Does Quantum Mechanics contradict Buddhism

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Mawkish1983
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Re: Does Quantum Mechanics contradict Buddhism

Post by Mawkish1983 » Wed Oct 28, 2009 2:34 pm

fig tree wrote: I don't think quantum physics contradicts Buddhist teachings.
[snip]
These different descriptions are often termed interpretations. (See for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interpreta ... _mechanics.)
[snip]
My gut feeling is that quantum physics is actually more naturally compatible with Buddhism than previous theories of physics were.
Nice to see another physicist amongst us! I couldn't fault anything you said. I never really got on well with the interpretations of QM, I prefered to just focus on using it to make predictions... and pass exams :) I agree with you though, classical physics seems to me to be almost deterministic. Quantum physics, on the other hand, is far from it.... but it's not random either :)

Every few months a question about quantum physics seems to come up. Recently I got into a discussion with a self-professed 'practicing shaman' about QM and it was clear he was in-love with the interpretations but he had no knowledge of Bra-ket notation or the TDSE or perturbation theory or etc or etc or etc. Maybe a well balanced 'physics with philosophy' masters degree should be proposed, I don't know.

Anyway, back to the OP, as I said before... I don't think QM at all contradicts Buddhism. QM is a set of models used to make predictions. That is all.

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catmoon
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Re: Does Quantum Mechanics contradict Buddhism

Post by catmoon » Wed Oct 28, 2009 3:59 pm

clw_uk wrote:Modern Science in the form of Quantum mechanics has shown that you can actually get sub-atomic particles coming out of nothing with no cause and hence no interdependent arising. Does this cancel out a fundemental Buddhist doctrine or interdependence?
metta
Let me bounce this one off ya. Virtual particles do arise, but not from nothing. In QM a chunk of space is a thing with measurable properties. So there are pre-existing conditions necessary for the arising of a virtual particle: the existence of space for it to arise in, and either some large fluctuation in the vacuum energy or some external energy source.

Might be right.

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Dhammabodhi
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Re: Does Quantum Mechanics contradict Buddhism

Post by Dhammabodhi » Fri Oct 30, 2009 7:55 pm

Thanks a ton for the clarifications, Mawkish!

I hope your wife gets better soon!

Metta, :anjali:
Dhammabodhi
"Take rest, take rest."-S.N.Goenka

Individual
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Re: Does Quantum Mechanics contradict Buddhism

Post by Individual » Fri Oct 30, 2009 11:14 pm

Something else I thought I should say:

I think quantum physics complements Buddhism well because a certain problem of quantum physics seems to parallel a similar philosophical problem in Buddhism. In physics, there is the problem of figuring out how quantum reactions relate to larger scale physical reactions, like our everyday experiences, such as gravity. There is scientific verification of both, yet the mathematics of each contradict one another.

In Buddhism, the unconditioned (Nibbana) and the conditioned are both said to exist, yet again, it is difficult to understand how they might relate one another. One can verify the existence of Nibbana anywhere by envisioning the cessation of the Five Aggregates of clinging, and acting upon that foundation. And yet, any action we take still falls within the framework of a conditioned reality, so is anything ever truly Unconditioned?
The best things in life aren't things.

The Diamond Sutra

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Kare
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Re: Does Quantum Mechanics contradict Buddhism

Post by Kare » Sat Oct 31, 2009 1:21 am

Quantum mechanics is extremely fascinating - but whenever I see buddhists discussing QM, not to mention when I try to understand a bit of it myself, I can't help remembering the famous quote by Richard Feynman: "If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics." :roll:
Mettāya,
Kåre

Mawkish1983
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Re: Does Quantum Mechanics contradict Buddhism

Post by Mawkish1983 » Sat Oct 31, 2009 4:10 am

Kare wrote:Richard Feynman: "If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics."
I remember having a chat with a lady who worked at the cafeteria at uni once. My friends and I were talking about some physics topic (I can't remember what, but we were all at uni studying physics remember) and this cafeteria lady overheard us and remarked "if it's so difficult, why bother?"

I don't understand why mass factors in inertia, but I use the fact that it does to maintain safe stopping distances when I drive. There is as yet no theory relating inertial mass to gravitational mass, yet the two are taken as being the same. Quite simply, no-one understands mass, but we can use this concept to make the maths work.

Quantum mechanics is, again, a tool. The quantum numbers are abstract human creations to make the maths work... but the maths DOES work. I don't understand why the quantum numbers should be as they are, but the maths works. When Feynman made this famous quote I think this is what he meant. He's not saying "be like the cafeteria lady and avoid difficult subjects", he's saying "No-one knows why, but the maths works".

This is why, every few months when I see quantum mechanics discussed in a religious forum, I despair. In general, few people know what a Hamiltonian operator is, so how can I explain quantum mechanics without maths? There is a reason quantum mechanics is barely mentioned at school, it's hard! Only at university level do we get into the guts of it, when we have all the relevant background in mathematics and classical physics.

So when I see small mistakes in a forum of friends about a topic I know, what should I do? Confuse everyone with maths? Tell everyone to be like the cafeteria lady? Try to correct mistakes as well as I can using hand-waving arguements? I go for the latter but provide topics the reader can go away and research further if they are interested. I'm a crap teacher but what else can I do?

If you prefer, Kare, I can avoid correcting mistakes. I can say "no-one knows" and leave people believing physicists are like alchemists or magicians, but that's not true. People DO understand quantum mechanics: they understand it's purpose, it's use and it's limitations. Bottom line is this, the transistors in your computer rely on knowledge of quantum mechanics, and they weren't designed and fabricated by chance.

"If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics." Huh? I would change that to "If you think you understand interpretations of quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics."

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catmoon
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Re: Does Quantum Mechanics contradict Buddhism

Post by catmoon » Sat Oct 31, 2009 5:31 am

Kare wrote:Quantum mechanics is extremely fascinating - but whenever I see buddhists discussing QM, not to mention when I try to understand a bit of it myself, I can't help remembering the famous quote by Richard Feynman: "If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics." :roll:
Another nice quote goes like this:


Student: I just don't understand this quantum mechanics stuff.
Professor: Nobody understands it. You just get used to it.

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catmoon
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Re: Does Quantum Mechanics contradict Buddhism

Post by catmoon » Sat Oct 31, 2009 5:35 am

Mawkish1983 wrote:
This is why, every few months when I see quantum mechanics discussed in a religious forum, I despair. In general, few people know what a Hamiltonian operator is, so how can I explain quantum mechanics without maths?

OMG you understand Hamiltonians? That's the concept that stopped me in my tracks. I would be greatly in your debt if you could clear that blockage for me. I can tolerate small doses of linear algebra.

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Dugu
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Re: Does Quantum Mechanics contradict Buddhism

Post by Dugu » Sat Oct 31, 2009 7:06 am

I am humble by everyone's intelligence. What you guys discuss fly over my head. :jumping:

Mawkish1983
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Re: Does Quantum Mechanics contradict Buddhism

Post by Mawkish1983 » Sat Oct 31, 2009 8:10 am

catmoon wrote:OMG you understand Hamiltonians? That's the concept that stopped me in my tracks. I would be greatly in your debt if you could clear that blockage for me. I can tolerate small doses of linear algebra.
Well, Hermetian operators in general aren't too tricky. Think of them as computer programme subroutines. The important thing is to do the subroutines in the right order. I thoroughly recommend you take it to a physics forum though. :)

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catmoon
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Re: Does Quantum Mechanics contradict Buddhism

Post by catmoon » Sat Oct 31, 2009 11:14 am

Mawkish1983 wrote:
catmoon wrote:OMG you understand Hamiltonians? That's the concept that stopped me in my tracks. I would be greatly in your debt if you could clear that blockage for me. I can tolerate small doses of linear algebra.
Well, Hermetian operators in general aren't too tricky. Think of them as computer programme subroutines. The important thing is to do the subroutines in the right order. I thoroughly recommend you take it to a physics forum though. :)
I tried to learn em from a book. The result was that I did not learn to use them. Sadly, as is the case in such books, the authors also neglected to tell me what they were FOR and what one might operate ON with them. So I was left with "Here is a completely abstract idea that you cannot understand, whose use we will not explain, but the learning of which is crucial to further advancement."

I was a bit frustrated by that.Image

Mawkish1983
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Re: Does Quantum Mechanics contradict Buddhism

Post by Mawkish1983 » Sat Oct 31, 2009 11:38 am

catmoon wrote:what they were FOR and what one might operate ON with them.
Well look, the Hamiltonian is a hermetian operator used to calculate the expectiation value of the energy of a system. It takes away the need for the Schrodinger equation (which gets REALLY hairy for more than two particles). I think if you are interested it might be worth taking a course. It's never too late to get a degree with the Open University. I am not going to be able to teach you well enough I'm afraid. Maybe after I have some teaching experience, but not yet. Also, this is a Buddhist forum ;) it's good to be interested, it's good to question... but I can't give good enough answers, especially here :(

Good luck :)

Edit: oh yeah, and they operate on wave functions.

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catmoon
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Re: Does Quantum Mechanics contradict Buddhism

Post by catmoon » Sat Oct 31, 2009 12:19 pm

Mawkish1983 wrote:
catmoon wrote:what they were FOR and what one might operate ON with them.
Well look, the Hamiltonian is a hermetian operator used to calculate the expectiation value of the energy of a system. It takes away the need for the Schrodinger equation (which gets REALLY hairy for more than two particles). I think if you are interested it might be worth taking a course. It's never too late to get a degree with the Open University. I am not going to be able to teach you well enough I'm afraid. Maybe after I have some teaching experience, but not yet. Also, this is a Buddhist forum ;) it's good to be interested, it's good to question... but I can't give good enough answers, especially here :(

Good luck :)

Edit: oh yeah, and they operate on wave functions.

Bypass the Schrodinger equation? Merciful heavens that sounds like a monstrous work saver. Just think: The fact that Hamiltonians exist must mean that somewhere there was a guy who had cracked the Schrodinger equation so many times, so many different ways, and was so smart, that a shortcut became apparent to him. Mind boggler.

ok enough physics fer today.tnx.

Mawkish1983
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Re: Does Quantum Mechanics contradict Buddhism

Post by Mawkish1983 » Sat Oct 31, 2009 12:23 pm

catmoon wrote:Bypass the Schrodinger equation?
Well, not bypass. The Hamiltonian IS the Schrodinger equation, just in a more workable form. But, yeah, enough physics :)

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