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How did the cosmos form w/o observers around?

  1. yes

    1 vote(s)
  2. no

    13 vote(s)
  3. maybe so.

    3 vote(s)
  4. consciousness isn't real, and neither is the universe.

    0 vote(s)
  1. Feb 16, 2010 #1
    I've been having a debate with a friend(he has a cognitive science degree and I'm from the philosophy department), and I've hit a roadblock with him in our rudimentary discussions on quantum physics on how normal processes can go on without observers present. I believe the basic question is, how did inflation occur after the big bang if particularity is bound by observation? before I had heard of the two-slit experiment, or the biocentric universe theory, I was convinced that matter was inextricably bound to consciousness from my own experiences of different states of consciousness.

    as I learned more about quantum entanglement and how all matter and energy from our universe was created at the same time in the big bang, it seemed to fit that our minds were what gave the universe its matter. but then there posed the problem that we haven't been around but for a blip of the universe's existence, so for all the cooling processes and galaxy forming to occur after the big bang, Bohr's statement that nothing can be counted as existing until it is observed seemed to inhere that a form of consciousness must have been present at the time. otherwise, the universe itself only exists as an ocean of waves of probability until our measuring devices detect it. that would mean that the whole of the universe outside of what we call the observable universe still exists in that cloudy wavy state.

    how can earth have had its substance in matter before complex enough neural networks developed in its creatures unless there was another consciousness there to observe it? on a slippery slope, doesn't this mean that consciousness is older than our universe?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 16, 2010 #2


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    Easy. The wave function just evolves into a huge entangled state whose configuration space is the tensor product of every single particle's configuration space.

    Irrelevant. You can't use your hallucinations as an argument in a scientific discussion.

    What you have attributed to Bohr, says that something that does not exist is 'observed' ( how to observe something that does not exist ?) after which it does exist. Contradiction. If Bohr said that, I think it shows that he lost the plot. However, I think what he might have said was something like 'existence is in the shape of entangled wave functions until observation when they collapse to give concrete values of physical attributes'.

    In that case, there would be no need for 'observation' for the universe to evolve. It just gets more entangled as I said above.

    Also, don't believe everything you read about wave-function collapse in QM. Some people would argue with some justification the the wave-function has no physical existence. The configuration state for a large number of entangled particles is a tensor product and has an enormous number of dimensions which can in principle never be observed.

    Finally my own view is that consciousness has no physical significance, wave-functions neither exist, nor therefore collapse. If you could come up with a testable theory (equations) in which consciousness appeared you might be getting somewhere, but you can't, because physical theories are themselves figments of consciousness.

    No. As I've explained, you don't need to observe to get state evolution. This is a deistic argument and should be in the whacky ideas ( sorry, philosophy ) forum.

    Anyway, everyone knows the cosmos is being dreamed by a big green (Schrodingers) cat.:biggrin:
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2010
  4. Feb 16, 2010 #3


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    I'm not answering the poll, because the answer I'd like to give is "It depends on which interpretation of QM is correct, on what it means for something to be 'fundamental' to our universe, and on how we define 'our universe'".

    Nothing was created in the big bang. At least there's no established theory that says so. The big bang theory is the claim that our universe can be described by a solution of Einstein's equation with an initial singularity. Such a solution describes a spacetime in which every event has a time coordinate t>0. There's no t=0, and the big bang isn't an event in spacetime, it's just a name for the mathematical limit t→0.

    There are no indications in QM that conscious physical systems are "fundamentally" different from others.

    I think you have misunderstood Bohr. His "observations" have nothing to do with consciousness.
  5. Feb 16, 2010 #4
    I think the calculation of probablities only concern a "consciousness". I don't see where any one interaction is influenced by the probabilities involved. An outcome of the interaction takes place by whatever means, and the result (not the cause) is that it happens with a given probability, as seen by some intelligence that can count the occurences. That doesn't mean that nature first does the probability calculations before deciding what to do. A particular interaction does not possess information of what might happen if the same thing were to happen many times.
  6. Feb 17, 2010 #5


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    You're not being asked what is; you're being asked what you think is. Make any assumptions you want, then answer.

    i.e.: If you had a bag of money to bet, knowing only what you know now, which way would you bet?
  7. Feb 17, 2010 #6
    John A. Wheeler and his participatory universe comes to mind. And he was one of the greatest. Feynman and Everett mentor, no less. So I'd say maybe.

    An immediate question would be https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=359259" you observe events happening approximately 13 billion years back.)
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  8. Feb 17, 2010 #7


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    That is true. It was Wigner who argued that quantum mechanics has something to do with consciousness.
  9. Feb 27, 2010 #8
    I thought wave function collapse had nothing to do with conscious observation?
  10. Feb 28, 2010 #9


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    The universe evolved its own conciousness [humans] without any preexisting consiousness to direct its efforts. Even assuming ET, at some point the universe was inhospitable to anything resembling sentient life. It is a chicken and egg argument.
  11. Feb 28, 2010 #10


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    you and your friend are having a discussion about serious problems with the interpretation of QM.

    I suggest you look at the latest work on this, for several reasons.
    1. They review the problems in a clear concise way.
    2. I know the two main authors from their past work to be honest and careful.
    3. The paper is accessible. Doesn't take a lot of math to get the ideas.

    The paper just came out within the past couple of weeks. The title is partly tongue in cheek: Bohr's interpretation has become known as "Copenhagen Interpretation" and the lead author here lives in Montevideo, Uruguay...so they refer to it as the "Montevideo Interpretation."

    But the paper itself is not a joke :biggrin: it is, I think, a solid constructive contribution to better understanding QM and it will have a longterm impact.


    ==sample excerpt from introduction==
    The usual textbook presentation of the axiomatic formulation of quantum mechanics includes two apparently unconnected problematic issues. The first one is the privileged role of the time variable that is assumed to be a classical variable not represented by a quantum operator. The second is the also privileged role of certain processes called measurements where quantum states suffer abrupt changes not described by a unitary evolution, and probabilities are assigned to the values that one may obtain for a physical quantity. The special role of measurement processes in quantum mechanics requires understanding what distinguishes such processes from the rest of the quantum evolution. This is called the measurement problem, which many physicists have alluded to and that ultimately refer to the uniqueness of macroscopic phenomena within a quantum framework that only refers to potentialities. Ghirardi calls this the problem of macro objectification.

    The orthodox response of the Copenhagen interpretation argues that the objective of quantum mechanics is not to describe what is but what we observe. The measuring devices are classical objects through which we acquire knowledge of the quantum world. The measurement therefore acquires an epistemological interpretation, referring to processes in which observers acquire knowledge of phenomena. The question about how does quantum mechanics account for events observed in the measurement and the multitude of events that happen every moment in every place giving rise to the defined perception of our experience is left out of the realm of the theory. Those processes belong to a world of objects that our knowledge cannot have access to. As put by d’Espagnat [1], “the (orthodox) quantum formalism is predictive rather than descriptive... [but also] ...the formalism in question is not predictive (probability-wise) of events. It is predictive (probability-wise) of observations.”
  12. Feb 28, 2010 #11


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    Gambini and Pullin address the problem you and your friend have been discussion about the objectification of the universe without observers. In fact they mention this problem on page 2 of the paper!

    Their strategy is to consider two outstanding difficulties with QM--the measurement problem and the fact that time requires a special (classical) status in QM. They resolve both these difficulties together.

    QM is unsatisfactory from a realist perspective because it does not tell us about the real world how it really is, but about what we can observe and say about it. QM is incomplete, in that sense. The problem becomes severe in the special case of cosmology, where there can be no classical "outside observer". The universe includes everthing. If it is quantum, then everything is quantum---not even a classical clock is allowed. Here is another excerpt from the introduction:

    ==quote, http://arxiv.org/abs/1002.4209 ,page 2==
    If one adopts a realist point of view, that is if one assumes the existence of a reality independent of observers, the orthodox description of quantum mechanics is incomplete since it does not tell us which events may occur nor when may they occur. In our view this is a rather extreme point of view that should be reserved only to the case in which one has exhausted all other possibilities for analyzing physically the problem of the production of events. There has been a recent renewed interest among specialists in foundations of quantum mechanics in understanding how an objective description at a macroscopic level compatible with quantum mechanics arises. Several avenues have been proposed to address such a question (for a comprehensive review see [2]).

    On the other hand the fact that time is treated unlike any other variable in quantum theory has received much less attention. The usual point of view is that to associate time with a quantum variable is impossible. This is due to the well known Pauli observation that an observable associated with time would be canonically conjugate to the Hamiltonian and it is impossible to have a bounded below operator like the Hamiltonian canonically conjugate to a self adjoint operator. Even if one admits Leibniz’ point of view that time is a relational notion and therefore in modern terms described by clocks subject to the laws of quantum mechanics, it is usually thought that this would only complicate the description. The absolute Newtonian view imposed itself not because it was the philosophically correct one but because it was the simplest and yielded highly accurate predictions. A relational treatment is only adopted if its use is inescapable, like in situations where there obviously is no external parameter. An example of this could be quantum cosmology where there are no external clocks nor external apparatus to make measurements nor an external observer.

    So far I am not giving away their solution. I am just quoting the introduction where they review the difficulties with QM
  13. Mar 14, 2010 #12


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    (from the paper)
    this suggests to me that there has to be something else going on... like a set of particles making up the partcicles we know of. perhaps with this third periodic table we would be better able to prove or disprove string theories. is that too speculative? have we discarded this idea yet?
  14. Mar 14, 2010 #13
    Sorry to burst your bubble mate, but nitrous oxide makes you laugh, and its not your laugh that makes the nitrous oxide.

    By the way, you should experiment with artificial pheromones. That will be the definite end of your theory.
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