Deepak Chopra’s “Physics”: Non-locality

In a previous post, I analyzed synchronicity, aka “principle of acausal connection,” a principle proposed by the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung and adapted by Deepak Chopra as a catalyst for quantum non-locality: acausal means no cause, and since cause must take place at a point in space and an instant in time, its absence means the absence of locality or non-locality.

Zodiaccircle 4594359There is indeed a phenomenon in quantum mechanics (QM) called non-locality, which is related to the so-called “Bell’s inequality.” I will elaborate on quantum non-locality in a future post. But now I want to examine the nature and limitation of QM itself. This is important because QM has been widely misrepresented, not just by mystics, but also – after a huge philosophical leap – by great physicists, even those who discovered it.

What exactly is quantum theory?

Quantum theory was developed to explain the behavior of atoms and subatomic particles, where classical Newtonian physics failed miserably. Two crucial steps in this development were taken by Max Planck in 1900 and Louis de Broglie in 1923. Planck showed that in order to explain the emission of light by glowing hot objects, one has to assume that light is made up of quanta (later clarified by Einstein to be just particles). In the process of this discovery, for which he won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918, Planck stumbled upon a fundamental constant of nature, now appropriately called the Planck constant and denoted by h. Its value in scientific units is 0.0000000000000000000000000000000006626 (33 zeros).

The second step was a bold proposal that subatomic particles, specifically electrons, have wave properties. Particles are described by their momenta (mass times speed). Waves are described by their wavelengths. If particles have wave properties, there should be a connection between momentum and wavelength. This connection, which was discovered by Louis de Broglie in 1923 – and won him a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1929 – states that if you divide the Planck constant by a particle’s momentum (in scientific units), you’ll get its wavelength in meters. The de Broglie relation is universal; it applies to any and all particles and waves. Any particle that shows wave properties obeys the laws of the quantum theory.

How do you know if something has wave property? You look for its diffraction. What is diffraction? It is the bending of wave as it passes through an opening. For example, when a door is open – in a wall so thick that no sound is heard on the other side if the door (also thick) is closed – and you talk on one side of the door, a person on the other side will hear you even if (s)he is not standing directly in front of the door. We say that sound wave diffracts (bends) through the opening.

Light is also a wave, an electromagnetic wave. However, if you pass a beam of light (from a flashlight, for example) through the door opening, it will not diffract: the person on the other side must be directly in the straight path of the light beam to be able to see it. Now the question is, why does sound wave diffract through a doorway but light wave doesn’t? The answer is

In order for a wave to diffract, it must have a wavelength that is not too much smaller that the opening through which it passes.

A typical sound wave has a wavelength of around a meter or so. A doorway is also about a meter or so wide. So, sound wave diffracts. On the other hand, a typical light wave has a wavelength of about a millionth of a meter (a micrometer), much much smaller than the opening. So, light does not diffract through a doorway. But it does diffract through a very small hole created in a laboratory setting – that’s how in the early 19th century, Thomas Young showed that light was a wave (he actually used another property of the wave called interference, but the difference between interference and diffraction is not essential for our discussion).

If particles have wave properties, we should be able to observe their diffraction through apertures of appropriate sizes. Let’s look at the electron first. It has a mass of 0.00000000000000000000000000000091 kilogram (30 zeros). Let’s say we send a beam of electrons toward an aperture with a speed of 12000000 meters per second (a typical speed used in electron diffraction experiments). Then its momentum is approximately 0.000000000000000000000011 in scientific units; and its wavelength is the Planck constant divided by this number, or 0.0000000000602 meter. So, an aperture of this size should be able to diffract electrons if they can pass through it. It turns out that the diameter of an electron has been estimated to be less than 0.00000000000000000001 meter, which is over 6 billion times smaller than the aperture. The electrons indeed diffract, and their diffraction was observed for the first time in 1926-27 … another Nobel Prize accomplishment.

Can an ordinary object wave?

Now let’s look at an ordinary object, say a bullet. It has a typical mass of about 5 grams or 0.005 kilogram, and moves at a typical speed of about 400 meters per second. So, its momentum is 400×0.005 =2 in scientific units. Its wavelength is again the Planck constant divided by this number, or 0.0000000000000000000000000000000003313 meter. So, an aperture of this size should diffract bullets if they can pass through it. A typical bullet is approximately 5-10 millimeters, or 0.005-0.01 meter, in size. This is more than 15 million trillion trillion times the required size of the aperture! There is absolutely no way that a bullet can pass through an aperture this small and exhibit diffraction! Therefore,

Ordinary objects cannot exhibit wave properties. You cannot apply QM to ordinary objects. QM is suitable only for the description of atomic and subatomic particles.

N.B. QM has been successful in explaining the bulk properties of ordinary objects. The properties of magnets, semiconductors, and  superconductors have been understood through the application of QM to materials. However, this application has been restricted to the individual microscopic constituents of the materials and the forces between them.

You can’t cross the Atlantic with a bicycle!

Now listen to what Chopra has to say about quantum non-locality: “In the everyday world, however, non-locality is about people, not particles.” I can just as well make the statement: “In the everyday world, however, crossing the Atlantic is about bicycles, not airplanes or ships.” You can as much use quantum non-locality for people – or any other ordinary non-quantum objects – as you can use bicycles to cross the Atlantic!

Overlooking this restriction of the quantum theory is at the heart of all its abuses and all the preposterous, meaningless, groundless, and mystical “scientific” nonsense you hear from the promoters of woo!

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