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Quantum nonsense?

  1. Feb 23, 2008 #1
    What do you think of this film about Quantum Entanglement. Is it complete nonsense or based on fact?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 23, 2008 #2
    As always, I am new to this field, but I cant see what does this movie and Quantum Entanglement have in common. Either you send the wrong link or you used the wrong term. This phenomenon has nothing to do with Quantum Entanglement and I dont think it belongs to this field either.

  4. Feb 23, 2008 #3
  5. Feb 23, 2008 #4

    Doc Al

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    That's an excerpt from the new age crackpot movie "What the Bleep do we know?". The movie as a whole is almost complete nonsense, though there are a few small sections that almost describe quantum effects accurately.

    Entanglement is quite real and strange, but this clip hides the physics behind some fanciful nonsense. Don't waste your time with this movie.
  6. Feb 23, 2008 #5
    Quantum Entanglement exists but its not all rosy and cool as What the Bleep describes it, although people were able to use this phenomenon for teleportation and quantum computers. But I wouldnt worry about it too much, its just a kind of exaggerated show off.
    EDIT: Sorry didnt see Doc answering already. So yeah, basically what doc says.

  7. Feb 23, 2008 #6
    Just out of curiosity, what is it about this clip that is wrong or misrepresents the physics of quantum entanglement?
  8. Feb 23, 2008 #7


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    The major misrepresentation occurs in the statement:
    "...do something to one, and the other responds instantly."
    This states a causal connection which just is not there. Entanglement is a type of statistical correlation. Lets begin with the classical case. Take a stationary block and implant a bit of explosive so the block is blown into two roughly equal pieces. The two pieces will have anti-correlated (exactly opposite) momentum and assuming they are spinning away from each other anti-correlated angular momentum.

    This is all fine and dandy for the two big half blocks. But you can do the same effective experiment with two electrons. The problem is that in particular the various spin components though each observable are not mutually observable. You can't actually compare their spins in the x, y, and z directions all together to say one has a given spin angular momentum vector and the other has the opposite one.

    You can however say that each component is anti-correlated though not defined to have specific values unless and until they are measured. This correlation stronger than what can actually be simultaneously measured is called entanglement. The correlation itself is no different than the classical one. [BTW quantum variables can be correlated in any way you choose but correlating opposite values of spin is easiest by starting with zero total spin.] The real mystery is not in the "entanglement" but in the fact that by two quanta being entangled they cease to be describable as independent entities.

    Think of it this way. If you understand to some extent complementarity, e.g. that describing a particle with definite momentum precludes any definiteness about its position then understand entanglement as the complementarity of even the usual definite observables of each of a given pair of particles with the observable that their values are correlated i.e. entangled.

    Well I could go on but it is indeed a deep and subtle topic. But I've given you the two main points which made it clear to me: correlation in observables plus complementarity between the correlation and the actual measurement of those values.
  9. Feb 24, 2008 #8
    I just watched the clip, and I have to strongly disagree with the disparagement of the movie. First off, I think that any film that attempts to generate interest in science, especially for children or other unsophisticated audiences, is a great thing. I understand that the obvious response is "sure, as long as it's accurate."

    Well, because something like entanglement is so poorly understood on any level other than mathematical, it is rather impossible to speak of its interpretation in "accurate" terms. Does that mean it should be a topic forbidden for discussion except by physicists with masters degrees? No, because entanglement truly is a wonderous phenoninon and if more people were interested in it as a whole, perhaps more students and physicists would take interest in it and try to unravel the mysteries. I for one, think that it contains the "only mystery" to quote Feynman (even though he was referring to the double slit) and therefore is quite deserving of awe.

    The film did take some liberties with interprative and qualitative statements like "the other resonds instantly." The speculation at the end that everything is entangled due to the big bang was probably unnecessary, but because it was presented as obvious wild speculation, also was harmless.
  10. Feb 25, 2008 #9
    Then explain why it states that we can alter ourselves by "observing" ourselves, even though all normal scientists say that QM applies only to subatomic particles. The movie is NOT accurate.

    While I feel topics such as entanglement can be discussed by laymen, it should only be presented as science by physicists or people who are qualified, not New Agers who make all sorts of errors. Should we give a flawed, New Age string theory to second graders because they don't understand the math? I say we shouldn't give to them at all until they can comprehend the mathematics behind it.

    Interpretive? I love the way the emphasize the "instantly." What they don't tell you is that the information cannot travel faster than light. Obvious wild speculation is not harmless. They are promoting false ideas under the guise of real science. For a layman, it is difficult to tell where the science ends and the New Age nonsense begins.
  11. Feb 25, 2008 #10

    Doc Al

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    As much as I dislike that clip, the movie it is from is far worse.
    The movie is outrageously unscientific--it only serves to generate interest in New Age pseudoscience.

    (And yes, I did watch it. :yuck:)
  12. Feb 25, 2008 #11


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    Fact: the movie bastardizes physics for its own pseudoscience purpose.

    That fact alone is enough reason why this movie is ridiculed.

    Would you rather prefer someone to not know about you, rather than being told lies about you? Presenting bad physics worse than presenting no physics at all. I'd rather someone be completely ignorant about physics, rather than being fed with such garbage. For those of us who have thought physics, we all can tell you how much effort it is to correct a student's erroneous understanding of physics that they've picked up along the way. It is much simpler when they come in without any of those mistaken understanding.

    And what's worse, there ARE people who truly believe that this movie is presenting science.

  13. Feb 25, 2008 #12


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    That movie is really horrible. They say lots of completely crazy things and they present it as fact, not as "wild speculation". The "Dr. Quantum" animations are actually the most accurate things in the movie. I don't like this one because they're misrepresenting that instantaneous effect, but the one about the double slit experiment is actually very good. I wish real scientists would present things that well.

    As an example of just how absurd that movie is, go to http://www.randi.org/jr/052303.html and search for "Emoto" on the page. This movie endorses that nonsense, and even had Armin Shimerman ("Quark" in Star Trek: DS9) appear and say "If our thoughts can do that to water, imagine what our thoughts can do to us".

    I guess we shouldn't expect any better from a movie financed by some nut case who thinks she's channeling some supernatural entity from Atlantis, but it's sad that people believe it.
  14. Feb 26, 2008 #13
    I watched this film about two years ago as a complete layperson with no knowledge of quantum physics whatsoever. Although I found the ideas presented in the film to be fascinating, I was quite skeptical of much of what was being said. I am fairly well educated and never accept anything that is being taught at face value. It spurred me to start doing my own research into the real science of quantum mechanics, and despite having no formal science background at all, I've develped a quite robust enthusiasm for many areas of physics since that time. And it isn't because I have some New Age agenda, or am just attracted to the "mystical" elements of quantum physics, but it's because I have a genuine interest in the subject.

    After having watched the film several times since I've started to learn more about quantum physics, I definitely see how it is very poorly edited and does quite a bad job of presenting the real science. However, I do think that the film makes some great overall points. To me, the gist of the film is basically, by changing our thoughts, we can change our behavior, and change our experience of reality. Simply setting an intention, whether we are consciously doing it or not, changes our actions, for better or for worse. The goal of this film, to me, is to get people to be more aware and mindful of their thought patterns, and the effects this has on their lives. This has nothing to do with quantum physics, it's just basic psychology. It's essentially the theoretical basis behind cognitive behavioral therapy, which is widely used to treat depression. I also found the portions of the film dealing with how people become addicted to emotions, and how they unconsciously adapt their behavior to create situations that trigger those emotions, to be equally fascinating and seemingly valid, although admittedly I haven't properly looked into the science of that. However, in my years practicing as an attorney and child advocate in the family law environment, and dealing with people who are in a perpetual state of emotional crisis, these concepts seem quite legitmate.

    Anyway, I am not in favor of anyone distorting science to promote their own agenda, but I do think that anything that encourages people to be more self-aware of how their own thought patterns affect their behaviors and the lives of people around them, is very worthwhile and very much needed.
  15. Feb 26, 2008 #14


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    your post is very interesting. I'm glad the film stimulated you to study physics, which means, I suppose, that the movie is not a total waste of time. But your reaction is one of a thinking person with a good mind. I have been asked a dozen times about the film by a range of people. They could not grasp the elements of quantum mechanics and saw the film as a scientific justification of a whole spectrum of silly and bordering on crazy ideas.
    Their logic seemed to be 'if science can't explain this spookiness then my (nonsense) must be true also'.

    You're right in your observation that the film uses basic psychology, but the way they mix this up with QM is not edifying.

    I hope you enjoy your exploration of physics and maybe come back with some questions.

    Best wishes,
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2008
  16. Feb 26, 2008 #15


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    You had just described what has been written in the book "The Secret".

    The problem here is that there has been no experimental evidence to show that quantum entanglement is also valid in "human thought". So what you are doing and what the film was doing is applying a valid quantum phenomenon into areas in which it hasn't been proven to work! No one has shown that human thought and behavior obeys or can be described by quantum mechanics, much less, by quantum entanglement. That is one HUGE missing step there.

    This is where the lack of knowledge about QM will cause something that really is nonsense to appear "reasonable". That is the major problem with that movie. It is making many things that really has no physical foundation appear as if they are realistically reasonable and, worst still, have been shown to occur. The fact that there have been no qualitative and quantitative evidence to show that makes no difference. This is why I call it the bastardization of physics.

  17. Feb 26, 2008 #16
    I never said that I was applying quantum entanglement to human thought. In fact, I specifically said that I thought it had nothing to do with quantum physics. I recognize that, to the extent the film makes such a connection, it is wrong, or at the very least, as you said, not scientifically verified.
  18. Feb 27, 2008 #17
    All I saw was the one Youtube clip on entanglement, and I didn't see anything that could be called "bastardizing." Maybe other parts of it are worse. But I suspect people just don't like it because it doesn't talk about Hamiltonians and Eigenvalues and Wave Functions. Science is not a PhD's only club, you know.
  19. Feb 27, 2008 #18


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    But science, and physics, is MORE than just asking "what goes up must come down". People MUST know that it also involves, to a large extent, the question on "where and when it will come down". Handwaving discussion isn't a complete science.

    This is why people can't distinguish between scientific evidence and anecdotal evidence. You may not care that your standards aren't that high, but don't fool yourself into asking that the standard of science be lowered just so it could be "understandable".

    Furthermore, there's nothing wrong with presenting QM in ways that are understandable without going on and bastardizing it. Pop-science books such as those written by Gribbin are quite good at doing that. So there's no excuse for this "movie" at all.

    Last edited: Feb 27, 2008
  20. Feb 28, 2008 #19
    Yes, but when uneducated laypeople present a distorted version of it as a fact, then we should not trust them. You also must understand that many aspects of QM are too difficult to understand for people without sufficient mathematical education, so when it is presented, it should be done by experts who present the real science rather than cultists who twist it for their own benefit. Besides, why should I listen to a few crackpots promoting their religious agenda rather than PhD scientists who have worked hard to earn their degree?
  21. Feb 28, 2008 #20
    What in the world are you talking about? Is there more to this movie than the youtube clip? I'd really like to see the parts that you're claiming show a "religious agenda." That just sounds like paranoia.
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