Friday, June 29, 2012

God and the Delayed Choice Quantum Eraser – he may never be able to see the wave-like nature of reality.

In the last few months pretty much all the available time I have – I’ve been thinking about the implications of the Delayed Choice Quantum Eraser. All my life I understood the double-slit experiment to need ran observer in order to collapse the wave-like nature of reality. I have, as perhaps others, never grasped the deeper, the more subtle implication – the idea that:-

If we can know the path the entangled photon takes, that in itself is enough to bring about a collapse.

In quantum mechanics, the quantum eraser experiment is a double-slit experiment that demonstrates several fundamental aspects of the quantum theory, including quantum entanglement and complementarity. Brian Greene describes the experiment in his recent book The Fabric of the Universe. Consider

“A simple version of the quantum eraser experiment makes use of the double-slit set up, modified in the following way. A tagging device is placed in front of each slit; it marks any passing photon so that when the photon is examined later, you can tell through which slit it passed…when this double-slit-tagging experiment is run, the photons do not build up an interference pattern.

What if just before the photon hits the detection screen, you eliminate the possibility of determining through which slit it passed by erasing the mark imprinted by the tagging device?

As we know, it turns out, that the interference pattern shows up again. Which, is unexpected, counter initiative and strange to say the least.  But again it gets even stranger with the delayed-choice quantum eraser. Greene describes it thus,

It begins with [the set-up of the quantum eraser], modified by inserting two so-called down-converters, one on each pathway. Down-converters are devices that take one photon as input and produce two photons as output, each with half the energy (“down converted”) of the signal. One of the photons (called the signal photon) is directed along the path that the original would have followed toward the detector screen. The other photon produced by the down-converter (called the idler photon) is sent in a different direction altogether. On each run of the experiment we can determine which oath a signal photon takes to the screen by observing which down-converter spits out the idler photon partner. And once again, the ability to gleen which-path information about the signal photons– even though it is totally indirect, since we are not interacting with any signal photons at all– has the effect of preventing an interference pattern from forming.

So all we know about the signal photon we learn by observing the idler photon. But even so, we get the photons acting like particles. Greene again

What if we manipulate the experiment so as to make it impossible to determine from which down-converter a given idler photon emerged? What if, that is, we erase the which-path information embodied by the idler photon? Well, something amazing happens: even though we’ve done nothing directly to the signal photons, by erasing which-path information carried by their idler partners we can recover an interference pattern from the signal photons.

The implication here is the fact that we can know which slit the photon exits is exactly what causes the interference pattern to collapse. In the double slit experiment it isn’t the detector (the measurement) that collapsing the waveform. It is that fact that we can know that collapses the wave.

Now if a God can always knows which-path information a photon is to pass, he/she can therefore never see the interference pattern, the wave like nature of reality will be hidden from such a God.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Gender bias when using the internet

Some years ago the Pew Research Center published findings of a wide-ranging look at the way American women and men use the Internet.  At the time they suggested that men pursued many internet activities, more intensively than women, and that men were the first to try the latest technologies.

An interesting insight from that work reveled that women were framing their online experience with a greater emphasis on deepening connections with people.

Now, according to Medical New Today (MNT) Psychologists from the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath, England, have discovered that the difference between how men and women use the Internet has become even more significant in the last 10 years.

While surfing the Internet, men were more likely to visit entertainment, games and music websites. Women, on the other hand, were more apt to check out social networking sites.

After the introduction of Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace, women started to focus most of their time surfing on these types of sites. While some men are still interested in social networking online, women spent considerably more time on these sites than men.

Monday, June 18, 2012

God does not play dice

God does not play dice

Probably the most bizarre (I’m still tossing up the double-slit experiment and measurement) prediction quantum mechanics makes is entanglement. As we know entanglement occurs when particles such as photons interact physically and then become separated; the type of interaction is such that each resulting member of a pair is properly described by the same quantum mechanical state, which is indefinite in terms of important factors such as position, momentum, spin, polarization, etc.

Entanglement was of course not always used as further proof of quantum theory. In 1935 Einstein who was not convinced that quantum theory was complete and thought he had finally devised a construct (EPR Paper) that would show quantum theory for what it was – in his opinion so bizarre, so counter to all logical views and experience that it would have to be incomplete. When Einstein died in 1955 he was still very much convinced that quantum mechanics offered at best an incomplete theory. And so with his passing it remained to be seen how, when and if he would be proved right.

I first read John Bell’s 1964 paper “On The Einstein Podolsky Rosen Paradox” (follow link below for the article) some 15 years ago. At the time I didn’t quite grasp the historical, and more importantly it’s profound implications in helping decide, despite the weirdness of entanglement, to be indeed accurate. For this obscure paper written by a relatively unknown Irish physicist presenting a method to break the deadlock between Bohr’s Copenhagen interpretations of quantum mechanics (that quantum mechanics does not yield a description of an objective reality) and Einstein’s views. Through the work of John Clauser and others entanglement has been shown to be a principle that underpins our understanding of the universe and our perception of reality.

So the [new] contemporary basic physical theory differs profoundly from the classical physical world on the important matter of how the consciousness of human agents enters into the structure of empirical phenomena (the measurement problem). The new principles contradict the older idea that local mechanical processes alone can account for the structure of all observed empirical data. If the neural basis of behaviour can generally posits brain mechanisms that explain psychologically described phenomena – quantum mechanically based causal mechanisms frameworks have to be understood in order to achieve an adequate theory of the neurophysiology of volitionally directed activity.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Playing with shapes helps improve our math

According to a new study published in the current issue of the journal Development Psychology connects the skills children gain when playing with and exploring how shapes fit together to make recognizable objects to improved spatial understanding, math and better achievement, particularly in geometry.

The paper "The Relation Between Spatial Skill and Early Number Knowledge: The Role of the Linear Number Line," suggests that improving children's spatial thinking at a young age may not only help foster skills specific to spatial reasoning but also improve symbolic numerical representations.

The researchers from the University of Chicago showed that the children with better spatial skills performed better on number line tests that were related to their later performance on the approximate calculation tests. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

We're Out of Miltown

Back in 2006 ABC’s All in the Mind program presented what they called “in the spirit of Sigmund Freud and his One hundred fiftieth birthday” an interview with Jonathan Metzl. In a sense, the presenter offered “we are psychoanalysing psychiatry itself.” The timing for this was of course also related to Metzl just having published Prozac on the Couch: Prescribing Gender in the Era of Wonder.

The premise of the book is that the biochemical revolution in psychiatry, which displaced Freudianism from its central role in treating mental illness in the United States. The ABC program opens with the vey fitting jingle, Mother's Little Helper, and introduction along the lines “You may remember this 1967 Rolling Stones hit "Mother's Little Helper", a tongue in cheek tribute to a housewife coping with whinging kids and a demanding husband with a little help from the minor tranquiliser Valium.”

Jonathan Metzl sees himself as someone who on one hand is a practitioner of psychiatry and on the other hand someone who studies the kind of cultural history of the ways that depression came to be seen and thought of in present day American society but also internationally. His book examines, for example, how pharmaceutical advertisements, representations of depression in film and media and medical writings are framed.

The book gives a historic account of psychiatric medications in medicine and popular culture starting in the 1950s, a time when Miltown (Meprobamate) became really the first of the modern psychiatric wonder drugs. Prior to the 1950s these kind of drugs weren't an established phenomenon. Metzl tells the story of initial scepticism among psychiatrists and drug companies because, interestingly, they would ask who would use medication when there is talk therapy. However, within two months the demand for Miltown in the United States was so great that there were like these famous signs in the windows of pharmacies saying 'We're out of Miltown.

So whilst the biological basis for depression was perhaps beginning to be addressed through medication Metzl suggests that the rhetoric by which these drugs came into being, again in popular representation, took a lot from Freud even if there was an implication that Freudianism was being overthrown. In the first chapter aptly called The Freud of Prozac, Metzl argues that the ways that these drugs were understood in the popular realm, biology owes a lot to Freud with regard to gender.

Metzl looks at these medications through the lens of what are the implications for gender He says even though we think of Valium as being the 'mother's little helper' for the popularity of the Rolling Stones’ song and in part because of the fact that according to some studies up to 70% of prescriptions for Valium in the United States were written to white middle class women. He goes on, Miltown set the stage for Valium by creating a set of connections between the anxieties of motherhood, or more aptly the anxieties that people who were creating a certain kind of public rhetoric had about the role of mothers in society, and treatment with psychiatric drugs.

Metzl discusses the cultural history of the ways that depression came to be seen and thought of. We saw that for women, overwhelmingly, depression came to be described in popular articles in relation to the women's roles as mothers, or being married, or menstruation.. For men, there was almost nothing about men getting depressed and it impacting their roles as fathers, or as boyfriends, or as anything that might imply emotions or inner-lives. Depression related to aggression, athletics, sports and, to a little bit lesser extent, work. And so we would see articles about famous athletes who got depressed and couldn't win races, or hit the ball, or something and then they would take Prozac and they would start winning again.

However, Metzl never gives an alternative to the Freudian father/superego, mother/unconscious, and his interpretations of women are filtered through this distorting lens. Hence, his sometimes absorbing and adroit presentation of examples is hamstrung by an interpretive paradigm that is no broader than that which he seeks to question.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Early puberty linked to depression

Early puberty linked to depression

Findings by researchers from Melbourne University and the Melbourne mental health clinical service Orygen Youth Health(1) show there may be a biological reason why children - particularly girls - who go through puberty early were more prone to depression later in their teenage years. Previously, it had been assumed this was largely a social problem caused by children being teased about developing earlier than their peers.

Using magnetic resonance imaging of the brains of 155 adolescents, researchers found those who went through puberty earlier than their peers had an enlarged pituitary gland - the part of the brain responsible for triggering puberty - and were in turn more likely to have symptoms of depression by the time they were young adults.

The pituitary gland, at the base of the brain, sends out the hormones that spark the physical and emotional changes associated with puberty. But the gland also plays an important role in the brain's stress system, so it may be that early puberty causes the gland to hyperstimulate, which in turn makes it more difficult for young people to cope with stress.

1. Sarah Whittle, Murat YĆ¼cel, Valentina Lorenzetti, Michelle L. Byrne, Julian G. Simmons, Stephen J. Wood, Christos Pantelis, Nicholas B. Allen.
Psychoneuroendocrinology, Volume 37, Issue 7, July 2012, Pages 881–891

Psychological Medicine, Volume 29 / Issue 05

3. George C. Patton, M.D., Craig Olsson, Ph.D., Lyndal Bond, Ph.D., John W. Toumbourou, PhD, John B. Carlin, PhD, Sheryl A. Hemphill, PhD, Richard F. Catalano, PhD
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent PsychiatryVolume 47, Issue 12, Pages 1424-1432, December 2008