My attempt to compare the quantum and Buddhism

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!

1 Like

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?

1 Like

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.

1 Like

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:

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.

1 Like

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

1 Like

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.


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.

1 Like

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.

1 Like


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.


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.

1 Like

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.


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

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.

1 Like

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.

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.

1 Like

I like science, but I wouldn’t attempt to compare it with Buddhism. Apples and oranges.
If I was going to attempt a comparison, I’d suggest that the four great elements of Rupa (earth, water, wind and fire) bear a resemblance to the four phases of matter (solid, liquid, gas and plasma).

Comparison is not a bad thing to do. Problem is Buddhism does not account natural phenominas and so called worldly things much. For example people say there is such a subject called buddhist cosmology. But when you read EBTs, there may be only 4-5 suttas to get information related to the subject. Everything else comes from theories made based on those few suttas, which is not scientific.

So, Māluṅkyaputta, you should remember what I have not declared as undeclared, and what I have declared as declared. And what have I not declared? I have not declared the following: ‘the world is eternal,’ ‘the world is not eternal,’ ‘the world is finite,’ ‘the world is infinite,’ ‘the soul and the body are the same thing,’ ‘the soul and the body are different things,’ ‘a Realized One exists after death,’ ‘a Realized One doesn’t exist after death,’ ‘a Realized One both exists and doesn’t exist after death,’ ‘a Realized One neither exists nor doesn’t exist after death.’

And why haven’t I declared these things? Because they aren’t beneficial or relevant to the fundamentals of the spiritual life. They don’t lead to disillusionment, dispassion, cessation, peace, insight, awakening, and extinguishment. That’s why I haven’t declared them.
Cūḷamālukya Sutta MN 63

Comparing science with buddhism is not a bad thing, but you should know the limits.

I am not certain this is correct.
Mahārāhulovāda Sutta MN 62 explains that you should see four great elements by means of perfect intuitive wisdom to attain enlightenment. naked eyes or other senses cannot sense these qualities of form.

Ya, it’s hard to find the comparisons with Buddhism, I am just doing the fringe stuffs which is totally not required reading for enlightenment and can be considered a great waste of time.

I like that 4 phase of matter with the 4 great elements comparison. It’s basically correct. Although nowadays, we have a lot more phases, so it’s not exactly a good comparison anymore. Eg. go so cold you get Bose Einstein condensation, go so dense, you get black holes, and before that, neutron stars, dwarf stars. And Ice has a lot of different phases. As well as superfluid, etc…

1 Like

Updated it to my current work, started this month, projected to finish by this month. Part 1-7 here. May reach over 30 parts.