Not “quantum” thinking!

I’ve noticed that there are several sources that suggest quantum mechanics offer a mechanism by which we can order our lives, by simply “observing” what we choose to observe.  When explained, this can be a very seductive argument, but mostly because any “scientific” explanation is seductive (keep that in mind whenever you hear politicians using science as a reason to pass new taxes).

This optimistic conclusion is reached by mashing a poor interpretation of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle with the observer effect.  Essentially it states that because quantum mechanics defines the location of every particle as a probability (stated by a wave function), and observation causes the wave function to collapse to a particular state, we, as observers, can cause the particles of our uncertain lives to collapse into the state we desire.

First, the observer effect is not peculiar to quantum mechanics, it’s a pretty universal phenomenon, and good experiments will strive to minimize the effect.

As far as uncertainty goes, this optimistic interpretation fails to take into account that the wave function applies to the microscopic universe, not the macroscopic.  The probability applies to individual particles, not entire objects.  Thus, while there is a many trillions-to-one chance it that an individual subatomic particle in a dropped bowling ball will land in Antarctica instead of smashing your toes, in order for the entire bowling ball to land in Antarctica is the product of the probability of EVERY subatomic particle within the bowling ball landing in Antarctica; a number that stretches deeply into the realm of infinity-to-one against.  The actual probability waveform for each individual subatomic particle in the bowling ball is going to show that the lot of them are collectively going to smash down upon your toes.  If one or two errant subatomic particles actually do land in Antarctica, your toes will not notice their absence.

It’s rather like Herr Schrödinger’s cat simply wishing itself to stay alive.  Schrödinger’s whole point was that quantum superposition did not translate well into the real world.

The Physics of Success is based on actual theories of physics, not on a wishful misinterpretation of a couple of individual principles.  It does make a leap of intuition, in using these theories to explain why specific actions yield specific results.

Posted in Physics, Physics of Success