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

Mentat at the subatomic level.

  1. Sep 5, 2003 #1
    There used to be alot of threads about Quantum Mechanics and it's relationship with consciousness. Partially due to Schrodinger's analogy of the cat that was both alive and dead until "observed", people began to believe that we have to literally "look at" a subatomic particle, in order to collapse it's wave-function. However, that kind of interpretation of QM prompts the philosophical question: What am I, at the subatomic level?

    At first the answer probably seems obvious. I mean, seriously, would anyone debate that at the subatomic level, there really is no "Mentat", but rather a bunch of quarks an electrons that happen to have attracted each other into hadrons and electron clouds?

    Why, then, if it is so obvious at first glance that I am no different from a rock - or a drop of water, or a reptile, or a piece of interstellar dust, etc... - at the subatomic level, is there all of this talk about the affect of consciousness on subatomic particles?

    After all, if I didn't have a brain, then I wouldn't be conscious, and a brain is an enormous thing, when compared to a quark or a lepton. So, how can it be that such a huge thing, which is composed of subatomic particles, is somehow distinguishable from a rock - or any other thing composed of subatomic particles - at the subatomic level? And not just "distinguishable", but unique in it's ability to collapse the wave function of other subatomic particles.*

    Any comments, for or against anything I've stated above, are appreciated :smile:.

    *I said "other subatomic particles" because, as I mentioned before, the brain is composed of those same subatomic particles.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 5, 2003 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Greetings !

    I don't quite see the dillema here. According to QM
    we can not regard an experiment as an isolated thingy,
    rather we must consider the observer as well.

    When we speak of the observer - whom can we "hire" for
    the job except ourselves ?

    I mean, you can't say that a WF's collapsed unless you look
    so you can't (for now) prove it can collapse before you
    looked at it, but thiking it did not according to what
    we currently accept as logical thinking is unlikely
    because the more basic and assumptionless view of the
    situation is to say that the WF collapses during any interaction.

    Live long and prosper.
  4. Sep 5, 2003 #3
    A wavefunction is a "graph" of the probabilities describing a particle(s?). Probabilities are different from different points of view, depending on how much information somebody has. The wavefunction is different for the (sick, demented) scientist than it is for the cat, as the cat can be 100% sure it's alive. (If that doesn't work for you, replace the cat with a human.) That's how I see it anyway, but then again I've still only taken high school level physics!
  5. Sep 5, 2003 #4


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Welcome back CJames & Mentat ! :smile:
  6. Sep 5, 2003 #5
    You are applying materialistic concepts to a panpsychic theory. According to the theory the brain is not the source of consciousness, nor are subatomic particles the source of existence. Consciousness is the reality, and materialism is the illusion. It is the nonlocal effects of QM that support this position, and disproving it has proven to require a great deal of subtlety and technology.
  7. Sep 6, 2003 #6
    Re: Re: Mentat at the subatomic level.

    That's why I put "observer" in scare-quotes. "Observation" in a quantum mechanical framework is nothing other than the interaction with energy fields. The fact that we need to apply an enormous amount of energy, in order to "see" a subatomic particle, is not an irrelevant point. If it were possible to be conscious of the behavior (position, momentum, and the like) of a subatomic particle, without applying any energy, then you would not collapse the wave-function. However, if there is an interaction with energy, then there is the possibility of collapse.

    And isn't the view with the least assumptions preferable?
  8. Sep 6, 2003 #7
    Well, that's why I emphasize that the "Schrodinger's Cat analogy" was just that, an analogy. Quantum Mechanics is a theory of particles, not of lifeforms (since, as pointed out in the first post of this thread, there is no difference between a living and a non-living thing at the subatomic level). Schrodinger was illustrating the quantum weirdness, by taking a situation that has the common sense answer (=the cat is either alive or dead) and the quantum mechanical answer (=it's both).

    Now, if we apply quantum mechanics to the realm that it was made for, then you have the fact that a photon is both "here" and "there" at the same time. An electron/positron pair both exist and don't exist at the same time.

    So, the point of this thread is to rid us of the belief that consciousness has something to do with quantum mechanical occurances (such as the collapsing of a wave-function), since consciousness, life, and even individuality are "macro" concepts, that don't have any meaning at the subatomic level.
  9. Sep 6, 2003 #8
    Re: Re: Mentat at the subatomic level.

    I think you have misinterpreted Quantum Mechanics. QM is a theory of particles, and particles are physical. The fact that many people have read a "panpsychic" connotation into quantum weirdness says nothing about the theory itself (much like the fact that many creationists read an antitheistic connotation into organic evolution).
  10. Sep 6, 2003 #9
    If what you say is true and conscious nothing more than an emergence of the physical brain then why is the observer an intrinsic part of any experiment. Before you deny that he is remember the very fathers of QM said that this is true and real and every experiement done to date supports this fact. The conscious observer is an intrinc and vital part of any experiment. The results of the experiment depend entirely on what the observer is looking for and what he is observing.
    This is science and scientific findings.
    Why? I don't know.
    Why it should be surprising to anyone I don't know either. Consciousness is a part of the universe and nature and can and does effect the material world. This is obviously just another example of this truth.
  11. Sep 6, 2003 #10

    As I already said, the "observation" necessary for collapsing the wave-function is merely a energetic interaction. A conscious observer is only necessary in order for someone to know about that collapse's having occured.
  12. Sep 6, 2003 #11
  13. Sep 6, 2003 #12
    Erm...ok. Would you care to expound on that, just for the purose clarification?
  14. Sep 6, 2003 #13


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Re: Re: Re: Mentat at the subatomic level.

    Greetings !
    What do you mean ?
    In that case this thread is doomed to failure.
    Like some others you've posted before in an attempt to
    solve some of the greatest mysteries of modern science on PF. :wink:

    Live long and prosper.
  15. Sep 6, 2003 #14
    Re: Re: Re: Re: Mentat at the subatomic level.

    I mean that our having knowledge of the state of the particle has nothing to do with the collapse. It is the means by which we obtain this knowledge (all of which require an energy reaction with the particle) that cause the wave-function to collapse.

    I'm not trying to solve any great mystery, I'm trying to dispell a myth that crept into the common man's understanding of Quantum Mechanics - mainly due to the layman texts on the subject, but also partially due to a few scientists (real scientists, I don't question their credentials) who have stuck to the belief (or, as Lifegazer would have said, The "belief") that consciousness exists at the subatomic level.
  16. Sep 6, 2003 #15


    User Avatar

    Well... Mentat... I wouldn't call it a myth just yet. What is decisive is what interpretation of QM you pick. Some interpretations do indeed require a special function for the observer - to suggest that only what is observed is real. (what we call Lifegazerism) And these interpretations are usually very much scientific, and testable. It is possible for QM to prove the specialness of consciousness - not to say that it is probable, or anything, but it can't yet be discounted out of hand.

    I am unsure about your energetic interaction idea... Since another form of quantum uncertainty also exists with time... and energy. These are cases of energetic interactions that depend on wavefunctions and lack of absolutes.
  17. Sep 7, 2003 #16
    Don't bother Royce. I spent page and pages in the "Clarification of QM" thread and clearly pointed out that while consciousness may not be part of the wave function collapse, that this does NOT imply this "physical interaction" theory that keeps coming up. I posted articles of scientific experiments and explained it for pages. I even mentioned in that thread that this billiard ball view of Qm is just an extension of classical physics into the subatomic world. Newton himself could have come up with QM if this were true. There is nothing special or weird about it at all. I thought we at least had agreed that there were still questions about QM. But yet this thread is clearly denouncing one view and claiming another view to be true. What else can you do?

    This time we may want to leave it to FZ and others to try to straighten out what is "really" the myth. Looks like he's trying to take a stab at it.
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2003
  18. Sep 7, 2003 #17
    Yeah, Fliption, I realized that we had been through all this before and some of the posts were merely paraphrases of previous posts. That was the reason of my one word response. It was all that I was going to bother with. I am only responding to you in this thread because you addressed me personally.
  19. Sep 9, 2003 #18
    You are right, of course, and I probably shouldn't have referred to it as a myth (since this issue is not resolved). However, I am attempting to show how ridiculous it sounds to try an invoke "consciousenss" as a key player in the Quantum world. After all, unless there is something wrong with the reasoning in my first post, consciousness doesn't even exist at the Quantum level.

    Really? Hmm. I don't believe I've ever been presented with an experiment that shows conscious observation as having an integral role (and Fliption, please don't say that you've given such an experiment, since I showed (perhaps not conclusively, but I don't recall getting a direct counter from you) that that experiment could just as easily be explained without consciousness).

    Of course not, but isn't it the wise thing to do to actually reason on whether consciousness can exist at the subatomic level, instead of just accepting that it's "possible"?

    Could you restate this please?
  20. Sep 9, 2003 #19


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    If there were such an experiment, that showed the necessity of an observer and couldn't be explained without one, it would revolutionize physics. However predjudiced some posters on this thread believe physicists to be, they would not be able to ignore a genuine experiment of this kind.

    But in fact, just about all the discussants in the physics community agree that observer/no observer is an interpretation question, and as such not open to experimental verification or falsification.
  21. Sep 9, 2003 #20

    All that work on that other thread and you either never understood or you have forgotten. Nothing about the experiment claimed anything about consciousness. I said from the very beginning that determining the role of consciousness was not my intent. I explicitly stated this many times. My only reason for posting the experiment was to show that the view that Tiberous was espousing (and that you apparently agree with) is just not a view that can be found anywhere in any credible literature. No where does anything make the claim that QM is all figured out and just "common sense"(Tiberous' phrase). And this theory of his that physical interaction is all that causes the wave function to collapse is nothing but plain ol' classical physics applied at the subatomic level and does nothing to explain the results of the experiment that I posted. Which is why I posted it.
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?

Similar Discussions: Mentat at the subatomic level.
  1. The Mentat Paradox (Replies: 3)

  2. Mentat and I (Replies: 22)

  3. Mentat Sighting (Replies: 10)

  4. Mentat method (Replies: 12)