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Contra Stapp's Chapter 4



[Henry Stapp]
4. THE OBSERVER.
...What sort of upheaval could have forced scientists to this wholesale revision of their idea of the role of mind in Nature? The answer in brief is "quantum jumps!" These events are sudden shifts in our best mathematical description of the size, shape, and structure of a physical system. At one moment the form may extend over miles, but an instant later be reduced to the size of a speck. How can we understand such precipitous leaps in our scientific description of the physical world? The resolution proposed by Heisenberg, Bohr, Pauli, and the other founders of quantum theory was a bold one: bring our thoughts, unshackled, into the basic theory of nature.

[Heisenberg, "Physics and Philosophy", p. 55]
Certainly quantum theory does not contain genuine subjective features, it does not introduce the mind of the physicist as a part of the atomic event.

[Peter Mutnick]
Granted, one could bring thoughts into the theory without bringing them into what the theory is about, but one could not, in that manner, bring them "unshackled" into the basic theory. A good theory must account for its own existence, and so it must do exactly what Heisenberg admits that quantum theory does not do. Quantum theory is not consistent through and through, as a good theory would be, and that is exactly the problem that causes so much consternation.

[Henry Stapp]
Thus the quantum law, or rule, that governs the behavior of matter generates a whole continuum of possible worlds of the kind that appear in our streams of conscious experiences. The empirical world of experienced facts is just one tiny slice of the full world generated by the mathematical equations of quantum theory.

[Peter Mutnick]
The type of world that appears in our stream of consciousness is intermediate between the classical world of the observer and the quantum world (whose existence Bohr denied). It is the world of a *body-world schema*. However, I do not think that precludes the possibility of the real existence of either the classical world or the quantum world. The function of each in the metaphysical structure of our experience must be determined. Moreover, I am not convinced that it is the intermediate world of the body-world schema that is smeared out into a continuum. The continuous multiplicity of worlds seems rather to be a mental feature of our inability to penetrate the noumenal quantum world. If so, then Bohr's denial of the quantum world was a case of "sour grapes". In other words, it is the entire body-world schema that is smeared out, not the "world" portion of the body-world schema. It is therefore a feature of the conditions of our experience and NOT an objective condition. What the objective condition may be is another matter altogether.

[Henry Stapp]
Contemporary science teaches us that the enduring reality that provides the fabric into which our experiences are woven, is composed of both moving atomic particles and changing physical fields. Laws governing the behavior of these physical realities were proposed by Isaac Newton, James Clerk Maxwell, and Albert Einstein. Those "classical" laws work well in cases where the detailed nature of the elementary components is unimportant, but fail absolutely in other cases. Specifically, they fail in cases where the "quantum of action" becomes important.

[Peter Mutnick]
This is not obvious. There is of course the correspondence principle, which states essentially that the concepts of classical mechanics, as amended by the principle of complementarity, DO apply to the quantum description. So, whether the classical notions of what a particle is are *dispelled* or *implemented* in a new context is not self-evident. The presumption is that it should be the latter and not the former.

[Henry Stapp]
This quantity was discovered and measured by Max Planck in 1900, and its numerical value is called Planck's constant. This value is very small on the scale of normal human activity, but becomes significant when we come to the behavior of the atomic particles and fields out of which our bodies and brains, and all other physical objects, are made. Planck's constant enters, in particular, into Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, which says that atomic particles can never reveal themselves to be the tiny moving objects that they had been imagined to be since the time of Isaac Newton. Nor is there any reason to believe that such tiny objects exist at all. Each "particle", insofar as we can ever know it, may be associated with a particular mass (e.g., the mass of an electron) and a particular charge (e.g., the charge of the electron), but there is no evidence that it has a particular location. All the empirical evidence is most parsimoniously represented by taking each atomic particle to be a cloud-like structure that has a strong proclivity to spread out over ever-larger regions.

The important and amazing thing is that the older classical laws, built on the notion of miniscule objects, become automatically converted into unique new quantum laws when the empirically measured value of Planck's constant is consistently introduced. This "quantization" procedure automatically converts the notion of a particle as a minute point-like entity into the notion of a "particle" as an extended cloud-like structure.

[Peter Mutnick]
IMO, this is topsy-turvey. Classical physics is based on the Cartesian notion of matter as an extended thing (res extensa), not on the notion of point particles. The Greek atomists may have had the notion, but it was not implemented in modern philosophy, per se, or in classical physics, which is based on modern (rather than classical) philosophy. Quantum physics in general reverts to classical philosophy, as Heisenberg made very clear by adopting the Aristotelian and Platonic frameworks to explain quantum theory. I believe that Heisenberg would include the atomist views of Democritus as essential to the *quantum* description of nature. Bohr was also an atomist, and proclaimed that quantum theory had proven the existence of the atoms beyond the shadow of any doubt.

[Henry Stapp]
Physicists had, for more than two hundred years, imagined Nature to be composed, at least in part, out of entities resembling miniature planets. But Nature, at least as she reveals herself to us through our observations and through our mathematics, appears to be made out of a very different kind of stuff.

[Peter Mutnick]
The "billiard balls" (or actually "glassy balls") of Newton are not point particles, IMHO. The latter notion requires an abstraction that only becomes possible (although still problematic) in *quantum* physics. I strongly suspect that the notion of point particles will outlive quantum theory and be an essential feature of the final theory that emerges as a "good theory" that is consistent through and through. Theorists who throw out the notion or attempt to alter it are throwing out or altering (beyond recognition) the baby with the bath water. Bohm was on the right track here in attempting to retain an ontological, or really existing, point particle.

[Werner Heisenberg, "Philosophical Problems of Quantum Physics", p. 97]
...Leucippus and Democritus of Abdera effected the transition to materialism. The polarity of being and non-being was made worldly and became a contrast of Full and Empty. Pure Being contracted to a point, but it could repeat itself any number of times; it became indivisible and indestructible and hence it was called 'atom'. The world was reduced to atoms and the empty space between them.

[Peter Mutnick]
Henry Stapp has surmised that Heisenberg is referring only to an historical opinion here, rather than a real paradigm for all of atomic physics. I will agree that the actual quantum paradigm is a bit more complex than this, so I will outline exactly what it is, as I see it, in another essay entitled, "The New Atomic Paradigm and the Basis State Problem".



Peter Joseph Mutnick 1949 - 2000


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