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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Way off topic: Disproving God with the double slit experiment?

Ok, I've been watching a lot of Hitchens and Dawkins recently on youtube, so maybe it's not a surprise that I would eventually start thinking about the age-old question"is there a god"?

After thinking about it for a while, I'm eventually left with a simple logical problem.

If you know the classical quantum physics problem, (youtube video here), you'll know that an electron can act as a wave or a particle, depending on whether or not there is anyone watching it. When no one watches it, the electron is capable of transforming itself into a wave and interfering with itself.... Yes, that sounds odd, but that is in fact the nature of the universe we inhabit. However, when someone observes it, the electron is forced to pick a single path through the two slits, and you get a different pattern emerging beyond the two slits. (The video explains it fairly well, albeit with cheesy narration by a disembodied head...)

The only thing that decides whether it passes through one or both slits is whether it is observed to do so or not. A second piece of information about the universe we live in is that observation requires that we interact in some small way with the universe. You can't observe an event or it's indirect effects if there is no information escaping the event you're observing. (think black holes...) So, if you are observing something, you are, in a small way, interacting with the event - either monitoring the change in an electric field (interacting with the event), or an escaping photon or other form of wave. No matter how you slice it, an observation is an interaction.

So one thing that puzzles me with the double slit experiment and the existence of a god (and I don't care which one), is that the electron is able to transform itself into a complex wave of all possible paths when we don't interact with it. As long us humans (or any device we can conceive of) isn't watching it, the electron will travel through all possible paths. Once we directly observe it, the electron has no choice but to follow a single path.

If observation prevents the electron from being a wave, and non-observation allows the wave, doesn't that mean that when we see the results of the electron acting as a wave, no one else is watching it either?

If you assume there is a god watching everything, how can you explain that the electron is ever able to become a wave and travel through all of the slits when there is a constant observer? The only escape is that you propose your god can observe without interacting with the universe.... and that opens the can of worms that the god must not be part of the universe. (Yes, all things in the universe interact, so not being a part of the universe necessitates non-existence... just like the Ether. If you can't ever interact with it, it doesn't exist.)

Food for thought. Clearly this argument won't convince anyone with faith, but somehow it seems to destroy the concept of an all-seeing god for me. And now, back to genetics...



Blogger Luke said...

Woop, off-topic speculation on the supernatural!

Everything that any god worthy of the name does defies the laws of nature. Observing particles without interacting with their wave function is no more an impossibilty than Jesus turning water into wine (which violates conservation of mass/energy), or the Buddha being stronger than 10^10 elephants (which violates basic biology).

The answer to 'how can god observe a quantum waveform without modifying it?' is the same as the answer to 'how can Zeus cast thunder?'; namely, powerful divine magics.

February 10, 2010 2:43:00 PM PST  

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