Comments about the article in Nature: When quantum physics met psychiatry

Following is a discussion about this article in Nature Vol 584 27 August 2020, by Anil Ananthaswany
The article is a review of the book: "Synchronicity: The epic Quest to understand Quantum Nature of Cause and Effect" by by Paul Halpern. The book is about Carl Jung and Wolfgang Pauli In the last paragraph I explain my own opinion.



My first reflection is that there exists no real physical relation between quantum physics and psychiatry. The main reason is because quatum physics involves elementary particles, while psychiatry involves human behaviour and the human mind. That does not mean that in our brain there are no processes active which involve elementary particles. That is specific the case if you want to change our behaviour using medicine.
The first sentence of the article reads:
The storytellers of modern physics are ever on the hunt for new ways to convey the tension between the contrasting realities of the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics.
This poses immediate an important question (which is relevant to the whole article) what exactly is meant with: the contrasting realities of GR versus the contrasting realities of the quantum mechanics.
My answer would be GR is relevant for the behaviour of moving objects in outer space, while quantum mechanics is relevant for the constituents of these objects.
Relativity argues for an universe in which causes lead to effects and nothing travels faster than light.
The same problem as before what means cause and what means effect. You could also write this sentence like: The change of the state of any object causes a change in an other object and is caused by a change in an other object. The problem is this is not specific to GR but also includes Newton's Law.
The fact that nothing can travel faster than light requires also more detail. A more accurate definition is: Any physical object can not pass a photon . This is a physical issue.
Quantum physics tells of a quirkier world, in which things seem to happen at random and connections appear seemingly instantaneously.
The whole issue is that at elementary level detailed observations by humans are impossible. We humans cannot observe the individual path of each electron, proton or photon as such what caused it what are the effects are impossible to establish.
Both challenge our intuitions.
Within the scientific framework the word intuition should never be mentioned. What matters is experience and lack of experience is no sin.
In Synchronicity he relates how Australian physicist Wolfgang Pauli, distraught and drinking heavily after his divorce etc.
The cause of each and the effects of each are a string, of almost random small actions, resulting in sometimes big events.
Jung in turn received a schooling in quantum physics.
It is maybe better to write: Was told about the present state of art, involving the behaviour of elementary particles.
He learnt how measuring the state of one particle can seem to influence the state of another instantly, a property called entanglement.
Measuring the state of one particular does not influence anything instantaneous at a distance. All of this can be rather easily explained. The reality is that certain (collision) reactions result in the emission of two particles and measuring both shows that the two are correlated. When one particle is red the other is always blue. This correlation happens as part of the reaction before the particles are emitted. Testing both particles at any distance, will show this correlation. (This fact is not 100% true).
The consequence of all of this is when one particle is measured, the tester instantaneous knows the state of the other particle.
Before meeting Pauli, Jung had coined the term synchronicity to describe the principle of acausual connections.
The next sentence should be studied first.
The next sentence reads (modified):
Before meeting, Pauli sought an explanation for his idea of a collective unconscious of human experience that influenced (1) dreams, (2) thought and (3) behaviour.
Each of these three experiences should be studied separately as part of our mind. Each of these three, I expect, have a conscious and an unconscious component specific how they can influence each other.
Jung had coined the term synchronicity to describe the principle of acausual connections.
To call these influences acausual as if thoughts have no cause seems wrong. They can have broad effects.
For Pauli, the interactions led him to argue for the necessity of a unified theory of matter and mind. (He had done his seminal work on quantum mechanics in the 1920, including formulating his exclusion principle, which explains why ordinary matter is stable and takes up space).
The exclusion principle cannot be explained. The only thing that can be done is to demonstrate, that every imaginable experiment, always is in agreement with the exclusion principle.
See: wik_Pauli_exclusion_principle.htm. This document mentions the importance of Paul Ehrenfest in 1932.

Page 514

The heart of Halpern's book is the conflict between human intuitions of deep connections in the Universe and the scientific case for such links.
This sentence requires much more detail. This is a serious omission. Again don't mention the word intuition
He sweeps the the arrival of relativity and quantum mechanics - building a case for potential connections without causality.
The final part of this sentence is not clear. You need at least one example or a hint. This is serious, because the book is about Cause and Effect.
Despite such anecdotes, parts of the book could be hard going for those unfamiliar with the concepts.
This section of the review is also 'hard going' i.e. not clear.

Conservation Laws

In the early twentieth century, Amalie 'Emmy' Noether showed that symmetries in nature and the laws of conservation are two sides of one coin.
To understand this sentence is must first be clear what 'symmetries in nature' and 'the laws of conservation' are.
It is important that she speaks of laws in plural. Why? Does she also mean "The law of conservation of energy"?
For example, a spinning wheel has rotational symmetry: turning on it axis does not change the wheel.
It is correct that a spinning wheel is rotational symmetric. But what is the physical relevance?
Conservation of angular momentum follows from rotational symmetry.
You cannot make such a claim. What means follows?
The leading law is: The Law of Conservation of Energy. But also that law is tricky specific when different forms of energy are involved.
The second question is what comes first: A description of an experiment or the explanation.
Consider you have a rotating object, a rotating wheel, and you make the radius 50% smaller. The experiment shows that the wheel starts to rotate faster.
In this case only one type of energy is involved: Kinetic energy i.e. rotational energy. The reason is because all the mass is in the wheel. When you make the radius smaller and the energy stays the same, the only parameter which can compensate this difference is the speed of rotation, which will increase.
The next sentence reads:
Conservation laws, in turn, affect long range acausal phenomena.
Also here more detail is required what is meant. In fact the details should be demonstrated by means of experiments. See also: Reflection 1 - Understanding Physical Phenomena.
All physical phenomena have a cause. Certain phenomena are influenced by different causes. Some phenomena have many effects. The main problem is that we humans have only a limited capability to detect all what is involved at all levels of details. See next sentence:
The angular momentum of two particles emitted from the same interaction has to be conserved even if the particles end up kilometres apart.
We humans can not make up any rules how physics should behave The only thing we humans can do is measure the results or outcome of chemical reactions and calculate if there are correlations. If chemical reactions are the same than all should have these correlations at close range. At larger distances this can never be guaranteed because external circumstances (collisions) can influence these original correlated particles.
This leads to correlations in their measured properties.
The word lead is wrong in this sentence.
The first step is to perform an experiment. The second step is to perform measurements.
For example total number of electrons each, protons and neutrons could be measured in the inputs, before the reaction and in the outputs after any reaction.
This could lead to the conclusion that both numbers are the same, indicating a possible correlation and that certain qualities are conserved. That means that the correlations or laws, including conservation laws, are established by performing these measurements. However it is completely wrong to think that these correlations are the cause of the measurements. What is measured is always caused by previous physical reactions.

Reflection 1 - Understanding Physical Phenomena.

The only way to understand physical phenomena is to describe them as detailed as possible.
The strategy to do that is by performing experiments. Not one but many. As many experiments as possible each slightly different as the previous one. Before each experiment we write down what the differences are and after each experiment what is observed. By doing that we gain experience and we learn the facts of nature (i.e. cause and effect) based on the differences or parameters of the processes studied.
By comparing different processes we are also able to predict the outcome of new proposed experiments and the actual prove lies in performing the experiment and observe if the predicted outcome is in agreement with the actual outcome.
Three experiments:
  1. The first experiment involves an iron hammer and a ball. The idea is to hit the ball with the hammer and observe how far away the ball rolls. In order to be able to repeat the experiment we make the shaft of the hammer very long (the height of the ceiling). We connect the end of the shaft to the ceiling and we take care that the hammer can swing above the floor and hit the ball.
    The actual experiment consists of moving the hammer a standard distance away and letting the hammer loose. The hammer will increase in speed and hit the ball. The ball will start to move, first fast and then slower. We mark down the position when the ball comes at rest. We observe that when the hammer hits the ball the speed of the hammer decreases (at even can come at rest).
    This experiment is rather complex. The first thing we are going to do is to perform the same experiment but we change the surface of the floor. What we will observe is that dependent about the structure of the floor the position when the ball comes at rest. For a rough surface the distance is short, for a flat surface the distance is long. We call that friction. That means the length moved is a function of friction i.e. contact surface between ball and floor.
    This experiment subject of what is called The Law of Conservation of Energy , which is valid at any instant during the whole experiment. This is important when you consider the moment when the hammer hit the ball and specific what happens with the hammer there after; there is no energy loss at that specific instant.
  2. The second experiment involves entanglement, however no specific experiment is discussed.
    Entanglement involves the results of reaction experiments, specific if individual particles are involved, which can be correlated. General speaking inherent in reactions there are correlations. I.e. what goes in, must come out. However also within the resulting products there can be correlation.
    May be a more physical (chemical) explanation is required. Starting point is that there are only a final number of reactions. The story is something like: based on actual experiments the reaction: A + B gives a C (particle) and a D (particle) in 80% of the cases, E + F in 15%, G + H in 4% and I + J in 1%. That is all what is possible. That means in a particular case and if we perform the reaction A + B and one observer detects a C particle than the other observer should detect a D particle. This is even stronger the observer which detects a C particle immediate knows that the other observer will detect a D particle. Nothing physical or any communication is required between both observers.
    This experiment seems simple but more complicated results are possible. For example it is possible that both cases both observers measure a C particle, implying the same polarization angle of two photons. What this means that the entanglement between two photons is not 100%. It is possible that this discrepancy increases with distance.
  3. The third experiment involves an iron hammer and a spooked wheel In fact we perform the same with two wheels: one wheel with radius r and one with a radius 2r. The mass of both wheels is the same.
    To turn the wheel, the wheel has a type of handle, which sticks out. Just like in experiment 1 we hit against this handle with a standard blow. The result will be that the wheel starts to rotate. The experiment will show that the smallest wheel rotates the fastest.

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Created: 3 September 2020

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