– Quantum mechanics states reality doesn’t exist until it’s measured
– This means a particle’s past behaviour changes based on what we see
– Experiment using an atom and laser beams has proven this to be true
– How the atom behaved depended on how it was measured at end of test
The universe doesn’t exist if we stop looking at it. This is according a famous theory in quantum mechanics which argues that a particle’s past behaviour changes based on what we see. Now, scientists have performed a new experiment proving this theory to be true on the scale of atoms.
According to the rules of quantum mechanics, the boundary between the ‘world out there’ and our own subjective consciousness are blurred. When physicists look at atoms or particles of light, what they see depends on how they have set up their experiment. To test this, physicists at the Australian National University recently conducted what is known as the John Wheeler’s delayed-choice thought experiment. The experiment involves a moving object that is given the choice to act like a particle or a wave. Wheeler’s experiment then asks – at which point does the object decide? Common sense says the object is either wave-like or particle-like, independent of how we measure it. But quantum physics predicts that whether you observe wave like behaviour or particle behaviour depends only on how it is actually measured at the end of its journey.
This is exactly what the Australian team found. ‘It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it,’ said Associate Professor Andrew Truscott. Despite the apparent weirdness, the results confirm the validity of quantum theory.
Personally I’ve always been something of a philosopher in my “spare time”, it’s a fascinating subject area and one I have studied on and off for a number of years. I am also from an academic background in psychology and as such enjoy philosophy in the context of perception, quantification and other phenomenological studies. Many years ago in college I met a very smart man, who introduced me (and the other students there obviously) to philosophy from a less conventional perspective but one that was to interest me deeply. He asked “is there anything you can prove beyond all doubt irrefutably to be the case for all time?” Now the smart arses in the group quipped “death and taxes”. Well taxes goes out the window straight away, there are countries with little domestic tax structure (primarily the oil generating Middle East countries) and in times past of course there were no taxes when we were still lobbing rocks at pterodactyls etc …. Death? Who knows, we may be able to cheat death one day, it just hasn’t happened yet. Anyway the French philosopher René Descartes came up with “I think therefore I am” (cogito ergo sum). In other words we must irrefutably exist because we are contemplating existence, the thought relies on our existence and vice versa.
With René Descartes in mind we can therefore argue that everything “around us” other than cogito ergo sum is therefore from our perspective, eg it’s “subjective”. Somewhere in this world there must be an animal I have never heard of or seen, yet it exists, but in my world it doesn’t exist …. Am I making sense? With this in mind all quantification, measurement (or whatever you wish to call it) is entirely subjective even if you use a statistical methodology established by someone else it was still somebody else’s perspective of how things should be measured be it mean, mode, median or complex statistical babble such as Wilcoxon T, Manova (seriously don’t go there, it’s a pain in the a**e.) So consequently behaviour shapes perspective, quantification shapes definition and so on. Which essentially “loosely correlates” with what the research article about quantum mechanics concluded. To see things as without clear and objective quantification is what is often called “postmodern”, but of course to clarify something as postmodern would in itself be very un-postmodern wouldn’t it? 😀
Quantum mechanics is a fascinating subject area, essentially the physics of the postmodern in many ways. The article concludes that reality does not exist until it is measured, well on the individual subjective level of course they are right they should have just asked René Descartes or even Terry Pratchett who claimed “dragons only exist if you believe in them”, he was of course right, even though this was only in fiction. Personally I don’t believe in ghosts, maybe if I did I would actually see one ….