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The Universe Damaged By Observation?

Zonk posted more than 5 years ago | from the a-bit-deep-for-me dept.

Space 521

ScentCone writes "The Telegraph covers a New Scientist report about two US cosmologists who suggest that, a la Schrodinger's possibly unhappy cat, the act of observing certain facets of our universe may have shortened its life . From the article: 'Prof Krauss says that the measurement of the light from supernovae in 1998, which provided evidence of dark energy, may have reset the decay of the void to zero — back to a point when the likelihood of its surviving was falling rapidly.'"

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So if I stop looking? (4, Funny)

Finallyjoined!!! (1158431) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457005)

Will it revert?

Or will it turn into a dead cat in a box :-)

Re:So if I stop looking? (1)

Telepathetic Man (237975) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457025)

Or perhaps a very unhappy cat, resistant to cyanide.

Re:So if I stop looking? (4, Funny)

flyingsquid (813711) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457075)

God damn scientists, always threatening our existence with their curiosity! First they had to be all clever and go and invent the atomic bomb, and now they're threatening the entire universe. There's only one way to save ourselves. Quick, everyone grab your torches and sharpen your pitch forks! Everyone will meet in the local town or city center at sunset to form a mob, and then proceed to the local observatory!

Re:So if I stop looking? (5, Insightful)

Zeinfeld (263942) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457331)

Its utter bollocks.

It isn't observation by a sentient being that causes the wave function to collapse, its interaction. The point being made by Schroedinger is that observation inescapably means interaction and thus affecting the quantity being measured.

light from the supernova would be interacting with the earth regardless of whether scientists were there.

Re:So if I stop looking? (3, Funny)

saintsfan (1171797) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457401)

I agree. I'm no scientist, but it sounds like philosophy and science just had a nasty one night stand they will soon regret

Re:So if I stop looking? (4, Funny)

digitig (1056110) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457475)

I agree. I'm no scientist, but it sounds like philosophy and science just had a nasty one night stand they will soon regret
Yes, I expect they would -- philosophy is a parent of science, so a one-night stand between the two would be a pretty bad idea.

If that is true... (4, Funny)

starglider29a (719559) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457007)

Do I also shorten the life of this post by reading it?

Re:If that is true... (5, Funny)

HeavensBlade23 (946140) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457021)

Quick, someone mod him down before he shortens all of our lives!

Re:If that is true... (5, Funny)

Carthag (643047) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457041)

I'm doing my share of shortening the life of the universe by increasing entropy. Right now I'm rubbing my hands together, both in glee, and to create excess heat. Muahahaha.

Re:If that is true... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21457203)

Cut it out, you madman!

Re:If that is true... (3, Funny)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457389)

Strange, when I rub my hands, there are only black, little, soft rods emerging. Is this dark matter everyone keeps talking about?

That explains it (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457089)

always felt that reading slashdot was taking years of my life.

Re:If that is true... (5, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457193)

Do I also shorten the life of this post by reading it?

Don't worry, dupes are on the way...

Let's hope God is a slashdot editor.
     

Re:If that is true... (1)

HP-UX'er (211124) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457259)

I actually laughed out loud ... awesome comment!

No, it makes it longer ... (1)

trolltalk.com (1108067) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457309)

Your post isn't made up of "dark energy", so observing it doesn't shorten its' life - it makes it longer.

Same as a watched kettle takes longer to boil.

Now if your post was from the dark side (for example, you were an M$ employee going on about te lower TCO and energy savings of Vista as it converts your laptop into a toaster oven), your post WOULD have shortened visibility as it quickly sinks to -666.

terrorism! (0)

BamZyth (940235) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457345)

Let's fight a war against all those astrophysicians terrorists! And stop looking at your dick in the mirror, just in case...

Re:If that is true... (5, Funny)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457491)

Do I also shorten the life of this post by reading it?

Dammit! I already made that joke when I submitted the article, and Zonk edited it out of my summary. I thought the whole thing was just silly, but it was such a good opportunity to be a smartass that I submitted it anyway. And look what happens. YOU get all the comedic karma. Perhaps the humor couldn't manifest itself until AFTER the submission had been observed? My original headline was "Mankind damages universe by looking at it," which was far more fun. Oh well.

The phrase (0)

arkham6 (24514) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457031)

"Pull the other one, its got bells on it! comes to mind.

Re:The phrase (5, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457079)

I won't pretend to be an expert, but I don't see how passive observation using the naked eye is any more likely to screw up the universe than passive observation using any number of more scientific methods. If so, just by existing we would cause all the same problems.

Either way, what it really depends on is whether we're inside or outside of the box. If we're outside the box we may cause the events to collapse by observation, but if we're inside the box, then we're fine...As long as the universe doesn't open the box, in which case we're either fine or dead or both.

Re:The phrase (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21457255)

So does the phrase "Physicists who believe in string theory are complete fucking morons"

On first glance... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21457035)

Upon the first reading of the summary, this sounds retarded.

We don't send out EM to study the cosmos, we look at EM radiation that was already coming to us. What's the difference between harmlessly absorbing this radiation and measuring it with scientific instruments? The fact that we think about it?

What am I missing here?

Re:On first glance... (1)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457139)

I rather think this is actually heavy theoretical physics type stuff. Not for the likes of us norms.

Everything is changed by observing it, but only on the quantum level if I have this right, something to do with wave form collapsing or somesuch.

Since everything is made out of quantum, nothing can escaped being changed.

Re:On first glance... (3, Funny)

rootofevil (188401) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457177)

lots of things can escaped being changed. typically they are not proceeded with a ^ or /

Re:On first glance... (1)

Zeinfeld (263942) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457429)

I rather think this is actually heavy theoretical physics type stuff. Not for the likes of us norms.

I have a degree from Oxford University Dept. of Nuclear Physics.

Sounds like the most ridiculous idea since Fliechmann and Ponsi tried to do cold fusion to me

Re:On first glance... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21457141)

What am I missing here?
Quantum physics of course... Read up on it, please.

Re:On first glance... (5, Insightful)

Jarjarthejedi (996957) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457281)

Sorry, but you're the one missing the quantum physics. The GP posed a good question, does conscious observation differ from unconscious. The answer (so far as we know) is no, ergo quantum physics doesn't support this. Perhaps those are are going to be pedantic should first read up on the subject before telling others too?

Re:On first glance... (3, Interesting)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457237)

You are missing absolutely nothing. Those that mystify the "observation changest things" are missing something.

To observe something, it must be interacted with. The most common form of interaction involves a photon bouncing off of something, or being generated by something.

This involves a small energy transfer and/or a series of reactions between the "thing" used for observation and the observee. This is why observation causes a solidification of state, and/or change.

Re:On first glance... (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457291)

i think the point is that photon was going to bounce off earth anyway, so teh act of observation did nothing more then was going to happen anyway.

Re:On first glance... (2, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457257)

We don't send out EM to study the cosmos, we look at EM radiation that was already coming to us. What's the difference between harmlessly absorbing this radiation and measuring it with scientific instruments?

In short, quantum physics kicks common sense right smack in the nuts.
     

Re:On first glance... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21457375)

You are not missing anything. You hit the nail right on the head. This radiation would have been absorbed or "observed" by the surface behind the device that absorbed the radiation anyway.

We don't get any special powers over the universe just because we are more sentient than rocks.

Re:On first glance... (1)

djupedal (584558) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457409)

"What am I missing here?

The fact that a shadow was cast where there ought not to be one. However tiny or difficult to measure, we have injected ourselves into the vast mix known as infinity.

Now, there is an incomplete horizon - a break in an otherwise perfect line...a line that once broken, can never be drawn again. It is this most minor of flaws that we now now deal with. The universe is right to be concerned that we may not have the means to make things right once again, for we are no more of an influence on the grand stage than the butterfly that beats wings in Brazil, only to trigger a typhoon near Taiwan.

Re:On first glance... (3, Insightful)

ETEQ (519425) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457421)

When you think about it that way, it does seem ridiculous... some interpretations of quantum mechanics (for example, the "Many Worlds" model, explained below) may help understand how this could possibly be. Indeed, this is why some people dislike the typical view of quantum mechanics (the "Copenhagen Model"), as there are experiments that show that this does in fact change things.

The most straight-forward example (that doesn't involve murdering cats) is the double-slit experiment. You send a coherent beam of light (or electrons, it turns out, although that particular experiment is harder) at a screen with two slits in it, and observe what pattern appears on the wall behind it. With just one slit, a particular pattern (a diffraction pattern) appears. But with both slits in place, you see characteristic alternating bands of light and dark (an interference pattern). The weird part comes if you place a detector in the slit (that still allows the light to pass through), to try to see which slit each photon goes through. If you do that, the intereference pattern disappears! Somehow, the act of passively measuring the photon (which is just EM radiation under a different name) with scientific instruments changes the fundamental character of the interaction - that is, you "collapse the wave function."

While measuring the whole universe does indeed sound much more ridiculous than a table-top experiment, the point is just that the axioms of quantum mechanics, when applied to the universe as a whole, give this result. Now, this could mean there's something wrong with the way we model dark energy... my money is on this one, seeing as how we actually have no consistent theory at all of how Dark Energy works. This article is based on 2 or 3 assumptions that have not at all been established as anything other than theories that might work (and there are far more theories that also work and don't tell you that we're destroying the universe).

Alternatively, though, this could mean we don't understand quantum mechanics (in fact, we KNOW that it's wrong when it comes to gravity, for other reasons) or at least that the Copenhagen model is incorrect. An attractive (to some people) model is the "Many Worlds" model. According to this interpretation, instead of the universe reacting to our measurements, there are universes created every time a measurement is made for each of the possible outcomes of the measurement. So measuring the acceleration of Dark Energy, in this interpretation, doesn't change the universe directly - instead, it simply selects one out of many possible universes for YOU to inhabit. From that viewpoint, it makes much more sense how observation can affect things that you are not directly controlling - you just pick where you're doing your observation from, rather than changing the thing that you are observing.

Re:On first glance... (1)

purpledinoz (573045) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457433)

You're missing years of the Quantum Mechanics study, which seems to make people crazy. This is a pretty ridiculous claim. Perhaps it makes sense in some sort of theoretical way, but I seriously doubt that this is a reality.

Re:On first glance... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21457463)

The current replies to your post are really funny.

This is absolutely retarded - just for the reasons you and other have stated, and it gives physicists a bad name.

I can't believe this guy is a professor. God forbid he actually teaches quantum mechanics.

For those who still think you are missing some deep quantum mechanical philosophy... "observation" really just means "interaction". it has nothing to do with our conscious understanding of what happened to something or what something is. It really is an unfortunate choice of words for the layman, and Schrodinger's cat is an unfortunate example as well (it is only meant to be pedegogical). The light from a supernova feels the effects of dark energy long before it ever reaches earth. Furthermore the number of photons which interacted with our scientific experiments versus the number of photons which interacted with anything else in the universe is.. small. The fact that some of us interpreted the results from those interactions with our brains as opposed to all the other interactions which took place has nothing to do with quantum mechanics. So it should be clear that dark energy is and has been measured all over the universe since the beginning of time.

This is an amazing example of misundertanding of physics and an overestimate of human self-importance.

That's stupid (5, Insightful)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457039)

Universe doesn't care about conscious observers. For example, slight heating of the Earth atmosphere by the light from SN1988 _also_ counts as 'observation'.

In fact, if an event changes macroscopic state of ANY physical object - it already counts as observation.

Re:That's stupid (3, Funny)

cleatsupkeep (1132585) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457099)

No fair!! You changed the outcome by measuring it!!

Re:That's stupid (2)

vvaduva (859950) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457109)

Exactly! Someone is getting "trigger happy" with human existence here. Do animals count when they "observe" stars and macro-events, or is it just white geeky males causing the demise of the entire universe here? :)

Re:That's stupid (1)

geoffrobinson (109879) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457137)

What you are on to is a philosophic problem with this quantum interpretation. The observer/non-observer distinction is meaningless in naturalistic philosophy.

So the first question is "what counts as an observer?"

If observers do change things, naturalism is false as a philosophy.

Re:That's stupid (1)

vvaduva (859950) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457223)

I also agree, and your point shows that this is not really a scientific issue, but rather a philosophical one. As long as the conversation remains in the philosophical realm, it's wonderful, but this article is just BS "science" if you ask me.

Amen (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21457115)

Since God sees everything, the universe already ended.

You can postulate anything but unless you can present an experiment, you are no more plausible than any shaman.

Already Proposed (2, Interesting)

TheMeuge (645043) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457123)

This has already been thoroughly investigated in: Greg Egan's "Quarantine" [wikipedia.org]

n the novel a physical process in the human brain is responsible for all causality, by collapsing wavefunctions representing systems into particular eigenstates. Human observations of the universe were reducing its diversity and potentiality (for instance, by rendering it uninhabitable to beings that relied on stars being something other than the enormous nuclear fusion-powered furnaces human astronomers have observed them to be). Hence it is suggested that the Bubble was constructed to prevent humanity from wreaking massive destruction on the rest of the universe through the process of mere observation.

Re:Already Proposed (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21457447)

Yes, I always believe the thorough investigations I read in fucking novels.

Re:That's stupid (1)

Eudial (590661) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457163)

The irony is that, since Schroedinger's cat and wave superposition is an unfalsifiable statement (by it's very nature), it is both true and false at the same time.

Re:That's stupid (1)

jalet (36114) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457271)

> In fact, if an event changes macroscopic state of ANY physical object - it
> already counts as observation.

Like when I said "You don't need your fingers to see" to my 2 years old when she said "I just want to look at this" while playing with some fragile stuff...

Re:That's stupid (1)

trolltalk.com (1108067) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457407)

Actually, you're wrong. The act of observing something, even AFTER the event, changes the whole chain of events.

Look at the two-slit experiments. No observer after the photon passes through the slit - interference patterns, even when only one photon at a time is in the box. Observer - no interference patterns. In other words, the act of observing changes not just the outcome, but the causality.

consciousness does not... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21457047)

...have a privileged place in the universe that would fundamentally change the universe.

YOU ARE NOT SPECIAL.

Re:consciousness does not... (1, Funny)

jimbojw (1010949) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457315)

Listen up, maggots. You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You're the same decaying organic matter as everything else.

First you have to give up, first you have to *know*... not fear... *know*... that someday you're gonna die.

Re:consciousness does not... (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457487)

Hey, you created me. I didn't create some loser alter-ego to make myself feel better. Take some responsibility!

Our strange shy universe? (4, Insightful)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457053)

Who would have thought some primitive hominids could be so destructive? To shorten the life of the universe just by looking at it?

This new theory suggests two things I see off the top of my head:

1. There is no other intelligent life in the universe, otherwise they would have killed the universe by looking at it.

2. The theory is flawed and the universe is doing exactly what it's supposed to be doing. We just don't understand all the process yet.

Personally, my money's on #2.

Re:Our strange shy universe? (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457277)

Who would have thought some primitive hominids could be so destructive? To shorten the life of the universe just by looking at it?

Hey - if we can destroy the Earth just by driving SUV's and using plastic shopping bags...

Let's face it: we're just one bad-assed mofo of a species. I personally pity any aliens that try to screw with us. Oh, and forget the nuclear weapons and all that Area 51 shit... we'll just stare their scrawny grey big-headed asses into oblivion! Bring it on you saucer-jockeys! You may have mastered inter-galactic travel, but we got the Eyeballs of Death, foo...

*(note to the Global-Warming folks, pro or con: it's a joke, damnit!)

/P

wah (2, Funny)

thhamm (764787) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457059)

quick, lets draw up some pointless laws against this!

Re:wah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21457201)

Obviously, we need to set up an international scheme for the trading of "observation credits." Third-world countries which don't have telescopes could then sell their observation credits to first-world countries that do have them.

good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21457067)

good, fuck it!

please tag as "stupid" (1, Troll)

cathector (972646) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457069)

as subject!

I for one welcome... (4, Funny)

pwnies (1034518) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457077)

What we don't realize is all this study into quantum mechanics is falling right into Schrodinger's cat's hands. It wants us to make him an undead kitty so it can open a hole in the universe and let the infinite number of possibilities of it all flow into this one, and thus will take over the world. The only way we'll win this future battle is if we observe it enough that it goes away.

Re:I for one welcome... (1)

Soko (17987) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457149)

It wants us to make him an undead kitty

I can has Braaaaaainssss...

Re:I for one welcome... (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457307)

What we don't realize is all this study into quantum mechanics is falling right into Schrodinger's cat's hands. It wants us to make him an undead kitty so it can...

I for one welcome our mind-game pussy overlord. Everyone should feel marriage at least once.
         

lol @ stupid humans (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21457083)

You stupid fucking humans are so predictable. Eager to feel powerful enough to effect things bigger than yourselves. Eager to feel guilty. Eager to believe that the sky is falling.

Re:lol @ stupid humans (1)

Dmala (752610) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457265)

Just out of sheer curiosity, which variety of non-human are you? Alien or AI? I assume you're not a dolphin, since you don't have a "So long and thanks for all the fish" sig.

Re:lol @ stupid humans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21457403)

guppy

X-Bender: Bender's a genius! (5, Funny)

JensenDied (1009293) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457085)

Track Announcer: And the winner is ... Number 3, in a quantum finish.
Farnsworth: No fair! You changed the outcome by measuring it!

An Inconvenient Truth 2: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21457097)

Don't look up!

What a crock of poop. (1)

Stumbles (602007) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457125)

So in other words if we all don Joo Janta 200 Super-Chromatic Peril Sensitive Sunglasses our chances of survival increase greatly. I guess you don't really need to be smart to get a degree anymore.

I doubt this is the case (1)

LordZardoz (155141) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457133)

On the reasonable assumption that we are not the only technologically advanced species in this universe, it would seem to me that we are not the only ones who might be trying to observe these phenomena. In that instance, given the scale of time and the potential numbers of potential observances of dark matter, it would probably have happened already.

Or perhaps it did happen and no one noticed.

END COMMUNICATION

with all due respect (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21457143)

With all due respect to the cosmologists and the journal which hosts their research, this is silly, and it is founded in misunderstandings of quantum theory.

There was a time when physicists were very concerned with the measurement problem, that quantum states evolve in a certain deterministic way aside from the times when a measurement is made, at which point the quantum state collapses into a singular state corresponding to the value which was measured.

In the last 30 years we know better, which is that the strange features of quantum states, like superposition in the case of Schrodinger's Cat or entanglement in the case of EPR 'action at a distance', rapidly vanish when the quantum system comes into contact with a macroscopic temperature resevoir --- the mathematics of QFT+Thermo has been worked out to show how temperature fluctuations cause the collapse. This solution to the measurement problem is called decoherence.

The only people left who say the measurement problem has to do with the conciousness doing the measuring seem to want the universe to be bizzare, but this desire is not enough when ho hum decoherence predicted by current theories is sufficient to account for our observations.

pr0n (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21457145)

if this was true, porn would have disappeared with the rise of the web :)

Re:pr0n (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457465)

So why is goatse still around? It's getting wider even I think.
     

Of course! (5, Funny)

Jethro (14165) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457153)

That explains a lot! Everytime I stare directly into a light source, the light goes away for a while! The stronger or more "pure" the light, the longer it is affected by me staring at it.

Why, a few years ago I stared directly into a laser pointer, and to this day whenever I point it back into that eye, it generates NO LIGHT AT ALL.

Re:Of course! (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457333)

That explains a lot! Everytime I stare directly into a light source, the light goes away for a while! Why, a few years ago I stared directly into a laser pointer...

Do you have a dog named Barney by chance?
       

In other news... (1)

SlipperHat (1185737) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457157)

Man hits/misses parked car. The Slashdot crowd is sympathetic/indifferent. The world does/doesn't go on.

Sorry, my email is blocked... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21457159)

Billy R.


English Period 4


Bhagavad-Gita Assessment



1)The philosophical beliefs of Plato strongly correlate with the beliefs expressed in the Bhagavad-Gita. One of Plato's beliefs is that True Knowledge can only be reached through contemplation, as with "That reason-method and discipline are one who see he [truly] sees..." (5:5). Also, Plato believed that the senses are not a reliable method for attaining understanding of Ultimate Knowledge, where the Bhagavad-Gita says, "The senses [only] on the objects of sense [describe]" (5:9). "As the embryo is covered by its membrane..." (3:38) describes much of what Plato thought in his Allegory of the Cave, in which the people chained inside the cave could only see shadows, and not the actual objects themselves.


2)My own personal belief strongly agree with much of the Hindu philosophy that we discussed. I do believe that all living things embody a soul, which is connected to an all encompassing, Along the same lines of this is how the Atman, ultimately, is just a part of the Brahman, and that the Brahman makes up the Atman. I also believe in reincarnation, and that a soul will ultimately reach a higher state of awareness, understanding and seeing much of the Higher Awareness. Similarly, in Hinduism, the Atman attains Enlightenment through a cycle of reincarnation, and attains this level of awareness by learning how to connect to Brahman. I also believe that souls can be reincarnated into any physical form, whether it be a living thing, a rock, planet, etc., anywhere in the physical universe. From what I could understand about Hinduism, Atman can be reincarnated into only living things. Also, I use meditation to help myself let go of things in my soul that are not part of God, or things that aren't of the Higher Power, and to refocus myself with God. This also follows much of the Hindu belief that the path of meditation will ultimately lead someone to Enlightenment. One of the main things that I disagree with Hinduism belief is that of the Caste, in which we are destined, according to our familial caste, to a certain social ranking and occupational destiny. I personally believe that each living thing does have a certain level of understanding of the Higher Reality, and that there are different levels this understanding, but I don't believe any being is held to a certain level of awareness, nor shunned for any action.


 

Crap, crap, crap (4, Informative)

SpectreBlofeld (886224) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457161)

I sincerely hope this is a case of a reporter misunderstanding a scientist's statement.

  Waveform collapse applies to quantum probabilities, not passive long-distance observations. They occur because an observer influences an observation; interfering with that which is observed is the only way one can observe it on the scales in which quantum phenomena occur. When observing the light of stars, no information is being sent back to the source; and the idea that consciousness somehow magically induces waveform collapse has all but died, favoring instead theories of quantum decoherence and the indroduction of new 'thermal' states during the observation process as the trigger for waveform collapse.

  My only hope is that they've cooked up this idea simply to show how silly the idea of consciousness-triggered waveform collapse is; much like Schrodinger created the cat thought experiment to demonstrate what he saw as a flaw of the Copenhagen interpretation of superposition.

That's it! (1)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457171)

I'm not opening my eyes again. First I have to worry about killing a cat now I've got to worry about the whole damn Universe!

Stupidest. Article. Evar (5, Insightful)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457175)

You know, I recognize most of the words in the article as being from astrophysics and quantum mechanics, but when you put them all together, they don't make a lick of sense.

Re:Stupidest. Article. Evar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21457279)

Looks like whoever wrote the article read this book [amazon.com] recently.

Zonk in a Box (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21457189)

If we stop observing Zonk, will he stop posting these annoying brain-damaged articles?

completely idiotic (2, Insightful)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457191)

Oh would they stop with the "if a tree falls in the forest, and nobody's around to hear it, is it in a state of quantum flux" crap. It's no more than a stupid scientific joke because there's absolutely no way to test it. I could say that until we observe certain things, they're tiny dancing banana creatures with sombraros and you couldn't prove me wrong either. If a quantum event happened and nothing "witnessed it" one of the two possibilities that could happen DID HAPPEN! There's no reason to think it didn't.

Quarantine by Greg Egan (3, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457197)

Quarantine [wikipedia.org] by Greg Egan [wikipedia.org] ...is a great book which explores the idea that the wave function collapse caused by observation is something specific to the human brain, and the rest of the universe is starting to get a bit upset about humans carving up the universe by observing it.

Its a great read, and a good way to get a better understanding of (at least Egans' idea of) quantum mechanics.

SETI@Home is a terrorist plot (4, Funny)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457205)

Finally! The proof I always knew existed!
SETI@Home is an Al Quaeda plot dedicated to the destruction of the universe!

Wasn't that the plot of an ST:TNG episode? (1)

Ranger (1783) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457209)

Probably one of the worst Star Trek The Next Generation episodes was the one where it turns out that warp drive was ruining the fabric of spacetime so everyone had to drive warp 5.5. Sadly I can't remember enough details to find the damn episode's name. They eventually ignored it the same way the ignored the first episode with the Klingons in the original Trek.

Even if this idea is unsubstantiated I can imagine the anti-science crowd taking this and saying we shouldn't do any science at all.

Assuming they're right... (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457211)

Then we would have just as likely have increased its lifespan. :-p

But obviously, it's more fun to focus on the more sensationalist, fearmongering, idea.

What a bunch of hokey (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21457219)

They've all gone mad.

Copenhagen interpretation (5, Interesting)

digitalderbs (718388) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457221)

This idea is based on the assumption of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics -- the idea that wave-functions exist as superpositions of multiple states and that they're collapsed into discrete states upon observation. First, is an observer only a human being, an animate object or inanimate object? Seems to me that many inanimate systems self-propagate themselves through time, relying on the continuous collapse of wave functions -- without people looking at them. Second, in my mind the Copenhagen interpretation is impossible to prove because you can never really know what the wavefunction is doing before the observation, and this is why it's an interpretation. In this case, you couldn't know if the universe could actually be older than than it is, without our observation. At least this is my view as a statistical quantum mechanicist.

New SETI Proposal (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457227)

Since the rate of decay of the universe depends on the quantity of observation of the universe, we have a new way to prove the existence of extra-terrestrial intelligence:
  1. Determine the current rate of decay of the universe.
  2. If it increases, then some extra-terrestrial intelligence has observed the universe.
  3. ???
  4. Profit

annoying article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21457231)

So what makes a human being's conscious perception of faraway photons any more special than the surface of Pluto being gently heating by photons from a faraway supernova? The wave function collapses onto the photopigments of my retina, or it collapses onto a faraway rock. What's the difference. Why do physicists seem to think that a conscious observer's awareness of the event has any relevance whatsoever? And didn't physics get past this retarded way of thinking with decoherence theory -- the idea the wave functions collapse everywhere all the time? These guys are as bad as the dorks who used to think that the Earth was the center of the universe and everything revolved around us.

Yet another popsci article more interested in promoting and perpetuating these titillating misinterpretations of/in science rather than responsibly explaining something interesting.

And I also hope it is already understood without my saying, that I am no where close to being a physicist and I didn't rtfa.

A god sent gift to trial lawyers! (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457243)

They are going to sue everyone in sight claiming their clients have been damaged because others looked at them in a funny way.

Hume's argument (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457245)

Hume's argument against miracles was, in effect, that the probability of a miracle was a lot lower than the probability that a group of people would lie or be mistaken. I guess here the equivalent would be that the probability that the state of the Universe would be significantly affected by a few photons falling into a telescope or an aerial rather than being absorbed by the ground, rather than that a couple of astrophysicists have been smoking something, must be pretty minute.

However, the other issue here is what constitutes observation. I am very definitely not a physicist, but my feeble understanding of quantum mechanics suggests that the "observation" is at the micro level where quantum effects are significant. The very meaning of "observing" an electron is hard to understand in macro terms. It roughly translates as "bouncing a dirty great photon off it". If I tried to measure the speed and position of a passing car by firing an RPG at it, well definitely its momentum and a few other things would be affected by the observation. If someone in the car fires the RPG at me, it may hit or it may miss but neither outcome changes its velocity.

So what does it take to "observe" the Universe, or the dark matter in it? I guess the number of photons we would need to do a significant amount of observation would be rather large, and in any case it would take a few billion years before most of them had any effect.

The Schroedinger's Cat gedanken experiment is of course no such thing. It assumes the construction by human beings of an amplifying system to convert the effect of a single atomic decay into a cat killer. That's necessary because we have never experienced any such "cosmic amplifier" arising naturally. These physicists would need to propose how such an amplifer would arise and operate, otherwise it's just attention seeking.

Dark energy is telepathic (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21457273)

Don't you guys know anything? Dark energy is telepathic, like that pitcher plant on Voyager. It KNOWS when you're looking at it, doesn't like it, and might snuff out the universe from pure spite.

In order to appease it we must either a) outlaw astronomy and destroy all terrestrial, orbital, and extra-orbital equipment that might allow us to observe it or b) detonate all nuclear warheads on earth simultaneously thus killing the human race and all potential observers (that we know of). The latter might seem a bit extreme, but think about it: we are not only threatening this planet, but all planets everywhere. The end of Earth is a small price to pay to save the universe.

Before it's too late (1)

rezac (733345) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457285)

QUICK! Everyone, close your eyes!

Quantum smoke and mirrors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21457293)

please pass the crack pipe

If monkeys fly out of my ass (1)

zoikes (182347) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457311)

...I might be your uncle.

Wow (1)

Daath (225404) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457325)

The german police will be pleased!

Oh, and obligatory Professor Farnsworth quote: "No fair! You changed the outcome by measuring it!"

And in seriousness, I am having a hard time wrapping my head around this. It's very abstract to me ;P To me it sounds like they inhaled too much of the grass they burned in the garden ;)

A question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21457337)

If all of the chineses look the universe at once... would cataclysm result?

The current cult of quantum mechanics is bs (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457361)

Observing only was a way to explain certain conditions in which changing a result happened when you tried to observe it.

First it was just silly way to explain the randomness. Now its a fact that the scientific method of observation need not apply.

Maybe the ancients were on to something (2, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457367)

Let's throw a blond bikini virgin into a volcano to see if that fixes it. (She won't date any of us anyhow.)
   

Life imitates Douglas Adams (3, Funny)

howdoesth (1132949) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457383)

There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

Is Science Damaged by Stupidity? (1)

RockyPersaud (937868) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457405)

Yes, yes it is.

There goes the neighborhood (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457417)

And you thought housing prices were already bad...

observation (1)

jovius (974690) | more than 5 years ago | (#21457461)

Universe is not human centric, but observing is... I wonder if a CCD camera is as damaging as human senses, and which point the damage is done?
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