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Quantum Confusion - Does not exist until it's observed and age of universe

  1. Jun 25, 2012 #1
    Quantum Confusion -- "Does not exist until it's observed" and age of universe


    I ran across this:

    http://physics.jamesbaugh.com/quanta.html [Broken]

    "It is a problem of assuming values of properties are "out there"
    independently of the acts by which the values are determined. The
    whole meaning of the value of a property is the value obtained by
    a physical, dynamic act of measurement. To say what the position
    of an electron is "between position measurements" is as nonsensical
    as to say the electron is a "Republican" or "prefers orange to peach
    jelly for breakfast". Science and especially physics is about what
    we know as that is defined by empirical actual experiments."

    So then I suppose, by the above, to talk about the position "in the vast ocean of time before measuring devices and humans existed" is "nonsense". But that itself doesn't, erm, make sense. It would mean that entire, vast fields of science -- cosmology, archaeology, palaeontology, geology, etc. would all be utterly meaningless since they'd be talking about conditions and things in a time when no "measuring devices" existed to make physical properties of "stuff" meaningful. If anything, it'd seem to lead us to take seriously the notion of this:


    -- the universe's true age is limited by the time us and our measuring devices have existed for, which means the "13.7 billion years" often cited would actually be a meaningless figure, since it makes no sense to talk about a "universe" without observers in it to make things concrete. It would indicate that the universe appeared, in essentially its full form and only _seeming_ to be old, a few decades(!) or at most a few tens of thousands of years ago, when humans (for "observers") first appeared. (I suppose we could be generous, and try pushing it back a few hundred million years even, to the point of appearance of organisms with brains and what not. But billions of years? Forget it!) But that just don't seem right! What gives? What is the meaning of "the pre-human or pre-life universe" from a quantum point of view?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 26, 2012 #2
    Re: Quantum Confusion -- "Does not exist until it's observed" and age of universe

    Time is not an observable in qm, there is no time operator and it is is most likely an emergent classical parameter associated with the act of measurement. When you do a measurement, you also select a (preferred) reference frame. That's not much help on your questions, but i doubt you'd get a satisfying answer anyway.
  4. Jun 26, 2012 #3
    Re: Quantum Confusion -- "Does not exist until it's observed" and age of universe

    I agree with Maui.

    Additionally, this to my understanding seems to be an idea which is assuming that a certain interpretation or one of a certain series of possible interpretations of QM or more specifically the collapse of wave function is correct which we simply do not know.
  5. Jun 26, 2012 #4
    Re: Quantum Confusion -- "Does not exist until it's observed" and age of universe

    Define "measurement" and "observation."

    This is actual an active area of physics research.

    See http://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/0306072

    It turns out that any sort of interaction with the "outside world" will do as a "measurement." It turns out to be extremely hard to avoid something getting "measured."
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