Monday, September 27, 2010

Not Everything is Possible

To follow up on my post about Deepak Chopra's sketchy connection to physics, here's an interview with theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss over at Cosmic Log. It's called "How to Spot Quantum Quackery", which is exactly how I think of movies like What the Bleep Do we Know? or The Secret (I slogged through them both, which is to say I gave both of them a fair hearing). Books like The Secret and the rest of the New Age books/magazines that I have perused seem the same: as insubstantial as they are influential.

People like Chopra sell the idea that you can alter DNA and the rest of physical reality with just your thoughts. Krauss has a great philosophical answer to that. "Not everything is possible," he says, "That's what makes the world so interesting."

He goes on with a logical scientific answer, too:
We are connected to the world by many things: by light and sound and heat. But we behave like classical objects for a reason: We're big, we have lots of particles, they interact. All the weirdness of quantum mechanics gets washed out on the scale that we experience. That's why we experience a classical world.
After that, I recommend reading Victor Stegner's "The New Spirituality" over at the Huffington Post. Chopra really believes, and has said, "The physical world is a creation of the observer."

"Do you really believe that?" asks Stegner. His one-word answer: "Don't." Chopra knows something about quantum mechanics. He clearly has some familiarity with nonlocality and the uncertainty principle. It's fascinating stuff. One thing I know better than Chopra, though, is that Richard Feynman knew, and Victor Stegner, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Lawrence Krauss know a lot more than Chopra does. I'll rely on their analyses to learn actual science.

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