SuttaCentral

My attempt to compare the quantum and Buddhism


#1

It’s still ongoing work, may end up with more than 10 parts. Should be done by the end of this month.


#2

Physics assures independently verifiable predictability of physical world observations. In that sense the “physics story” is quite real. That very story is also non-intuitive, which makes it a useful tool for finding and dislodging persistent delusions that fuel our intuition.

Consider identity view. Consider the delusion “I am here.” Physics has proven non-locality. Entangled are this here and that there. How then could there be an isolated I here? Physics has proven quanta. This energy or that energy but not between. How then could there be a continuous self anywhere? This is the kind of stuff I distill out of random readings of physics.


#3

The thing is, not all interpretations require non locality to be true. So it can be dangerous to attach to these stories. Also, in the ultimate vipassana practise, even the story of physics, concepts are not regarded as real. What do we mean by real? It usually evoke a sense of eternalism. That this last forever, unchanging, thus safe to attach to. As long as we regard anything as real, it’s very hard to completely let go, have dispassion for the world.

Of course, as unenlightened beings, it’s more useful to believe in the story of physics than not. However in the quantum case, there are many versions of the story, each can be radically different from another.


#4

I use “real” to mean “I really can verify X by experiment”. In this sense the suttas are equivalently real to me as physics. This does get interesting with suttas mentioning dimensions of infinite “space, consciousness and emptiness, and beyond.” Yet here again physics is helpful because physics points to quantum fluctuations in empty space (non-intuitive!). And Fourier analysis asserts that the impulse function (I am here!) is mathematically equivalent to infinite waves of infinite frequencies (everywhere is here!).

Looking forward to your part 2.


#5

Part 2 is here. I apologise for it being so long and you will have to participate in the physics. It’s pretty easy to follow. Do tell me if you got stuck anywhere or some points are not clear. Thanks!


#6

Stern–Gerlach experiment

One sees a chocolate doughnut. One measures it as delightful. One then sees a sprinkled doughnut. One measures it as delightful. One sees a chocolate doughnut. One still measures it as delightful. Measurement conditions phenomena and creates identity.

I z therefore I am.

a. Locality (only nearby things affect each other at most at the speed of light),
b. Counterfactual definiteness, or realism (properties of objects exist before we measure them),
c. Freedom or free will, or no conspiracy or no super determinism (physical possibility of determining settings on measurement devices independently of the internal state of the physical system being measured. In other words, we are free to choose what to measure.)

Is it possible to consider that properties might be added via measurement?
For example, in the Stern-Gerlach experiment, we can rotate the measurement axis arbitrarily around the beam axis. I assume we would get similar z+,x+,z+ results along z’+, x’+, z’+. I.e., we would simply have a rotated basis from (z,x) to (z’,x’). Essentially, this would provide infinite measurement possibilities. Thinking that the SG measurement adds a property hurts my brain much less than using real-life words such as “spin” and “up” and “down” which are confusing simply because up is a gravity thing in everyday life, not a spin thingy. I much prefer weird names like “charm” which are less confusing because they’re clearly whimsical and should not be taken literally. WDYT?


#7

Well, I am just catering to those who has phobia of being comfortable with mathematical symbolism. Although it becomes unavoidable later on. I try to minimise it.

I am still talking only about physics here, so I would not comment much on the Buddhism view.

Technical details on the Stern-Gerlach and non-realism. It is actually related to uncertainty principle. I haven’t introduced that yet so I cannot use it to explain. According to the maths of the quantum, we get uncertainty principle between the spin in three directions. If we know the spin in one direction, the spins in the other two directions becomes a superposition of up and down in that direction.

So if we measure z first, we collapse the wave-function to become certain in z direction, then it has no fixed value for the other two directions. If we measure x after that, we can get fixed x, then we would get fuzzy z.

The maths can account for rotation of direction of measurement. Send a up spin z atom to z’ which is rotated by the angle θ to z, then it has probability cos^2 (θ/2) to appear as z’+ and 1 minus that to appear as z’-. Rotate until z’ becomes x, then we get half probability for each.

So properties are not added via measurement, measurement changes the wavefunction to the basis of measurement, and the result is probabilistic. Once you have a certain direction for spin in one direction, it is uncertain in all other directions.


#8

The notion that measurement changes the wavefunction to the basis of measurement makes a lot more sense to me than the words “collapse the wavefunction”. The “collapse” thing was a bit too magical and hand-wavy. To simply state that measurement changes the behavior (i.e., wavefunction) of a particle gives me no headache. And the wavefunction determines the behavior of the particle in future measurements. Thanks for the alternate phrasing.

Also thanks for correcting my mistake in assuming that z+ would be retained after x+ measurement. I misread the diagram. It is this third measurement that proves that there is only one mutable property here. Now I’m getting curious about what happens if the beam angle is changed. How does the measurement change? Oh physics is fun. :thinking:


#9

I will address the collapse etc things soon, maybe in part 4 or 5. Some interpretation does not like that and done away with it in various ways.

The reason we use the word collapse is because the change is drastic. Sudden, noncontinuous. It breaks with deterministic evolution. Consider that a free electron. Before we measure where it is, its position wavefunction can spread to a sphere, larger and larger. Once we measured where it is, the wavefunction collapse down to a narrow point at that location. Instantaneously, everywhere else seems to instantly know that oh, need to go to zero now. That’s a bit of hint of non-locality there too. As the sphere is of finite size but the collapse time we do not know from the theory, it can be instantaneous.


#10

Instead of collapsing, you can say “destroys the wavefunciton”.


#11

Oh I see. And that instantaneous change is unsettling because it violates our sense of locality especially when the change results in entangled pairs. Entangled pairs is actually what helped me feel a bit more comfortable with “the dimension of infinite consciousness”. Entangled pairs separated by a galaxy are “conscious” of each other for some liberal definition of “conscious”.

But the third SG z measurement resurrected and killed it in a different measurement basis. This is why collapse/destruction give me headaches while “change drastically” is less problematic. Collapse and destruction are irreversible in common conversation. But the SG experiment is easily extended to work on the same beam for more stages of x/z measurement.


#12

When the double split experiment is performed, if the screen at the end shows an interference pattern then that particular wave function was not collapsed/destroyed. If it shows two slits, then that particular wave function was collapsed/destroyed.

You can’t perform the double slit experiment, have an interference pattern as an end-result, and then “uncollapse” the wave function to manifest two slits, once the interference pattern is already there.

It’s also irreversible in the double slit experiment. Once you have that interference pattern, you need to do the experiment all over again if you want two slits.

I suppose one could turn on the camera mid-way through, but then you would just get the interference pattern from when the camera was off, with two slits juxtaposed over top of it, at the end.


#13

Consider a garden hose, turned on, and angled 45 degrees into the air, to create a lovely arc of water.

If you put your finger at the nozzle of the hose, the arc is “destroyed”, but when you take your finger away, the arc returns.

So, sometimes destruction is reversible in common conversation.


#14

Hi,

Wavefunction collapse in the Copenhagen picture is irreversible. It is part of the distasteful thing that lead some to other kinds of interpretation.

Wavefunction is not destroyed. It just changed. Like a cloth can dance in the wind when there is wind, when the wind is gone, the cloth collapse down.

Double slit, we have photons continuously coming in. And so you can say that indeed interference means it does not collapse. Just try to observe the path, then you collapse the streams coming in. Don’t observe the path, we get back the interference pattern.

The screen is not a photographic plate. It can be very versatile. It can be like the movie screen, showing what is on now, or it can record and send data to a computer to recreate past results.

I don’t want to discuss collapse yet as it is not in all interpretations, so have to do this delicately to avoid bias.


#15

According to Buddhism any type of matter consists of four great elements (patavi, āpo, tejo, vāyo). There is no doubt that all of the matter that we encounter with our own senses are consists of these four. Science explain every particle in the universe is a vibration when it comes to the concept Virtual Particles. I wonder whether the energy also belongs to the form (rūpa) or not.
@NgXinZhao


#16

My view is that form means whatever that Physics can describe. Energy interacts with matter enough so much so that we know exactly how they interact with quantum field theories and general relativity. So energy, space, time, information are all forms.

Perhaps the main overlap with mind is that the mind can also be said to contain information in terms of memories.


#17

I don’t think that Quantum mechanics has anything to do with the Buddhas teachings, which appears to be loosely based on Newtonian mechanics.


#18

there is a facebook group called quantum Buddhism where some of the members actively compares quantum to buddhism. As well as several books on quantum buddhism by graham smetham.

As Newtonian physics comes later, it’s not accurate to say Buddhism is based on it. If you mean that Buddhism is more readily compared to Newtonian physics, then kindly tell us which part of it is like Newtonian physics.


#19

Buddhism deals with the human scale, which is described by Newtonian rather than quantum mechanics.
I’m not saying Buddhism is based on modern science, clearly it isn’t.


#20

Buddhism is based on four noble truth paticcasamuppāda, and 37 belongings to enlightenment. Buddhism has no root to materialistic modern science.

Modern science may got some explainations to natural phenomena that occur in the universe, but to me those are so called theories derived from thousands of assumptions. Buddhism is not to learn or study about the world but to get rid of the world and all the sufferings. As long as you dig for explainations for natural phenomena, you are not looking at your ownself.