“Backward in time”

“Backward in time” April 2, 2020


On the UC Santa Cruz campus
On the campus of the University of California at Santa Cruz (not far from Monterey), with which both Professors Rosenblum and Kuttner were affiliated when they wrote “Quantum Enigma”
(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


Still working my way into Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner, Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness, 2d ed. (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2011):


The relevance of quantum mechanics is, in a sense, more immediate than Copernican or Darwinian ideas, which deal with the far away or long ago.  Quantum theory is about the here and now.  It even encounters the essence of our humanity, our consciousness.

Why, then, hasn’t quantum mechanics had the intellectual and societal impact of those earlier insights?  Perhaps because they are easier to comprehend.  They are certainly much easier to believe.  You can roughly summarize the implications of Copernicus or Darwin in a few sentences.  To the modern mind, at least, they seem reasonable.  Try summarizing the implications of quantum theory, and what you get sounds mystical.

We risk a rough summary anyway.  Quantum theory tells that the observation of an object can instantaneously influence the behavior of another greatly distant object — even if no physical force connects the two.  These are the influences Einstein rejected as “spooky actions,” but they have now been demonstrated to exist.  Quantum theory also tells us that an object can be in two places at the same time.  Its existence at the particular place where it happens to be found becomes an actuality only upon its observation.  Quantum theory thus denies the existence of a physically real world independent of its observation.  (6-7)


Erwin Schrödinger, a founder of modern quantum theory, told his famous cat story to emphasize that quantum theory says something “absurd.”  Schrödinger’s unobserved cat, according to quantum theory, was simultaneously dead and alive until your observation of it causes it to be either dead or alive.  Here’s something even harder to accept:  Finding the cat dead creates the history of its developing rigor mortis.  Finding it alive creates the history of its developing hunger.  Backward in time.  (7)




As concern for climate change grows, it seems that there may be at least some ways of dealing with it that wouldn’t involve vast government takeovers of the economy and private life.  Here, for example, is something that I could very easily support and that shouldn’t be controversial:


“In New “Mind-Blowing” Study, Planting Trees Reduces Carbon Better Than Carbon Taxes”


Still, even assuming that the scientific argument behind it is correct, I wonder whether this proposed solution will gain much support.  After all, it would furnish very little opportunity for increasing government control of the economy, multiplying regulations, empowering bureaucrats, and aggrandizing the administrative state.


Planting trees is within the capacity of private citizens:


“These Mexican Villagers Have Been Working to Plant 5 Millions Trees To Ease the Climate Crisis”

“YouTube Star Known For Kindness Celebrates 20 Million Subscribers by Funding the Planting of Millions of Trees”


By the way, National Arbor Day falls next on Friday, 24 April 2020.



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