Down the Rabbit Hole

About a year and a half ago I wrote here about going to see the movie What the Bleep Do We Know?, a rather spectacularly stupid and lunatic film which extensively misuses quantum mechanics. This weekend, a sequel called What the BLEEP – Down the Rabbit Hole opened here in New York, and I figured I owed it to my readers to check out the this new movie.

There were two good things about it. First of all it was advertised as being 2 hours and 34 minutes long, but ended about 15 minutes earlier than I expected (I kept checking my watch…). Secondly, I don’t have to write a lot about it and can just refer you to the posting about the first film since a large part of it is exactly the same.

The whole plot involving Marlee Matlin appears to be exactly the same footage. It was pretty painful to have to watch this again, although I am kind of fond of the wedding party/orgy scene. The “scientists” involved were essentially the same group of crackpots as in the first film. It looked like the interviews in this version were mostly outtakes from the first version, with some additions. Among the physicists, about the only non-crackpot was Columbia philosopher of science David Albert. He was said to have objected to the editing of the first version, which made it appear that he agreed with the nutty ideas about quantum mechanics of the filmmakers. In this version, he is saying perfectly sensible technical things about quantum mechanics, but they’re embedded in the middle of the nuttiness about QM promoted by the filmmakers (the usual: entanglement=we are all connected, superposition=anything you want to be true is true).

The new material includes interviews with a crackpot parapsychologist (Dean Radin, from the “Institute of Noetic Sciences”), and a crackpot journalist (Lynne McTaggart). It also includes some new animations featuring a cartoon character (Captain Quantum or some such). The first of these starts off with a not-bad depiction of the two-slit experiment before getting silly. The second is tacked on near the end and brings in a new exciting idea that wasn’t in the first film: Extra Dimensions! Captain Quantum liberates some poor fellow cartoon character who is trapped in 2d due to her fearfulness, bringing her to enlightenment by showing her that there is a third dimension. There’s mercifully little about string theory, mostly John Hagelin going on about how the superstring field is the field of consciousness.

If you feel the need to know more about this for some odd reason, there’s a web-site, and a bunch of reviews of the film: a credulous one from Seattle, and more sensible ones from Portland (“feels like a lame, double-dipping cash-grab”), and Arizona (“They should market What the Bleep!?: Down the Rabbit Hole like a breakfast cereal – ’50 percent more nuts.’”).

Update: Since the Sunday New York Times Book Review now every week has something about string theory, I guess I better mention today’s edition, maybe just by quoting from one review, by Dick Teresi about The Fated Sky: Astrology in History, a history of astrology by Benson Bobrick.

Shortly into my marriage (about six hours) my wife purchased a white-noise generator to counteract my night terrors… Recently, it has begun dispensing orders: “Kill, kill your publisher.”

The mathematician Michael Sutherland diagnosed my condition. “It’s called apophenia,” he said. In statistics, apophenia is a “Type 1 error,” a false alarm, the experience of seeing patterns in meaningless data. I must have caught it from the theorists I interview.

In the early 20th century, experimenters demonstrated that randomness rules… Yet today superstring theorists insist they will reconcile the lumpy, acausal quantum world with the smooth determinism of relativity…

So when the playful and innovative historian Benson Bobrick writes in “The Fated Sky” that 30-40 percent of the American public believes in astrology, I am shocked. Why so few, given the raging apophenia among our scientific elite? Astrology, the belief that human lives are ruled by the stars and planets, is no nuttier than current cosmological models, which feature an “anthropic principle,” giving our puny, three-pound brains a central role in the universe…

Traditional astrologers, like string theorists and cosmologists today, were often wonderful mathematicians…

Modern man can choose from a veritable smorgasbord of Type 1 errors: string theory, neo-Darwinism, cosmology, economics, God. Astrology is as good as any, and Bobrick demonstrates that it has a rich, colorful past to draw upon. As for me, I answer to a higher authority. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must go kill, kill my publisher.

Teresi’s take on modern physics is much sillier than John Horgan’s. Maybe the next few weeks letters columns will have letters pointing this out.

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41 Responses to Down the Rabbit Hole

  1. J.F. Moore says:

    Oh great. When the first one came out I had to deal with the bubbling of various acquaintences who thought it was compelling stuff. Generally I was labeled as ‘closed minded’ for dismissing the quackery too quickly. I couldn’t claim a single ‘conversion’ to critical thinking or skepticism on any of the topics. My depressing conclusion was that this kind of thing really speaks to something in a large part of the populace, probably the same people who listen to Noory’s show on AM – the one Kaku makes guest appearances on.

  2. Sean says:

    It’s not really a sequel, just an expanded version of the original. For what it’s worth.

  3. D R Lunsford says:

    Astrology and alchemy are actually early forms of psychology, hence not subject to comparison with what we know as hard science.

    Also, there are bodies of knowledge not arranged around causality.

    -drl

  4. Just thought I’d contribute a trackback to my What the Bleep!? post. Excerpt:

    I suppose I’ll eventually have to don a fake mustache, clothespin my nose, and go endure this movie, since people often bring it up when I tell them what I do for a living:

    ME: …so, at least in the black-box model that we can analyze, my result implies that the quantum speedup for breaking cryptographic hash functions is only a polynomial one, as opposed to the exponential speedup of Shor’s factoring algorithm.

    PERSON AT COCKTAIL PARTY: How interesting! It’s just like they were saying in the movie: reality is merely a construct of our minds.

  5. Don Smith says:

    When I heard about the first movie, I thouht it was a film of the imagination. Then I heard it advertised on Art Bell’s raido show and then I learned that this was suppose to be a work of fact. It came close to another very bad movie: “UFOs Destination Earth”.

  6. Lucifer says:

    It must have indeed been torture to watch that movie again! I could barely get through it myself, only by fast forwarding through certain parts including the wedding party/orgy scene, was I able to subject myself to such excruciating mental distress. Which makes me wonder how such a terrible movie has become so popular? I know Dr Fred Alan Wolf was touring Australian universities down here late last year, charging $150 for a 3 hour seminar called “The Spiritual Universe”, and I’m sure that’s just a small part of a much larger world tour to promote his books and the movie.

    It gives me such peace of mind to know, that Dr Quantum as he is also known, is seen as such an authority in this field.

  7. Juan R. says:

    D R Lunsford Said,

    Astrology and alchemy are actually early forms of psychology, hence not subject to comparison with what we know as hard science.

    Hum! CHEM 308 may disagree :-)

    There were several “alchemies” and your generic comparison with psychology completely wrong. There are a lot of misconceptions about alchemy by outsiders of chemical science.

    Preparative (not philosophical) alchemy was “so hard” as current science. In fact, several early alchemical processes, methods, and instrumental are still used in any current chemistry laboratory (see CHEM 308 in http://www.humboldt.edu/~catalog/courses/chem_crs.html).

    E.g. any modern chemist has used in some time one of the discovered alchemical processes: Maria’s bath.

    Fractional Distillation

    See also What Working Engineers Knew!

    It is also used in the kitchens of all the world…

    au bain Marie

    Juan R.

    Center for CANONICAL |SCIENCE)

  8. Kent Bye says:

    I understand the message of the original What the Bleep, but I disagree with the strategy and tactics of the filmmakers.

    From a scientific and journalistic perspective, the filmmakers only interviewed people who agreed with their perspectives. I would have liked to have seen more dissenting viewpoints incorporated within the film — especially in this latest expanded version of the film.

    The argument that they’re trying to make is that is that Biology & Psychology are trapped within a Philosophy of Science of Reductionism and that moving towards a “Quantum Ontology” would help incorporate the subjective aspects of our consciousness within healing modalities.

    * Mainstream Medicine = Objective = Reductionistic = Classical Netownian Physics
    * Complementary & Alternative Medicine = Subjective = Interconnected & Holistic = Quantum Ontology

    In other words, our beliefs, perspectives and worldviews are the first filter of our experiences and can actually have biological correlations. So instead of taking pharmaceutical drugs to feel better, there are less invasive methods of Complementary and Alternative Medicine that could relieve symptoms and cure the underlying disease. People are turning to these methods because they seem to work even though mainstream science hasn’t validated them yet.

    There was a recent front-page New York Times article called “When Trust in Doctors Erodes, Other Treatments Fill the Void” that helps explain why What The Bleep has struck such a nerve:

    Haggles with insurance providers, conflicting findings from medical studies and news reports of drug makers’ covering up product side effects all feed their disaffection, to the point where many people begin to question not only the health care system but also the science behind it.

    Americans are spending around $27 billion per year on CAM therapies because of an “increasing distrust of mainstream medicine and the psychological appeal of nontraditional approaches as with the therapeutic properties of herbs or other supplements.”

    The NIH set up the National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine to help research and vet some of these Mind-Body treatments, and so there has been some science-based research done in this area.

    What the Bleep is obviously not trying to build any bridges with mainstream science, but is trying to reach the audience that is already actively engaged in these types of Mind-Body practices like meditation and yoga. It’s entertainment, and not science or even good journalism. But it is good enough entertainment for those who are sympathetic to the larger critique of the quick-fix mentality of modern medicine.

    The film started out in one theater, and was able to build up enough word of mouth to spread to other theaters, and it was eventually picked up by a distributor to get a wider release. I’ve written about the grassroots marketing implications of the film from a independent film perspective that cites a NYT article on the viral spread of the film.

    I’ve also actually interviewed a number of people from this community for my collaborative documentary on the state of American journalism.

    In my case, I was trying to draw parallels between:

    * Mainstream Medicine = Objective = Mainstream Journalism
    * Complementary & Alternative Medicine = Subjective = Blogging

    There are obviously a lot of problems with how journalism covers science issues that can be traced to a reductionistic “He Said / She Said” mindset that takes whatever the political institutions have to say about issues as gospel — even if there is a critical mass of dissent from the academic community.

    I found some interesting insights into this problem from the interviews, and I’d love to hear more feedback on it.

    I’m going to release the audio soon, and would to have some of your critical perspectives to help peer review some of the material that I’ve conducted. That way I don’t end up including information in my final film that hasn’t been fully vetted. Thanks

  9. Eric Dennis says:

    Kent,

    That’s really great, and I feel your energy, man. But the problem is that your pet ideas on psychology and pharmacology have no connection whatsoever to quantum mechanics. That you seem to know this and it doesn’t give you pause betrays a basic intellectual dishonesty which is not going to be particurarly effective when who you’re trying to snow is a group of professional scientists. I mean aren’t there any tarot card blogs or bulk granola sales sites that may be a little more on your wavelength?

  10. woit says:

    Please, stop it with the personal hostility.

    And alternative medicine should be discussed elsewhere. I personally have no problem with the idea that the mind-body interaction is trickier than modern medicine sometimes thinks, but have never seen any evidence that this has anything to do with quantum mechanics. This is a blog about physics, not about biology or medicine.

  11. Kent Bye says:

    The problem with What the Bleep is that the filmmakers try to make it seem like Quantum Physics has already bridged these gaps.

    I realize that the gaps haven’t been bridged yet, but I believe that they may be on a converging path that could be bridged within the scientific community within the next 5, 10, 20 years.

    But I believe that there are underlying grains of truth within What the Bleep that are undermined by the heavyhanded tactics of the filmmakers. You check out NIH’s NCCAM for scientifically-validated research in this field.

    But I’m more interested in the parallels between the split between Mainstream Medicine and Complementary & Alternative Medicine and Mainstream Journalism and New Media (i.e. blogs, podcasts, videoblogs)

    Mainstream medicine views CAM treatments as too subjective and invalid just as mainstream journalists view blogs as too subjective and invalid.

    There are grains of truth in both approaches, and I’m particularly interested in how to bridge these into a more inclusive journalistic paradigm — specifically through collaborative media.

    And it is in that spirit that I want to add more scientific peer review principles to the process of journalism and filmmaking.

  12. Dumb Biologist says:

    I’m reminded of a statement I read someplace, to the effect that the philosophical vacuum left by the retreat of organized religion can be as bad or worse than what came before it. At least before there was a measure of cohesion and discipline. The New Agey flapdoodle that springs up in every crack left in the old, decaying edifices of the major Western religions often aggressively misappropriates a laundry list of the more “out-there” philosophical ramblings of various scientific luminaries on the nature of existence and epistemology. The result is a superstitious Frankenstein’s monster of the most horrifically ecumenical sort, where Christ occupies the captain’s chair next to extraterrestrial aliens telepathically linked with Gaia and the few New Age cognoscenti who are gifted enough to “grok” the significance of modern revelation.

    Oh, and of course, anyone who holds sentiments of the above sort is terribly uncritical, unskeptical, and close-minded, a slave to a dogmatic materialist religion that stifles true understanding, or so we’ll be told. I tend to think, in the face of it all, that no matter how much knowledge we acquire, and no matter how successful the methods of skeptical inquiry in producing concrete results, we will never be free of superstitious nonsense. It’s an in-built trait, and the price of admission to sentience, in all probability. Perhaps it’s more amazing that some percentage of the population appears to be more free of it than others.

  13. Kent Bye says:

    “And alternative medicine should be discussed elsewhere.”
    I apologize for the previous post, I had already hit the submit button.

    “never seen any evidence that this has anything to do with quantum mechanics.”
    I agree that there hasn’t been anything convincing published making a direct connection. From the interviews I’ve done, my observation is that this community uses metaphors from quantum mechanics to intuitively understand certain healing concepts.

    I also believe that What the Bleep dishonestly blurs this line, and as a result undermines aspects of alternative medicine.

  14. matt d says:

    We sure do have a lot of “functional” nutjobs in America anymore. I mean, not only are wackos like Teresi able to vomit up their baseless and pointless views without any formal counter-arguments, but they’re able to get jobs that allow them to do it.

    I’m sure it pays well too.

    You’re doing a great job keeping the herd in line, Woit.

  15. Not a Nobel Laureate says:

    As a profitable and low risk business venture, there are few areas of endeavour that can beat out Religion of either the Established or New Age Nutjob variety.

  16. secret milkshake says:

    people making crazy claims about their remedies/beliefs usualy do not not irk me much – you can try to prove or disprove such claims if you care enough about the particular subject. But things need to be spelled out. What really gets me are the charlatans that are throwing fog; obfuscation is such a common and profitable form of dishonesty.

  17. Chris W. says:

    Kent Bye: From the interviews I’ve done, my observation is that this community uses metaphors from quantum mechanics to intuitively understand certain healing concepts.

    Few abuses of scientific ideas are as widespread as the abuse of them as a source of “metaphors,” without any serious effort to critically examine their applicability to the domain in question. Some aspects of Newtonian mechanics used to get this treatment, but they’re now considered old hat.

  18. Boaz says:

    Regarding “abusing” science for metaphor…
    I used to really fight against this. My sister would ask me about my research (accelerator physics theory) and I would say a few words and she’d quickly find that the words could be used metaphorically to say something she thought was interesting about something entirely different. For example, instabilities are sometimes described as a “resonance” and perhaps just the linking of these two words could seem (or be!) insightful. My response used to be to immediately shut this down by saying “no! resonance has a very precise technical meaning and has nothing to do with human relationships or sociology”. But I’ve become more tolerant and now I don’t really see a reason to stop this thinking as long as nothing false is said about the technical subject. I know that this can be insidious in a public debate when the authority of science is borrowed to support something false or some bad logic as is done in “What the bleep”. But the scientist’s job is only to correct false statements about the world, not to prevent concepts from being used metaphorically. Do you really know enough about these “alternative healing practices” to know that quantum mechanics doesn’t provide some useful metaphors?

  19. Adrian H. says:

    Well here is some good news. Many of my students saw ‘What the Bleep’ when it came out, and mentioned it in class, but all of them seemed to realise it was crackpot nonsense. No one defended it; no one thought it was anything other than a bunch of people tossing about loose ideas.

    The person who puzzles me is this John Hagelin guy. Did he really go to Harvard?? I saw a videod talk by him once and swear it was the sort of stuff that a freshman would have laughed at. Ridiculous statistics, ignorant basic physics. It wasn’t even a good con. Surely he could pull the wool over our eyes in a more respectful way?

  20. robert says:

    Theoretical physicists are not wholly innocent when it comes to invading alien subject areas (for example economics, sociology, epidemiology) convinced that they have something immediately useful to add. Sometimes this is fruitful (Simons’ money making machine), sometimes it is not (LTCM, catastrophe theory applied to prison riots). Sensible interdisciplinary dialogue is essential, especially in troubled times like these when all rational thought seems to be, at best, undervalued and, more likely, under concerted attack. Too often, however, things descend to the level of ‘Science Wars’ and what the bleep; one wonders, as Tom Tom Club put it, ‘What are Wordsworth?’

  21. Kent Bye says:

    Constantino Tsallis talks about the importance of metaphor to the advancement of science in an Physica A article called “Some Thoughts on Theoretical Physics”

    “The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor. It is the one thing that cannot be learned from others; it is also a sign of genius, since a good metaphor implies an eye for resemblance.” wrote Aristotle in his Ars Poetica [322 AC]. And many — perhaps virtually all — scientists, conscious or unconsciously, take as granted that without metaphors, no scientific progress would exist. One may go even further: without metaphors that have some form of beauty, no efficient progress in science would exist, no new ideas would emerge!

    After reading this article, I do believe that there is a lot of value of turning to quantum physics for metaphors that can add layers of complexity and predictability to other knowledge domains.

    Yet at the same time, I think that it is important to disclose the degree of connection to the original domain as well as to make clear that you’re using mathematical models in a metaphoric way of understanding how systems might operate. By this standard, “What the Bleep” fails on both accounts and too often blurs the line between the fringe frontier research and mainstream scientific enquiry.

  22. Juan R. says:

    Constantino Tsallis talks about the importance of metaphor to the advancement of science in an Physica A article called “Some Thoughts on Theoretical Physics”

    It would be good if one day he talk about

    the importance of science to the advancement of metaphors

    Then, maybe he would discover like metaphoric is his proposed entropy and the little science around those lot of papers and talks published by the Brazilian group.

    I are reading lot of appeals to quantum mechanics and supposed links with other stuff. I wonder if they know they are really talking…

    In my talks with many people i see that word quantum is used as a sinonym of fantastic, unusual, etc. instead of in his original sense of quantum. Quantum mechanics is a “mechanics of the quantum”.

    Juan R.

    Center for CANONICAL |SCIENCE)

  23. anon says:

    Adrian H. said:
    “The person who puzzles me is this John Hagelin guy. Did he really go to Harvard?? I saw a videod talk by him once and swear it was the sort of stuff that a freshman would have laughed at. Ridiculous statistics, ignorant basic physics.”

    I am much less surprised by Hagelin’s behaviour than you are. I don’t find him that different from the not so uncommon academics that drum up funding support by generating university press releases and grant proposals that exaggerate/lie about the importance of their work. Or the not so uncommon academics that deliberately omit to mention important references from their papers. Personally, I think Hagelin got taught this behaviour you find so objectionable by a broken academic research system. The question is, how to fix it.

  24. Tony Jackson says:

    “….and a crackpot journalist (Lynne McTaggart).”

    Alas, I know her only too well. It doesn’t surprise me that she shows up in this movie. She’s not just a crank, but a dangerous crank who has an astonishing, and frankly scary influence on a lot of otherwise intelligent people over here in the UK. Here is some useful background information on her.

  25. Tony Jackson says:

    Oops… broken link:

    “….and a crackpot journalist (Lynne McTaggart).”

    Alas, I know her only too well. It doesn’t surprise me that she shows up in this movie. She’s not just a crank, but a dangerous crank who has an astonishing, and frankly scary influence on a lot of otherwise intelligent people over here in the UK. Here is some useful background information on her. .

  26. Johan Richter says:

    Using metaphors to get ideas should be acceptable. After all, the use of differential calculus in areas far removed from what Newton wrote about can be seen as a form of metaphor.

    The problem begins when you start thinking that the meatphor proves something in itself as opposed to using it to generate ideas that are tested in the ordinary way.

  27. Michael says:

    I’m not a physicist. I have not seen the film. I do not wish to. I do care very much about this subject, however. I’m sure it is of no surprise to anyone that the film was suggested to me by a post-modern poet. I must remind everyone that such anti-philosophies often arise in the absence of a logical foothold within a society. Paying attention to meaningless information is the fastest way to lose your grip on reality (and a population losing its grip on reality is the quickest way for someone to gain corrupt control of power). Getting a [descriptive] grip on reality is the goal of science at large and the only way to maximize our ability obtain resources and to control our surroundings. Humans cannot surive in the absence of progressive external manipulation. We would be an easy meal without our reasoning faculties. It is hence, undeniably in our best interest to understand an undisputed framework of concrete reality, if only from a survival stance. Survival of our species matter to everyone, so everyone should care about these matters. Those who do not are either lying or of no concern to those who do. Objective science is the only solution to life on this planet. Everything else is a baby blanket.

    That being said, the beauty of science is that it not only demands, but patiently awaits proof. This is important and cannot be ignored. No one is up in arms about string theory because we all assume it will see its day in court. Looney ‘Field of Consciousness’ are, however, cause for concern. Proper description of reality demands proof. I am not demoting mathematicians. They are quite adept at proving the reality of the number models they have generated. In the temple of science, the mathematicians’ product, symmetrically sucinct theory, is the shrine. It is the most elegant representation of a given phenomenon. It is, alas, but a representation. Nature, as experiment continues to insist, is not elegant. It is a thick mesh of bruised patterns. The bruises are obvious from the data. Mathematics shows the patterns. Ultimately, mathematics can be no more accurate in modeling reality than the claim that a basketball is a sphere. This does not, in any way, detract from invaluable potential modeling offeres to human kind. It is, in fact, our only strength as a species. We abstract solutions and conquer situations. For questions concerning issues beyond contemporary technolgical capabilities, math must suggest direction. Possibilities, not realities. By its own definition, math is not a complete description-it is self referencing (remember Godel?). But it is the next best thing, it is consistant. This is a quality crackpot “Reality is Whatever the mind wants it to be” theories could stand to be evaluated (and obliterated from existence) by. Remember when the heliocentric universe went out the window? It didn’t stand up to the data. If string theory goes the same way, it would not surprise or sadden me…it would mean data had been generated on the subject, period. Wouldn’t it be fun to turn the theoreticians loose on even two shards of data? For now (until somebody builds better probes), poor guys like Hoit will go on serving up maps to blind physicists on where to dig for that buried treasure.

  28. Chris W. says:

    “poor guys like Hoit”? Who is Hoit?

  29. Chris W. says:

    (PS: “thick mesh of bruised patterns” is a beautifully evocative phrase.)

  30. xpinor says:

    Peter Woit said:I personally have no problem with the idea that the mind-body interaction is trickier than modern medicine sometimes thinks, but have never seen any evidence that this has anything to do with quantum mechanics.
    You may want to check out the dissipative quantum model of the brain: http://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/0002014

  31. Subhash says:

    I have neither seen the Bleep nor its sequel, and I am perfectly willing to accept that its treatment of quantum mechanics is unsatisfactory. But I did see the much touted Elegant Universe on the PBS, and its treatment of quantum mechanics was also extremely unsatisfactory.

    Given that there are diverse interpretations of qm, ranging from positivist to hidden variable, to many-worlds held by serious scholars, not to mention the invoking of consciousness by qm theorists like Wigner and Stapp and neurophilosophers like Pribram, perhaps all one should hope for is a narrative that leaves the viewer with more questions than what he started with before the movie.

    If the Bleeps do that successfully, then they might not be all that bad.

  32. I also disagree with Lunsford statement “Astrology and alchemy are actually early forms of psychology, hence not subject to comparison with what we know as hard science.” but I think it is useful to consider how a science becomes to be used in psychology (or even self-healing books) because theoretical physics is always in the risk of providing concepts for this psychological focus. We have all seen Energy, Chaos, and even Symmetry, to be used with this goal. Nor to speak of Relativity and Quantum. And even semiconductors (“crystal healing”). But it is even worse in other sciences. Botany, for an instance, as part of the pharmacy sciences. I think the only defense is to get everyone involved on science. And to be honest: if we know that Mercury theroretically transmutes to Gold with exotermic production of Energy, just tell it, but explain it.

  33. hmm, actually Lunsford statement could be almost correct if telling “Astrology and alchemy are nowadays rudimentary forms of…”
    I say “almost” because I know of some living non-psychology oriented alchemists. In fact you can see that Alchemy books are not a best-seller in the “self-healing” sections of libraries, when compared to astrology. This is because of the experimental bias.

  34. Juan R. says:

    Xpinor said,

    Peter Woit said:I personally have no problem with the idea that the mind-body interaction is trickier than modern medicine sometimes thinks, but have never seen any evidence that this has anything to do with quantum mechanics.
    You may want to check out the dissipative quantum model of the brain: http://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/0002014

    Peter Woit continues being right: there is not evidence!

    The preprint you cited is not a scientific model. “That” is a rather speculative work, with “few” rigorous correlation with real-world data. The development of the model is not rigorous. There are lots of ” “. In fact, even the treatment of pure dissipation regimes is non-rigorous and full of half-proofs, asumptions, and several “ifs”.

    It is also interesting the use of term “quantum” when some of limits worked are precisely classical limits. In the past there was a lot of speculation about quantum behavior of the brain, precisely lot of scientific rigorous working models and experimental data suggests that main brain regime is classical one. For example fluctuation currents in ion tansport on two state biological chanels involved in certain basic brain “metabolism” is in perfect correlation with computer simulation of classical models, etc.

    From Max Tegmark [quant-ph/9907009]

    Based on a calculation of neural decoherence rates, we argue that that the degrees of freedom of the human brain that relate to cognitive processes should be thought of as a classical
    rather than quantum system, i.e., that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the current classical approach to neural
    network simulations.

    Tegmark also critizes some quantum models of brain elaborated employing string theory methods.

    Many people appears to misunderstand long-range correlations doing the brain work as a whole and the so-called non-markovian dynamics (introducing memory effects) with quantum nonlocality or any other exotic quantum effect.

    Subhash,

    I would prefer “Given that there are diverse philosophical interpretations of qm“.

    Juan R.

    Center for CANONICAL |SCIENCE)

  35. Tony Smith says:

    Peter Woit said that he has “… never seen any evidence that … the mind-body interaction … has anything to do with quantum mechanics …”.

    spinor mentioned “… the dissipative quantum model of the brain: http://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/0002014 …”.

    Juan R said “… The preprint …[ quant-ph/0002014 ]… is not a scientific model. “That” is a rather speculative work, with “few” rigorous correlation with real-world data. … From Max Tegmark [quant-ph/9907009] “Based on a calculation of neural decoherence rates, we argue that that the degrees of freedom of the human brain that relate to cognitive processes should be thought of as a classical rather than quantum system” …”.

    There have been several quantum models of consciousness in the literature, including work by Hameroff and Penrose (coherent states of microtubule tubulins) and Nanopoulos et al (based on string theory).

    None of those models (AFAIK) has been either fully confirmed by exerimental evidence or fully refuted by experimental evidence,
    but
    at least the Hameroff-Penrose model was motivated by Hameroff’s experimental observation that tubulin activity ceased when people were unconscious (under anesthesia) and resumed when they regained consciousness (Hameroff is an anesthesiologist).

    As to experimental testability of such models, experiments are difficult, but one necessary aspect of such models (coherent tubulin states) can at least approached, as Tegmark did in his work cited by Juan R.
    However,
    Tegmark’s assessment of decoherence has been challenged by, for example:

    Hagan, Hameroff, and Tuszynski, in Physical Review E, Volume 65, 061901, published 10 June 2002, where they say: “… recalculation after correcting for differences between the model on which Tegmark bases his calculations and the orch. OR model (superposition separation, charge vs dipole, dielectric constant) lengthens the decoherence time to 10^(-5) – 10^(-4) s …”
    and
    Mershin, Nanopoulos, and Skoulakis, in quant-ph/0007088, where they say: “… the particular geometrical arrangement (packing) of the tubulin protofilaments obeys an error-correcting mathematical code known as the K2(13, 2^6, 5) code … We conjecture that the K-code apparent in the packing of the tubulin dimers and protofilaments is partially responsible for keeping coherence among the tubulin dimers. …”.

    In short,
    the question of whether or not consciousness is a quantum phenomenon is still an open one,
    and (in my opinion) theoretical model-building and experimental testing of such model components is a good thing that might lead to useful insights.

    As an example of such a possibly very useful insight that should be further investigated, see Hameroff’s paper in Biosystems, Volume 77, Issues 1-3 , November 2004, Pages 119-136. Its title is
    “A new theory of the origin of cancer: quantum coherent entanglement, centrioles, mitosis, and differentiation”
    and its abstract (on the web at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biosystems.2004.04.006 ) says in part:
    “… It is proposed here that normal mirror-like mitosis is organized by quantum coherence and quantum entanglement among microtubule-based centrioles and mitotic spindles … Impairment of [such] quantum coherence and/or entanglement … can result in abnormal distribution of chromosomes, abnormal differentiation and uncontrolled growth … New approaches to cancer therapy and stem cell production are suggested …”.

    To make my position on such matters clear, I am NOT defending statements like the one presented by Peter with respect to What the BLEEP – Down the Rabbit Hole:
    “superposition = anything you want to be true is true”.
    Actually, the “anything you want to be true is true” part sounds to me a lot like Susskind’s Landscape.

    Tony Smith
    http://www.valdostamuseum.org/hamsmith/

  36. J.F. Moore says:

    The Hameroff-Penrose theory may have been interesting 15 years ago after it was introduced, but it hasn’t stood up to scrutiny and is at this point hopelessly riddled with unexplained problems, not the least of which is how coherence can be maintained on such scales (time, space, temperature). I put it in the category of “strains credulity, theory almost certainly wrong, but maybe something interesting in there somewhere”, right next to cold fusion.

  37. Hameroff is actually in the movie. The movie seems like something Sarfatti would have been good at (in an entertainment sense). Sarfatti is into consciousness models also. I’d hardly say the models are hopelessly riddled, things like single electron transistors and brain wave frequencies seem related to the models.

  38. Juan R. says:

    Therefore, i may conclude that my previous

    Peter Woit continues being right: there is not evidence [that the idea that the mind-body interaction has anything to do with quantum mechanics]!

    (you are not cited in above reply Tony Smith) may be still true.

    I do not ignore the possibility for some adittional now unknown quantum effect in brain, in fact, the electronic structure of molecules into brain is just modelled via quantum mechanics and, hidrogen bonding and others are just quantum effects.

    I clearly disagree is that the whole brain may be considered a quantum body or that consciousness was quantum in essence. This kind of speculation began after of incorrect understanding of quantum measurement processes just after QM was formulated.

    I agree with J. F. Moore in that some ideas about microtubules and abnormal coherent states are considered near crakcpotism in biophysics.

    I do not know the details of last Hameroff paper you cite and therefore cannot be precise but reading the abstract

    The elegant yet poorly understood ballet-like movements and geometric organization occurring in mitosis have suggested guidance by some type of organizing field, however neither electromagnetic nor chemical gradient fields have been demonstrated or shown to be sufficient.

    it appears that my previous comment on that many people appears to misunderstand long-range correlations doing the brain to work as a whole with quantum nonlocality or any other exotic quantum effect gains support.

    Apparently from the abstract (of course, i can be completely wrong), the philosophy of Hameroff in the article is “it is nonlocal and cannot be explained by a local classical field then is a quantum exotic effect”.

    Juan R.

    Center for CANONICAL |SCIENCE)

  39. Juan R. says:

    the structure of above post is wrong.

    The quoted part would be just

    “Peter Woit continues being right: there is not evidence [that the idea that the mind-body interaction has anything to do with quantum mechanics]!”

    Juan R.

    Center for CANONICAL |SCIENCE)

  40. The Easter Bunny says:

    “Whatthebleep? is entertainment. Lighten up!”
    -Stuart Hameroff M.D.

    ps. ” Anton Zeilinger’s experimental demonstration of quantum wave behavior…”
    http://www.quantum.univie.ac.at/zeilinger/

    ‘Quantum Teleportation and the Nature of Reality’
    http://www.btgjapan.org/catalysts/anton.html

    ‘Talking physics with the Dalai Lama’
    “Zeilinger had invited the Dalai Lama to his laboratory following a meeting at Dharamsala in Northern India last October at which he and four other physicists had, over the course of five days, discussed physics and cosmology with the Buddhist leader.”
    http://physicsweb.org/articles/news/2/8/13/1

  41. xpinor says:

    There is an overview over various approaches by Atmanspacher at: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qt-consciousness/

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