The Double Slit Experiment

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If you like thinking about the nature of reality or consciousness or cool things in general, and are unfamiliar with the double slit experiment, you must watch the video below (or any number on YouTube). In 10 minutes you may be completely flummoxed by a foray into the quantum world.

Double Slit Experiment explained! by Jim Al-Khalili

I am no physicist, and I’m certainly not qualified to be sharing my opinions on such things, so I can’t think of a better topic to discuss. The experiment clearly shows the act of observation has some affect on the way we perceive light to behave. I emphasize perceive because that is a much different statement than claiming the act of observation changes the behavior of the particle. I do not think our observation changes the behavior of the particle, I think it changes what we perceive. Not that we are necessarily looking at two different things, but that we are viewing another side of the same coin. Through observation we collapse the dual nature of light (particle and wave) into one particular incarnation, a particular particle. Through observation we define a path.

The act of observation occurs at a specific instance in time, and at a specific instance, the entity has to be exactly somewhere. This only occurs at the smallest possible increment of time (theoretically possible), exemplified by the derivative. As the light is traveling through space, you cannot distinctly define its position unless you freeze time. The act of observation is this act of momentarily freezing time. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is the relationship between two complementary variables, for example, spatial position and momentum. There is no way to simultaneously know both the position and momentum of an object. If the object has momentum, it is by definition moving. If it is moving, it is by definition not in a fixed position. This can also be completely defined through the lens of time. In order to know the exact position of a moving object, time must be stopped. However, if you stop time, then you stop velocity, and without velocity you have no momentum. So the idea of complementary variables is the idea that the closer you are to pinning down the value of one variable, the less you know about the other.

It is as if through the act of observation we are assigning destiny. The act of observation freezes time, and in that moment, everything must be spatially accounted for. All possibilities collapse into a particular output, all momentum goes to zero, and a precise position is required. Then instead of perceiving the possible outcomes of traveling light (wave behavior), we perceive the outcome of that distinct particle which was observed.

It might make sense from an abstract “energy” point of view. It would be energetically more efficient to simply define a cloud of probability (wave behavior), than to output a specific path (particle behavior). Without an observer to output to, why waste computing power or energy to display an output?

There is some connection to consciousness expressed in this experiment. I do not think the observation itself has to be “conscious,” but the experiment is somewhat analogous to the idea that things only exist once they enter our field of consciousness. At this moment, look straight up. The ceiling or sky you just visually perceived (or mentally perceived if you actually didn’t look up, and are now just thinking about that ceiling above your head) was nowhere to be found in your conscious experience until the moment you perceived it. It had no defined real estate in your consciousness before, but there was certainly the possibility of it appearing in your consciousness. As soon as you bring your awareness to the ceiling, it exists. Your awareness is just like the act of observation in the experiment, calling forth a specific entity from the nebula of possibility. Consciousness has to filter down the possibilities of reality and present us only with what is of the highest importance. It is energetically impractical do discretely define all of reality, we must operate with a nebulous or probabilistic understanding of most things at most times. Light only behaves as a particle when it is forced to, when the act of observation demands certainty. We trade variety, novelty, and open possibility for limited but discrete understanding.

Like I said, don’t trust me on this. This is no more than a neophyte thinking out loud. However, I do hope it makes you think for yourself.

Best explorations

-Ryan; 5/10/2020

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A New Psychology

Preface: This will be my first post digging into Nietzsche. Nietzsche is incredibly deep and it is easy to spend hours on one passage. However, there is usually a point when it clicks. A point when I understand (on some amateur level) the profundity of his ideas. So don’t feel inferior if you have to read his quotes five times for some intro level of understanding, you are in good company. And it is well worth your time. So let this stand as my simple interpretation. It should by no means be considered the only interpretation nor a correct interpretation.

All psychology so far has got stuck in moral prejudices and fears.” – Nietzsche

Nietzsche believed we had not even come close to honestly broaching the spectrum of psychology. That we have only been playing on the surface of an ocean with tremendous depth – “insofar as it is permissible to recognize in what has been written so far a symptom of what has so far been kept silent.” He states, “A proper physio-psychology has to contend with unconscious resistance in the heart of the investigator.” This approach to psychology depends on the reciprocal nature of the opposites. It requires a temperament that treats the “wicked” drives with the same care and righteousness displayed to those “good” drives. This view is a complete and total acceptance of evil, of suffering, and of all that would fall under the ever-changing umbrella of ‘bad.’ “If, however, a person should regard even the affects of hatred, envy, covetousness, and the lust to rule as conditions of life, as factors which, fundamentally and essentially, must be present in the general economy of life (and must, therefore, be further enhanced if life is to be further enhanced) – he will suffer from such a view of things as from seasickness.” Here, Nietzsche warns this understanding is not to be taken lightly. For he is asking us to level what we have grown to assess as good and evil. Unification of opposites is no small request! However, if one can come to terms, it provides a new arena for advancement and understanding of the psyche. 

Speaking from a perspective of appraisement, good deeds must stand in contrast to evil deeds. There is simply no ground on which to discriminate good if one does not maintain the the polarity, evil. I would like to make this idea more concrete. First, examine yourself. Your emotions. How do you currently feel, right now? Comfortable, tired, restless, joyful, depressed, excited, etc. Now consider how you felt 24 hours ago. Realize there is some sort of line connecting how you felt yesterday to how you feel right now. This is not to say you can’t dramatically change moods or you can’t remain relatively emotionally constant, but to point out the connection of your emotional states through time. Now realize this line does not only connect the two simple states you identified 24 hours apart. It connects the continuum of emotional states you exist in from moment to moment. If you were somehow able to assign a number to your overall emotional state every hour, with 0 being the absolute worst most horrible, depressed state imaginable, and 10 being pure bliss, you could construct a table of values. Then if we connected those discrete points you would have a crude visual representation of the emotional ride you had been on for the last 24 hours. It might look something like this.

Visualization of emotional status throughout a day

Now take this same idea and extend it over two days, a week, a month, a lifetime. We are simply zooming out from the above graph.

Visualization of emotional status over an extended period of time

The y-axis of ‘Emotional Rating’ is completely unique to you. My graph may have a value of 10 at some point in time because I had a great night of sleep (big sleep guy). Another day my 10 might be because a loved one’s cancer went into remission. And maybe your 10 is simply because you were able to have a hot meal today. Our emotional states are completely relative to our experience and perceptions. They are subjective. There is also a concept of emotional inertia or momentum. This is the idea that it is easier to make a ‘good’ choice after a previous ‘good’ choice; likewise it is easier for a ‘bad’ choice follow a prior ‘bad’ choice. In our graph this would be represented as an event’s likelihood to affect our rating. If your are currently at a 10, some minor annoyance may not have the emotional valence to drop you down to a 9. So you keep cruising right along at 10. On the other hand, if you were trending down from 7 to 6, that same minor annoyance may shoot you down to 3. Graphically, this is giving weight to the derivative of our emotional rating curve. 

This is a laborious explanation in order to drive home the point that your present state is unique, incredibly complex, and also relative. Here is the pay off of this exercise: Think of another person. Maybe in your house, maybe across the world. Now realize their “Emotional Rating” graph is equally complex and unique to them, but also connected to yours through time. At every point along your graph, billions of people are experiencing their own unique drama. Your particular rollercoaster of a graph is built from your range of emotions but it is only the smallest slice of the world’s emotions. We each exist at every point in time, holding space in another’s world. When we are at a 10, having the day of our lives, there are millions of people across the world experiencing 0’s, trying to see just the smallest of touch of hope. Fighting to feel the tick back up the scale.

Let’s close with a return to Nietzsche and an abstraction of our graphs. Nietzsche claims when we approach psychology from this perspective, “we sail right over morality.” Now imagine our graph, but the y-axis is no longer ‘Emotional Rating.’ Now the 0 and the 10 simply represent any pair of opposites. For example, 0 = ‘Good’, 10 = ‘Evil’ , and all numbers in-between represent the spectrum of possibilities between the polarities. You could do the same exercise, assigning values to different aspects of your experience. The unifying principle remains. While you may be experiencing a 10, someone across the world is experiencing (at the same time!) a 0. This is why we all exist for each other, we hold space for each other. We hold the 10 while someone else is experiencing the harmony of 0, hoping to one day experience the 0 ourselves. The existence of the 0 requires the existence of the 10. Good requires evil. In this new psychology we must appreciate and equally value the complexity and different requirements of our existence. We cannot favor the 0 nor the 10, good nor evil. In this way, “we sail right over morality.” The psychologist who “makes this sacrifice…will at least be entitled to demand in return that psychology shall be recognized again as the queen of sciences, for whose service and preparation the other sciences exist. For psychology is now again the path to the fundamental problems.

All of the above quotes come from aphorism 23 of Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future, Walter Kaufmann edition. Thanks for reading.

Best explorations

-Ryan; 4/16/2020