“Spooky action” that can’t exist but does

“Spooky action” that can’t exist but does March 30, 2020


Professor Planck in 1918
Max Planck’s official 1918 Nobel Prize photograph (Wikimedia Commons)
Planck, the founder of quantum theory, was among the most significant scientists of the twentieth century. He died in 1947.


Here are a couple of additional passages that I’ve marked in Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner, Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness, 2d ed. (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2011):


The first is about Albert Einstein:


[B]ack in 1935 he had startled the developers of quantum theory by pointing out that the theory required an observation at one place to instantaneously influence what happened far away without involving any physical force.  He derided this as “spooky action” that could not actually exist.

Einstein was also bothered by the theory’s claim that if you observed a small object, an atom, say, to be someplace, it was your looking that caused it to be there.  Does that apply to big things?  In principle, yes.  Ridiculing quantum theory, Einstein once asked a fellow physicist, only half-jokingly, if he believed the moon was there only when he looked at it.  According to Einstein, if you took quantum theory seriously, you denied the existence of a physically real world independent of its observation.  This is a serious charge.  Quantum theory is not just one of many theories in physics.  It is the framework upon which all of physics is ultimately based.  (4)


Prequantum physics, “classical mechanics,” or “classical physics,” also sometimes called “Newtonian physics,” is usually an excellent approximation for objects much larger than molecules, and it’s typically much simpler to use than quantum theory.  It is, however, only an approximation.  It does not work at all for the atoms that everything is made of.  Nevertheless, classical physics is basic to our conventional wisdom, our Newtonian worldview.  But we now know this classical worldview is fundamentally flawed.  (6)




If we’re talking about science, though, it’s impossible to ignore the elephant that continues to lurk in the room — the coronavirus:


“Boosting Your Immune System During a Pandemic”


The Science of This Pandemic Is Moving at Dangerous Speeds: Much of the research that emerges in the coming weeks will turn out to be unreliable, even wrong. We’ll be OK if we remember that.”


“The Science Behind Sweden’s ‘Relaxed’ Coronavirus Strategy”


“Could Newly Found “Peacekeeping” Cells Be a Weapon against COVID-19?  In mice, these white blood cells tamp down inflammation in the lungs”


“In pursuit of coronavirus treatments and why we need to be cautious”



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