Next chapter in the book is called “Remnants of Wave Theory”, but before I move on I have another idea related to yesterday’s post and I want to put it down to paper while it’s still fresh. The discussion was about instant rather than constant speed of light and the illusion of one body moving through space rather than the soul taking succession of new bodies. The illusion of movement gave rise to the illusion of space, and I mean our 3D, physical space, and then building entire modern science on this illusory perception.
But “science works, b*tches!” – in immortal words of Richard Dawkins. Okay, but it works in the same way Fun Fiction works, too. Fan Fiction is literature produced by fans of comic books or movies. Fans love their characters and stories and the world their fictional heroes live and they can’t get enough of it so they don’t wait for official releases of new comics or movie sequels but rather create their own stories filling the gaps or taking characters on new adventures. These new stories go through a peer review process and if they pass, that is they don’t break the rules of the original “universe” and don’t deviate from character roles, they are declared “canonical”. They become a part of the “canon” even if they are not included into the officially released narrative.
The original stories that fans come to love are real, they satisfy fans desires, and Fan Fiction satisfies their desires just the same. Some of it is not up to scratch but some of it really works, so good Fan Fiction is as real as the original. The only difference is that with fiction we know that it’s just a story from the start but with science we don’t, though children believing in Santa Claus are an example that not all story telling is taken as an illusion. There was just nobody around to tell Ancient Greeks that their idea of space was illusory and if there were these people were not taken seriously. And now, two thousand years on, we continue to treat this scientific fan fiction as real, but so do people who go to Comic-Con dressed up as Star Wars characters.
Our science based civilization is pretty old but it’s by no means the only civilization built on distinct worldviews. In fact, science started to matter to people only in a last couple of hundred years because before that they relied on their faith in Christ as the reason for their prosperity. Over in Asia there were huge empires that lasted for hundreds of years and they relied on their faith in different Gods, from Allah to Viṣṇu to Śiva to Kali to Buddha. They didn’t know our science and they were very prosperous and they naturally thought that it was because they figured out how the world works and how to get God’s favors.
Now we think they were stupid and we are the ones who know the real secret, and we call it science. We also think that scientific progress will be linear and defy the rule that everything that comes up must come down and all empires eventually crumble. Sure, those other empires crumbled – because they didn’t know the secret but we do and so we are immune. Well, western civilization is already crumbling. Science needs freedom and democracy to prosper, we’ve been told, but democracy had lost its shine in many parts of the world already and as the world looks at the rise of Trump or Brexit it really starts to think that Chinese or Putin models are superior. Russians just negotiated a peace deal in Syria without inviting Americans, and China, Russia, and Pakistan recently had a negotiation over Afghanistan to curb influence of India there and no one missed Americans at that meeting either. Some say that the world as we know it already over, we just don’t realize it yet.
So, modern science is like Fan Fiction – started from an illusion, created more of it, and it works for the purpose. It doesn’t work for self-realization nor for approaching God just like we don’t expect Star Wars to be useful for our jobs.
Back to the book. This is a section on problems in modern science but the chapter starts without accusing science of anything in particular. Before quantum theory people thought light was a wave, like a wave generated by a stone dropped in a pond, and as a wave it propagated in all directions equally. With quantum theory it was confirmed that this model of propagation is incorrect and photons do not arrive at all equidistant locations simultaneously. Okay, sounds believable, but the next sentence needs more information, I think.
The author says that there’s an order in the arrival of photons which quantum theory cannot predict. Maybe so but I have never heard of this problem before and I don’t know how to google it either. Then the book seamlessly switches to a description of a slit experiment. Ah, I know about those, I think, but slit experiments usually demonstrate that light, ie photons, can behave both like waves and like particles. This aspect is completely ignored in the book and something else steals all the focus instead. When light passes through slits, as a wave, I might add, it creates a pattern of interference – one wave breaks into many – and when these new mini-waves reach the screen they leave a pattern of lighter and darker bands, as I would expect many converging waves would. It’s not the kind of slit experiment I was expecting but okay, let’s move on because this is where it gets interesting.
Bright and dark bands show luminosity of light in that location. The number of slits corresponds to measurement procedure and the pattern of bands corresponds to outcome of that procedure, and the point is that if we change the number of slits we change the pattern of bands, too, even though the original light stays the same. The real point is that the outcome of observation depends on the method of observation, not only on the observed object itself.
The author says that there’s much debate whether we should consider slits as part of the measuring instrument, like he does here, or part of the measured system. He then gives a link to another book on the subject where he discusses it at length and I’m not going to follow that link for now, I have enough books on my plate as it is.
The rest of the chapter discusses implications of this crucial point – what we see is not what IS but depends on HOW we look at it, too, and this time it’s demonstrated scientifically, not just from observation of human interactions. Unfortunately, it has to be continued on another day.