Friday, April 06, 2018

Friday Science: Hawking 4 (Uncertainty Principle)

Chapter 4 is fairly short and titled, "The Uncertainty Principle." I continue to be pleasantly surprised that, while I have never pushed through this book these last 25 years, I have basically covered all this ground elsewhere. Here are some bullet points on the chapter.

The Uncertainty Principle
  • At the beginning of the 1800s, Laplace thought that science indicated a deterministic world. Hawking suggested this was resisted by people who believed God was involved in the world.
  • He must mean scientific determinism, since there are plenty of theists who believe in divine determinism. 
  • I have always found Hume and others to be the thickest of imbeciles on this point. Even if the universe were rigidly and mechanistically deterministic, that would not logically preclude God acting from the outside. This relates to my contention that both theist and atheist often do not understand the implications of ex nihilo creation, making a whole lot of analytic Christian philosophers look like idiots to me.
  • 1900, Max Planck suggests that energy exists in quanta rather than in a continuous spectrum of energy.
  • In 1926, Werner Heisenburg recognizes the uncertainty principle. The better you know the position of a particle, the less determined the momentum of a particle is and vice versa.
  • Hawking was a positivist idiot, leading to a lot of confusion over the years as to what exactly the Uncertainty Principle might mean. He presented it in a moronic way.
  • The way he presented it was as if it is because we cannot observe its position without messing up the momentum and vice versa. In other words, he went fallacy of ignorance on us. If we can't know it, it doesn't exist. Moron.
  • The interpretation of the uncertainty I prefer is that these things do not have a specific state in the first place. When you observe a position or a momentum, you cause it to take on a specific state. In this sense, it is not indefinite because we cannot know it. We cannot know it because it is indefinite.
The Double Slit Experiment
  • The second quantum paradigm shift he presents is the double-slit experiment. If you randomly shoot electrons at a grid with two slits, an interference pattern will emerge on a screen behind the grid, as if the electrons are a wave that goes through the two slits like water would and then adds and subtracts on the other side as the two emerging waves collide ("interference").
  • But if you remove one of the slits, the emergence won't be like one wave. It will be like shooting particles through a slit.
  • This is the idea that a particle is both a particle and a wave. de Broglie famously suggested that particles had pilot waves and thus that particles very literally were both particles and waves.
  • Feynman suggested that the particle goes through both slits at the same time. 
  • I don't have time to review, but to me the best explanation of this phenomenon is again, probabilistic. We cannot determine where any individual particle might go, but with one or two slits, the resultant average is what we observe with one or two slits. The probability is certain. The individual path is not.

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