Anyone who thinks he understands quantum physics doesn’t understand it.
Thus Richard Feynman argued that his field of expertise was fundamentally incomprehensible. He didn’t mean the quantum mechanics, the mathematics that made unprecedentedly precise predictions about the behavior of atomic objects, but he meant its interpretation. But is this really undeniably true? Is quantum physics really fundamentally incomprehensible? It seems so, but in my opinion that incomprehensibility is rather the result of misunderstandings, misdescriptions and the ingrained belief that the world consists of only solid permanent matter and their interactions.
The misunderstandings and erroneous descriptions (and conclusions) regarding quantum physics that I often encounter in books and articles are certainly not limited to the domains of spiritual literature and/or the popular science media. This confusion does not contribute to the real understanding of quantum physics and what it means for our idea of reality. It is certainly possible to understand quantum physics at the same level of understanding as the understanding of the trajectory of a bullet without having the need for mathematics.
The practical understanding of the bullet’s trajectery and being able to calculate it precisely are very different things. When someone throws you a ball, you won’t do mathemics in order to catch it. In my book I try to explain the meaning of quantum physics without any math involved so that any persistent layman can come to understand it. The many misunderstandings about quantum physics found so often in books and other media hinder such an understanding with their confusing, obscuring and even contradictory statements .
From a brochure for a quantum physics course
As an example of the influence of these obscuring misunderstandings on those who are not quantum physicists, I quote here below the subtitle of a brochure for a workshop in the context of a psychotherapy training: ‘Quantum mechanics and its influence on reality’, organized by Coach & Care, Utrecht , which will be given on January 29, 2023 by Pierre Capel, emeritus professor of immunology:
“Meant only for those who can let go of all certainties and accept that we cannot understand reality.”
When you read something like that, you’d almost give up trying to understand anything about quantum physics already. To compensate for such discouragement, I do present below an overview of typical misunderstandings and misrepresentations around quantum physics and their long overdue corrections.
Misunderstandings and other mind twists around Quantum Physics
- Quantum physics was discovered through research at the atomic scale, but it is not limited to atomic dimensions. Even the behavior of billiard balls is 100% subject to quantum uncertainty after some collisions. Even the moon exists by observing it. Quantum mechanics is the broader theory that fully encompasses classical material Newtonian mechanics.
- Entanglement and telepathy have nothing to do with each other. Information cannot be transported by entanglement and telepathy is obviously the transport of information from one mind to another. Entanglement most likely has to do with the information the observer already has about the particles before they parted.
- The particle-wave duality is often represented as
- either the particle that also behaves like a wave
- or the wave that also behaves like a particle.
This is a wrong and confusing misrepresentation. There is no particle at all until it is observed. At least that’s what delayed choice experiments have shown. Before the observation, only a wave of possibilities oscillating in location and time existed, representing the probability of finding the particle if we tried to observe it at that particular location and time. So, it is either a wave or a particle, but not both at the same time. It is not a particle that also behaves simultaneously like a wave.
- The quantum wave, an oscillating and propagating wave of probabilities is not matter, it is mind-stuff. Probabilities are numbers. Numbers are abstract concepts. Numbers do not exist outside the mind, outside the mind they have no meaning. Numbers are mind-stuff.
- We don’t see the quantum wave itself, ever. Not even with the most advanced instruments. From the results of our experiments we deduce only afterwards that there has been wave behavior.
- The electron fired from a double slit does not pass through both slits. That’s what the non-material quantum wave, which represents the behavior of the electron, does, to pass through two slits. Which is something a wave is able to do. It is only at the detector that the wave ends and the electron manifests itself. So you don’t have to imagine the impossible, a particle in two places at once.
- It is often expressed that, when we observe in a double slit experiment through which slit the particle passes, we ‘see’ particle behavior. This is definitely not what is happening. We still ‘see’ wave behavior. When the passage through the slits is observed, the quantum wave will always be reduced to only one of the slits and thus will not pass through both slits as happens in the standard double-slit experiment. This is quantum reduction, a partial quantum collapse. The wave thus apparently responds to the information that the experimental set-up can provide to the experimenter. But in the end, this is still wave behavior. The wave passes through one of the observed slits – which one is unpredictable – and then expands again until it reaches the detector where the particle then finally materializes. That wave behavior in and after the slit explains very well the single spread-out spot pattern of hits that we see instead of the usual light and dark fringes.
- The all too often expressed idea that particles take all possible paths to the detector at once, clearly contradicts the realistic concept of a particle. However, as a purely mathematical device to predict the numerical probability where the particle will hit the target, the idea is indeed extremely succesfull. But that does not make it a realistic description of the actual state of affairs.
- Delayed choice experiments seem (!) to demonstrate retro-causality. This only seems so because an observer’s ultimate observation of the result in the experiment is ignored as as an important and indispensable component of the experiment. Human observation is always the indispensable final act of a measurement. Without observation and reporting, we know nothing. When observation creates the particle manifestation, it also creates it necessarily with its history included. Incidentally, this creation of time was already implied by the Copenhagen Interpretation which says that it makes no sense to talk about the existence of the particle before the measurement.
- Contrary to what some spiritual teachers advocate, quantum physics does not prove the survival of the mind. But it is perfectly arguable that it supports the survival of the mind after the death of the body. The hypothesis that it is ultimately the mind of the observer that ‘collapses’ the quantum wave on observation is very well defensible, is also often defended and explains many quantum phenomena that are in no way materially explicable. Many of the early quantum physicists more or less openly supported the hypothesis of the quantum wave collapse brought about by the observation made by the non-material mind of the observer. This hypothesis is never proven even a little bit wrong. When this idea is accepted, the logical conclusion must then be that the mind cannot be a product of the brain and therefore has a good chance of surviving the material demise of the brain.
The ten core beliefs that most scientists take for granted without proof
In the context of the above misunderstandings and the search for their cause, it is good to list here the ten core beliefs that most scientists take for granted without evidence and from which – among other things – they try to understand the quantum physical phenomena such as entanglement and quantum collapse. No wonder quantum physics is declared incomprehensible. These ten core beliefs below are taken from ‘Science Set Free’ by Rupert Sheldrake.
- Everything is essentially mechanical. Dogs, for example, are complex mechanisms, rather than living organisms with goals of their own. Even people are machines, “Lumbering robots; in Richard Dawkins’s vivid phrase, with brains that are like genetically programmed computers.
- All matter is unconscious. It has no inner life or subjectivity or point of view. Even human consciousness is an illusion produced by the material activities of brains.
- The total amount of matter and energy is always the same (with the exception of the Big Bang, when all the matter and energy of the universe suddenly appeared).
- The laws of nature are fixed. They are the same today as they were at the beginning, and they will stay the same forever.
- Nature is purposeless, and evolution has no goal or direction.
- All biological inheritance is material, carried in the genetic material, DNA, and in other material structures.
- Minds are inside heads and are nothing but the activities of brains. When you look at a tree, the image of the tree you are seeing is not “out there,” where it seems to be, but inside your brain.
- Memories are stored as material traces in brains and are wiped out at death.
- Unexplained phenomena such as telepathy are illusory.
- Mechanistic medicine is the only kind that really works.
Also watch this YouTube video of Sheldrake’s presentation at the EU2013 Thunderbolts Conference where he courageously discusses and demolishes these dogmas of science in his characteristic friendly humorous way.
And what about the multiverse?
If you read the above list of dogmas carefully, you will probably understand where this mad multiversa hypothesis comes from. Just invent more matter.
Fear? For what?
The vehement opposition of materialistic persons to the idea that the mind of the perceiver is an active factor in quantum phenomena is not based on fact. It is the result of a belief that everything can and must be explained from permanent matter and the interaction between them only. That’s an ingrained belief, not a proven fact. According to these believers, things that cannot be explained from their belief in permanent matter can not exist or should in any case not do so. Because of the vehemence of their resistance, it is most likely based on some deeply hidden fear. The question is what that fear is.
Paul J. van Leeuwen graduated in applied physics in Delft TU in 1974. There was little attention to the significance of quantum physics for the view on reality at that time. However, much later in his life he discovered that there is an important and clear connection between quantum physics and consciousness.
What he learned between then and today resulted in a post academic course in quantum physics for non-physicists. A little bit later he decided to put the contents of that course, and more, in a book published in Dutch: Kwantumfysica, Informatie en Bewustzijn – and started a website on the subject. He translated the Dutch version of his book in English, titled: ‘Quantum Physics is NOT Weird’.