Quantum Zeno Effect Solved

Lurking amidst the mass chaos of information that exists in our reality is a little gem of a concept called the Quantum Zeno Effect.  It is partially named after ancient Greek philosopher Zeno of Elea, who dreamed up a number of paradoxes about the fluidity of motion and change.  For example, the “Arrow Paradox” explores the idea that if you break down time into “instants” of zero duration, motion cannot be observed.  Thus, since time is composed of a set of instants, motion doesn’t truly exist.  We might consider Zeno to have been far ahead of his time as he appeared to be thinking about discrete systems and challenging the continuity of space and time a couple thousand years before Alan Turing resurrected the idea in relation to quantum mechanics: “It is easy to show using standard theory that if a system starts in an eigenstate of some observable, and measurements are made of that observable N times a second, then, even if the state is not a stationary one, the probability that the system will be in the same state after, say, one second, tends to one as N tends to infinity; that is, that continual observations will prevent motion …”.  The term “Quantum Zeno Effect” was first used by physicists George Sudarshan and Baidyanath Misra in 1977 to describe just such a system – one that does not change state because it is continuously observed.

The challenge with this theory has been in devising experiments that can verify or falsify it.  However, technology has caught up to philosophy and, over the last 25 years, a number of experiments have been performed which seem to validate the effect.  In 2001, for example, physicist Mark Raizen and a team at the University of Texas showed that the effect is indeed real and the transition of states in a system can be either slowed down or sped up simply by taking measurements of the system.

I have enjoyed making a hobby of fully explaining quantum mechanics anomalies with the programmed reality theory.   Admittedly, I don’t always fully grasp some of the deep complexities and nuances of the issues that I am tackling, due partly to the fact that I have a full time job that has naught to do with this stuff, and partly to the fact that my math skills are a bit rusty, but thus far, it doesn’t seem to make a difference.  The more I dig in to each issue, the more I find things that simply support the idea that we live in a digital (and programmed) reality.

The quantum Zeno effect might not be observed in every case.  It only works for non-memoryless processes.  Exponential decay, for instance, is an example of a memoryless system.  Frequent observation of a particle undergoing radioactive decay would not affect the result.  [As an aside, I find it very interesting that a “memoryless system” invokes the idea of a programmatic construct.  Perhaps with good reason…]

A system with memory, or “state”, however, is, in theory, subject to the quantum Zeno effect.  It will manifest itself by appearing to reset the experiment clock every time an observation is made of the state of the system.  The system under test will have a characteristic set of changes that vary over time.  In the case of the University of Texas experiment, trapped ions tended to remain in their initial state for a brief interval or so before beginning to change state via quantum tunneling, according to some probability function.  For the sake of developing a clear illustration, let’s imagine a process whereby a particle remains in its initial quantum state (let’s call it State A) for 2 seconds before probabilistically decaying to its final state (B) according to a linear function over the next second.  Figure A shows the probability of finding the particle in State A as a function of time.  For the first 2 seconds, of course, it has a 0% probability of changing state, and between 2 and 3 seconds it has an equal probability of moving to state B at any point in time.  A system with this behavior, left on its own and measured at any point after 3 seconds, will be in State B.


What happens, however, when you make a measurement of that system, to check and see if it changed state, at t=1 second?  Per the quantum Zeno effect, the experiment clock will effectively be reset and now the system will stay in State A from t=1 to t=3 and then move to state B at some point between t=3 and t=4.  If you make another measurement of the system at t=1, the clock will again reset, delaying the behavior by another second.  In fact, if you continue to measure the state of the system every second, it will never change state.  Note that this has absolutely nothing to do with the physical impact of the measurement itself; a 100% non-intrusive observation will have exactly the same result.

Also note that, it isn’t that the clock doesn’t reset for a memoryless system, but rather, that it doesn’t matter because you cannot observe any difference.  One may argue that if you make observations at the Planck frequency (one per jiffy), even a memoryless sytem might never change state.  This actually approaches the true nature of Zeno’s arguments, but that is a topic for another essay, one that is much more philosophical than falsifiable.  In fact, “Quantum Zeno Effect” is a misnomer.  The non-memoryless system described above really has little to do with the ad infinitum inspection of Zeno’s paradoxes, but we are stuck with the name.  And I digress.

So why would this happen?

It appears to be related in some way to the observer effect and to entanglement:

  • Observer Effect – Once observed, the state of a system changes.
  • Entanglement – Once observed, the states of multiple particles (or, rather, the state of a system of multiple particles) are forever connected.
  • Quantum Zeno – Once observed, the state of a system is reset.

What is common to all three of these apparent quantum anomalies is the coupling of the act of observation with the concept of a state.  For the purposes of this discussion, it will be useful to invoke the computational concept of a finite state machine, which is a system that changes state according to a set of logic rules and some input criteria.

I have explained the Observer effect and Entanglement as logical necessities of an efficient programmed reality system.  What about Quantum Zeno?  Why would it not be just as efficient to start the clock on a process and let it run, independent of observation?

A clue to the answer is that the act of observation appears to create something.

In the Observer effect, it creates the collapse of the probability wave functions and the establishment of definitive properties of certain aspects of the system under observation (e.g. position).  This is not so much a matter of efficiency as it is of necessity, because without probability, free will doesn’t exist and without free will, we can’t learn, and if the purpose of our system is to grow and evolve, then by necessity, observation must collapse probability.

In Entanglement, the act of observation may create the initiation of a state machine, which subsequently determines the behavior of the particles under test.  Those particles are just data, as I have shown, and the data elements are part of the same variable space of the state machine.  They both get updated simultaneously, regardless of the “virtual” distance between them.

So, in Quantum Zeno, the system under test is in probability space.  The act of observation “collapses” this initial probability function and kicks off the mathematical process by which futures states are determined based on the programmed probability function.  But that is now a second level of probability function; call it probability function 2.  Observing this system a second time now must collapse the probability wave function 2.  But to do so means that the system would now have to calculate a modified probability function 3 going forward – one that takes into account the fact that some aspect of the state machine has already been determined (e.g. the system has or hasn’t started its decay).  For non-memoryless systems, this could be an arbitrarily complex function (3) since it may take a different shape for every time at which the observation occurs.  A third measurement complicates the function even further because even more states are ruled out.

On the other hand, it would be more efficient to simply reset the probability function each time an observation is made, due to the efficiency of the reality system.

The only drawback to this algorithm is the fact that smart scientists are starting to notice these little anomalies, although the assumption here is that the reality system “cares.”  It may not.  Or perhaps that is why most natural processes are exponential, or memoryless – it is a further efficiency of the system.  Man-made experiments, however, don’t follow the natural process and may be designed to be arbitrarily complex, which ironically serves to give us this tiny little glimpse into the true nature of reality.

What we are doing here is inferring deep truths about our reality that are in fundamental conflict with the standard materialist view.  This will be happening more and more as time goes forward and physicists and philosophers will soon have no choice but to consider programmed reality as their ToE.


The Digital Reality Bandwagon

I tend to think that reality is just data.  That the fundamental building blocks of matter and space will ultimately be shown to be bits, nothing more.  Those who have read my book, follow this blog, or my Twitter feed, realize that this has been a cornerstone of my writing since 2006.

Not that I was the first to think of any of this.  Near as I can tell, Phillip K. Dick may deserve that credit, having said “We are living in a computer programmed reality” in 1977, although I am sure that someone can find some Shakespearean reference to digital physics (“O proud software, that simulates in wanton swirl”).

Still, a mere six years ago, it was a lonely space to be in.  The few digital reality luminaries at that time included:

But since then…

– MIT Engineering Professor Seth Lloyd published “Programming the Universe” in 2006, asserting that the universe is a massive quantum computer running a cosmic program.

– Nuclear physicist Thomas Campbell published his excellent unifying theory “My Big TOE” in 2007.

– Brian Whitworth, PhD. authored a paper containing evidence that our reality is programmed: “The emergence of the physical world from information processing”, Quantum Biosystems 2010, 2 (1) 221-249  http://arxiv.org/abs/0801.0337

– University of Maryland physicist, Jim Gates, discovered error-correction codes in the laws of physics. See “Symbols of Power”, Physics World, Vol. 23, No 6, June 2010.

– Fermilab astrophysicist, Craig Hogan, speculated that space is quantized.  This was based on results from GEO600 measurements in 2010.  See: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/10/holometer-universe-resolution/.  A holometer experiment is being constructed to test: http://holometer.fnal.gov/

– Rich Terrile, director of the Center for Evolutionary Computation and Automated Design at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, hypothesized that we are living in a simulated reality. http://www.vice.com/read/whoa-dude-are-we-inside-a-computer-right-now-0000329-v19n9

– Physicists Leonard Susskind ad Gerard t’Hooft, developed the holographic black hole physics theory (our universe is digitally encoded on the surface of a black hole).

Even mainstream media outlets are dipping a toe into the water to see what kinds of reactions they get, such as this recent article in New Scientist Magazine: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21528840.800-reality-is-everything-made-of-numbers.html

So, today, I feel like I am in really great company and it is fun to watch all of the futurists, philosophers, and scientists jump on the new digital reality bandwagon.  The plus side will include the infusion of new ideas and the resulting synthesis of theory, as well as pushing the boundaries of experimental validation.  The down side will be all of the so-called experts jockeying for position.  In any case, it promises to be a wild ride, one that should last the twenty or so years it will take to create the first full-immersion reality simulation.  Can’t wait.

Things We Can Never Comprehend

Have you ever wondered what we don’t know?  Or, to put it another way, how many mysteries of the universe are still to be discovered?

To take this thought a step further, have you ever considered that there may be things that we CAN’T understand, no matter how hard we try?

This idea may be shocking to some, especially to those scientists who believe that we are nearing the “Grand Unified Theory”, or “Theory of Everything” that will provide a simple and elegant solution to all forces, particles, and concepts in science.  Throughout history, the brightest of minds have been predicting the end of scientific inquiry.  In 1871, James Clerk Maxwell lamented the sentiment of the day which he represented by the statement “in a few years, all great physical constants will have been approximately estimated, and that the only occupation which will be left to men of science will be to carry these measurements to another place of decimals.”

Yet, why does it always seem like the closer we get to the answers, the more monkey wrenches get thrown in the way?  In today’s world, these include strange particles that don’t fit the model.  And dark matter.  And unusual gravitational aberrations in distant galaxies.

Perhaps we need a dose of humility.  Perhaps the universe, or multiverse, or whatever term is being used these days to denote “everything that is out there” is just too far beyond our intellectual capacity.  Before you call me out on this heretical thought, consider…

The UK’s Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees points out that “a chimpanzee can’t understand quantum mechanics.”  Despite the fact that Richard Feynman claimed that nobody understands quantum mechanics, as Michael Brooks points out in his recent article “The limits of knowledge: Things we’ll never understand”, no matter how hard they might try, the comprehension of something like Quantum Mechanics is simply beyond the capacity of certain species of animals.  Faced with this realization and the fact that anthropologists estimate that the most recent common ancestor of both humans and chimps (aka CHLCA) was about 6 million years ago, we can draw a startling conclusion:

There are certainly things about our universe and reality that are completely beyond our ability to comprehend!

My reasoning is as follows. Chimps are certainly at least more intelligent than the CHLCA; otherwise evolution would be working in reverse.  As an upper bound of intelligence, let’s say that CHLCA and chimps are equivalent.  Then, CHLCA was certainly not able to comprehend QM (nor relativity, nor even Newtonian physics), but upon evolving into humans over 8 million years, our new species was able to comprehend these things.  8 million years represents 0.06% of the entire age of the universe (according to what we think we know).  That means that for 99.94% of the total time that the universe and life was evolving up to the current point in time, the most advanced creature on earth was incapable of understand the most rudimentary concepts about the workings of reality and the universe.  And yet, are we to suppose that in the last 0.06% of the time, a species has evolved that can understand everything?  I’m sure you see how unlikely that is.

What if our universe was intelligently designed?  The same argument would probably hold.  For some entity to be capable of creating a universe that continues to baffle us no matter how much we think we understand, that entity must be far beyond our intelligence, and therefore has utilized, in the design, concepts that we can’t hope to understand.

Our only chance for being supremely capable of understanding our world would lie in the programmed reality model.  If the creator of our simulation was us, or even an entity a little more advanced than us, it could lead us along a path of exploration and knowledge discovery that just always seems to be on slightly beyond our grasp.  Doesn’t that idea feel familiar?

chimpscratching185 humanscratching185

Just when you thought Physics couldn’t get any Stranger

Tachyons, entanglement, cold fusion, dark matter, galactic filaments.  Just when you thought physics couldn’t get any stranger…

– THE VERY COLD: Fractional Quantum Hall Effect: When electrons are magnetically confined and cooled to a third of a degree above absolute zero (See more here), they seem to break down into sub-particles that act in synchronization, but with fractional charges, like 1/3, or 3/7.

– THE VERY HIGH PRESSURE: Strange Matter: The standard model of physics includes 6 types of quarks, including the 2 (“up” and “down”) that make up ordinary matter.  Matter that consists of “strange” quarks, aka Strange Matter, would be 10 times as heavy as ordinary matter.  Does it exist?  Theoretically, at very high densities, such as the core of neutron stars, such matter may exist.  A 1998 space shuttle experiment seems to have detected some, but repeat experiments have not yielded the same results.

– THE VERY LARGE DIMENSIONAL: Multidimensional Space: String theories say that we live in a 10-dimensional space, mostly because it is the only way to make quantum mechanics and general relativity play nicely together.  That is, until physicist Garrett Lisi came along and showed how it could be done with eight dimensional space and objects called octonions.  String theorists were miffed, mostly because Lisi is not university affiliated and spends most of his time surfing in Hawaii.

– THE VERY HOT: Quark-Gloun Plasma: Heat up matter to 2 trillion degrees and neutrons and protons fall apart into a plasma of quarks called quark-gluon plasma.  In April of 2005, QGP appeared to have been created at the Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC).

My view on all this is that it is scientific business as usual.  100 years ago, we lived in a smaller world; a world described solely by Newtonian Mechanics, our ordinary everyday view of how the world works.  Then, along came relativity and quantum mechanics.  Technological advances in laboratory equipment and optics allowed us to push the limits of speed and validate Relativity, which ultimately showed that Newtonian Mechanics was just an approximation of the larger, more encompassing theory of Relativity at slow speeds.  Similarly we pushed the limits of probing the very small and validated Quantum Mechanics, which showed that Newtonian Mechanics was just an approximation of the larger, more encompassing theory of Quantum Mechanics at large scales.  In the 1960’s, we pushed the limits of heat and energy, discovered  and found that our Quantum Mechanical / Relativistic Theory of the world was really just an approximation at low temperatures of a larger theory that had to encompass Quantum Chromodynamics.  Now, we are pushing the limits of temperature, or the slowing down of particles, and discovering that there must be an even larger theory that describes the world, that explains the appearance of fractional charges at extremely low temperatures.  Why does this keep happening and where does it end?

Programmed Reality provides an explanation.  In fact, it actually provides two.

In one case, the programmers of our reality created a complex set of physical laws that we are slowly discovering.  Imagine a set of concentric spheres, with each successive level outward representing a higher level scientific theory of the world that encompasses faster speeds, higher temperatures, larger scales, colder temperatures, higher energies, etc.  How deep inside the sphere of knowledge are we now?  Don’t know, but this is a model that puts it in perspective.  It is a technological solution to the philosophy of Deism.

The second possibility is that as we humans push the limits of each successive sphere of physical laws that were created for us, the programmers put in place a patch that opens up the next shell of discovery, not unlike a game.  I prefer this model, for a number of reasons.  First of all, wouldn’t it be a lot more fun and interesting to interact with your creations, rather than start them on their evolutionary path and then pay no further attention?  Furthermore, this theory offers the perfect explanation for all of those scientific experiments that have generated anomalous results that have never been reproducible.  The programmers simply applied the patch before anyone else could reproduce the experiment.

Interestingly, throughout the years, scientists have fooled themselves into thinking that the discovery of everything was right around the corner.  In the mid-20th century, the ultimate goal was the Unified Field Theory.  Now, it is called a TOE, or Theory of Everything.

Let’s stop thinking we’re about to reach the end of scientific inquiry and call each successive theory a TOM, or Theory of More.

Because the only true TOE is Programmed Reality.  QED.