So you know boundaries are being blurred when the “What The Bleep Do You Know” DVD is shelved in the “Spirituality” section. You listen to all these hardcore quantum physicists and it’s like Kung-Fu Master and Grasshopper all over. They say things like: “it’s not about being in the know, it’s about being in the mystery”. Had they been born a thousand years ago in China, they’d be saying “The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao”.
What has these folks who had a perfectly rational educations sounding like mystical masters of the Way…? Ah, yes. Peering too long into the quantum abyss has curved their thinking over to where Lao Tzu left it, but with the inevitable technological skew of our times.
Now, anybody who knows about Taoism and even Buddhism knows that they are more philosophical-scientific teachings than religious, despite the parphanalia. Yet to the rational mind they require a certain dose of faith to somehow accept that there are invisible higher forces that make things happen, even if they be not gods or even God, but universal forces such as the Tao or karma.
The rational scientific method needs to see and measure. Only theoretical physicists get to play with things that can’t be seen or measured –dark matter, God particles and so on– although that doesn’t keep them from building Large Hadron Colliders to try to pin down those elusive buggers. After all, IT HAS TO BE SEEN… or the grant money must be returned.
Quantum physicists are hard at work making their weird shit do something useful, or at least something fundable. The grail: a working quantum computer with spin, charm, strangeness and all the stops. Quantum computing is the next big jump, in fact it is a jump so big in a direction so strange that the mind boggles… which is the only sane reaction to quantum physics, anyway.
Quantum computers calculate by jumping forward in time and choosing the right answer. Unfortunately for modern scientists, however, quantum laws do not allow this time-defying feat to be observed… if anyone or anything is watching, it simply doesn’t work. This annoying turn of events is not a show-stopper, however, because even though the calculation itself cannot be observed, the result of said calculation CAN be observed, which is good enough for grant applications.
To illustrate how pernicious this issue is, and just how twisty the mind must go to think quantum, is the following quote from a post over at SOTT with the intriguing title Space – time cloak could hide events.
“This cloak could be used to shield quantum systems from being observed, long enough for calculations to be done”. Think about that statement for a moment, and then tell me in what way it is different from magic to have a contraption that only does its thing when nobody’s watching, like tooth fairies and leprechauns and the imps that do my work for me while I sleep.
The answer is that it IS magic. Magic is very quantum by nature, with practices shrouded in secrecy –shielded from observation– and statistically improbable outcomes, like toads becoming princes. Only difference is that now we can toss in some gizmos, call it quantum computing, and get the funds.
I feel kinda bad for all those hard-liner scientists who publish or perish under the tyranny of the “measurable universe” paradigm. The quantum faith goes beyond such rational limitations in its usual style, with a charm too strange to even look at. Bring on the grants!