“Bullshit is rhetoric without regard for truth. The liar cares about the truth and attempts to hide it; the bullshitter doesn't care if what they say is true or false; only whether or not their listener is persuaded.”

If you sit still and withdraw attention from your sensorium, another more real world is revealed to you.

The reality that one "sees" when one's eyes are closed is very like the descriptions (though not the mathematics) of quantum mechanics.

*Extracting the Universe from the Wave Function*. Then I watched a more recent version of the same lecture from 2018 delivered at the Ehrenfest Colloquium. The emphasis is different in the two forums and I found that watching both was useful. Both lectures address the philosophy of quantum mechanics, but in a more rigorous way than is popular amongst Buddhists. Sean thinks the Copenhagen interpretation is "

*terrible*" and he convinced me that he is right about this. The value of the lectures is that one can get the outlines of an alternative philosophy of quantum mechanics and with it some decisive critiques of the Copenhagen interpretation. Sean is one of the leading science communicators of our time and does a very good job of explaining this complex subject at the philosophical level.

**What is Quantum Mechanics?**

*n*dimensions, where

*n*is the number of elements in the state. Laplace pointed out that given perfect knowledge of such a state at a given time, one could apply the equations of motion to know the state of the system at any time (past or future).

*The Library of Babel*, by Jorge Luis Borges. (Hat-tip to my friend Amṛtasukha for this comparison).

*wave equation*. There are different ways of writing this equation. Here is one of the common ways:

*i*is the imaginary unit (defined as i

^{2}= -1),

*ħ*is the reduced Planck constant (

*h/2π*). The expression

*δ/δt*represents change over time. Ψ represents the state of the system as a vector in Hilbert Space -- specifying a vector in a space with infinite dimensions presents some interesting problems.

*Ĥ*is the all important Hamiltonian operator which represents the total energy of the system. And note that this is a non-relativistic formulation.

*overview*of the maths in an essay about Buddhism and quantum mechanics.]

Using the fleshy parts of the fingers placed at minima points, it is possible to dampen extraneous vibrations on a guitar string and pick out the harmonics. Such notes have a very different timbre to regular notes. An electron bound to an atom also has "harmonics", though the vibrational modes are three dimensional. One of the striking experimental confirmations of this comes if we split sunlight up into a rainbow, we observe dark patches corresponding to electrons absorbing photons of a precise energy and becoming "excited". One of the first confirmations of quantum mechanics was that Schrödinger was able to accurately predict the absorption lines for a hydrogen atom using it.

*Measurement Problem*.

*was*at that moment. But kicking the ball also sends it careering off and you don't know where it ends up.

*The Big Picture*:

“...almost no modern physicists think that 'consciousness' has anything whatsoever to do with quantum mechanics. There are an iconoclastic few who do, but it's a tiny minority, unrepresentative of the mainstream” (p.166).

**Copenhagen**

*superposition*- literally "one thing on top of another". Superposition is a natural outcome of the Wave Equation; there are huge problems with the Copenhagen interpretation of how mathematical superposition relates to reality.

*gedanken*(thought) experiment involving a cat, this leads to some very counterintuitive conclusions. In my analogy, just before we take a step, the rugby ball is

*both*present and absent. In this view, somehow by stepping into the space, we make the ball "choose" to be present or absent.

*outside*the system, then interacts with it, extracting information, and then at the end is once again separate from the system. In other words, the observer behaves like a

*classic*object while the system being observed is quantum, then classical, then quantum. Hugh Everett pointed out that this assumption of Copenhagen is simply false.

*now*. If someone else now kicks it, then we instantaneously know where the ball was when it was kicked a second time, wherever we happen to be on the field. It's as though we get a GPS reading from the other person sent directly to our phone. If there are two entangled electrons on either side of the universe and we measure one of them and find that it has spin "up", then we also know with 100% certainty that at that same moment in time, the other electron has spin "down". This effect has been experimentally demonstrated so we are forced to accept it until a better explanation comes along. Thus, in Schrödinger's

*gedanken*experiment, we always know from instant to instant what state the cat is in (this is also counter-intuitive, but strictly in keeping with the metaphor as Schrödinger outlined it).

*at all times*. There is no, and can be no, ontological cut off between quantum and classical, even if there is an epistemological cutoff.

*and observer.*There is

*no such thing*as an observer outside the system. But it is even worse because we cannot stop at the observer. The observer interacts with their environment over a period of years before placing the cat in the box. And both cat and box have histories as well. So the system is the cat, the box, the observer, and the entire universe. And there is no way to get outside this system. It's not a matter of

*whether*we (as macro objects) are quantum entangled, but

*to what degree*we are quantum entangled.

*no such things*as classical objects. There are scale thresholds above which classical descriptions start to be more efficient computationally than quantum descriptions, but the world itself is never classical; it is always quantum. There is no other option. We are made of atoms and atoms are not classical objects.

**More on Interpretations**

*The Most Embarrassing Graph in Modern Physics*:

*multiple*Everettian interpretations. And note that several existing interpretations had no supporters amongst those surveyed (the survey was not representative of the field).

In Carroll's account, Copenhagen has fatal flaws because it makes unsupportable assumptions. So what about the alternatives? I found Carroll's explanation of the Everett interpretation in this lecture quite interesting and compelling. It has the virtue of being parsimonious.

*the world*cause "decoherence". If there are two possible outcomes — ball present at this location, ball somewhere else — then both happen, but decoherence means that we only ever see one of them . The other possibility also occurs, but it is as though the world has branched into two worlds: one in which the ball is present and we kick it, and one in which it is somewhere else and we do not kick it. And it turns out that having split in this way there is no way for the two worlds to interact ever again. The two outcomes are orthogonal in Hilbert Space.

**Scale (again)**

^{-9}m). But at this level, the physical dimensions of an object become problematic because the location in space is governed by quantum mechanics and is a

*probability*. Indeed, the idea of the water molecule as an "object" is problematic. The classical description of the world breaks down at this scale. The average radius of a hydrogen atom at rest is calculated to be about 25 picometres or 25x10

^{-12}m, but we've already seen that the location of the electron circling the hydrogen nucleus is a probability distribution. We define the radius in terms of an arbitrary cut off in

*probability*. The estimated radius of an electron is less than 10

^{−18}m (though estimates vary

*wildly*). And we have to specify a resting state atom, because in a state of excitation the electron probability map is a different shape. It hardly makes sense to think of the electron as having a fixed radius or even as being an object at all. An electron might best be thought of as a perturbation in the electromagnetic field.

*is no classical world*, there is only a quantum world. Subatomic particles are just manifestations of Hilbert Space and the Wave Equation. The world might

*appear*to be classical on some scales, but this is just an appearance. The world is fundamentally quantum, all the time, and on all scales.

Note: for an interesting visualisation the range of scales, see

*The Scale of the Universe*.

**Conclusion**

*discredit*the Copenhagen interpretation. It is presented as the opposite. Again, there is a lack of regard for the truth. Nor do Buddhists ever present criticisms of the Copenhagen interpretations such as those that emerge from Everett's interpretation. Other criticisms are available.

*status*, especially the kind of status derived from being a keeper of secret knowledge. It's past time to call out the bullshitters. They only hurt Buddhism by continuing to peddle bullshit. The irony is that the truth of Buddhism is far more interesting than the bullshit; it's just much harder to leverage for status or wealth.

Frankfurt, Harry G.

*On Bullshit.*Princeton University Press.

For those concerned about the flood of bullshit there is an online University of Washington course

*Calling Bullshit*.

If you have a urge to learn some

*real*physics (as opposed to the bullshit Buddhist physics) then see Leonard Susskind's lecture series

*The Theoretical Minimum*. This aims to teach you only what you need to know to understand and even do physics (no extraneous mathematics or concepts).