Thursday, June 11, 2015
Dog consciousness causes wave function collapse
Lubos Motl defends the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, and now he defends the Von Neumann–Wigner interpretation. Von Neumann supposedly believed that human consciousness caused collapse of the wave function, and Wigner said he thought that a dog had sufficient consciousness to cause collapse.
It sounds ridiculous when you phrase it that way, but it is not so silly. The electron may have an independent objective existence, but our best explanation uses wave functions that cleverly encode how it was observed in the past and how it might be observed in the future.
The Moon exists whether we look at it or not, but the exact position and other physical characteristic are either directly observed or inferred from models and previous observations. The observations confirm the predictions and narrow the error bars.
And yes, a dog can look at the Moon.
Peter Woit cites an ex-string theorist ranting about the field. One notable point is that hardly anyone is really doing string theory any more. They are toying around with mathematical structures and models inspired by string theory, but they are not trying to study electrons as tiny strings or anything you might recognize from popular accounts of the field.
Scott Aaronson has joined Noam Chomsky and other MIT eggheads in denouncing investment in oil companies. Some of the comments explain how this is just feel-good leftist political posturing that will accomplish nothing worthwhile. You would think that all these smart MIT professors could recommend some constructive changes for our society.
Sometimes I think that the environmentalist movement is dominated by anti-environmentalists who invent stupid causes to distract people away from bigger threats.