not explaining quantum mechanics but only giving non-technical concepts of the new physics. When they try to unite magic with the new physics they run into problems. They say that we can not say that an atomic particle exists at a certain place and we can't say it does not exist. The particle has a strange probability pattern to exist and not exist. We can't describe the state of the particle in terms of fixed opposite concepts, because the particle is not present at a definite place but it is not omitted. The particle does not change position or rest. What changes is the probability pattern. This is not the same as saying something exists with no proof of its existence. Science does not transcend the concept of existence and non-existence as is done in religion. It is no longer a probability explanation of a quantum event. Now it is a reality that transcends the concepts, it is now about how creationists think of reality and that is supposed to have some kind of applicability to quantum mechanics.

Quantum physics uncovers that every object in the universe has both particle-like and wave-like properties. Particles are waves, and waves are particles. Every object in the universe is a quantum particle that has some characteristics of both particles and waves, but isn't really either. Some advocates of design try to use quantum mechanics to prove that consciousness (the mind) is not independent from reality (consciousness is required first then you have reality). What they are saying is consciousness (the mind) is not a product of real matter, but the creator of the illusion of material reality. They believe quantum mechanics proves that the universe is mental not material and there is nothing that is in reality material (actually this idea is not new the Gnostics thought the world was imaginary).

What some design advocates are doing is trying to use the subatomic world to prove (design) by saying that there is no absolute reality because the object could never be completely separated from the observer (consciousness.) Some claim that what we know in actuality is not separate from what we observe (they are the same thing.) The idea is that through (consciousness) observing something (like the universe) makes it exist but if we don't observe it doesn't exist. There is not one interpretation of quantum mechanics that claims that the observer makes the object exist. We know that things can exist without us ever observing them and the two things are separate. That is because it is impossible to create something by seeing it, and we also know it is ridiculous as hell. Dependency of the object on the act of observing has nothing to do with the fact that it exists.

Quantum mechanics should be based on some degree of logical circumspection. Life came from natural physical forces. Design or creation claims that "consciousness" was before anything was created would transcend the three-dimensional to a higher multidimensional of reality. If there are any higher dimensions of consciousness they would be occurring in space-time, and how consciousness gets to this multidimensional reality is never explained. It is also not clear that design advocates understand time dimensions what-so-ever.

The observer does not determine the state of anything including the universe. The Quantum Zeno Effect is another example of the effects of quantum measurement: making repeated measurements of a quantum system can prevent it from changing its state. Between measurements, the system exists in a superposition of two possible states, with the probability of one increasing and the other decreasing. Each measurement puts the system back into a single definite state, and the evolution has to start over. Consciousness is not the universe and quantum mechanics do not confirm creationism or intelligent design.

According to the Wheeler delayed choice experiment, observing a particle now can change what happened to another particle in the past. According to quantum mechanics, a physical system (such as a nucleus of a radioactive atom) can be in a superposition (mixture) of states (such as "decayed" and "not decayed"). Although relativistic quantum mechanics includes wave functions that propagate backward and forward in time, this does not mean that earlier events are determined by later events. The DCE (delayed choice experiment) also states that when a measurement is performed by an observer, the system "collapses" into one of the states, which is the state seen by the observer. In the double-slit experiment instruments can measure the "self-collapse" systems, there is no need for an observer, and the interaction of the photon with an electron in the double slit experiment will take place whether anyone is observing it or not.

Roger Penrose wants to combine Einstein's relativity theory (any object that has mass causes a warp in the structure of space and time around it) with quantum physics. This warping produces the effect we experience as gravity. Penrose's view is that tiny objects like dust, atoms and electron produce space-time warps as well. Penrose believes these warps cannot be ignored (as it is in present theories.) If a dust speck is in two locations at the same time, each one should create its own distortions in space-time, yielding two superposed gravitational fields. According to Penrose's theory, it takes energy to sustain these dual fields. The stability of a system depends on the amount of energy involved, and the higher the energy required sustaining a system, the less stable it would be. Over time, an unstable system tends to settle back to its simplest, lowest-energy state and in this case one object in one location producing one gravitational field. If Penrose is right, gravity yanks objects back into a single location, without any need to invoke observers or parallel universes.

The design idea is to use quantum mechanics in their theory that the universe is consciousness (not material) but this could present a problem because quantum mechanics can also confirm disunity, because it shows how the whole breaks down. The process is called quantum de-coherence, and it is the central issue in the modern discussion of quantum computing. We do not create reality (even though the Gnostics thought we did thousand of years ago.) If we did we would not all understand things in the same way, but we do. We do not make reality we observe it as something that is separate from it. All religions want us to believe that we don't know what "real" is (don't believe your lying eyes) believe what I'm telling you. The idea is that you can't reach the level of knowing about these (elusive) things without baptism in a heavy dose of holy roller religion.

While the only role of scientists is to provide falsifiable evidence before calling something a scientific theory, and that's not as easy as coming up with a cockamame pseudoscientific conceptual theory that has no evidence.

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The ACA Lecture Series continues Sunday, October 11th at 12:15pm in the Austin History Center, 9th and Guadalupe. The building opens at noon. Texas Freedom Network's Dan Quinn will give us an update on their activities. The lecture is free and open to the public.