Quantum Reality vs Statistical Reality

Warning: All my assertions in this post are a conjecture based on my readings of quantum literature and acquaintance with the field of statistics; that said, I think you will find my conclusions both persuasive and interesting.

One thing we can learn from quantum theories is that quantum reality is discontinuous and fundamentally unpredictable at the level of individual particles. So how is it that our macro reality appears to us to be smoothly continuous and somewhat predictable? Why is there such a disconnect between quantum reality and macro reality, when everything around us, including ourselves, is made from these particles?

I do not intend to question the tenets of quantum theories, no matter how nonintuitive or outlandish some of them seem to us. Those theories were engendered by better minds than mine in attempts to explain the uncanny accuracies of their observations and predictions (though only at a statistical level; more about that later on). I do intend to humbly suggest an explanation that might bridge the disconnect between observed quantum and macro realities.

Everything, molecules, atoms, and electrons, is composed of quarks, leptons, and bosons: stars, planets, moons, people, animals, plants, oceans, mountains, clouds, … everything. But quarks, leptons, and bosons behave one way; everything else behaves significantly differently.

My conjecture is that, at macro levels, observations can only be statistical in nature; that is, they summarize the actions and behaviors of clusters of individual quantum particles and forces over time. In most cases, these statistical summaries create continuous mathematical or algorithmic functions. These continuous functions are what our very low-resolution senses and brains observe.

There is only one reality, and that reality is quantum, and it is not multi-level, at least until a better theory comes around.

To me, the ramifications are significant: there is something hiding at the quantum level that is responsible for what we can observe as life and consciousness.

Unless there is something that I’m missing.

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How Do You Deal with Your Ignorance?

“How do you deal with your ignorance?” I had just asked my good friend. He seemed taken aback by my question. After all, I surmised, he was a Professor Emeritus and I was a Bachelor of Arts. He was knowledgeable in more subjects than I could shake a stick at, modest and inscrutable to boot. I was also a guest in his home.

This was about three years ago. What caused me to remember this potentially embarrassing incident just now? I had been wondering what kind of questions should I be asking? More precisely, if I had been allowed to ask only one question of someone who could answer any question I asked, but only once, what should that question be. I even googled that precise question and received all kinds of stupid wasteful questions. I’ll leave it to you, my readers, to guess what those questions were or to google it and see for yourselves.

Anyway, back to my good friend. Immediately after I had asked him the question, a thought insinuated itself in my mind that he might feel insulted by it. This might have explained the seconds of uncomfortable silence that ensued.

I rushed to explain myself to my friend before he might respond. “Please don’t misunderstand my meaning or intent,” I hastened to say. “I know that your knowledge and experience are orders of magnitude more than mine; however, when I think about what I know or think I know, although others might find it useful or interesting, I find that I am less interested in what I know than what I have yet to know or what I’ll probably never know. In other words, I am more interested in my ignorance than my knowledge. In the spirit of Socrates, it seems to me that the knowledge of both the best of us and the least of us is somewhere between nil and minuscule, but our ignorance is infinite. We can chip away at our ignorance, but it will always be infinite. So, I ask myself, how should one deal with his ignorance? Run toward it? Run away from it? Ignore it? Cover it up, hoping no one will see it? There’s also the practical side of the question. I was a professional consultant. My clients paid me for what I knew. Should I tell them I don’t know the answer to their questions, but I know how to know the answer probably quicker than them, because knowledge is a process. This was the spirit in which I asked you how you deal with your ignorance.”

My good friend exhaled and smiled. What ensued was a lively dialectic of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis all afternoon into the evening.

Thinking back on that afternoon-evening, I’d say, that’s the best single question I could ask.

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WARNING (Climbing onto my soapbox)

I watched an interesting documentary this morning about fake news, fast and slow thinking, ‘us’ versus ‘them’, and Russians hacking our minds to sow confusion and division among us. Many of the ideas were drawn from the book below (which I read). The core problem is that we all have two modes of thinking: fast mode and slow mode. Both serve us well, but in different situations. Fast mode may be used when we don’t have time to thoroughly think things through, to analyze the data, compare, verify or validate, pick the best or optimum of alternatives, etc; for instance, when a lion is chasing us, we’re surrounded by enemies, a car just swerved into our lane, or our aircraft ran out of gas at 10,000 feet. Slow mode may be used when fast mode doesn’t come up with a viable solution, the problem is too complex for simplistic solutions, or the problem is important or consequential and you have the time to consider the risks and/or opportunities.

Unfortunately, most of us prefer or fall into fast mode thinking due to laziness, ignorance, or inability to operate in slow mode. Also, there are a few of us who can’t get out of slow mode thinking to save ourselves, when there’s no time to analyze, compare, verify, validate, etc.

Fast-mode thinkers are highly vulnerable to fake news, us versus them, Russian mind hacking, and snake-oil salesmen and politicians. The results of this vulnerability can range from a few people getting swindled to riots, looting, and lynching, to outright civil war. We are all vulnerable to inappropriate fast mode thinking; not just Republicans and Trump supporters – also Dems and everyone else, from elementary school drop-outs to PhD’s, scientists, philosophers, and religious leaders.

Politicians exploit fast mode thinking to garner votes. Social media and other advertisers exploit fast mode thinking to sell products and services, and Russia (and China) exploit fast mode thinking to weaken our democratic institutions and our unity.

Of course, slow-mode thinkers are vulnerable to lions, enemies, driving fast on freeways, and flying planes, unless they know how to turn on their fast mode.

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A Theory of Reality that Makes Sense

Just to be clear, what you are reading is an opinion. It doesn’t matter whose, but it happens to be mine.

The universe in which we live is fundamentally rational. It has been postulated that the universe is lazy. It is lazy in that it will expend the minimum work possible to cause an effect. That implies that the universe operates rationally because it would require more effort and energy to operate irrationally; for example, instead of an object following a straight line in a flat universe with nothing else near enough to affect it, it suddenly stops, jinks left or right or up or down, or disappears altogether. Something else might cause the object to do those things, but that would require an extra cause to change its course.

What about people, animals, and plants? What about bacteria, single cells, ribosomes, mitochondria, and viruses? Are they rational? They are all part of the universe.

According to a widely accepted theory, the universe contains matter, energy, and forces organized as an open system, but it contains within it both open and closed systems. Open systems disintegrate over time. Matter is attracted to other matter when it’s close enough to have an effect. When this happens with enough matter nearby, a closed system may be formed. The lipid envelope of a virus, the lipid cell walls, the chambers of our hearts and other organs, oyster shells, the skins of animals and people, the cellulose of plants, the wood bark of trees, cars, houses, airplanes, submarines, rocket ships, earth, and the sun are examples of closed systems.

In a closed system, the rules are different. As I wrote previously, living systems are examples of closed systems. Living systems depend on mitochondria and ATP from the sun (photosynthesis) or food to provide the energy required for cells to replicate, produce heat, grow, do repairs, and to keep their internal environment at levels that allow them to survive (homeostasis). Living systems integrate matter during birth and growth but, at some point, growth stops and, later begins to decay until they die. At that point, they begin to decay. Eventually, as skin, the walls of organs, and cell walls disintegrate, what was a closed system becomes an open system once again, rejoining the universe and its rational laws.

So, while we are closed systems, why don’t we behave rationally? That’s a good question, but that’s not what I want to discuss here. What I want to discuss are theories, specifically theories that attempt to explain how our universe works, at the macro level, at the micro-level, and at our level. Theories are not immutable truths. Theories are approximations and they are provisional. It has been said that the attributes of a good theory are [1] that it interprets and explains something more or better than what was previously known and [2] that it predicts what that thing will do more accurately than previous theories.

Newton’s theories about gravity were pretty good. The math equations made fairly good predictions and the explanations seemed to cover a lot of different situations.

Einstein’s theories of relativity were better than Newton’s because his equations made better predictions over longer distances (light from a distant star and time dilation from different relative speeds). Einstein’s explanations seemed counter-intuitive, but they explained more phenomena (except for the micro-level); however, Einstein’s math breaks down where black holes, traveling faster than the speed of light, and lengths or times less than a Planck constant are concerned. What that means is that the math equations come up with an answer of infinity in those situations, and there are no infinities in the physical universe.

Quantum theories were better than Einstein’s theories at the micro-level where gravitational forces don’t seem to work and discovered particles more fundamental than protons and neutrons (quarks and bosons). Schrödinger’s and others’ equations predicted the behavior of quantum particles more accurately than any previous theories. The problem with quantum theories is in the interpretation and explanation of what’s going on at the quantum level. According to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, we can’t know both the position and the momentum of a particle with absolute precision. The more accurately we know the one, the less accurately we know the other. We can only predict where a particle is or will be, statistically. The math deals with the probability waves of particles, rather than the particles themselves.

Many of the explanations of quantum theories have been so outlandish (objects can be in two places at the same time, coherence, consciousness causing collapse, entanglement, cats being both dead and alive depending on whether we saw it or not, and a new universe generated for each particle state) that many quantum physicists would prefer to just stick to the math predictions and leave the explanations to someone else.

The Holy Grail of physics would be a Theory of Everything that would tie quantum theories together with the theory of relativity. String Theory has made a valiant attempt at that but, so far, no cigar. String Theory’s explanations are far less outlandish than quantum theories, but they don’t predict anything, and they haven’t even generated any testable hypotheses.

Oh yes, another attribute of a good theory is that it is falsifiable. That means it can be reliably tested (and the test can be repeated over and over, producing the same results each time) and proven true or false.

I believe that once we understand how the universe really works, our explanations of it will be more rational than they are today.

We live in interesting times.

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(in)Dependence Day

Today is Independence Day in Israel. The date moves around on your Gregorian calendars every year because Israel’s official calendar is the Hebrew lunar calendar. As Wikipedia explains it: “Independence Day is designated to be on the 5th day of Iyar (ה’ באייר) in the Hebrew calendar, the anniversary of the day on which Israeli independence was proclaimed, when David Ben-Gurion publicly read the Israeli Declaration of Independence. The corresponding Gregorian date was 14 May 1948.” See Independence_Day_(Israel). Many countries, especially those that had been colonized, celebrate their Independence Days; for example, the 4th of July in the USA.

Independence is a wonderful feeling and most people around the world want it for themselves, although it is most often achieved and maintained only with blood, sweat, and tears. This is well-known.

There are limits to independence. Most often it starts at the country level (if it starts at all). Then there may develop strongly held differences of opinion along the way, and half the country wants to secede from the union. There was a bloody civil war in America, which almost resulted in America splitting into two countries. But it doesn’t have to stop there. Anywhere there are people with differing opinions or interests that are strongly held, let’s say stronger than the bonds that hold people together, there is a possibility that that group might want to detach itself from the larger group and become independent. Pushed to absurdity, every tribe, clan, or family might want (and be willing to fight for) its independence. John Donne wrote, “No man is an island”, and yet every man might want to be his own country. There are limits to independence, which reasonable men and women generally accept.

But I want to talk about something else: our dependence on each other. Once a people achieve independence and have their own country, they realize how dependent they are on each other, no matter where they came from, who they are, or what they believe or think. We all need an army to defend us. The army needs its countrymen to support it and to fill its ranks. We need religions to remind us of our moral and ethical responsibilities and our historical and spiritual roots, and religions need all of us to support and defend them. We need a government to lead and protect us, to provide services and infrastructure, and to deal with other countries diplomatically or militarily. The government needs its citizens to support it and to keep it honest and effective. We need the police, doctors and nurses, teachers, mechanics, farmers, fishermen, importers and exporters, pilots, cab drivers, truck drivers, trash and garbage collectors, and the list goes on and on. It’s easy for us to imagine how miserable we would be if they weren’t there; just remember the times some of them went on strike.

As a matter of fact, I propose we establish a new holiday. Yes, I know there are already more holidays than there are days in a year. So, I propose yet another holiday, which I’d call “Dependence Day”. On that day, at least once a year, we should recognize all the people on whom we depend, especially the ones we don’t generally think about, with all the speeches, dancing in the streets, fireworks, etc. that they deserve.

Think about this when you deprecate or ignore the needs or aspirations of one group or another: only when everyone does what he can, can we all exist.

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On Being Us

After reading Anil Seth’s brilliant yet surprisingly accessible book, “Being You, A New Science of Consciousness”, I gleaned the following important take-aways. This is not a book report or book review; for that, I would refer you to Anil Seth’s theory of consciousness by SelfAwarePatterns.

My take-aways are as follows:

  1. That evolution populates our genes to look after our bodies first and foremost. Our survival depends on maintaining our body’s respiration, temperature, integrity, food, hydration, reproduction, energy, material, and all the other critical parameters required by life. If we don’t respect the upper and lower bounds of the conditions of our existence, we will cease to exist.
  • Following close behind #1, evolution loads our genetic dice with awareness of our world, filled with enemies and friends. We don’t seem to be equipped with an ability to perceive reality as it really is, but we appear to be able to build more-or-less useful models of reality that we can tweak to minimize dissonances between our models and what really is or is not. Enemies are people, animals, or things that might harm or kill us. Friends are people, animals, or things that might help or save us. The rest of the world consists of people, animals, or things that might be enemies or friends. We must be wary of the rest of the world. We shouldn’t trust them because they might be enemies and we shouldn’t harm or kill them because they might be friends.
  • Those who resist or lack their genetic lessons run the risk of losing their gene pool privileges and memberships.

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The God Card

God is a wild card. He trumps all other cards. He can change the direction of the passing of turns among players. He can change any rule in the game. There is nothing God can’t do. He is not bound by any rules or any laws, neither laws of physics nor laws of logic. I would not willingly play in a game which allowed God cards. Would you?

We are the remaining cards in the deck. We are subject to all the rules in the game. We can do some things but there are many things we can’t do. We can break the laws of logic, left and right, but we cannot break any laws of physics.

There is no proof that God exists, no matter how much we’d like it to be true. Neither is there any proof that God doesn’t exist. The God theory is neither verifiable nor falsifiable.

Logic and mathematics are formal systems of thought and description. Physics and the scientific method are pragmatic systems of description and experimentation. Logic, mathematics, physics, and the scientific method are rational systems of thought; however, it should be noted and remembered that logic and mathematics are built on unproven and possibly unprovable assumptions and foundations called “axioms”. The correctness of those axioms can only be verified by the correctness and consistency of the theorems and assertions derived from them.

The belief in a God who is all-powerful, all-knowing, who created the universe, who is just, who cares about each and everyone of us (or just the ones who believe in Him), who moves in mysterious ways, who is indescribable and unknowable, is an irrational system of thought.

When we love someone or something, we find it difficult (if not impossible) to quantify or set his/her/its value or to rationally compare that value to some other value. If we were asked to assign a numeric value to our love, we’d probably reply that it was infinite. “Infinite” literally means “uncountable”. We trust those we love not to harm us, not to do anything we wouldn’t do. Neither love nor trust are rational behaviors. FBI statistics in 2011 indicated almost 25% of murders were committed by family members and over 54% of murders were committed by someone the victim knew (https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/offenses-known-to-law-enforcement/expanded/expanded-homicide-data).

Should we frisk our family members, boyfriends, and girlfriends at the door or have our food analyzed for poisons before eating? Probably not. I wouldn’t be willing to live in a world without love. Would you?

Trust, however, is a borderline issue. If I love you, I trust you. Everyone else has to earn my trust, just as I would imagine that I have to earn everyone else’s trust. Still, trust should be treated as a vulnerability, a willing blind-spot in our risk management and situational awareness strategies.

Courage is irrational, as are other forms of self-sacrifice. What kind of world would we live in today if no one acted courageously? What kind of world will we live in tomorrow if no one is courageous?

Artistic creativity is irrational. So is our response to it.

True generosity and charity are irrational.

Humans are capable of both rational and irrational thoughts and behaviors. Over countless generations both behaviors have been finely honed to maximize our chances of survival. There may be individual instances, however, in which we act irrationally when we should have acted rationally and, of course vice-versa.

Mike Stone

September 9, 2021

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The Illusion of Consciousness

What follows is a conjecture, my conjecture, not someone else’s peer-reviewed fact-checked observation or theory, although some other person may very well have come up with some or all of the ideas I am presenting.

Consciousness itself is not an illusion. Consciousness exists. It is a phenomenon. But what is this phenomenon? It is not a presentation of reality, but a presentation of an illusion of reality. The illusion seems correlated to the limited segments of reality we can perceive.

We seem to be able to “see through” the illusion if we think about it rationally, but we are unequipped to perceive the actual reality on the other side of our consciousness.

I am not just talking about the physical limitations of our senses of sight, sound, touch, smell, or taste, although they are the root cause of our limitations. We build instruments of measurement that extend our perceptions, but they will probably never be good enough to present to us raw reality such as it really is.

We walk on the ground, thinking it is solid unless there is an earthquake, but neither the ground nor we are solid. The particles that make up the ground and our bodies are separated from each other like the stars and planets in the night sky but at much smaller scales.

The sea or lake in which we swim is also an illusion. The particles making up the water are separated from each other.

On the other hand, it could very well be that those elementary particles are not solid, but probability waves or energetic perturbations in a field extending throughout the universe or virtual particles and anti-particles popping into and out of existence in the vacuum of space.

You look at a red apple. You give it to your girlfriend, Eve. She sees it’s red too. At least she says so. But there is no such thing as red or any other color. We see certain colors because that’s how the rods in our eyes respond to certain electromagnetic radiation wavelengths in the light reflected off the things we look at. We can’t see infrared or ultraviolet, but we have built instruments that can “see” IR or UV and present it to us as some color we can see.

We go to concerts to listen to music, which is made up of tones, beats, and rests. But there are no such things as tones, beats, or rests. We hear tones and beats because that is how the tympanic membrane and the cilia in our inner ear respond to vibrations in the air, water, or solid. The rests are just the absence of auditory sensations for a certain duration of time.

You taste a juicy steak or smell something lemony. You touch another person, flesh to flesh. I have no intention of deflating these experiences for you, but you get the idea. You can see through the illusion, but we have no desire to do so.

What about space and time, or spacetime? Are there discrete chunks of it or is it continuous? Scientists currently believe the smallest thing that can be measured is a Planck Length, which is equal to the diameter of a proton divided by 10 followed by 20 zeroes. The smallest moment that can be measured is a Planck Time, which is the length of time it takes to travel a Planck Length at the speed of light. According to quantum theory, anything smaller would be impossible to measure and meaningless.

For what it’s worth, I’d put my dollar on space and time being infinitely divisible or, in other words, continuous. My reasoning is that if you posit that spacetime or space and time are discrete and chunky, then there must be something beneath spacetime, to which space and time are “pinned”. Call it whatever you want. Call it reality, unless of course, reality is pinned to some other underlying medium.

We could regress like this ad infinitum and all that we know of reality through our consciousness is an elaborate illusion.

Mike Stone

June 23, 2021

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In the Valley of Elah & More — Mike Stone

Posted on  by The BeZine Editors

Variants - Digital Work - Miroslava Panayotova
Variants – Digital Work – Miroslava Panayotova

The Irony of Plowshares

In the Middle East
If you want to prepare for peace
You must first prepare for war
Because peace must be waged
With the same seriousness of intent as war
And there are as many obstacles and pitfalls
On the path to peace as there are along the path to war.
A weak man cannot forge peace because
His weakness tempts his enemies to attack
And weak are the sabre rattlers
Hoping to frighten their enemies
With simulations of disproportionate force.
Their fears and uncertainties blind them
To the path of peace.
Only a strong man is confident and sees clearly.
He walks calmly along the path
Narrow as the razor's edge.
The path to peace meanders through Gaza
Where we've been eyeless and
Our plow shares will be made out of swords,
Neither flowers
Nor gentle breezes.

		September 28, 2016

Ode to the Common Man

This is not a tale that Homer’d tell of
Achilles, hero of the Achaean army,
Paris, jack of hearts and Troy’s downfall,
Or Odysseus, errant lord of Ithaca,
No, this is an ode to common men
On whose backs history marches
But of whom little or nothing is recorded,
Who follow heroes to untimely deaths,
Who mimic their brave gestures and rousing phrases
Until a roar rises up from countless throats
To cow those who would think more rationally,
Common men who stand against uncommon men,
Common men who march stridently in endless waves
Toward the future facing backward,
Common men who’d be their heroes
If only they were common too.

			December 30, 2019

In the Valley of Elah

In the Valley of Elah, not far from Gat
A young Philistine puts a smooth stone
In the pouch of his sling with one hand, 
Pulls the leather thongs taut with his other hand,
And swings the stone over his head,
Releasing its lethal trajectory
At a squad of helmeted shielded soldiers
Patrolling the rocky hills.
It is always the same play –
Sometimes we are David and
Sometimes we are Goliath.

			February 12, 2021

©2021 Mike Stone
All rights reserved


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It’s out!

Poetry! Read it. Write it. There’s nothing quite like it. Although it’s not provable in a court of law and it won’t get us to Mars and back on a single tank of gas, poetry has an unfair advantage over every other form of writing when it’s good. When it is inspired, it leaps high in the sky over every obstacle.

Inspiration is what we demand from the poetry we read, neither rhyme nor meter will suffice. Inspiration cannot be cranked out or forced. Like the ancient Greek Muses of the arts and sciences, she will come when she comes, if she comes at all. All a poet can do is to make himself (or herself) worthy of the Muse, and perhaps she will find him (or her).

My seventh book of poetry, “What’s a Nice Muse like You Doing in a Place like This?” is hot off the Amazonian presses today. It’s available in paperback for the more physically inclined readers. For the more spiritually inclined, it’s also available in Kindle (digital download) format.

Mike Stone

June 13, 2021

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