The quantum experiment

Thanks to Bunnycatch3r for alerting us to this fascinating and lucid re-enactment and explanation of the famous “double slit” experiment that opens up the weirdness of quantum events.  (I witnessed this experiment performed in our Patrick Henry College physics class.)

I’m having trouble embedding the video, so if it doesn’t show up on your browser hit “comments” and it should be there. Or, just go here. That site will also show you some actual experiments so that you can see it for yourself.

UPDATE: tODD points out (comment #19) that this particular animated experiment comes from a New Agey source and uses language that confuses the science and bends it to the service of that worldview. And, yes, at PHC we did the “double slit” experiment with a laser, which does show that light behaves as both a particle and a wave. We didn’t have the equipment to do the observation of one photon, which is where some controversy comes into play.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • bunnycatch3r

    When I first saw this I felt like running down the hall shouting “Ideas don’t have to make sense anymore!!!” And then I remembered a quote by Richard Feynman “Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself. The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”
    So, now I really don’t know what to make of it or how or if it applies to what can be regarded as Truth or “objective reality”. I do know that this experiment and others like it cannot be simply dismissed. Science (recently, even more than religion) has always provided its culture with salient metaphors which help us understand ourselves in relation to the cosmos. Discoveries in the quantum world will be no exception.

  • bunnycatch3r

    When I first saw this I felt like running down the hall shouting “Ideas don’t have to make sense anymore!!!” And then I remembered a quote by Richard Feynman “Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself. The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”
    So, now I really don’t know what to make of it or how or if it applies to what can be regarded as Truth or “objective reality”. I do know that this experiment and others like it cannot be simply dismissed. Science (recently, even more than religion) has always provided its culture with salient metaphors which help us understand ourselves in relation to the cosmos. Discoveries in the quantum world will be no exception.

  • Tom Hering

    An old man in cycling gear is not a pretty sight. Adding a cape helps to hide the worst of it, though.

  • Tom Hering

    An old man in cycling gear is not a pretty sight. Adding a cape helps to hide the worst of it, though.

  • WebMonk

    Like was mentioned before, the “observer” isn’t “just” observing – it is interfering in the experiment. The video makes it look like it is totally separate from the experiment, but it is not. There are different ways of observing the electron, but all of them interfere in some way, in fact it is fundamentally impossible to observe something without affecting it because by observing it you are interacting with it in some way, and that interaction changes things.

    Our everyday observations don’t seem to affect things because light (our most common method of observation) isn’t sufficient to affect things (usually) at the macro scale at which we operate. Get down to the level of quantum interactions though, and observing things (interacting with them) does change things.

    For example, one way they might have “observed” the electron with the eye in the video is to set up an electric field through the double-slit apparatus, and depending on how the field was disturbed by the passage of the electron, one can figure out exactly where an electron is.

    However, the presence of a magnetic field affects the electron. You can see a macro-world example of how electricity and magnetic fields affect each other by running a current through a wire over a compass – interference! Same sort of thing happens when “just observing” the electron – the magnetic field collapses the probability wave of the electron to a precise location (that’s what they’re trying to do after all – know exactly where the electron is) and when it is in a precise location, it is in a marble-like state and behaves like a marble.

    Quantum physics certainly is weird, but it is not without logic – it’s laws and logic are just different than what we think laws and logic are based on our interactions at the macroscopic level where we typically operate.

  • WebMonk

    Like was mentioned before, the “observer” isn’t “just” observing – it is interfering in the experiment. The video makes it look like it is totally separate from the experiment, but it is not. There are different ways of observing the electron, but all of them interfere in some way, in fact it is fundamentally impossible to observe something without affecting it because by observing it you are interacting with it in some way, and that interaction changes things.

    Our everyday observations don’t seem to affect things because light (our most common method of observation) isn’t sufficient to affect things (usually) at the macro scale at which we operate. Get down to the level of quantum interactions though, and observing things (interacting with them) does change things.

    For example, one way they might have “observed” the electron with the eye in the video is to set up an electric field through the double-slit apparatus, and depending on how the field was disturbed by the passage of the electron, one can figure out exactly where an electron is.

    However, the presence of a magnetic field affects the electron. You can see a macro-world example of how electricity and magnetic fields affect each other by running a current through a wire over a compass – interference! Same sort of thing happens when “just observing” the electron – the magnetic field collapses the probability wave of the electron to a precise location (that’s what they’re trying to do after all – know exactly where the electron is) and when it is in a precise location, it is in a marble-like state and behaves like a marble.

    Quantum physics certainly is weird, but it is not without logic – it’s laws and logic are just different than what we think laws and logic are based on our interactions at the macroscopic level where we typically operate.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    What this means is there is a lot we still don’t understand in our world. Also, as webmonk pointed out, the simple act of observing created an effect on the electron. In fact, a major scientific principle, called observer effect (not to be confused with the Heinsenberg Uncertainty Principle), resulted from these experiments and ones like them

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    What this means is there is a lot we still don’t understand in our world. Also, as webmonk pointed out, the simple act of observing created an effect on the electron. In fact, a major scientific principle, called observer effect (not to be confused with the Heinsenberg Uncertainty Principle), resulted from these experiments and ones like them

  • Tom Hering

    Wouldn’t the “effect of an observer” be better described as “the effect of a detection device/method”?

  • Tom Hering

    Wouldn’t the “effect of an observer” be better described as “the effect of a detection device/method”?

  • Anne

    Interesting, but I objected to the statement in the video that the electron “decided” to act differently because it was “aware” it was being watched. That ascribes human qualities to an electron. I don’t think electrons are self-aware, and I dislike science writing that resorts to these types of expressions.

    Does this offer a glimpse into how Jesus could walk through a wall with His resurrected body? Could Jesus’ electrons flow like a liquid around particles in a wall?

  • Anne

    Interesting, but I objected to the statement in the video that the electron “decided” to act differently because it was “aware” it was being watched. That ascribes human qualities to an electron. I don’t think electrons are self-aware, and I dislike science writing that resorts to these types of expressions.

    Does this offer a glimpse into how Jesus could walk through a wall with His resurrected body? Could Jesus’ electrons flow like a liquid around particles in a wall?

  • Tom Hering

    Anne @ 6, I agree with your objection. I’ve also seen suggestions that observing, itself, changes the behavior of the electron – as if observing were a force transmitted by the observer’s brain through the observer’s eyes. But some writers (and physicists) like to mix their physics with mysticism.

    I wonder if it isn’t a question of intrusion. Wildlife observers use camouflaged blinds to avoid changing the behavior of the animals they study. These are usually as small (non-intrusive) as possible. Might it be that in physics, we simply don’t have detection methods that are non-intrusive enough to avoid effecting the tiny stuff that’s being studied?

    I don’t know. I’m just pondering within the limits of a macroscopic being. ;-)

  • Tom Hering

    Anne @ 6, I agree with your objection. I’ve also seen suggestions that observing, itself, changes the behavior of the electron – as if observing were a force transmitted by the observer’s brain through the observer’s eyes. But some writers (and physicists) like to mix their physics with mysticism.

    I wonder if it isn’t a question of intrusion. Wildlife observers use camouflaged blinds to avoid changing the behavior of the animals they study. These are usually as small (non-intrusive) as possible. Might it be that in physics, we simply don’t have detection methods that are non-intrusive enough to avoid effecting the tiny stuff that’s being studied?

    I don’t know. I’m just pondering within the limits of a macroscopic being. ;-)

  • Tom Hering

    Then too, isn’t a lot of this math that shouldn’t be reified?

  • Tom Hering

    Then too, isn’t a lot of this math that shouldn’t be reified?

  • http://www.spaceagelutheran.blogspot.com/ SAL

    What is interesting to me here is that this depicts a very different paradigm for knowledge than I’m used to.

    If I want to know something about an electron I have to interact with it. I have to in some way act on it and see the result. As WebMonk indicated this is something we rarely notice in everyday attempts at observation.

    Perhaps our reconciliation with God required that both God and us change in fundamental ways. That we interact in an unprecedented way. God became Man and we interacted with him for three decades. We left marks in his hands and feet, we left scars from our sin on God himself. Conversely God interacted with us and left his spirit in us and joins his body to that spirit in Holy Communion.

    The Incarnation was just the beginning of a radical interaction between us and God.

  • http://www.spaceagelutheran.blogspot.com/ SAL

    What is interesting to me here is that this depicts a very different paradigm for knowledge than I’m used to.

    If I want to know something about an electron I have to interact with it. I have to in some way act on it and see the result. As WebMonk indicated this is something we rarely notice in everyday attempts at observation.

    Perhaps our reconciliation with God required that both God and us change in fundamental ways. That we interact in an unprecedented way. God became Man and we interacted with him for three decades. We left marks in his hands and feet, we left scars from our sin on God himself. Conversely God interacted with us and left his spirit in us and joins his body to that spirit in Holy Communion.

    The Incarnation was just the beginning of a radical interaction between us and God.

  • bunnycatch3r

    The one thing, it seems, certain about the quantum world is that it is without exception bereft of certainty. Once certainty is attempted the wave field collapses (as shown in the video) into a lifeless (can you guess where I’m taking this?)”particle” or “object ” or speaking theologically “idol”. Can the same be said for the “world” of theology? When we make declarative statements granting certainty to the deity of Christ, or to scripture as the inerrant word of God, or to the acts of Genesis as literally and historically true do we collapse the “wave field” of possibility and end up with a particle or an “idol”?

  • bunnycatch3r

    The one thing, it seems, certain about the quantum world is that it is without exception bereft of certainty. Once certainty is attempted the wave field collapses (as shown in the video) into a lifeless (can you guess where I’m taking this?)”particle” or “object ” or speaking theologically “idol”. Can the same be said for the “world” of theology? When we make declarative statements granting certainty to the deity of Christ, or to scripture as the inerrant word of God, or to the acts of Genesis as literally and historically true do we collapse the “wave field” of possibility and end up with a particle or an “idol”?

  • nqb

    bunnycatch3r, I think the problem with that analogy is that it forgets or ignores what has been revealed to us through the Scriptures and Sacraments. If I understand you correctly, I could extend your analogy by saying that I have a concept of “God” or “gods” or “deity” or “a greater power,” and I don’t want to “collapse” that greater power into “simply” the Triune God by making a “measurement” (i.e., reading the scriptures, being baptized, receiving His body and blood).
    But God has revealed Himself to us, and we are in no way limiting Him by taking Him at His Word.
    Also, you seem to find the particle result in the original experiment less desirable than the wave, but I don’t see why any bias should exist between the two scientific results.

  • nqb

    bunnycatch3r, I think the problem with that analogy is that it forgets or ignores what has been revealed to us through the Scriptures and Sacraments. If I understand you correctly, I could extend your analogy by saying that I have a concept of “God” or “gods” or “deity” or “a greater power,” and I don’t want to “collapse” that greater power into “simply” the Triune God by making a “measurement” (i.e., reading the scriptures, being baptized, receiving His body and blood).
    But God has revealed Himself to us, and we are in no way limiting Him by taking Him at His Word.
    Also, you seem to find the particle result in the original experiment less desirable than the wave, but I don’t see why any bias should exist between the two scientific results.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Careful, Bunnycatch3r (@10), you’re about to start down the well-trod road towards mixing bad science with bad religion. Sort of a Eastern-mysticism version of Answers in Genesis, maybe. Next you know, you’ll be reading The Tao of Physics and The Dancing Wu-Li Masters, unaware of the scientific deficiencies — to say nothing of the religious ones — in either.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Careful, Bunnycatch3r (@10), you’re about to start down the well-trod road towards mixing bad science with bad religion. Sort of a Eastern-mysticism version of Answers in Genesis, maybe. Next you know, you’ll be reading The Tao of Physics and The Dancing Wu-Li Masters, unaware of the scientific deficiencies — to say nothing of the religious ones — in either.

  • bunnycatch3r

    @nqb

    Also, you seem to find the particle result in the original experiment less desirable than the wave, but I don’t see why any bias should exist between the two scientific results.

    Yes, I do have a bias toward wave properties. I missed that. Thanks!
    @tODD
    A hit, a very palpable hit.”

  • bunnycatch3r

    @nqb

    Also, you seem to find the particle result in the original experiment less desirable than the wave, but I don’t see why any bias should exist between the two scientific results.

    Yes, I do have a bias toward wave properties. I missed that. Thanks!
    @tODD
    A hit, a very palpable hit.”

  • http://www.spaceagelutheran.blogspot.com/ SAL

    #10 The possibilities of what an electron may be can only be determined from the various interactions we have with it. It is only by trying to achieve certainty that we can even find out that it seems to behaves like a probability.

  • http://www.spaceagelutheran.blogspot.com/ SAL

    #10 The possibilities of what an electron may be can only be determined from the various interactions we have with it. It is only by trying to achieve certainty that we can even find out that it seems to behaves like a probability.

  • WebMonk

    One thing that hasn’t been mentioned here is that the indeterminate nature of things at the quantum level isn’t strictly a result of the act of measuring disturbing things. Observation certainly imposes limits on how we can handle things and what we can learn about them, but beyond those things there is a very fundamental uncertainty which exists separate from effects caused by observation/interaction.

    There are some experiments that could get around this (in some ways) if it were just something caused by the observation interaction, but they all show that the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics is fundamental and not just an artifact of the measuring act.

  • WebMonk

    One thing that hasn’t been mentioned here is that the indeterminate nature of things at the quantum level isn’t strictly a result of the act of measuring disturbing things. Observation certainly imposes limits on how we can handle things and what we can learn about them, but beyond those things there is a very fundamental uncertainty which exists separate from effects caused by observation/interaction.

    There are some experiments that could get around this (in some ways) if it were just something caused by the observation interaction, but they all show that the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics is fundamental and not just an artifact of the measuring act.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Further to what WebMonk said (@15), and in light of Bunnycatch3r’s statement (@10) that “the quantum world is … without exception bereft of certainty”, and furthermore in light of a poem written by Donald Rumsfeld (from his poetry collection Department of Defense News Briefings:

    As we know,
    There are known knowns.
    There are things we know we know.
    We also know
    There are known unknowns.
    That is to say
    We know there are some things
    We do not know.
    But there are also unknown unknowns,
    The ones we don’t know
    We don’t know.

    … I think it’s important to note that the “uncertainty” of quantum mechanics falls into the realm of “known unknowns”, and not the realm of “unknown unknowns”.

    That is to say, it’s not that we don’t know the truth. It’s that we do know the truth, and the truth involves uncertainty (or, better, probability distributions). It’s important to understand the difference between the two.

    QM isn’t saying, “Holy crap, we don’t understand anything anymore!” It’s saying, “We understand things better now, but they’re not how we used to think of things, and there’s some more fuzziness to the numbers (though not the rules)”.

    If you want to draw theological parallels (and I only would do so by way of metaphor, not to say that one explains the underpinnings of the other), it’s sort of like the God-man duality of Christ or the wine-blood duality in the Lord’s Supper. While the duality is “weird” and perhaps hard to pin down (you can’t say “this part is X, while this part is Y”), we can still say with certainty that the duality exists.

    I fully expect to be schooled by those here who understand better the subjects I have touched on here, as I last dabbled in QM in my high school AP physics class.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Further to what WebMonk said (@15), and in light of Bunnycatch3r’s statement (@10) that “the quantum world is … without exception bereft of certainty”, and furthermore in light of a poem written by Donald Rumsfeld (from his poetry collection Department of Defense News Briefings:

    As we know,
    There are known knowns.
    There are things we know we know.
    We also know
    There are known unknowns.
    That is to say
    We know there are some things
    We do not know.
    But there are also unknown unknowns,
    The ones we don’t know
    We don’t know.

    … I think it’s important to note that the “uncertainty” of quantum mechanics falls into the realm of “known unknowns”, and not the realm of “unknown unknowns”.

    That is to say, it’s not that we don’t know the truth. It’s that we do know the truth, and the truth involves uncertainty (or, better, probability distributions). It’s important to understand the difference between the two.

    QM isn’t saying, “Holy crap, we don’t understand anything anymore!” It’s saying, “We understand things better now, but they’re not how we used to think of things, and there’s some more fuzziness to the numbers (though not the rules)”.

    If you want to draw theological parallels (and I only would do so by way of metaphor, not to say that one explains the underpinnings of the other), it’s sort of like the God-man duality of Christ or the wine-blood duality in the Lord’s Supper. While the duality is “weird” and perhaps hard to pin down (you can’t say “this part is X, while this part is Y”), we can still say with certainty that the duality exists.

    I fully expect to be schooled by those here who understand better the subjects I have touched on here, as I last dabbled in QM in my high school AP physics class.

  • Louis

    Todd, I like your “known unknowns” description. It is not the answer we would like, or the answer we are used to, but that doesn’t mean it is not true.

    Well spotted.

  • Louis

    Todd, I like your “known unknowns” description. It is not the answer we would like, or the answer we are used to, but that doesn’t mean it is not true.

    Well spotted.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    yep, fun stuff! I would love to see the experiment in real life, I would probably have to squint a little too hard though, eh?

  • Bryan Lindemood

    yep, fun stuff! I would love to see the experiment in real life, I would probably have to squint a little too hard though, eh?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I was wondering what experiments Dr. Veith was referring to “so that you can see it for yourself”, as this sort of thing typically involves equipment one does not have at home, so I clicked on the link, and found myself at the YouTube site for this video. Where I noticed the tags for the video.

    Uh oh.

    See, I’d been wondering where this video came from. I’d assumed it was just one of those educational videos for kids. And yet I had to wonder what kind of classroom video would bother to define the word “particles” (and with a remarkably unscientific definition like “little balls of matter”) and yet leave much more complicated terms like “superposition” undefined. Who is supposed to learn what from this video?

    Well, it’s not a classroom video. And, honestly, it’s not even an educational video. It’s taken from the DVD What the BLEEP – Down the Rabbit Hole[1], which is a follow on to the movie What the #$*! Do We Know!?[2] (aka What the Bleep Do We Know!?). In case you haven’t heard of these films, the Wikipedia sentence that they contain a “a narrative that posits a spiritual connection between quantum physics and consciousness” should give you an idea. As might the sentence “The film has been criticized for misrepresenting science and containing pseudoscience, and has been described as quantum mysticism.”

    You might get even more of an idea when you learn that the film’s writers, directors, and producers were all students of Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment[3] right here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Not familiar with it? Well, you can read the Wikipedia article[3] which begins it’s history of the “school” with “J. Z. Knight in 1977 began claiming that the entity named Ramtha, a 35,000-year old disembodied entity from an ancient civilization…”

    And who is “Dr. Quantum”? That would appear to be one Fred Alan Wolf[4], who is an actual scientist, yes, but … most theoretical physicists probably don’t get described with “His theories about the interrelation of consciousness and quantum physics have been described in a Newsweek editorial as ‘on the fringes of mainstream science.’” Which comes from an article about The Secret — you know, that book and movie about “optimist thinking” that states that everything one wants can be yours by thinking about it? Yeah, Mr. Wolf was in that film, as he was in What the Bleep. Let’s look at a selected few of his other publications: Star Wave: Mind, Consciousness and Quantum Physics. The Eagle’s Quest: A Physicist’s Search for Truth in the Heart of the Shamanic World. The Spiritual Universe: One Physicists Vision of Spirit, Soul, Matter, and Self. The Yoga of Time Travel: How the Mind Can Defeat Time. Oh, and a nice little Audio CD titled Dr. Quantum Presents: Meet the Real Creator—You!. Hmm.

    So if you were wondering why the science in the video wasn’t very well explained, wonder no more! It’s not science! It’s pseudoscience!

    I’m still wondering, though, what experiment Dr. Veith “witnessed” at PHC, or what experiments I could do “for myself”.

    [1]whatthebleep.com/download/
    [2]wikipedia.org/wiki/What_the_Bleep_Do_We_Know
    [3]wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramtha’s_School_of_Enlightenment
    [4]wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Alan_Wolf

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I was wondering what experiments Dr. Veith was referring to “so that you can see it for yourself”, as this sort of thing typically involves equipment one does not have at home, so I clicked on the link, and found myself at the YouTube site for this video. Where I noticed the tags for the video.

    Uh oh.

    See, I’d been wondering where this video came from. I’d assumed it was just one of those educational videos for kids. And yet I had to wonder what kind of classroom video would bother to define the word “particles” (and with a remarkably unscientific definition like “little balls of matter”) and yet leave much more complicated terms like “superposition” undefined. Who is supposed to learn what from this video?

    Well, it’s not a classroom video. And, honestly, it’s not even an educational video. It’s taken from the DVD What the BLEEP – Down the Rabbit Hole[1], which is a follow on to the movie What the #$*! Do We Know!?[2] (aka What the Bleep Do We Know!?). In case you haven’t heard of these films, the Wikipedia sentence that they contain a “a narrative that posits a spiritual connection between quantum physics and consciousness” should give you an idea. As might the sentence “The film has been criticized for misrepresenting science and containing pseudoscience, and has been described as quantum mysticism.”

    You might get even more of an idea when you learn that the film’s writers, directors, and producers were all students of Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment[3] right here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Not familiar with it? Well, you can read the Wikipedia article[3] which begins it’s history of the “school” with “J. Z. Knight in 1977 began claiming that the entity named Ramtha, a 35,000-year old disembodied entity from an ancient civilization…”

    And who is “Dr. Quantum”? That would appear to be one Fred Alan Wolf[4], who is an actual scientist, yes, but … most theoretical physicists probably don’t get described with “His theories about the interrelation of consciousness and quantum physics have been described in a Newsweek editorial as ‘on the fringes of mainstream science.’” Which comes from an article about The Secret — you know, that book and movie about “optimist thinking” that states that everything one wants can be yours by thinking about it? Yeah, Mr. Wolf was in that film, as he was in What the Bleep. Let’s look at a selected few of his other publications: Star Wave: Mind, Consciousness and Quantum Physics. The Eagle’s Quest: A Physicist’s Search for Truth in the Heart of the Shamanic World. The Spiritual Universe: One Physicists Vision of Spirit, Soul, Matter, and Self. The Yoga of Time Travel: How the Mind Can Defeat Time. Oh, and a nice little Audio CD titled Dr. Quantum Presents: Meet the Real Creator—You!. Hmm.

    So if you were wondering why the science in the video wasn’t very well explained, wonder no more! It’s not science! It’s pseudoscience!

    I’m still wondering, though, what experiment Dr. Veith “witnessed” at PHC, or what experiments I could do “for myself”.

    [1]whatthebleep.com/download/
    [2]wikipedia.org/wiki/What_the_Bleep_Do_We_Know
    [3]wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramtha’s_School_of_Enlightenment
    [4]wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Alan_Wolf

  • WebMonk

    Well, the whole thing isn’t pseudoscience, but it does have a couple parts in there which are incorrect, which now that you’ve pointed out the connection, could certainly be used to blend quantum weirdness with mystical ideas.

    I am seriously impressed, tODD!

    As for the experiment Dr. Veith saw, it might have been a double-slit experiment. You can do that with a laser and a commercially available double-slit apparatus. I’ve heard of people even doing it with a laser pointer and a homemade double-slit shield, but the double slit needs to be pretty carefully made.

    One option might be to use a laser pointer and a hair held in it. A single , thin object can cause a similar effect on waves as a double slit. I’ve never heard of anyone trying that though. That’s just off the top of my head.

  • WebMonk

    Well, the whole thing isn’t pseudoscience, but it does have a couple parts in there which are incorrect, which now that you’ve pointed out the connection, could certainly be used to blend quantum weirdness with mystical ideas.

    I am seriously impressed, tODD!

    As for the experiment Dr. Veith saw, it might have been a double-slit experiment. You can do that with a laser and a commercially available double-slit apparatus. I’ve heard of people even doing it with a laser pointer and a homemade double-slit shield, but the double slit needs to be pretty carefully made.

    One option might be to use a laser pointer and a hair held in it. A single , thin object can cause a similar effect on waves as a double slit. I’ve never heard of anyone trying that though. That’s just off the top of my head.

  • ptl

    Here’s a link to some Feynman lectures at Cornell in the early 60′s. They are all excellent, but Lecture 6 is on QM…from a Professor who knows something about it and knows how to lecture too. Hope it works!

    http://research.microsoft.com/apps/tools/tuva/index.html#data=3|||

    May the farce be with you!

  • ptl

    Here’s a link to some Feynman lectures at Cornell in the early 60′s. They are all excellent, but Lecture 6 is on QM…from a Professor who knows something about it and knows how to lecture too. Hope it works!

    http://research.microsoft.com/apps/tools/tuva/index.html#data=3|||

    May the farce be with you!

  • nqb

    Ah, the wonder of pronouns. I believe the “it” in Dr. Veith’s “see it for yourself” was referring to the video, not an experiment in person. But maybe I’m wrong.
    Anyway, here you go, tODD: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7y5RJHiDOK8
    I’m guessing Dr. Veith saw a similar double slit experiment. Double slit experiments are commonly performed in quantum intro courses. As a side note, Dr. Schumacher in the the video (I posted) coined the term “qubit” in quantum information theory.
    And I’m going to go on record that I would still recommend the Dr. Quantum video as an introduction and basic explanation of the double slit experiment. But yes, the greater context of the video is dubious.

  • nqb

    Ah, the wonder of pronouns. I believe the “it” in Dr. Veith’s “see it for yourself” was referring to the video, not an experiment in person. But maybe I’m wrong.
    Anyway, here you go, tODD: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7y5RJHiDOK8
    I’m guessing Dr. Veith saw a similar double slit experiment. Double slit experiments are commonly performed in quantum intro courses. As a side note, Dr. Schumacher in the the video (I posted) coined the term “qubit” in quantum information theory.
    And I’m going to go on record that I would still recommend the Dr. Quantum video as an introduction and basic explanation of the double slit experiment. But yes, the greater context of the video is dubious.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Sorry, when I said (@19), “It’s not science! It’s pseudoscience!”, I didn’t mean to imply that nothing in that video was scientifically accurate. I meant that, based on the video’s content, as well as its fuller context and those who were involved with it, the point of the video does not appear to be one of explaining scientific concepts, but rather (mis)appropriating scientific concepts to other, mystical, ends. Pseudoscience will, after all, sound enough like science to achieve its aims.

    Anyhow, knowing the origins of this video helps me to understand its poor choice of words like “decided to act” and “aware”, as Anne noted (@6), as well as its emphasis on the changes brought about “simply by observing”, as WebMonk noted (@3). It also explains, the bizarre bipolarity going on. On the one hand, you have the video stooping to explain what “particles” are: “little balls of matter”, and then proceding to say, somewhat disingenuously (given the context) that an electron is a “tiny, tiny bit of matter”. Hmm. And yet it tosses words like “superposition” and “wave function” at the audience with nary an explanation. The point of this video does not appear to be to inform, but to baffle. And if you are sufficiently baffled, and believe that merely observing — perhaps even merely using your brain — can change reality, then perhaps you’d also like to read The Secret, eh?

    As for the experiment Dr. Veith saw, I guess I was confused. Sure, it’s pretty easy to create an interference pattern using a double slit. But that’s not a display of “the weirdness of quantum events”, as Dr. Veith said. That’s just the nature of waves. I was led to believe that Dr. Veith saw someone turn on a measuring device, such that the interference pattern disappeared. And perhaps I underestimate PHC’s science infrastructure, but I guess I thought that involved more technical equipment than one would typically find at a college without a science track.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Sorry, when I said (@19), “It’s not science! It’s pseudoscience!”, I didn’t mean to imply that nothing in that video was scientifically accurate. I meant that, based on the video’s content, as well as its fuller context and those who were involved with it, the point of the video does not appear to be one of explaining scientific concepts, but rather (mis)appropriating scientific concepts to other, mystical, ends. Pseudoscience will, after all, sound enough like science to achieve its aims.

    Anyhow, knowing the origins of this video helps me to understand its poor choice of words like “decided to act” and “aware”, as Anne noted (@6), as well as its emphasis on the changes brought about “simply by observing”, as WebMonk noted (@3). It also explains, the bizarre bipolarity going on. On the one hand, you have the video stooping to explain what “particles” are: “little balls of matter”, and then proceding to say, somewhat disingenuously (given the context) that an electron is a “tiny, tiny bit of matter”. Hmm. And yet it tosses words like “superposition” and “wave function” at the audience with nary an explanation. The point of this video does not appear to be to inform, but to baffle. And if you are sufficiently baffled, and believe that merely observing — perhaps even merely using your brain — can change reality, then perhaps you’d also like to read The Secret, eh?

    As for the experiment Dr. Veith saw, I guess I was confused. Sure, it’s pretty easy to create an interference pattern using a double slit. But that’s not a display of “the weirdness of quantum events”, as Dr. Veith said. That’s just the nature of waves. I was led to believe that Dr. Veith saw someone turn on a measuring device, such that the interference pattern disappeared. And perhaps I underestimate PHC’s science infrastructure, but I guess I thought that involved more technical equipment than one would typically find at a college without a science track.

  • Porcell

    bunnycatch3r at 10: Can the same [quantum weirdness] be said for the “world” of theology? When we make declarative statements granting certainty to the deity of Christ, or to scripture as the inerrant word of God, or to the acts of Genesis as literally and historically true do we collapse the “wave field” of possibility and end up with a particle or an “idol”?

    You might read Roger Scruton’s article today, Memo to Hawking: There’s Still Room for God Neither Kant nor Einstein thought physics explained everything., including:

    Immanuel Kant, who believed that Newton’s laws of gravity are not merely true but necessarily true, argued that we humans lack the ability to comprehend the universe as a whole, and thus that we can never construct a valid argument for a designer. Our thinking can take us from one point to another along the chain of events. But it cannot take us to a point outside the chain, from which we can pose the question of an original cause.

    Indeed the question of how the universe began does not make sense. The concept of cause applies to the objects of experience, linking past to future through universal laws. When we ask about the universe as a whole we are attempting to go beyond possible experience into a realm where the concept of cause has no purchase, and where the writ of reason does not run.

    Essentially, such trifles as the weirdness of quantum events have little to do with the more important questions of philosophy and theology.
    Who cares whether some film group screwed up the “science.” You make the mistake of elevating empirical or theoretical “science” to some sort of metaphysical profundity, something that the best of scientists including Einstein are rather wary of doing.

  • Porcell

    bunnycatch3r at 10: Can the same [quantum weirdness] be said for the “world” of theology? When we make declarative statements granting certainty to the deity of Christ, or to scripture as the inerrant word of God, or to the acts of Genesis as literally and historically true do we collapse the “wave field” of possibility and end up with a particle or an “idol”?

    You might read Roger Scruton’s article today, Memo to Hawking: There’s Still Room for God Neither Kant nor Einstein thought physics explained everything., including:

    Immanuel Kant, who believed that Newton’s laws of gravity are not merely true but necessarily true, argued that we humans lack the ability to comprehend the universe as a whole, and thus that we can never construct a valid argument for a designer. Our thinking can take us from one point to another along the chain of events. But it cannot take us to a point outside the chain, from which we can pose the question of an original cause.

    Indeed the question of how the universe began does not make sense. The concept of cause applies to the objects of experience, linking past to future through universal laws. When we ask about the universe as a whole we are attempting to go beyond possible experience into a realm where the concept of cause has no purchase, and where the writ of reason does not run.

    Essentially, such trifles as the weirdness of quantum events have little to do with the more important questions of philosophy and theology.
    Who cares whether some film group screwed up the “science.” You make the mistake of elevating empirical or theoretical “science” to some sort of metaphysical profundity, something that the best of scientists including Einstein are rather wary of doing.

  • nqb

    . . . the more important questions of philosophy and theology.
    Ha, I hope you didn’t mean that the questions of philosphy and theology are more important than quantum physics. I assume you meant that the most important questions of philosophy and theology don’t care about quantum mechanics.
    And okay, theology’s questions may be more important than physics but philosophy?
    Don’t tread on my vocation, man. ;-)

  • nqb

    . . . the more important questions of philosophy and theology.
    Ha, I hope you didn’t mean that the questions of philosphy and theology are more important than quantum physics. I assume you meant that the most important questions of philosophy and theology don’t care about quantum mechanics.
    And okay, theology’s questions may be more important than physics but philosophy?
    Don’t tread on my vocation, man. ;-)

  • http://www.simdan.com SimDan

    Despite the video’s origin’s and flaws I really like the overall style. It keeps you engaged and for the most part tackles a tricky subject well. I would really enjoy a podcast of videos like this, minus the new age mysticism.

  • http://www.simdan.com SimDan

    Despite the video’s origin’s and flaws I really like the overall style. It keeps you engaged and for the most part tackles a tricky subject well. I would really enjoy a podcast of videos like this, minus the new age mysticism.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    I would point out that every scientist everywhere admits that quantum dynamics have no affect on the macro world. Although the weirdness doesn’t go away, the main reason for the weirdness has to do with scale. Right now, the smallest scale we have for measuring is a photon – we can measure a photon by bouncing another photon off it. If you have ever played billiards you can understand the implications. To abstract that phenomenon and pretend that it affects the macro world just doesn’t work. That’s like saying that my tossing a football in the backyard affects the structure of the virgo super cluster.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    I would point out that every scientist everywhere admits that quantum dynamics have no affect on the macro world. Although the weirdness doesn’t go away, the main reason for the weirdness has to do with scale. Right now, the smallest scale we have for measuring is a photon – we can measure a photon by bouncing another photon off it. If you have ever played billiards you can understand the implications. To abstract that phenomenon and pretend that it affects the macro world just doesn’t work. That’s like saying that my tossing a football in the backyard affects the structure of the virgo super cluster.

  • nqb

    John, I’m a little confused by your statement that quantum dynamics have no effect on the macro world because the macro world we experience is very much dependent on quantum mechanics. For example, chemical reactions are driven by the electron configurations of different atoms and compounds, which are determined completely by quantum mechanics.
    Even more, “weird” quantum effects like particle-wave duality actually exist on macroscopic scales. In fact, all matter exhibits this duality: I even have a wave-particle duality. You’re right, though, that the scale makes a big difference. On our energy scale, my wave duality is greatly suppressed. Beyond the quantum level, things act basically how we expect, but we only expect certain behaviors because that’s what we’ve experienced. It really shouldn’t be a problem that things we have little or no experience with behave “strangely.”

  • nqb

    John, I’m a little confused by your statement that quantum dynamics have no effect on the macro world because the macro world we experience is very much dependent on quantum mechanics. For example, chemical reactions are driven by the electron configurations of different atoms and compounds, which are determined completely by quantum mechanics.
    Even more, “weird” quantum effects like particle-wave duality actually exist on macroscopic scales. In fact, all matter exhibits this duality: I even have a wave-particle duality. You’re right, though, that the scale makes a big difference. On our energy scale, my wave duality is greatly suppressed. Beyond the quantum level, things act basically how we expect, but we only expect certain behaviors because that’s what we’ve experienced. It really shouldn’t be a problem that things we have little or no experience with behave “strangely.”

  • Porcell

    Regarding this wave/particle “weirdness”, might it be that the Creator has a sense of humor that has the marvelous effect Of confusing the pretentious rationalists who pretend to divine the truth of the cosmos?

  • Porcell

    Regarding this wave/particle “weirdness”, might it be that the Creator has a sense of humor that has the marvelous effect Of confusing the pretentious rationalists who pretend to divine the truth of the cosmos?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Porcell (@29), I’m wondering if it’s actually the “pretentious rationalists” who are confused on the matter …

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Porcell (@29), I’m wondering if it’s actually the “pretentious rationalists” who are confused on the matter …

  • WebMonk

    nqb – One explanation I heard that I rather liked had to do with GR and SR. My prof said that the only reason we think it strange is that we don’t see it in action in our daily lives – were we a race of gaseous being in space that routinely traveled at significant fractions of c, the “weirdness” of GR and SR would be just common sense – of course space and time contract and rearrange themselves depending on how fast you or others move or accelerate, how could it be otherwise?!

    Same thing applies to us and QM.

    Because our daily lives always have things being either at one location or another, we think it really weird that something can be in multiple locations at once or exist in two different forms at the same time. Because we don’t see things suddenly vanish and reappear elsewhere, we think quantum tunneling is bizarre. Because we can’t see the creation and destruction of billions of objects all around us out of nothing, we think it unbelievable.

    If there were a race of creatures made out of quarks, existing at the atomic scale, I have no doubt they would have just as much trouble understanding our world of experience as we have trying to understand the QM world of experiences.

  • WebMonk

    nqb – One explanation I heard that I rather liked had to do with GR and SR. My prof said that the only reason we think it strange is that we don’t see it in action in our daily lives – were we a race of gaseous being in space that routinely traveled at significant fractions of c, the “weirdness” of GR and SR would be just common sense – of course space and time contract and rearrange themselves depending on how fast you or others move or accelerate, how could it be otherwise?!

    Same thing applies to us and QM.

    Because our daily lives always have things being either at one location or another, we think it really weird that something can be in multiple locations at once or exist in two different forms at the same time. Because we don’t see things suddenly vanish and reappear elsewhere, we think quantum tunneling is bizarre. Because we can’t see the creation and destruction of billions of objects all around us out of nothing, we think it unbelievable.

    If there were a race of creatures made out of quarks, existing at the atomic scale, I have no doubt they would have just as much trouble understanding our world of experience as we have trying to understand the QM world of experiences.


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