Down the Rabbit Hole: Living in a Quantum World

Down the Rabbit Hole: Living in a Quantum World

With Chris Fields  •  Jan 20–Feb 10, 2018

A 4-part Webinar Series

Even physicists tell us that quantum theory is deeply counter-intuitive, and that it suffers seemingly unresolvable problems of interpretation. Some claim that quantum theory is related to consciousness, free will, or spirituality. It is hard, however, to find a simple explanation of exactly what quantum theory is or what it says about the world. It is even more difficult to find a reason, beyond “it makes the right predictions,” for why quantum theory might be true.

This webinar has two goals:

1) to give you a deep, intuitive understanding of what quantum theory is saying and why it is saying it; and
2) to encourage you to ask how this information can be incorporated into your life.

You will understand by the end of these sessions that quantum theory is not about electrons or atoms at all, but about the process of observation. You will see that there is no such thing as “wavefunction collapse” and there are no “multiple worlds” to worry about. Quantum theory is not about Schroedinger’s cat. It is about you, and what you can learn by asking questions.

Once you see what quantum theory is saying, you’ll see that it is not mysterious at all. You’ll also see why it is so successful: because it describes, with uncompromising precision and no room for waffling, what we can learn about the world. It challenges us to stop believing that we know more than we can know. We will discuss how, and even whether, we can meet its challenge in our daily lives.

 

Below is another talk by Chris Fields (NOT the webinar)

 

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Part 1: A Tale of Two Physics

Jan 21, 2018 PST

Quantum theory is usually presented as a challenge to classical physics. In fact, it challenges a much older physics, the "intuitive" or "folk" physics we all learned as infants. Our first step toward understanding quantum theory is understanding our intuitions about the physical world, where they come from, and what function they serve in our psychology and hence in our lives. We'll see how these intuitions seeped into the classical physics of Galileo and Newton, and from there into quantum theory itself. We will discover a deep contradiction between our earliest intuitions about the physical world and the theories - classical and then quantum physics - we have built to describe it.

Duration: 1 hours, 30 minutes

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Part 2: What is "quantum"?

Jan 28, 2018 PST

"Quantum" means discrete.  A "quantum" number is a number we can write down, like one or 100 or 2.34.  We will trace the origin of the "the quantum" in physics and find that it comes from the requirement for *answers we can write down*.  All of physics is about answers we can write down, so all of physics, even "classical" physics, is quantum.  We will then think about what it means to ask a question and get an answer we can write down.  Quantum theory will start to emerge - beginning with Heisenberg's uncertainty principle and moving on to superposition and entanglement - as we think about this process.  We will also encounter surprising connections to the psychology of perception and to the fundamental idea of "computation."

Duration: 1 hours, 30 minutes

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Part 3: What is Memory?

Feb 4, 2018 PST

Once we see that quantum theory is about observation, it becomes clear that it is also about memory. Memories must be recorded - "written down" - even in our heads. We must then "read" what we have written down if we want to use the information we have recorded in our memories. Now we come face-to-face with the contradiction we discovered in Session 1: we cannot, without contradicting ourselves, do physics and treat our memories as sacrosanct. The growing evidence that cognition is quantum suddenly makes sense. But we are now in freefall: without the touchstone of memory, our certainty about identity - for the objects around us but also for ourselves as observers - evaporates.

Duration: 1 hours, 30 minutes

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Part 4: Living in a Quantum World

Feb 11, 2018 PST

Quantum theory is simple and seemingly inevitable. It has survived every test we have been able to devise. But what are we to make of its lessons? It tells us, very clearly, that the world does not consist of separate things with which we can separately interact. Our distinctions of one part of the world from another have no physical significance, it tells us, and no effect on the world's behavior. But if they are not separate, individual things, what are other people, let alone the other objects around us? Quantum theory does not even let us privilege our own memories as separate and separately accessible. What then becomes of the personal histories we so strongly believe in? What becomes of our identities?

Duration: 1 hours, 30 minutes

Chris Fields

Chris Fields uses concepts and tools from physics, information theory, evolutionary and developmental biology, and cognitive neuroscience in an attempt to understand how, and to what extent, one part of the world can be aware of another part of the world. Underlying this question is that of how observers draw boundaries around the systems being observed, including themselves. This later question raises, in turn, questions concerning the nature and awareness of time, memory and identity through time. Answers to these questions, however tentative, suggest approaches to open problems in cosmology, developmental biology, and the etiology of developmental disorders such as autism. Dr. Fields has also been a volunteer firefighter, a visual artist, and a travel writer. He currently divides his time between Sonoma, CA and Caunes Minervois, a village in southwestern France. Biographical details and recent publications are available from http://chrisfieldsresearch.com.