| | PART II OF VI
JULY 25, 2005
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| || || || | INTRODUCTION TO QUANTUM THERMO-EPISTEMOLOGY.
by T.J. Nelson
This manuscript describes some of our recent findings in the exciting new field of quantum thermo-epistemology, a branch of implausibility theory dealing with fundamental questions such as:
* Why does toast always land butter-side down?
* Why do cars break down only when you need to go somewhere in an emergency?
* Why do banks only lend money to people who don't need it?
We have found, surprisingly enough, that these vexing questions do in fact have a scientific answer, and have developed the beginnings of a theory, which is briefly described here.
Believing something to be true, or discovering a scientific fact, causes the universe to shift in such a way that the probability of this fact actually being true decreases. The amount of decrease is equal to the degree of certainty and incontrovertibility of the evidence for its truth.
The above assertion is unprovable, since proving it would render it entirely false.
Based on the principles of information theory (Shannon, 1948), in which information is analyzed as a form of entropy, it can be postulated that discovering a scientific fact, because of the large decrease in entropy this produces, would cause the discoverer to become cool to the touch. The degree of truth can then be simply and accurately measured with an appropriately calibrated thermometer.
From Theorem (1), it is easy to prove that: The probability that something will happen is inversely proportional to one's desire for it to happen. The other laws of implausibility theory can be readily derived from these three theorems (e.g., ``If something can go wrong, it will'' (Murphy, 1868)). A further proof of the correctness of these theorems lies in the fact that, since they are unprovable, it is impossible to be certain of their correctness; therefore, the universe cannot shift in such a way as to render them false.
(Another, even better, proof of this theorem used to exist; tragically, however, one of our rabbits ate the only copy of the proof.)
Another correlate of Theorem (1) is that the only way to prove something true is to wish for it to be false. It also explains why, the more one needs something, the harder it is to get.
One possible explanation for this is that the representation of an external fact in one's mind is in reality the creation of a small anti-universe, and thus by the law of conservation of truth, the external universe must change so as to make the sum total of truths equal to zero.
Here are some concrete examples of this phenomenon, which have been well documented elsewhere:
- If you are in a car accident, the law changes in such a way as to make it your fault. Similar phenomena have been observed with tax laws and campaign finance regulations (Gingrich, 1997).
- In conducting a scientific experiment, it is frequently observed that the closer one gets to the final result, the more difficult it becomes to reproduce the original observation. (This is also due in part to the well-documented Experimenter Entropy Effect).
- The more potentially embarrassing your e-mail message, the greater the likelihood that it will be delivered to the wrong recipient ( Allman, 1983).
- Failure to perform backups of one's computer data produces a statistically-significant increase in the likelihood of a hard disk crash (The reference for this was accidentally erased).
- Stepping out of the office causes the telephone to ring, as soon as the distance to the telephone becomes far enough to make it impossible to reach the phone before the caller hangs up. Only if you are working on something that requires sufficiently intense concentration that you can't answer the phone, will it ring while you are close enough to answer it. The quantum nature of this phenomenon becomes evident if one decides to never answer the telephone. In this case, the telephone will ring only when you are walking past it with nothing to do.
- As one walks down the street, no matter which direction one walks in, the vast majority of people one meets are travelling in the opposite direction to oneself. This observation has been frequently attributed to quantum phenomena; however, it has recently been demonstrated (Walker et al., 1997), that this effect is largely due to a subtle sampling bias.
As an aside, it should be noted that several other phenomena once attributed to quantum effects have also been found to have other explanations. For example, the well-known observation that washing one's car can induce rain was actually found to be the result of tiny soap bubbles drifting into the upper atmosphere and acting as nuclei of condensation. Similarly, the observation by British researchers that carrying an umbrella usually prevents rain was found to actually be the result of trace chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) emanating from the plastic elements of the umbrella, drifting into the stratosphere, and not due to quantum effects as originally believed. In a classic experiment, it was shown that in the stratosphere, the intense local heating caused by the the CFCs accumulated from thousands of opened umbrellas (mediated by CFC-catalyzed disruption of the ozone layer) not only prevented atmospheric precipitation, but actually promoted nearly instantaneous reabsorption of clouds into the atmosphere, creating a sunny day.
The quantum epistemological effect of Theorem (1) has also been used by tornado researchers, who set up small trailers as "bait" in order to attract tornadoes for study, on the theory that the Universe would think the researchers did not want the trailers to be destroyed, and thus create a tornado (e.g., J. Swisher and B. Dervisham, J. Torn. Res. 7, 14332 (1999)). The ethics of this practice have been questioned by some researchers, while others have suggested that the fact that the researchers wish to observe a tornado actually serves to diminish the probability of their occurrence, even to the extent of counteracting the attractive effect of trailer parks (which are known to be a powerful tornado pheromone). In any event, although the affinity of tornadoes for trailer parks is readily demonstrated in the lab, the cycloattractant properties of trailers confounds any simple interpretation as to whether quantum effects truly plays any significant role.
It also underlines the difficulties of demonstrating these quantum effects in the laboratory, since any attempt to accumulate data on this effect will cause it to disappear, only to reappear again when the researcher concludes that the effect does not exist. Thus, these phenomena can only be studied by indirect or in cogito experiments.
Interestingly, the deconstructionists seem at some level to have grasped this concept, but as usual they have completely misunderstood its profoundly Heisenbergian epistemological implications.
(Note: We have recently shown that Theorem 1 is in fact a special case of general thermoepistemological theory, and is in fact a result of a generalized curvature of science. Quantum experimenter entropy effects may also play a role here as well.)
The theory developed thus far still needs more work to make it fit into the overall formal architecture of quantum mechanics. This is left as an exercise for the reader.
T. J. Nelson is a research associate professor studying the
biochemistry of memory and Alzheimer's disease at the
Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute in Rockville,
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