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The Observer Effect In Quantum Physics
The “observer effect” (sometimes called the measurement problem) suggests that the act of observing (or measuring) something requires a change in the behavior or properties of what you are observing, which is not what you are observing. In your everyday normal experiences. A red traffic light will not immediately change to green because you are looking at it and want it to. Measuring how much sugar is in your sugar-jar does not change the amount of sugar in it.
Of course there are characteristics of yourself that could in theory influence what you are observing. You have mass and thus gravity; You are slightly radioactive; Many other things, mainly photons, are emanating from you (eg – infra-red or heat photons) or bouncing off you (eg – visible light photons, etc.). But the net effect on what you’re observing is so minimal as to be almost non-existent. And in any event, it’s pretty much non-computable, as is everything else in that object’s environment, and that means the entire visible universe, even mass, is slightly radioactive and emits and/or gives off photons. Both electromagnetic radiation and gravity are potentially infinite in range and no object can escape their effects. Your influence is small compared to the rest of the visible universe!
The question really arises, what is the difference between you when you are looking at something (eyes open) and when you are not seeing that thing (with your eyes closed or your back turned)? This applies to detectors like cameras, which for our purposes are also considered ‘observers’. Does a camera with the shutter open have a different effect on what is photographed than when the shutter is closed? No, shutter/eyes open vs shutter/eyes closed makes no difference whether or not the inspection is in progress. Even if you or the camera have exactly the same mass (gravity), radioactivity or photon emission/reflection with eyes/shutter open vs eyes/shutter closed.
Unfortunately for this excellent line of reasoning, there is one scenario where it is proven that the act of observing changes the behavior of the thing being observed. That is the famous, or infamous double-slit experiment. To make a long story very short, particles fired at two slits exhibit wave behavior (known in the trade as “wave-particle duality”) when they cannot pass through both slits. The nanosecond that an observer makes like a Peeping-Tom transforms wave behavior into discrete particle (ie – bullet) behavior. No glimpses—waves; Piping – Particles.
Apart from that double-slit experiment, there is no observer (or detector) effect! Exceptions to the rule require explanations which I will get to shortly. Meanwhile…
1) If there was such a thing as an “observer effect”, it would only indicate the reality of telekinesis. Telekinesis has never been demonstrated to the satisfaction of the scientific community as a whole.
2) If there was such a thing as an “observer effect”, then no scientist could take any experimental result at face value on the basis that the scientist himself was around to influence the outcome of the experiment.
3) The entirety of the scientific method and all scientific results would be called into question if there really was an “observation effect”. All scientific texts should begin with the disclaimer “What you are about to read may not correspond to actual reality”.
4) Schrödinger’s cat is alive and not dead; Schrödinger’s cat is alive or dead and independent of any observer. By implication, there is no such thing as a true superposition of states and a wave-function perceived by an observer to collapse. Which raises a clear question. In the absence of observers/detectors, what is collapsing all those wave-functions arising from the billions of superpositions-of-states generated daily in the universe?
5) In terms of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle there is no “observer effect” because what changes is independent of any observer. An observer may not know, indeed may not know, both the position and the speed of a particle with precision, but this does not mean that the particle does not have a precise position and a precise speed at any instant. It also indicates that I do not accept the idea that the object in question is both a wave and a particle at the same time in the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.
6) No other quantum mechanical or classical physics process appears to be affected by the presence or absence of any observer. That applies to quantum tunneling; radioactive or neutron decay; creation and destruction of ‘virtual particles’; conservation of mass/energy, momentum, electric charge, etc.; chemical reactions; Speed of light and other physical constants.
My basic premise here is that we ‘exist’ as virtual reality beings in a simulated scenario. Our universe is a computer/software-generated universe by agents or unknown agencies. However, this agent, the simulators, have programmed in enough clues to enable us to figure it all out. That’s assuming we’re intelligent enough to note when things fall into the category of “that’s really weird” then figure out the explanation(s). I suggest that a key set of clues are what we call “exceptions to the rule.”
An exception to the “observer effect” rule is the double-slit experiment. Another is the exception to the speed of light rule that you can otherwise add and subtract velocity to. Dark energy is an exception to the conservation of energy law.
Then there is the weak nuclear force and parity. In the Standard Model of particle physics, the four forces – electromagnetism, gravity, the strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force – exist if you reverse the three parameters of time, charge and parity (left-right). Laws, principles and relationships must still strut their stuff unchanged. And in 11 out of 12, experiments and equations show that. But, in that 12th case, experimental evidence suggests that equality is not equal in the weak nuclear force. I forget now which one it is, but either there is a left bias or a bias to the right (I remember it was a left hand bias) – but in theory there shouldn’t be any bias.
There is another whole set of clues called “anomalies”. These often center around the “I know what I saw” position of the believer and the “it can’t happen therefore it can’t happen” position of the skeptic. However, some inconsistencies are so in your face that something other than “this can’t happen therefore it can’t happen” is needed to explain things. One such anomaly must be the crop ‘circle’ enigma. Another must be Venus, Neth’s missing ‘natural’ satellite. There should be an extraordinary number of rocks on Mars photographed by the third Martian rovers that bear a striking resemblance to real living or intelligently designed objects here on Earth. One or two or even three is to be expected, but when it hits more than a dozen, something bad happens somewhere.
There’s another whole set of clues called “contradictions”:
1) Quantum entanglement is a paradox in that it seems to violate the cosmological speed limit; speed of light.
2) mind/body dualism is contradictory;
3) The universe itself must be one, even though it has two parts – one part quantum and one part gravitational. Two parts that are contradictory cannot be united.
In conclusion, any demonstration of “The Observer Effect” or “The Measurement Problem” can easily be explained by what Hollywood calls “special effects”, something that excels in computer software programming.
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