Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

How to debunk new age Quantum physics crankery

  1. Feb 25, 2012 #1

    I know very little about quantum physics so I need some help here, but recently I have seen lots of new agers claiming work on Quantum physics "refutes" materialism and either supports dualism or that mind is the basis of reality, they cite people like gowami or even Bohr or Heisenberg in their defence. I think this is pure wrong, i dont see how work in QM reveals anything mystical but then I know little about this area, but lots of new agers keep mentioning the uncertainty principle which supports their "spiritual" world view, they claim this uncertainty principle proves that quantum physics is influenced by mind and that changes rely on the mind of the observer? and that particles and objects don't even exist without being observed??

    any help with debunking this would be good by any experienced users educated in this area.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 25, 2012 #2
    The phenomenon is not restricted to New Agers. It concerns also some physics professors writing popular books. One should start with them. But they are rarely critised by making a detailed analysis of their twisted and irrational reasonings. While criticising it is important not to throw the baby out with the bath.

    Example: "The Quantum and the Lotus" by Matthieu Ricard and Trinh Xuan Thuan
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2012
  4. Feb 25, 2012 #3
    The best way to debunk these theories is to know what you are talking about. Learn QM from textbooks and books written by people who publish peer reviewed work in respected journals. These sources will teach you the foundations of QM without mixing it up with mysticism. Then when people overreach, you will know. I posted recently on some reputable books an authors on QM and particle physics.
  5. Feb 26, 2012 #4
    But be careful. Books written by people who publish peer reviewed work in respected journals sometimes contain unreasonable parts and even nonsense. You relly need to be an expert to debunk something and to withstand being debunked.
  6. Feb 26, 2012 #5
    Passing peer-review only means that the paper is sound. It says nothing about the author.

    forests, I would suggest learning QM from standard textbooks on the subject. As for the new agers, I can't help you as I've personally never been able to convince them their views are wrong.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2012
  7. Feb 26, 2012 #6
    In fact it does not even mean that. That is our wishful thinking. Similarly, the fact that a paper has been rejected does not not mean that it was bad. It could have been very good, but the refereees were bad. That happens too.
  8. Feb 26, 2012 #7


    Staff: Mentor

  9. Feb 26, 2012 #8
    Griffiths book is good indeed. One reaosn being that he is sincere. Discussing wave function collapse, for instance, Griffiths writes:

    "While its picturesque language may have some use for pedagogical purposes or
    for constructing mnemonics, the concept of wave function collapse has given rise
    to so much confusion and misunderstanding that it would, in my opinion, be better
    to abandon it altogether."

    Notice "in my opinion" in this sentence. So, the reader knows that, probably, there are other physicists that do not share Griffiths' opinion, therefore there is an encouragment to look for other sources. That is, in my opinion, invaluable!
  10. Feb 26, 2012 #9
    I will admit that an author of a book being published in peer reviewed journals is not a guarantee that they are not nuts, but an extensive resume of published peer reviewed works, especially papers in major journals like Science, Nature and Phys Rev, is a good sign that the author is an expert (assuming they are publishing in a field related to their book). I hesitate to push textbooks too strongly. While they are certainly the best place to get reliable information, they are not intended for casual reading and require work and/or background to understand properly.
  11. Feb 26, 2012 #10
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2012
  12. Feb 26, 2012 #11
    Do not forget John Bell published his works in 1965 in a very little known Physics Journal.
    Which means the main stream top of the physics cream journals rejected his paper.

    This doesn't mean I accept all new interpretations of physics or quantum mechanics.
    But we must keep an open mind for accepting any new logical interpretation of science, physics and QM.
    We may think we already know how the world works, but the chances are we don't.
  13. Feb 26, 2012 #12
    A lot of these theories are just extrapolations of the math, like Schrodinger's cat, they don't hold much value in reality.
  14. Feb 27, 2012 #13


    User Avatar

    as all human consciousness is in an entangled quantum state - you merely have to ask the universe and visualize the cranks realizing the error or their ways and then send out positive quantum vibrations that will alter their brainwaves
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook