quantum metaphysics?

From Brian Green’s, The Elegant Universe:

[b]In 1965 Richard Feynman, one of the greatest practitioners of quantum mechanics, wrote:

‘There was a time when the newspapers said that only 12 men understood the theory of relativity. I do not believe there was ever such a time. There might have been a time when only one man did because he was the only guy who caught on, before he wrote his paper. But after people read the paper a lot of people understood the theory of relativity in one way or the other…On the other hand, I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.’

Although Feynman expressed this view more than 3 decades ago, it applies equally well today…Quantum mechanics is different…In a real sense those who use quantum mechanics [today] find themselves following rules and formulas laid down by the ‘founding fathers’ of the theory…without really understanding WHY the procedures work or WHAT they really mean.

What are we to make of this? Does it mean that on a microscopic level the universe operates in ways so obscure and unfamiliar that the human mind, evolved over eons to cope with phenomona on familiar everyday scales, is unable to fully grasp ‘what really goes on’? Or might it be that through historical accident physicists have constructed an extremely awkward formulation of quantum mechanics that, although quantitatively sucessful, obfustcates the true nature of reality? No one knows. Maybe some time in the future some clever person will see clear to a new formulation that will fully reveal the ‘whys’ and the ‘whats’ of quantum mechanics. And then again, maybe not. The only thing we know with certainty is that quamtum mechanics absolutely and unequivocally shows us that a number of basic concepts essential to our understanding of the familiar everyday world FAIL TO HAVE ANY MEANING when our focus narrows down to the microscopic realm. As a result, we must significantly modify both our language and our reasoning when attemting to understand and explain the universe on atomic and subatomic scales.[/b]

So, I’m guessing this has something to do with philosophy. Or something to do with the world we live in?

Also, exploring the quantum world seems less mysterious to me than attempts to understand how and why time and space itself came into existence. After all, it is within these astrophysical parameters that quantum interactions take place. And why one set of laws and not another?

When one thinks of existence in terms of infinite time and space the mind is boggled. But no more so than trying grasp how time and space came into existence in the first place.

And the odds I suspect are overwhelming that we will all be long dead and gone before it is found out.

In other words, remind yourself of the passionaite quest Carl Sagan brought to cosmogony. And then try to imagine him on his death bed. He was an atheist and he presumed that death would thrust him forevermore into oblivion. He wanted so badly to to understand these things. And he knew he never, ever would.

And yet, if atheists and agnostics need a hope to cling to as they stare down into the abyss, they really only need to grasp just how unimaginably enigmatic and inscrutable and surreal existence almost certainly is.

Who the hell really knows what happens to us after we die?

And it will stun me if the man or the woman who finally does find out is a professional philosopher.

If you accept that all empirical statements are contingent, and science is based on empirical statements, then science is contingent. But contingent matters don’t say why things are the way they are. That’s just the way that they work. But that doesn’t really tell you much. In other words, it’s just brute facts all around. You support one brute fact with another brute fact, and find it’s brute facts all the way down!

Life is the journey, not the destination.

Ann Druyan talking about her husband, Carl Sagan

All science – it would seem – is contingent upon whatever it is that can be grasped about existence ontologically and teleologically.

But what does that mean? Don’t we invent words like this because we don’t know?

We don’t even know if the “mind of man” – scientist or not – is able to grasp this. Surely, that is what Hume was hinting at.

For some, it is infuriating they will go to the grave forever ignorant of why the hell they were even here in the first place. For others, it couldn’t possibly be less important.

For example, those who struggle – and barely succeed – in subsisting from day to day to day. They invent Gods for that.

Sure, this is what you say when there isn’t really anything more that can be said. But the gap I speak of is still there. It’s just more gaping for others.

Is there an actual point here, because you’ve just seemed to jump around here with quantum metaphysics. And what I love about your last sentence is that if you really do accept the contingent thesis, then you haven’t really shown much that there is a deity or not, which just means that you’ve invented another excuse to subsist from day to day to day.

The fact that quantum mechanics just don’t make any fucking sense says to me what it says to the author you quoted: reality is just not 100% scalable. As we look closer, things start working differently until, at sub-atomic levels, we might as well be looking at a Pollock painting and figuring out what shapes it is composed of, or at a cloud and trying to determine what shape that is exactly, what name to give its shape.

A new language will definetly be needed, but how do you construct a language that has no relation to everyday life? How dou you come up with descent metaphors to attach abstract meaning to when we don’t know of anything that can be metaphorically linked to those events in a practically manageable way? Here, I think, scientists could use a little help from philosophers.

My point always seems to revolve around the points I can’t seem to make about the things I don’t seem to know. All the while hoping against hope to bump into someone here who can make them because they do.

And being born is all the excuse most folks will ever need to susbsist. It’s just that subsisting preoccupies some folks more than others.

Life is for living it of course. But some have the wherewithal to go way beyond that. But it brings them grief when they find out they can’t go anywhere near as far as they want to.

They are born with the capacity to ask questions they can’t answer. And the brutality of that particular facticity just drives them up the fucking wall.

And there are never a shortage of them.

Yes basically we as evolved as we are have yet to describe fully the quantum mechanical world in such a way that all phenomena can be improved beyond philosophical conjecture. It could well be that the way we have evolved has prevented us from seeing what happens on very small scales as it truly is, because it was more likely that not understanding the basic uncertainty of our environment made us more likely to evolve and prosper. It could be that it is indescribable, but the basic fact is that we are not able to show how systems work without some sort of complementarity, which is physics code for analogy. Of course it doesn’t mean we can’t make use of the nanoscale, it just means as Feynman said, no one really fundamentally understands how it works. It pisses every scientist off, they create extra dimensions, deterministic interpretations and all manner of things to avoid the possibility that we may just not have the mentally evolved faculty to appreciate reality. As Bohr opined we may just not yet have the language to explain existence.

This isn’t rational. Some things will always be beyond a person’s ability. It’s on the same level as looking up at a bus and being upset that you can’t jump on top of it. Pessimistic and self-destructive thinking.

Quantum mechanics is different from the mechanics we can observe–Quantum mechanics isn’t Newtonian, which we can observe. Quantum mechanics, physics, metaphysics are all being explored and a new language is being developed. We may not understand it–we may never understand it–but our children and/or grandchildren will, because they are already living within it. How, for example, do all their electronic toys actually work?

Iam, you seem again to be asking yourself questions to which you have no answers. Other people may have their answers, but you need your own answers. The thing is, to me, no one can arrive at their own answers to the questions life gives you, until you’re able to take bits and pieces of other answers, chew on them, digest them, internalize them, and then spit out that with which you don’t agree. That should give you a basis for your answers to yourself.

Can you define quanta for yourself? (Can you define ‘qualia’ for yourself? I don’t know why I threw that word out–qualia–other than the similarity of their spellings–) Both words define a seeming intangible that requires individual interpretation. If you can’t accept the given definitions, abstract as they may appear to be, you won’t be able to understand quantum anything.

I strongly disagree.

The smaller a particle gets, the more flexible and reactive it becomes.
Very very small particles are more easily effected than large clumps, since they reach a point of having less or no mass.
A small enough particle can skip over the laws of physics at least partially because it is so small and its properties are different than the larger clumps.
This principal explains why tachyons can move passed the speed of light, and yet most things can’t move that fast.

All physical laws and principals, aswel as dimensions, are based in force and space.
Without force, there is now law. The quantum level is near the level without force, the level where there is now law.

I feel silly, my response to the OP seems exaggerated now. Oh well, that’s what I get for speaking of what I know little about.

This cleared a lot up for me, and I know feel less like a peasant in a catholic observatory and more like the priest with the telescope’s slightly informed friend.

It is, contrary to what I previously believed, quite explainable in intuitive terms.

Or am I missing something? It just doesn’t seem like it should be this easy to cope with.

Tachyons are a theoretical particle. Most physicists think tachyons don’t exist. There is no experimental evidence for tachyons.

"Does it mean that on a microscopic level the universe operates in ways so obscure and unfamiliar that the human mind, evolved over eons to cope with phenomena on familiar everyday scales, is unable to fully grasp ‘what really goes on’? "

I’m bored. I will answer since I am bored and don’t know what to do to waste some time (but time wastes us as we get closer and closer to death). At what point would you be satisfied by your “understanding” ? what would constitute an “understanding” ? A capability to manipulate to any degree matter ? do you fully grasp anything at all ? can you fully grasp anything at all ? At what point would you be satisfied with the understanding you imagine you could get ? how would you imagine 100 % understanding of something ? do we ever understand anything at all ?

If I gave you an answer on how Quantum Physics “really works”, would you ask me yet another question ? And how many other, a never ending array of new questions can you come up with ? and what if the questions themselves were the explanations and the explanations the questions ? and what if the answers were totally disjoint and unrelated to any questions, all disjoint and a chaotic mess ?

Take the waves on a shore, can you predict the next form ? and if you could, what would you have achieved ? would that satisfy you ?

I tend to look at these kinds of problems and doubts and all as some kind of imaginary problem the mind has, the mind seems to want more than it has, seems to want something different or better or whatever.

But I think all of these kinds of problems can be solved simply changing the circuits of our minds, and assigning them as fully satisfied, fully achieved, fully in 100 % understanding mode, in full discovery of all achieved.

Or as science is the activity that formats the unknown into the known ? Or describes some intractable things into other tractable and clear things, as converting or translating a sequence of symbols (a set of input information, a configuration of input bits) into another sequence of symbols that we “recognize” and “understand” (or we assign it as if we understand ? ).

Maybe the entire deal is simply the action → reaction circuits in which we put ourselves in, as in the questions → answers circuits, or the out → input as reaction to output circuits, so in essence what we are looking for is an interaction space large enough to contain all possible entities and their interactions as we interact with reality.

Science and Research as a constant cycle of ever new sequences of symbols containing ever new and larger classes of phenomena: It is like an answer to a question, a new set of symbols that may allow you to manipulate and interact further with reality, and this provokes another different set of questions and a further new set of answers that allow you to manipulate and interact with reality even further and so on for many cycles until you reach a point where you can interact and manipulate reality in all possible modes, for anything you want, in any possible way so as to satisfy any possible desire or start point to target point, goal oriented intentionalities.

But this total “satisfaction achieved” can be obtained in two faster and simpler ways: 1) simply declaring yourself “totally satisfied”, “totally achieved” or inventing a symbol any symbol or concept or anything at all, nay, simply lying to yourself to the extreme that “all has been achieved, all has been discovered”, you are now completely satisfied by a FINAL SYMBOL (invented or real ? or simply a lie ? who cares, as long as it works), a final sequence of symbols that really means “All Possible Discoveries Achieved Once and For All and Forever”;


  1. Modify the circuitry of you mind brain, change your Man Brain, manipulate the neural circuits and connections and subsystems until you reach “Total Satisfaction Achieved”, until “Everything You can Ever Want And Desire is Achieved”.


And I am a 21st Century Schizoid Man.

2001 A Space Odyssey.

Planet of the Apes.


Reminds me of:



"Question: What was there before the big bang ?

Answer: Would you ask me a different question if I gave you an answer ?

Question: and what was there before a “question”, any “question” ?

Answer: another question …

Question: What is the generalized solution to all possible questions ?

Answer: a Symbol."


scienceforums.net/topic/6439 … f-physics/

“Smash things together to produce a region so hot, and so chaotic that the current theories no longer make sensible predictions.
We then examine the outcome, to see which new things happen.”

And then why not smash car engines against each other in huge magnetrons and see how they disintegrate in many different pieces, maybe even while the car engines are running, a car engine accelerator (instead of particle accelerators) to study how they break up colliding, and make believe they are metaphysical entities…

That was also from:

kunstler.com/blog/2012/02/the-jo … oment.html

And if we ever do I can’t help but wonder if it will or will not accommodate human autonomy. If we can know everything are we still free to change it?

I suspect you don’t really grasp the point I am trying to make here. And I suspect, in turn, it is a point that may well be beyond my capacity to make clearer.

Sometimes it is reasonable to be pessimistic. And sometimes it seems reasonable to be self-destructive. When you go down deep enough here it’s always rooted in dasein.

This is the sort of stuff you speculate about from a first person subjunctive point of view. Now, if you see these “questions without answers” as the equivalent of getting upset when you can’t jump up on top of a bus, well, that truly baffles me.

There are answers that are true for everyone and there are points of view that are construed as true only by some. But not by others. Is this gap really just an illusion rooted in my own failure to grasp the objective truth?

Or is the objective truth here beyond the capacity of minds to know? And thus beyond the capacity of language to encompass it?

Last night on 60 Minutes they probed the mind of a very young chess champion who could play 10 matches simultaneously while he sat facing away from the chessboards.

In terms of quanta or qualia, the human mind is still the most mysterious thing out there.