Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Our January Meeting: A Debate

Our January meeting is an experiment in using a Debate format. The proposition to be debated is: "A disembodied mind is impossible." Joe Fearn will argue that the notion of the soul as a disembodied person, or discarnate consciousness, is unintelligible. Stephen Milton will argue the opposing case. The arguments are likely to cover such related concepts as ghosts and spirits and artificial intelligence. Others present will be able to take part in the discussion at the end of the debate phase, and perhaps vote on who they think has won the debate.

The venue is the Notley Room at the White Rock Hotel, 7 pm on Thursday 12 January 2012.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Prof Brian Cox: Physics or Metaphysics?

Much as I appreciate the work of the physicist Brian Cox in popularising scientific knowledge and countering nonsense or pseudoscientific "woo", there were a couple of occasions in his programme "Night with the Stars" on BBC2 TV last night where it seems to me he slipped from physics to metaphysics.
This was also noted by Arifa Akbar in a review in The Independent:
Physics began to sound first like metaphysics ("Particles that make this diamond are in communication with every one of you and with everything in the universe") and then, like Buddhism ("When I heat this diamond up, all the atoms in the universe change their energy levels... Everything is connected to everything else"). These wondrous statements made quantum physics seem suddenly clear cut, until it got complicated again.

Similarly David Butcher in The Radio Times:
he shows how diamonds are made up of nothingness, and how one such precious gem in the heart of London is in communication with the largest diamond in the cosmos. He also reveals how things can be in two places at once

It is good to see the actual equations of quantum physics, or a version of them, in this case Feynman's path-integration method, actually being shown in a popular presentation, but the interpretation given to it is just one of many, none of which are yet entirely satisfactory. The problem is that electrons are not analogous to "particles" of sand, although that term is still used to describe them. I sometimes think that they are perhaps more like a "cloud" or "swarm". Surely his interpretation of the Pauli exclusion principle is just plain wrong.