Saturday, November 17, 2012

Quantum Entanglement

From time to time I've mentioned my fascination with the phenomenon known as quantum entanglement (QE) in which two particles which start out in contact with one another but are then sped at the speed of light to opposite ends of the universe, remain somehow mysteriously connected. Even though there's no conceivable way the particles can be in contact with each other nevertheless a change in one particle instantly "causes" a corresponding change in the other, as if they were somehow still joined together.

When I tell my students this I often get the feeling that they think I'm pulling their collective leg, but this phenomenon is well-known among physicists. Here's physicist Brian Greene discussing it:
All I can do when I see a video like this is paraphrase Shakespeare in Hamlet: There are more things in heaven and on earth than we could ever dream of. QE certainly lends credence to the view of physicist Sir James Jeans that the world looks more like a grand idea than a grand machine. In fact, it looks very much as though, at bottom, it's an idea in the mind of God. At least that might explain how one particle "knows" what's happening to the other.

Materialism and Electrical Bacteria

Rabbi Moshe Averick reports on the discovery of an amazing phenomenon that occurs at the bottom of the oceans. It turns out that certain filamentous bacteria have the ability to conduct electricity through their cells for distances of up to a centimeter. Averick comments:
In layman’s terms it means that living bacteria at the bottom of the ocean act as a network of electrical cables complete with insulation that transmit electricity over a distance of one centimeter. If these “marvelous microbes” were the size of human beings the signals would be transmitted for 12 miles. Several years ago researchers had detected electrical currents on the ocean floor but until now had no idea of their source. Science Daily reports that “they make up a kind of live electric cable that no one had ever imagined existed.” One researcher described it as “unreal and fantastic.”

A single teaspoon of mud contains at least a half mile of these living cables. The electrical currents generated by these bacteria seem to play an important role in the nutrient cycles of sea life.
Averick uses this discovery as a springboard for poking a little fun at Darwinian materialists:
When the Supreme Court of Tennessee reviewed the guilty verdict of the famous Scopes “Monkey Trial” (1925), Justice Chambliss noted the following statement by Dr. E.N. Reinke, Professor of Biology at Vanderbilt University, which was repeatedly referred to in the briefs of counsel for the defense:

“The theory of evolution is altogether essential to the teaching of biology....To deny the teacher of biology the use of [evolution] would make his teaching as chaotic as an attempt to teach...physics without assuming the existence of the ether.”

In hindsight, Dr. Reinke’s remarks are nothing short of comical. The theory of the luminiferous ether was abandoned by science long ago and even today physicists and historians of science get slightly red-faced when the subject comes up.
Just as the theory of an ether died a slow death among scientists and was eventually buried, so, too, Averick claims is materialism dying a slow death among philosophers. He quotes no less an authority than philosopher Thomas Nagel in his book Mind and Cosmos: Why Neo-Darwinian Materialism Is Almost Certainly Wrong:
“For a long time I have found the materialist account of how we and our fellow organisms come to exist hard to believe, including the standard version of how the evolutionary process works. The more details we learn about the chemical basis of life and the intricacy of the genetic code, the more unbelievable the standard historical account becomes...It seems to me that...the current orthodoxy about the cosmic order is the product of governing assumptions that are unsupported and that it flies in the face of common sense.”
When even atheists like Nagel begin to see materialism as a dead end then you know the theory is in trouble.