So, I’ve had a plethora of questions about my recent post, “ Dr. Einstein, Reality and Schrodinger’s Cat.” It’s a tricky question about Schrodinger’s cat.  Was it alive or dead? Before I give you the answer, though, a little background is probably in order.

The universe is made up of atoms, right? Then there are electrons and quarks which are the basic building blocks of the atom (i.e. sub-atomic particles). However, scientists say that even with the electrons and quarks, the atom is essentially empty space. So, what does the universe consist of if everything is empty space?  The thing is, though, that empty space isn’t really empty. You see, empty space is teeming with life.  Teeming. It is a hotbed of constant creation and destruction which is the very fabric of reality (and all matter).

Let’s backtrack, though, for a second. Science is fundamentally a process of observation and measurement. In that regard, science has what some scientists refer to as a measurement problem. It’s all the fault of the atom. You see, the atom is the most mysterious object in all of creation.  That is, it only appears after it has first been observed and measured!!!

Aside: You might recall that an observation and measurement were at the heart of the Double-Slit Experiment that I mentioned in “Dr. Einstein, Reality and Schrodinger’s Cat” which prompted many of your questions.

Here’s the conundrum. An atom does not exist, as an atom, until an observer looks at it.  That is, the act of observation and measurement creates the atom, and by extension the whole universe. As physicist John Wheeler put it, “The universe does not exist ‘out there,’ independent of us. We are inescapably involved in bringing about that which appears to be happening. We are not only observers. We are participators.”

So, how does it all work, then?  Putting aside all the theories, the fancy formulae scribbled on chalkboards and the myriad of science textbooks, what exactly is reality? Well, physicist David Bohm says that the quantum field is the true source of our reality. However, according to this theory, our physical world is a projection from another realm, a deeper source of reality which is beyond space and time.  A projection you understand.  Holographic no doubt.  As John Horgan explained though in his book The End of Science, it is not possible to observe what exists beyond space and time by simply observing nature. Ah, yes, there’s the rub. The really scary thing is that scientists will never be able to prove what lies beyond space and time since they can’t observe beyond space and time.

Since science has reached it’s physical limitations, we live in a time when the great geniuses of science are, by necessity, theoretical physicists. That inevitably will probably lead to a philosophical discussion about God. However, at the moment, scientists typically avoid addressing the God question, especially since many scientists are atheists, though it does come up if only through some oblique references. Here’s a few examples:

  • “Life is the most mysterious of all the wonders of creation because atoms  have been assembled in such a way so that they can ponder their own existence.” – Martin Rees, astrophysicist (and an atheist)Aside: That’s exactly what we all have been doing since at least the time of the great Greek philosophers. Pondering our existence.  Needless to say, it takes intelligence to ponder one’s own existence.  That’s what sets man apart from all the other species.
  • “The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.” – Carl Sagan, astronomer (and an atheist) Aside: How does the universe know itself without intelligence?
  • “Super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature.” – Antony Flew, a former atheist

So, one does not have to mention God (or even believe in God apparently) in order to understand that Creation could only have been facilitated through intelligence.

 

Epilogue

Back to Schrodinger’s cat. Actually, quantum mechanics says that Schrodinger’s cat was both alive and dead.  Both, you understand.  That’s because unobserved phenomenon can exist in dual states, or, as I would prefer to say, in an intricate web of infinite possibilities. That is, an atom is merely a possibility until it, the atom, is observed.  Pretty cool world, right? Of course, quantum mechanics also has the “many worlds” interpretation but that may be a bridge too far.

In the end, Schrodinger’s cat is all about choices since, as John Wheeler said, we are the observer. You have to choose.  You can either choose the blue pill or the red pill, but either way, it’s your choice.  As Morpheus said, “But I can only show you the door.  You’re the one who has to walk through it.”

 

“The doctrine that the world is made up of objects whose existence is independent of human consciousness turns out to be in conflict with quantum mechanics and with facts established by experiment.”  – Bernard d’Espagnat, physicist

 

 

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If you’re familiar with the Schrodinger’s Cat paradox, then you know that science grapples with the question of what reality is and, therefore, whether anything that you believe in is real.

In that regard, Einstein said that reality was an illusion. Philosopher Immanuel Kant argued that time and space were not inherent qualities of the physical world but rather a reflection of the way the mind operates. In other words, time is a function of consciousness. Astronomer, physicist Arthur Eddington summed it up pretty well when he wrote that, “In the world of physics…the shadow of my elbow rests on the shadow table as the shadow ink flows over the shadow paper…the frank realization that physical science is concerned with a world of shadow…”

Despite this, people think that they can discern reality with their physical senses, or at least they only acknowledge that which they physically experience. I guess that they never read Lincoln Barnett who wrote, in The Universe and Dr. Einstein, “Along with philosophers’ reduction of all objective reality to a shadow-world of perceptions, scientists have become aware of the alarming limitations of man’s senses.” People simply ignore what science has been trying to tell them and focus only on what their physical senses experience. They think that their physical senses can tell the difference between what is real and what is an illusion. Never mind that the brain cannot tell the difference between what is ”real” and what is vividly imagined.

So to better understand what the average person thinks about the world around him, I asked a number of people what a desk was made of. They generally answered wood. So, I asked where did the wood come from and they answered that it came from a tree. So, I inquired what a tree was composed of and a few said molecules… and the molecules were composed of atoms. Now, here’s where thinks get a little murky.

Science says that atoms are 99.99999999% empty space! So, what is a desk really made of? The answer is almost exclusively empty space.  Your senses cannot cannot tell you that the desk is really empty space. Well, almost-empty space since there is no such thing as empty space.

Aside: It is the quantum field that physicist David Bohm said is the true source of our reality. Our physical world, according to Bohm, is projected from another realm which is beyond space and time. A projection you understand.

It is said that perception is reality. That’s somewhat true but woefully incomplete. Perception is what we use to define that which we “think” is real. However, we cannot perceive the true reality (the quantum field) and so our beliefs are based upon an illusion as Einstein would have it, an illusion created by our physical senses. Theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg elaborated on our inability to perceive reality in his now-famous Uncertainty Principle for which he received the Nobel Prize in physics. However, why would people want to study Heisenberg when they believe that they understand what is real (based on their own personal sensory experience). In fact, the smarter that a person is the less likely that they will question their own physical senses.

The famous Double-Slit Experiment forever changed the way that science viewed the way that things work. Prior to the experiment, objects were deemed to be separate from human consciousness. Afterwards, it was clearly understood that the observer was an integral part of the experiment and affected the outcome. As physicist John Wheeler put it, “The universe does not exist ‘out there,’ independent of us. We are inescapably involved in bringing about that which appears to be happening. We are not only observers. We are participators.” Try understanding that with your physical senses.