Jul 2, 2007

Little Science Lessons

"The doctrine that the world is made up of objects whose existence is independent of human consciousness turns out to be in conflict with Quantum Mechanics and with facts established by experiment." - Bernard d'Espagnat, director of the Laboratory of Theoretical Physics and Elementary Particles at the University of Paris XI (Orsay) from 1980-1987.
Mr Wang is busy at work and apologises to his readers for not responding to their emails (yet). To the reader who argued that "if thought can affect reality, then telepathy would be possible!", yes, in Mr Wang's opinion, your reasoning is logical.

Thus Mr Wang would refer you to Professor
Brian Josephson, Nobel Laureate in Physics. He is currently a professor at Cambridge University, and a strong advocate of the possibility of the existence of paranormal phenomena. He is also the head of the mind-matter unification project at Cambridge.

Note that the non-local aspects of telepathy (for example, the ability of a person in one place to instantly read the mind of another person in another place) is not inconsistent with the nonlocality aspects of quantum physics (the ability of a subatomic particle to instantly affect every subatomic particle that it has ever entangled with, regardless of wherever they may now be in the universe). See
this, for example:

"Nonlocality has been invoked as an explanation for telepathy and clairvoyance, though some investigators believe that they might involve a deeper level of nonlocality, or what Bohm calls "super-nonlocality" (similar perhaps to Sheldrake's "morphic resonance" (1989)). As already pointed out, if nonlocality is interpreted to mean instantaneous connectedness, it would imply that information could be "received" at a distance at exactly the same moment as it is generated, without undergoing any form of transmission. At most, one could then try to understand the conditions that allow the instant appearance of information."
As a matter of fact, researchers are now working on possible technological applications of this phenomenon - for example, two computer systems employing quantum technology could instantly "teleport" encrypted information to each other.

Sir
Roger Penrose, the world-renowned mathematical physicist at Oxford University, may not agree though. His argument appears to be that while thoughts may indeed affect reality and consciousness may indeed be required to collapse a subatomic particle either into a wave or a particle, the kind of consciousness that may be necessary to sustain the existence of the universe is not the kind of "consciousness" that any computer, no matter how advanced, could have.

In other words, even if the universe was created by God, He was most definitely not a piece of software.

Stay tuned for more, Mr Wang will be back!

34 comments:

Malcolm said...

Hi, perhaps you'd like to watch

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0124259/
or
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/elegant/greene.html

:)

And read a bit of Michio Kaku in your free time, heh

Interested said...

In an interesting example of synchronicity, the June 2007 issue of the New Scientist has an article by Paul Davies on the issues being discussed here. You need a subscription to read it online, though. However, for a taster of what Paul Davies has to say about this, see http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/
story/0,,2111345,00.html.

The comments are also quite interesting, mirroring the diverse views put forward here.

blagger said...

hi mr wang,

i've been following these posts and comments almost religiously. mostly because i'm amazed at the amount of replies and from ppl of so varied backgrounds. But it seems that noone seems to have asked, "how did you come to accept these beliefs which the average sgporean might find strange?"

aren't you worried that you might be labelled strange or quack? esp since you're one of the most popular sg bloggers.

Christopher Ng Wai Chung said...

Oh dear, will the scientists take out the torches and pitchforks again.

Danielsg said...

Mr. Brown, kitana and others had also been infected with this virus 'brotherhood'.

Henry Leong said...

Paranormal do exist, I had personally seen a few. Science had difficulties proofing it.

Lim Leng Hiong said...

Hi Mr. Wang,

Thanks for posting this interesting topic for discussion!

In order to find supporting evidence for telepathy, initially there is no need to propose an underlying mechanism. Even Isaac Newton couldn't answer his critics what the nature of his "force" concept was.

What's more important is to conduct some carefully controlled experiments to see if there are reliable, measurable effects. This is called the empirical approach.

Newton could produce reproducible evidence for the effects of force (eg. using a pendulum) and write equations that show the relationship between force and motion very accurately.

So far there is no such evidence for telepathy.

If we must speculate on possible explanations for telepathy, then non-locality (or "spooky action at a distance") is unlikely to be a helpful mechanism.

In my view there are two main reasons why:

1. Physicists have already emphasized that non-locality of the singlet state cannot be used to transmit useful information, because that would mean information travelling faster than the speed of light, violating Einsteinian causality.

2. "Consciousness" is not a particle state. It is an emergent process that is produced by billions of brain cells, interacting with each other and the external environment. Knowing the position of one electron in this complex network cannot tell you what a person is thinking.

In fact, in the one minute that you spent reading this comment, you just lost almost 60 brain cells. Yet you were conscious throughout. We lose an average of 31 million brain cells a year. In addition, brains cells are making or losing connections all the time. Even if we can know the exact position and activity of one whole neuron (consisting of trillions of molecules), that is far far far away from knowing what that person is thinking about.

Much easier and quicker to learn how to read her body language.

Mr Wang Says So said...

"So far there is no such evidence for telepathy."

Don't be afraid. Do google "Brian Josephson". He is a Nobel-prize winning physicist after all, rather unlikely to be as crazy as Mr Wang, right?

Mr Wang Says So said...

"Physicists have already emphasized that non-locality of the singlet state cannot be used to transmit useful information, because that would mean information travelling faster than the speed of light, violating Einsteinian causality."

Teck, the physics teacher who was recently commenting on my blog, touched on this over here:

http://mrwangsaysso.blogspot.com/2007/06/mindhacking-safe-simple-part-1.html

I gather that he would disagree with you. To me, it's a bit of an academic point.

Lim Leng Hiong said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr Wang Says So said...

You already know that there are many renowned, highly-qualified scientists like:

Roger Penrose, Brian Josephson; Werner Heisenberg; William Tiller; Bernard d'Espagnat; Jahn; Amit Goswami; Eugene Wigner; Schrodinger; John Hagelin; Lothar Schafer; Menas Kafatos etc etc

who have spent YEARS of their lives seriously investigating the relationship between consciousness and reality.

Even if you know nothing much about physics, you would be able to see (if you were a logical person not too heavily impeded by bias)

that there is something here which merits serious investigation, and that the idea, at the very least, is NOT something which can be lightly or easily dismissed as sheer nonsense.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Mmm? My above post was in response to a comment by Lim, which he seems to have deleted.

Lim Leng Hiong said...

Don't be afraid. Do google "Brian Josephson". He is a Nobel-prize winning physicist after all, rather unlikely to be as crazy as Mr Wang, right?

Not necessarily crazy, but he could simply be wrong. Nobel laureates are experts in their specialized field, but they aren't experts in everything.

Prof. Brian Josephson's view of telepathy does not reflect the prevailing opinion of practicing physicists:

The Observer (Royal Mail's Nobel guru in telepathy row)

An exerpt from this news report:

The row sums up a problem in dealing with Nobel Prize winners. Those given awards are treated as modern gurus and their words acquire startling power and authority. Most retain an orthodox scientific respectibility, but a few go off the rails.

William Shockley, inventor of the transistor, caused outrage when he moved on to the study of inherited intelligence and claimed to have found significant racial variations in IQ.

Similarly, Kary Mullis, inventor of PCR - the technique that allows scientists to make mass copies of genes - caused outrage when he expressed doubts that HIV was the cause of Aids. In both cases, their views have been shown to be utterly wrong. Many believe Josephson will similarly fail the test of time.

As one leading scientist put it: 'The trouble with the Nobel prize is that it is given to a man or woman for making an individual discovery.

'It is not awarded as a recognition of their total, integrated contribution to science. That is why you can get unstuck.'


Whether she is a Nobel prize winner or a kopi-tiam Ah Soh, as long as she has the evidence to back her claims, it's legit science.

Until then, it's conjecture.

Mr Wang Says So said...

True, he could be wrong, he could be right. Do read my comment at July 3, 2007 2:22 PM.

Mr Wang Says So said...

"Prof. Brian Josephson's view of telepathy does not reflect the prevailing opinion of practicing physicists"

But seriously. Why should that surprise us?

No major scientific discovery that will be made in the years 2015 - 2025 could possibly reflect the prevailing opinion of rhe majority of scientists.

Prevailing mainstream scientific opinion is always good enough to take us only one more step, the very next step, ahead.

The Really Big Ideas of the future must *necessarily* be lurking on the fringes.

I'm actually old enough to remember the time when the prevailing opinion of the majority of scientists was that AIDS was NOT spread by sex.

Lim Leng Hiong said...

You already know that there are many renowned, highly-qualified scientists like:

Roger Penrose, Brian Josephson; Werner Heisenberg; William Tiller; Bernard d'Espagnat; Jahn; Amit Goswami; Eugene Wigner; Schrodinger; John Hagelin; Lothar Schafer; Menas Kafatos etc etc

who have spent YEARS of their lives seriously investigating the relationship between consciousness and reality.


Wow these are predominantly physicists (except Prof. Schafer - biochemistry). I don't see any neuroscientists in your list.

Anyway unless you are claiming that all these scientists have found evidence to support telepathy, it's irrelevant to put up this list of names.

Even if you know nothing much about physics, you would be able to see (if you were a logical person not too heavily impeded by bias)that there is something here which merits serious investigation, and that the idea, at the very least, is NOT something which can be lightly or easily dismissed as sheer nonsense.

Dismiss as sheer nonsense? Not at all - if there was strong evidence for telepathy I'll be happy to use the technology.

I hope you realize that I do science everyday and routinely hear ideas that are grander and more bizarre than telepathy.

Is there something here that merits serious investigation? Yes, work has been done but there is no evidence for telepathy yet.

Who knows if it will ever be confirmed in the future.

In the meantime, it's quicker and easier to learn cold reading, if you're into this sort of thing.

Lim Leng Hiong said...

"Prof. Brian Josephson's view of telepathy does not reflect the prevailing opinion of practicing physicists"

But seriously. Why should that surprise us?


It doesn't surprise me neither. Just means that you can't use Prof. Josephson's rank in the physics community to bolster his claims on telepathy.

No major scientific discovery that will be made in the years 2015 - 2025 could possibly reflect the prevailing opinion of rhe majority of scientists.

Maybe not, but it will still need evidence to back it up, just like any other scientific discovery!

Prevailing mainstream scientific opinion is always good enough to take us only one more step, the very next step, ahead.

The Really Big Ideas of the future must *necessarily* be lurking on the fringes.


Oh I definitely agree. That's why Fresh Brainz exists - to seek out bizarre science and show them to the world.

Strange things such as slime molds and bacteria that are sometimes unicellular, sometimes multicellular organisms.

Why doesn't all the cells of a complex organism fight each other to the death? How do they cooperate?

This knowledge may be useful to learning about cancer and autoimmune diseases where the body is literally fighting with itself.

It may also tell us how a "consciousness" can be formed, through aspects of systems science (heavily borrowed from computing and systems engineering) and evolutionary genomics.

All of this is fringe now, but who know how far they will go.

A breath of time said...

Mr Wang, I mostly agree with you. Just this point, I though might be interesting to investigate.

4D, TOTO.

Now I would suggest it is the "tug-o-war" between a few groups of people who bought different sets of numbers. Whichever group believes more fervently that their number will win, gets the edge. A little far fetched, but if you compare to mass praying of some groups for whatever, it probably operates on the same principles.

Teck said...

Lim commented:
"Physicists have already emphasized that non-locality of the singlet state cannot be used to transmit useful information, because that would mean information travelling faster than the speed of light, violating Einsteinian causality."

and Wang replied:
"Teck.. who was recently commenting on my blog..
..I gather that he would disagree with you."



Lim is right. Wang, no useful (or classical) information can be sent faster than light.

There are many practicing scientists and intelligent readers out there who understand better this business of quantum information. They can elaborate on this subject better than I can. For now, if you read about "No-cloning theorem", it may give you some understanding of why superluminal signals are not possible.

Cheers,
Teck

Mr Wang Says So said...

Just means that you can't use Prof. Josephson's rank in the physics community to bolster his claims on telepathy.

True. But in a sense, it also means that we cannot use the esteemed/respectable status of mainstream scientists to bolster their beliefs on anything that is non-falsifiable or has not yet been falsified. That is kinda disturbing, even to me. :P

BTH said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
PZ said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sam said...

pz & bth,

I'm curious about where your hostility toward the "thoughts create reality" mindset comes from. Are you worried that if more people follow this way of thinking, then society will be worse off?

Skepticism is good, but there's a fine line between skepticism and pseudo-skepticism.

Also, didn't you hear that skepticism is dead? :)

PZ said...

Sam wrote:

"pz & bth,

"I'm curious about where your hostility toward the "thoughts create reality" mindset comes from."
____________________

Where did I say that?

The rebuttals are point specific to Wang's specific claims or comments AND his *method* of proving his belief.

There is no hostility to the "belief" itself.

If it is your belief that there is blue cheese and caviar on Uranus that's fine. But if you point to QM and/or some Nobel laureate had actually believed that too as *proof* I have a problem with that.

I might just ask you to provide some real evidence.

You can't provide the proof so it's my fault for asking?

What a sceptic PZ is! Bad boi.

Also, you mistake scepticism for cynicism. See previous comments.

PZ

Sam said...

My mistake; thank you for the clarification. Sometimes it's easy to conflate skepticism and cynicism because lots of "skeptical" forums are overtly hostile to anything that might be perceived as the slightest bit new age or unconventional.

BTH said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sam said...

Only 5 logical fallacies? That's the best you can do, bth?

Here's some more for you

Let me equivocate and make another false analogy: Since most people don't have everything they want in life (and I bet that you would fall in that category), their view of reality is flawed. If someone had an accurate view of reality, wouldn't they already have everything they desire?

Besides, I imagine that most people don't care about the method used to achieve their goals - or the science (or lack thereof) behind it - as long as they end up getting what they want. If the Law of Attraction helps them achieve their goals, more power to them.

BTH said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
geriatric_eunuch said...

PZ said:

If it is your belief that there is blue cheese and caviar on Uranus that's fine.

Finally! I now know why there's a dusty blue ring round Uranus. ^_^


Someone once said,

‘To those who believe, no argument is necessary; to those who don’t, no argument is possible’.

It's plain that Mr. Wang holds an unshakeable belief in the benefits of mindhacking and the fact that thoughts affect reality. Which is absolutely fine, after all this is his personal blog.

What puzzles me is why he feels it necessary to deploy the imperfect weapons of science to support these ideas and needs the rhetoric of well-known scientists to sanctify these strongly-held convictions. Surely they ought to be quite capable of standing on their own merit? Is science the gold standard without whose approval no suggestion can be taken seriously? I think we ought to be told.

PZ said...

GE wrote in part:

"What puzzles me is why he feels it necessary to deploy the imperfect weapons of science..."
_____________________

Because not to do so would be speaking the language of religion - belief based on faith.

These woos selling LOAs and the movie The Secret are doing them for commercial reasons - selling DVDs, films and as many other commercial spin-offs books etc. as they can think of.

How far would the woos go in selling their psychobabble stating the truth that theirs isn't really science but merely an unshakeable belief?

PZ

PZ said...

Sam wrote in part:

"Besides, I imagine that most people don't care about the method used to achieve their goals - or the science (or lack thereof) behind it - as long as they end up getting what they want."
_____________________

Hi Sam,

In BTH's example of the dog wishing for the postman to go away and barking and got its wishes everyday, the Wangs and woos would cite that as irrefutable evidence that thought can affect reality since each and everyday day the postman does go away.

The sceptic comes along and suggests to test this theory by getting the dog to now wish for the postman to NOT go way but knock on the door.

The test goes on for say 100 days and of course the subject's wish does not come true.

The logical conclusion is of course that in *this* experiment, the evidence shows that thoughts cannot affect reality and you really cannot get what you wish for no matter how hard you believe.

The Wang woos will insist that their theory REALLY works but it was somehow the subject's fault - he did not believe enough etc.

Contrary to your suggestion that it does not matter how it works so long as *you* get what you wish for - it is vitally important to know whether your belief/theory works and that it is testable under the falsifiability principle.

Otherwise we would be only left with superstition not real knowledge. Not unlike the cockerel who thinks its crowing every morning causes the sunrise. "Post hoc, ergo, propter hoc."

A wise man once said,

"If you accept something when there is no reason to believe it is true you are just credulous. And if you will not reject something when there is no reason to believe in it then you are in freefall – you will believe in anything. This way of thinking is a complete dead end. Or to put it another way, don’t be so open minded that your brains fall out."

BTH said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sam said...

bth, I've got a few questions:
1. Do you have everything you want in life?
2. If not, why not? In other words, do you have "logical" excuses for why you don't have everything?
3. Why do you want what you want?
4. What's the meaning of life?

You may want to engage in a peer-reviewed, scientifically tested relaxation activity before responding.

BTH said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.