Saturday, August 23, 2008

What is a measurement?

Nick Herbert, who wrote the classic book on interpreting quantum reality (appropriately titled, Quantum Reality), blogged an interesting commentary on the nature of quantum measurement, and why it remains as mysterious as ever.


David Bailey said...

I liked Nick Herbert's piece.

Whenever I read a piece like that, I become (re)convinced that the mystery of consciousness lies in there somewhere!

Ordinary QM assumes essentially one observer, whereas in real life, and some EPR experiments there can be several. Also, if our consciousness is an aggregate of the consciousness of our cells (or at least our neurones) then maybe they all contribute to the process, and the apparent randomness comes from a large number of micro-observations (each following deterministic rules that are yet to be discovered).

OK, the internet is designed for wacky ideas like that!

imagicalgreek said...

On that front, perhaps the concept of 'erasing' quantum measurement comes into play when there is more than one observer?

I'm not a scientist or physicist but have been following the developments in the quantum world with much interest over the last couple years...Found this today...

Thought the concept was fascinating, so I did a little search. Didn't come up with all that much, but there's also these...

Like I said, I'm not in this business, so I'd love to hear what more scientifically-oriented people than myself think...Do you think there might be the possibility that some psi, like perhaps PK, might be a function of human-controlled quantum 'rewrite'?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

Zetetic_chick said...

Very interesting the article of Dr.Herbert. One of the best book on quantum mechanics and consciousness is "Quantum engima: physics encounter consciousness" by Rozemblum and Kuttner.

David, I agree with you that the mystery of conscioussnes could lies there, but in any case I recommend you to read the following two articles of physicist Marco Biagini, who argues that quantum physics 1)refutes materialism; and 2)can't explain consciousness (because it isn't a physical entity or process)

As agnostic, I'm not sure about Biagini's inference regarding the non-material consciousness as being a positive proof of God existence; but his scientific arguments about conscioussness, materialism and quantum mechanics seem to be very interesting.

Other theses of Biagini about other topics aren't convincing in my opinion.


Davrod said...

Dr Ulrich Mohrhoff (author of the pondicherry interpretation of quantum mechanics) describes the "measurement problem" as a pseudo problem that results from a misinterpretation of the mathematical formulism of quantum mechanics.

I won't muddle the water by trying to explain his ideas myself, but I encourage you to visit his website (tp:// or to read the PIQM (

Dean Radin said...

I'm familiar with the PIQM. It's one of many interpretations of a theory that points towards something quite mysterious and still beyond our comprehension.

I think the book "Quantum Enigma" provides the clearest discussion I've seen so far for why we cannot extract consciousness from QM (as much as some physicists would like to).

Davrod said...

Mysterious indeed, but perhaps not as to what constitutes measurement. The PIQM points out that the formulation of QM assumes measurement, as it is a formula for working out probabilities of the results of measurements based on the results of previous measurements.

The "problem" with measurement would seem to be caused by the erronious transmogrification of the state vector from a formula with time dependance to a thing or state that evolves continuously through time when unobserved, then discontinuously when observed, thus requiring explanation of what causes this collapse.

The PIQM is interesting as it does not treat the formulism of QM this way, but rather demonstrates how this transmogrification is in error.

This aside the PIQM certainly doesn't atempt to remove consciousness from QM, rather it describes a universe a with incomplete spatiotemporal differentiation, one that can only be considered as a top-down movement from 'superconsciousness' and not as a bottom-up materialistic system.

Anyway, thanks for the blog which has given me a lot of interesting reading.