Closer To Truth: Some More About Physics

There is an ongoing PBS TV series (also several books and also a website) called “Closer To Truth”. It is hosted by neuroscientist Robert Lawrence Kuhn. He’s featured in one-on-one interviews and panel discussions with the cream of the cream of today’s cosmologists, physicists, philosophers, theologians, psychologists, etc. on all of the Big Questions surrounding a trilogy of broad topics – Cosmos; Consciousness; Meaning. The trilogy collectively dealt with reality, space and time, mind and consciousness, aliens, theology and on and on and on. Here are a few more of my comments on the general themes that cover physics.

What does Quantum Theory Mean?

One quantum theory which IMHO is total nonsense is the collapse of the wave-function or the superposition of state concept and the requirement for an observer to resolve the superposition of state by collapsing the wave-function. This is usually illustrated via Shrodinger’s cat. The cat is placed in a box along with a vial of poison, a hammer that can break the vial, and a radioactive substance that has a 50-50 probability of emitting a particle within one hour that will, if so emitted, release the hammer and break the vial and kill the cat. The question is, after one hour, is the cat alive or dead? The answer, via the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics, is that until such time as some observer opens the box to see, the cat is both dead and alive at the same time. The cat is in a superposition of (dead and alive) states and only the observer will collapse the wave-function to reveal either a dead cat or an alive cat. Bull!

I would like to substitute a thermonuclear bomb for the cat. Can a thermonuclear bomb be in a superposition of states, that is both exploded and unexploded at the same time, that is until such time as an observer opens the box that contains the bomb, the hammer than triggers the bomb and the radioactive substance that, if it decays, will release the hammer that sets off the bomb? I would maintain that if the radioactive substance emits a particle that triggers the hammer to hit the fuse of the bomb setting it off, it would go off right there and then – ka-boom! The ka-boom wouldn’t wait all contained in the box awaiting the observer to check! No thermonuclear bomb is ever going to be in a superposition of exploded/not exploded state.

Problem number two, going back to the cat, is that an observer checks after one hour and finds the cat either alive or dead. However, someone else outside of the room doesn’t yet know and so that person still has a superposition of state cat. But when that person finds out, a third person outside of the building doesn’t yet know and thus still accepts the cat as both alive and dead at the same time. And when that person finds out a fourth person a block away doesn’t yet know and then a fifth person in another part of town, hence a sixth person in another city and a seventh person in another state, country, etc. and on it goes. You can drag this chain out to the very ends of the cosmos and to someone out back of the cosmic beyond, the cat will still be in a superposition of states. The wave-function will not have been totally collapsed nor can it ever be if the cosmos is infinite.

Problem three is that once upon a time in the cosmos, there were no biological observers to collapse any superposition of state wave-function. However, the cosmos got on just splendidly without them there observers. Observers were not, and are not, necessary to collapse a superposition of state wave-function for the obvious reason that the entire concept is total bovine fertilizer!