Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Post-Materialist Science

I had a feisty old day today engaging with a materialist-science Twitterer. Well at least until it became clear that outside of a propensity for calumny there wasn't even a cursory grasp of 21st century historical reality.

As with most of my digital stalker detractors, it invariably becomes evident they are more obsessed with me than I am of them. 

Asymmetric love if I'm being kind. 

I only have two or three names of adversaries in my head that are worthy of a sliding tackle when the time arrives. The rest aren't up to standard. Sorry about that. I hope it stays that way too. If it gets to four or five names, a gentleman should ask himself if the problem is closer to home. 

However I didn't get a chance to demolish the 'Quantum Physics belongs to us' school of nonsense who I asset, understand no more than you or I about this fascinating life but demonstrably think they have a superior claim to intellectual ownership of life through old scientific thinking. 

I encourage you all to put a bit of Quantum real time search term feeds in your life because the point of it is not to understand. Which is brilliant really.

Not understanding is the foundation for true learning and is the start of a humble yet rewarding learning journey.

I counsel the less confident among you to reject those haughty bores and that you can spot the fundamentalist science frauds by their indignant shrillness that "normal" people don't get it. 

Neither do they none of us really do, but it's our willingness to admit it which makes a human being and not the atomic bean counters as outlined in today's New Scientist which is all you need to know. Do read it. It's double chocolate chip deliciousness.

Physicists don't, by and large, want to trouble themselves with philosophy. Questions over what, exactly, constitutes a measurement, or why it might induce a change in the fabric of reality, can be ignored in favour of simply getting a useful answer from quantum theory.

Unquestioning use of the Copenhagen interpretation is sometimes known as the "shut up and calculate" interpretation. "Given that most physicists just want to do calculations and apply their results, the majority of them are in the shut up and calculate group," Vedral says.

This approach has a couple of downsides, though. First, it is never going to teach us anything about the fundamental nature of reality. That requires a willingness to look for places where quantum theory might fail, rather than where it succeeds (New Scientist, 26 June 2010, p 34). "If there is going to be some new theory, I don't think it's going to come from solid state physics, where the majority of physicists work,"

Second, working in a self-imposed box also means that new applications of quantum theory are unlikely to emerge. The many perspectives we can take on quantum mechanics can be the catalyst for new ideas. "If you're solving different problems, it's useful to be able to think in terms of different interpretations"