Quantum myth 1. wave-particle duality

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  • #76
xristy
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You don't see how the configuration space of the classical Hamiltonian or the Gibbs distribution is not the physically real space we live in? You don't realize that we observe 3 spatial dimensions and therefore live in 3-space at the length scales of classical Hamiltonian and statistical mechanics? Something must be wrong with your senses and your detectors!
Humans, indeed animals in general, inhabit rather complex spaces that include position, phase, velocity and so on across an array of species specific observables. Without motion and our various measurements of it we do not experience. It is an inter-subjective series of conceptual designations that are what we call living in a 3-dimensional world.


As for defining 'real', that is simply what exists in the world, independent of our sensory observations and experiences of it. Any conceptually consistent physical theory makes some statement about realism. There exists no self-consistent theory that only describes a subjective world of events. Indeed, if you really give time to think about it, it doesn't make philosophical or logical sense to say there is no physical reality.
The utter and complete relationality of what is 'real' extends to the ontologies that we establish inter-subjectively. Current physics is an excellent example of seeing 'reality' dissolve under analysis. In fact it makes excellent sense to say there is no physical reality, in the sense that you defined as that which simply exists in the world independent of our sensory observations and experiences of it. There are no quarks, or solitons or clouds or rain or stars in the sky save for our collective conceptual designations of recurring patterns of the arising of the 'real'. It is these designations that constitute the ontologies that are operational among of group of people - some of whom may self identify as scientists.

In the olden days science was an activity striving to achieve a view of that which is from a vantage point outside the 'real'. It is increasingly clear that trying to look behind the veil is not the most effective way of doing science.

That is, science as a group endeavor to establish conceptual designations of patterns of the arising of that-which-is that enable us to get out of harms way and improve our lot, which includes for some of us achieving satisfaction at seeing some patterns and ways of identifying these patterns that have some quality we call aesthetically pleasing.

It is fair to suggest that there is a way in which that-which-is arises, i.e., there is 'reality'; however, it is equally fair to understand that how it arises transcends any ontology in the sense that the complete relationality of that-which-is is without any conceptual bounds.

Schrödinger and Heisenberg had two different ontologies for the same observations that were then extended by Dirac and then Kline-Gordon, Feynman and so on. These ongoing shifts in view are not nailing down that-which-is independent of our view of that-which-is and what observations we can make and want to make for whatever purposes.

It is clear that physical theories are about the observations that we can make and ways in which we talk about them. We can not make all possible observations, and hence we can't talk in a complete sense about that-which-is, i.e., objective physical reality.

I would agree that there are always at least as many ontologies at play as there are people doing physics, if by ontology we mean conceptual frames of reference or equivalently systems of thought about how to talk about the patterns of observations that we are making.
 
  • #77
You know I really think that the word "ontology" should be banned from this discussion! I am getting the impression that the frequency of that word in a post is inversely proportional to the content of the post.
 
  • #78
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This is the subject of Sec. 9. :wink:
And we'll get there even if its just you and me. But hopefully the success of this thread continues with each myth.


Ken G,

I agree that we don't necessarily require an ontological understanding of "what's really going on" underneath the wave function. But saying that really means just regarding the wave function and the equations of motion as purely an algorithm, a cookbook, a means of getting the right expectation values for our measurements and nothing more. Deliberately refusing to understand reality though doesn't quite seem in harmony with the scientific spirit to me.

However, there is a quite practical reason for going further. To formulate hypotheses scientists use mental models of the phenomenon they are studying. Once we have a working theory, like QM, it is true that we know longer need the mental models. We can just put numbers into the theory and look at the answer. But to progress ... then we have to attempt an understanding at different level, simply because that's how human brains work.

And doesn't it seem reasonable to expect that we will have a better chance at progress-- that is, developing better calculational predictions--if our models more closely match the reality?
 
  • #79
reilly
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As the great jazz artist Les McCann put it, "tryin' to make it real, compared to what?"

As a physicist, I assume the external world is real. If it's not, I really don't care, as I'll never know the truth. So far the assumption has worked for me.

As a jazz musician I think the soul and passion of music is real, I think the inner truth within many accomplished jazz- and classical -players is real. Why not? Certainly such a stance is very helpful for playing gigs.

Les McCann got it right.
Regards,
Reilly Atkinson
 
  • #80
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The utter and complete relationality of what is 'real' extends to the ontologies that we establish inter-subjectively. Current physics is an excellent example of seeing 'reality' dissolve under analysis. In fact it makes excellent sense to say there is no physical reality, in the sense that you defined as that which simply exists in the world independent of our sensory observations and experiences of it. There are no quarks, or solitons or clouds or rain or stars in the sky save for our collective conceptual designations of recurring patterns of the arising of the 'real'. It is these designations that constitute the ontologies that are operational among of group of people - some of whom may self identify as scientists.
Thanks for trying, but no cigar! Your philosophy is quite superficial. If you or I or anyone else goes into the same or different laboratory and measures the charge of an electron in vacuum, they will all measure the same value within experimental errors. That right there is an example of something that is objectively real. And you also seem to misunderstand what quarks, solitons, clouds, etc., are when you say none of them are 'real'. I made this point earlier that these are ontological models of physical reality, i.e., approximations (but pretty damn accurate ones) of what there really is in the world - Bell called them maybeables.

In the olden days science was an activity striving to achieve a view of that which is from a vantage point outside the 'real'.
It still is, on the average, striving towards the real, especially among the leading high energy field theorists. Haven't you ever read Weinberg's article, "Against Philosophy"? It really should be retitled "Against Positivism".


It is increasingly clear that trying to look behind the veil is not the most effective way of doing science.
Nope, wrong. You have no (nor have you even tried to give any) rational basis for making that claim.


Schrödinger and Heisenberg had two different ontologies for the same observations that were then extended by Dirac and then Kline-Gordon, Feynman and so on. These ongoing shifts in view are not nailing down that-which-is independent of our view of that-which-is and what observations we can make and want to make for whatever purposes.
This account of the relations between the various standard formulations of quantum theory is confused. In the first place, the Feynman and Schrodinger (and especially the Heisenberg matrix mechanics) formulations actually never had any clear physical ontology on their own to begin with. You know why? Because they could not account for 'measurement' processes!


I would agree that there are always at least as many ontologies at play as there are people doing physics, if by ontology we mean conceptual frames of reference or equivalently systems of thought about how to talk about the patterns of observations that we are making.
Nope, disagree. I would invite you to study Bohmian quantum mechanics vs orthodox quantum mechanics as a counter example to your belief.
 
  • #81
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Let me also add that I find it disappointing that you physicists who are logical positivists and refuse to try and understand how well your theories actually relate to an objective physical reality, don't seem to recognize how anti-intellectual and lazy you are with respect to your own discipline, and science in general. In fact, it is the same exact kind of anti-intellectualism and laziness exuded by high school students who are just obsessed with memorizing algorithms and formulas to get good grades on tests, and not caring about what the formulas actually mean or why the algorithms actually work. These students would say that it doesn't help them to struggle and take their time to actually *understand* the crap they need to remember for the test, because that actual hard thinking isn't likely to help them to get good grades, which is ultimately how they get scholarship awards and good college admissions. Likewise, you positivists think exactly the same way; just replace the tests with laboratory experiments, and grades with experimental predictions. Otherwise, it is pretty much the same situation. And that's not at all respectable.
 
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  • #82
Ken G
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The word "ontology" is certainly causing a lot of problems. I have been using the philosophy meaning, which, from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontology), is described as:
Ontology has one basic question: "What exists?"
And other questions that may relate to science are:
What is existence?
Is existence a property?
What does it mean to say something does not exist?
What is an object?
Can one give an account of what it means to say that an object exists?
What constitutes the identity of an object?
When does an object go out of existence, as opposed to changing?
What features are essential, as opposed to merely accidental, attributes of a given object?
What are an object's properties or relations and how are they related to the object itself?
Frankly, I don't see a single question on this list that physics requires being bothered by. Indeed, the proponents in this thread don't seem to mean much by the term at all, as when it is convenient they use "ontology" to mean nothing beyond "making models", whereas at other times, they seem to chastise physics for not trying to be more than it is actually capable of (making models).

Certainly, we all believe that something exists, and we believe that we are learning about that something when we do physics, but there is zero need for physics to specify what that something is, and imagining otherwise has quite often been detrimental to the advancement of physics over its history. Physics has no need to specify or determine what is real, it only needs to successfully model it, in accord with the needs of the situation. I can't imagine why anyone would think physics is something different from that.
 
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  • #83
Ken G
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Deliberately refusing to understand reality though doesn't quite seem in harmony with the scientific spirit to me.
The issue is what the word "understand" means, and what it does not mean. What it does not mean is "penetrating to the truth of existence", i.e., ontology. What it does mean is unifying whatever familiarities we have obtained by taking certain projections of reality. The projections are taken via objective observation, the unification is obtained via making models. It's just that simple, why should we pretend physics is anything different from what it is?
To formulate hypotheses scientists use mental models of the phenomenon they are studying. Once we have a working theory, like QM, it is true that we know longer need the mental models. We can just put numbers into the theory and look at the answer. But to progress ... then we have to attempt an understanding at different level, simply because that's how human brains work.
I agree with all of that, and see it as entirely consistent with my above description of what physics is.
And doesn't it seem reasonable to expect that we will have a better chance at progress-- that is, developing better calculational predictions--if our models more closely match the reality?
How does one know how "closely" our models match reality? You can come up with a series of models for an elephant, and each may come closer than the last to matching, almost exacty, the shadow an elephant makes on the ground. But even the convergent model might have very little at all do with a real elephant.
 
  • #84
Ken G
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Let me also add that I find it disappointing that you physicists who are logical positivists and refuse to try and understand how well your theories actually relate to an objective physical reality, don't seem to recognize how anti-intellectual and lazy you are with respect to your own discipline, and science in general.
What I find disappointing is how little some people have learned from the history of science. Over and over, scientists have made the mistake of thinking they were doing ontology, and determining what exists, the very makeup of the universe. They did it when they thought the universe was composed of four basic elements, but they later found that was false. They did it when they thought the heavens revolved around the Earth, but they later found that was not its structure. They did it when they thought that matter was atomistic, but they later found that fields were as important as particles. They did it when they thought reality was deterministic, and later found limited usefulness of the concept. And now they do it when they think alternate realities are spawned by the need for the "universal wave function", that untestable and unknowable entity, to evolve unitarily because the systems we objectively observe do. And they still, apparently, think they are doing ontology. Man, some people are just very slow to get the message: all we are doing is making models. We are only smart monkeys, for heaven's sake-- it's amazing how well we do at all.

As for "intellectual laziness", there is nothing more lazy than to assume that one's current understanding is what "really is". A far more challenging, insightful, and promising approach is to always look for why one's current understanding is vastly lacking, and why "existence" is actually so much more inscrutably profound than dreampt of in your philosophy. Some bard said that better.
 
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  • #85
reilly
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Let me also add that I find it disappointing that you physicists who are logical positivists and refuse to try and understand how well your theories actually relate to an objective physical reality, don't seem to recognize how anti-intellectual and lazy you are with respect to your own discipline, and science in general. In fact, it is the same exact kind of anti-intellectualism and laziness exuded by high school students who are just obsessed with memorizing algorithms and formulas to get good grades on tests, and not caring about what the formulas actually mean or why the algorithms actually work. These students would say that it doesn't help them to struggle and take their time to actually *understand* the crap they need to remember for the test, because that actual hard thinking isn't likely to help them to get good grades, which is ultimately how they get scholarship awards and good college admissions. Likewise, you positivists think exactly the same way; just replace the tests with laboratory experiments, and grades with experimental predictions. Otherwise, it is pretty much the same situation. And that's not at all respectable.
Sorry, I'm more or less a logical positivist -- and I was and am a theorist and teacher, who made sure my students understood the material. Further you insult my sons, all three of whom worked very hard in high school and did well, thank you very much.

If you are into screeds, at least get your facts right.
Reilly Atkinson
 
  • #86
reilly
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What I find disappointing is how little some people have learned from the history of science. Over and over, scientists have made the mistake of thinking they were doing ontology, and determining what exists, the very makeup of the universe. They did it when they thought the universe was composed of four basic elements, but they later found that was false. They did it when they thought the heavens revolved around the Earth, but they later found that was not its structure. They did it when they thought that matter was atomistic, but they later found that fields were as important as particles. They did it when they thought reality was deterministic, and later found limited usefulness of the concept. And now they do it when they think alternate realities are spawned by the need for the "universal wave function", that untestable and unknowable entity, to evolve unitarily because the systems we objectively observe do. And they still, apparently, think they are doing ontology. Man, some people are just very slow to get the message: all we are doing is making models. We are only smart monkeys, for heaven's sake-- it's amazing how well we do at all.

As for "intellectual laziness", there is nothing more lazy than to assume that one's current understanding is what "really is". A far more challenging, insightful, and promising approach is to always look for why one's current understanding is vastly lacking, and why "existence" is actually so much more inscrutably profound than dreampt of in your philosophy. Some bard said that better.
Well said; those who neglect history are bound to repeat it.
Regards,
Reilly
 
  • #87
Ken G
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I should probably consider your specific points, as there is a lot of physics in them and I don't want to seem like I'm ducking any issues here:

You don't see how the configuration space of the classical Hamiltonian or the Gibbs distribution is not the physically real space we live in?
Correct. Indeed, string theorists have already reached that conclusion (which doesn't matter to me, I would say that anyway).
You don't realize that we observe 3 spatial dimensions and therefore live in 3-space at the length scales of classical Hamiltonian and statistical mechanics?
What do you mean "at those length scales"? Existence is now different at different length scales? That doesn't sound like existence to me, but it sure sounds like a model.
Something must be wrong with your senses and your detectors!
There is definitely something wrong with my senses and my detectors-- they are limited by my intelligence to build, apply, and interpret. Yes, they are greatly limited. Why do you think a recognition of the limitations of my detectors should convince me I should be seeing the true nature of reality? I agree that I am missing the true nature of reality, indeed that is my whole point.
As for defining 'real', that is simply what exists in the world, independent of our sensory observations and experiences of it.
If it is independent of our observations and experiences, how do we use science to find out about it? We have to interact with it to model it, and that's not an "independence", it's an interdependence. We are of course completely oblivious to anything that is real but that does not show up in any of our detectors, that's independence.
Any conceptually consistent physical theory makes some statement about realism.
No, theories make no such statement. Philosophers do, if they choose to. The theory doesn't care, it's just a model, that a philosopher may choose to hang labels like "realistic" onto.
There exists no self-consistent theory that only describes a subjective world of events.
That's just another ontology, and equally irrelevant.
Indeed, if you really give time to think about it, it doesn't make philosophical or logical sense to say there is no physical reality.
Who needs to claim there is no physical reality? I certainly don't, I'd rather make no statements about physical reality at all other than characterizing my interaction with it. There would be no point in using definitions that made there be no such thing as physical reality.
Also, I should ask you, what is your purpose for doing physics or science in general?
It's similar to why an art lover would spend time looking at a painting. No ontology there either.

What are theories trying to talk about, if not an objective physical reality?
Saying that theories are about reality is not providing them with an ontology. Paintings are about reality too. Where is the "existence" you see in a painting? The issue is, we are trying to understand about what exists, but we never need to think our models are what exists. The latter is the goal of ontology, and is unnecessary and even distracting in physics.

A clear physical theory, such as Newtonian mechanics, makes a claim about the physical ontology of the real world.
No it does not, it is a model.
A CLAIM about what actually exists in the world is not the same as what ACTUALLY exists in the world!
True, but where do you see the need to make that CLAIM at all? Why would we make claims we know are not true, especially when we don't need to?
Now tell me Ken G, what is the purpose, in your mind, of a physical theory?
A fair question, I think I answered it but to repeat: the purpose of a theory is to unify the familiarities we obtain via objective observation of reality. When we unify those familiarities, we gain power to function, and also power to make new fruitful concepts, and new tests that generate new familiarities. Existence appears nowhere in the equation, it's just hubris and we should know better by now, frankly.
Then ask yourself, what do you understand "explanation" to mean?
I presume you see that I have answered that now.
The belief that there is an "actual ontology" certainly is crucial to science.
Really? Why? I see ontology as something that lives in the head of a philosopher, why does there need to be an "actual" one?
But that doesn't mean we can ever perfectly describe it!
We are well aware that we cannot, as to assume otherwise is more preposterous than anything I can imagine, so the real issue is, do we need the concept at all? I certainly don't see why.

I don't think you understand what I mean by the measurement problem. First off, it is a problem not in experimental practice, but rather in understanding. I would challenge you also by asking you what you understand the word "measurement" to mean?
Measurement is opening a system by confronting it with a device that introduces untracked noise modes, the result of which is to produce an outcome that can only be predicted in a statistical way or within some error range. The type of decoherence that occurs is part of choosing the device, and will determine the eigenstates of the measurement. There is no scientific reason to try and include the observer in the observed system; indeed, it is the core of science (objectivity) to not do so. Now, what was the problem again?

Well I resent the word illusion, but yes I definitely can give historical examples of how ontology directly led to a new discovery. In fact, any competent student of history of physics can. Einstein's argument for Brownian motion relied on the assumption that there really are unobservable atomic particles in 3-space that bombard larger observable particles (e.g. pollen grains), and induce a random walk.
Yes, he used a model. Physicists use models, I am actually aware of this fact. I still see no ontology there-- did Einstein need to hold beliefs about pollen grains to form his testable hypothesis? Was he "taking a side" in some philosophical debate about reality, or just doing an experiment and interpreting it via a better model? And the limitations of that model would be discovered in short order. So it is in physics, no ontology needed.

This was in contradiction to Ernst Mach's belief that atoms do not exist as objectively real entities.
Physicists need "beliefs" now? That's the whole point-- they don't. Mach was silly to say he "believed" anything about matter, he could have just suggested a model for it. That's the scientific thing to do.

I can also cite you the example of Schroedinger's derivation of his wave equation, which stemmed from the objective experimental observation that electrons appear have a wavelength.
So now you are pointing out that observations lead to axiomatic structures that unify them? Yes I realize that also. I still see no ontology there.

Schroedinger indeed derived it with the belief that he was describing what about the electron that is really 'waving'.
Again the "belief" word. It just shows the error in mixing philosophy and physics. Why did he need any belief, it was just a testable hypothesis.

Heisenberg, on the other hand, who had your philosophy of science, could only come up with his obscure Matrix mechanics.
You have not shown that Heisenberg's philosophy of science was the problem here, perhaps it was just his approach. He did, after all, meet with some modest success in the field. And the Heisenberg representation of putting the time evolution in the operators instead of the wave functions is a beautiful example of the power of not thinking ontologically. That approach has great value at times, this is the point-- free your mind from ontology, and it only opens the options for how to picture the world.

There is also Maxwell's derivation of the velocity distribution for classical particles in the kinetic theory of gases. There is also Boltzmann's discovery of his H-theorem with regard to the 2nd law of thermodynamics. None of this could likely have been possible without them thinking about what the ontology of the physical world is.
No, those are all perfectly possible to think of purely as models. The proof of that is they will still be taught in school long after their ontologies are falsified.

As soon as "you" "decide"? Who the hell are you, and when do you decide this?
I am the physicist using the wave function. Who else would need a wave function? Reality itself, you think?

It would seem that the theory [quantum mechanics] is exclusively concerned about "results of measurement", and has nothing to say about anything else. [/quot]I certainly don't think that. It has a lot to say about something else: reality. But that does not require that we ignore the fact that we have chosen a particular mode for understanding reality, and that mode is what involves measurements, and we can learn nothing about reality that does not result from that choice. It is as though some physicists don't even realize there are other ways to learn about reality than doing physics!

Was the wavefunction of the world waiting to jump for thousands of millions of years until a single-celled living creature appeared? Or did it have to wait a little longer, for some better qualified system ... with a Ph.D.? If the theory is to apply to anything but highly idealized laboratory operations, are we not obliged to admit that more or less "measurement-like" processes are going on more or less all the time, more or less everywhere.
Obviously. I agree with Bell, and see no relevance at all to my remarks in this thread, or my stated views about what either science or measurement is (which are just what they are).
I take it you have never read or understood John Bell or his theorem.
Wrong.
Um, hello, this statement you make IS a statement about ontology!
This is in response to my statement "we will choose to treat the world using a model comprising of point particles." I'm sorry, but I cannot agree that that is a statement about ontology. To me, adopting a model for its predictive and explanatory value is hardly the same thing as a statement about what exists. But as I said, if you equate the word "ontology" with the phrase "making models", then there's no disagreement. However, often you appear to mean more than that, as the word itself suggests.
 
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  • #88
Ken G
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Perhaps I should clarify at this point that the purpose of this exchange is to bring out certain truths, and its structure is that of a kind of point/counterpoint debate. For the record, I do not think the opposing views are those of any fool, indeed they are the views of someone knowledgeable. Furthermore, as acting physicists we all slip into imagining existence in certain ways, as a kind of mental shorthand, and it serves us well. I'm just saying that this thread is all about whether or not wave/particle duality should be viewed as a myth, and that's a very ontological issue, so we want to look carefully at the pros and cons of thinking ontologically. At the very least, we need to be able to catch ourselves when we are mistaking our chosen beliefs for what we do as scientists. I see that a lot.
 
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  • #89
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Ken G and Reilly,

I'm sorry, but you two have misunderstood quite a number of issues here. I will explain what exactly when I get the time to.

As for your kids Reilly, you should really learn to read more carefully before getting offended. If they were the kind of students who actually cared to understand the crap they were memorizing, rather than just getting good grades, then clearly I wasn't talking about them. I was talking about kids who ONLY care about grades. And if you're a logical positivist, I'm sorry to say that I really have my doubts that you really let you're kids understand the science they were learning. I have had countless encounters with positivist scientists and science educators, and have found every one of them for the most part, antieducational and oppressive about asking deeper questions.
 
  • #90
reilly
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Ken G and Reilly,

I'm sorry, but you two have misunderstood quite a number of issues here. I will explain what exactly when I get the time to.

As for your kids Reilly, you should really learn to read more carefully before getting offended. If they were the kind of students who actually cared to understand the crap they were memorizing, rather than just getting good grades, then clearly I wasn't talking about them. I was talking about kids who ONLY care about grades. And if you're a logical positivist, I'm sorry to say that I really have my doubts that you really let you're kids understand the science they were learning. I have had countless encounters with positivist scientists and science educators, and have found every one of them for the most part, antieducational and oppressive about asking deeper questions.
You don't have a clue how I raised my kids; your inference is just plain wrong. You don't know me; you don't know my kids, nor my grandkids for that matter. So how could you deduce how I raised my kids?You are effectively doing a Joe McCarthy -- guilt by association.(Where did you get your degree?)

Tell you what: I'll read more carefully, if you write in a more measured style, which means you eschew ad-hominum attacks, and red flags, and discuss physics.

I await, with baited breath, your explanation of what I and Ken G do not understand. Ken, at least, is a pretty smart guy who does not miss much, so let 'er rip.
RA
 
  • #91
reilly
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If the wave function collapses due to a change of information available about the system (which the classical electromagnetic field does not do), then it seems that the wave function does not represent reality, but only our information about reality. Unless, of course, you are an extreme positivist who identifies information about reality with reality itself.
Could not agree more.
Regards,
Reilly Atkinson
 
  • #92
Ken G
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I await, with baited breath, your explanation of what I and Ken G do not understand. Ken, at least, is a pretty smart guy who does not miss much, so let 'er rip.
Thanks for the vote of confidence, I wouldn't claim that for myself but I'm sure I have something to learn from any exchange. Nevertheless, I am even surer that neither myself nor Reilly are "antieducation" or "hesitant to ask the deep questions". Rather, I think we are believers in education around not just what the conclusions of science are, but also, how science arrives at those conclusions and what counts as authority in science. That is often the more important form of education, both for people who will do science themselves, and for those who won't.
 
  • #93
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Reilly, you need to chill and stop being offended because something someone says implicates you in your own mind (similar to my comment a few weeks ago). He's making very valid points about positivists and I too wonder, if you teach your students in the same fashion as you argue your points here, if they are actually doing more than memorizing equations. That's all that half of the people on this forum seem to advocate. I do not understand why we cannot find a middle ground; let the quantum cooks be cooks and let the dreamers dream.
 
  • #94
reilly
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Reilly, you need to chill and stop being offended because something someone says implicates you in your own mind (similar to my comment a few weeks ago). He's making very valid points about positivists and I too wonder, if you teach your students in the same fashion as you argue your points here, if they are actually doing more than memorizing equations. That's all that half of the people on this forum seem to advocate. I do not understand why we cannot find a middle ground; let the quantum cooks be cooks and let the dreamers dream.
This is getting funny and silly, and way off of physics -- perhaps you and manelli are telepathic, and that's how you know what I think and how I behave, with my kids and my students.

.
As in; I once knew a Peter who was a drunk; are you? After all, your name is Peter.

And, back to physics: tell me how I argue my points? I'm particularly amused by your assertion that my students may have been memory hounds; what's your basis for making your assertion?
Regards,
Reilly Atkinson
 
  • #95
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Well, some would call me a drunk. :-p

All I (and manelli, I think) are saying is that tunnel-vision positivism can be counterproductive and can be analogus to memorizing the equations to the exclusion of understanding them. Since you're a very vocal positivist and a teacher, I can only infer that your positivist philosophy extends to your lecutres as it does to your posts here.

Anyway, I don't think this should be personal. I just don't think anything was said here that should offend anybody (except calling me a drunk... :))
 
  • #96
Ken G
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All I (and manelli, I think) are saying is that tunnel-vision positivism can be counterproductive and can be analogus to memorizing the equations to the exclusion of understanding them.
I don't know what "tunnel-vision positivism" means but memorizing equations with no concept of what they mean certainly doesn't sound very good. Fortunately, no one ever gets past freshman physics by doing that, so I hardly think it could apply to anyone on this thread. I think you may be confusing the "meaning" of an equation for philosophical baggage around what is "happening in reality". What "meaning" means is, you understand how an equation culls out a successful way to analyze a problem. All philosophical baggage does is to confuse "success" for "beliefs about reality".

Physicists do need to understand, explain, and find success-- the only faith they need is that their equations will be predictive so they are not wasting their time. They certainly do not need to "believe in wave functions" to do quantum mechanics, that's ludicrous. But my question is, if I can use a wave function without "believing in it", why I am I just memorizing equations? And if I pray to the altar of MWI, why can't I just be someone who has memorized what unitarity means? Is there someone on this thread with an insight into unitariness that transcends memorizing its defining characteristics, such that you can say "I'm not memorizing any mathematical postulates or any experimental outcomes, I really see why the world has to obey the MWI?" I'm all ears.
Since you're a very vocal positivist and a teacher, I can only infer that your positivist philosophy extends to your lecutres as it does to your posts here.
What do you mean by "positivist"? Let's not have the "ontology" debacle again!
 
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