"Religion is a hypothesis about the world: the hypothesis that things are the way they are, at least in part, because of supernatural entities or forces acting on the natural world. And there's no good reason to treat it any differently from any other hypothesis. Which includes pointing out its flaws and inconsistencies, asking its adherents to back it up with solid evidence, making jokes about it when it's just being silly, offering arguments and evidence for our own competing hypotheses...and trying to persuade people out of it if we think it's mistaken. It's persuasion. It's the marketplace of ideas. Why should religion get a free ride"

Greta Christina

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

There is no 'quantum' in alternative therapies

One of the unfortunate consequences of recent advances in theoretical physics is the abuse to which concepts like Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, Quantum Entanglement and Coherence are subjected by purveyors of alternative therapy.
It is certainly true that aspects of quantum physics can seem bizarre and counterintuitive, with objects being simultaneously particulate and a wave, capable of having their quantum states entangled and ‘communicating’ instantly with each other over vast distances, yet none of this actually defies known laws of physics, rather, it appears to define them. However, this does not stop homoeopathists, reiki practitioners and others from claiming it as justification for the supposed efficacy of their treatments.
For example from a site that calls itself Quantum Homeopathy:
Quantum physics is a branch of science that deals with miniscule units of energy called quanta as described by the Quantum Theory. It states that matter can exist as solid particles or invisible energy, the two being interchangeable at any given time, or even at the same time. It also states that energy is fluid and flexible, things that appear to be solid and immutable are really collections of bubbling mounds of fizzing energy bound together to form a dense mass.
Which goes on to imply that this “fluid and flexible” energy can interact with the “life-force” for health benefits to the greater material body. The problem with this is that it all sounds very ‘sciencey’ and plausible to anyone who hasn’t some grounding in modern quantum physics, which let’s face it is most of us.
Now I am not going to pretend to be an expert or even have a bachelor’s degree level understanding of the subtleties of quantum mechanics, but I do have enough of a science background and an autodidactic compulsion to read about stuff to know that quantum phenomena do not scale up. Yes, it is possible to ‘entangle’ particles such as photons and electrons so that their quantum states, such as spin are presumed to be in the same yet indeterminate state, and yes it is true that measuring the state of one of these particles ‘causes’ the other to be in the same state, regardless of how far apart these two particles subsequently become. But you can’t get from there to suggesting that you can “entangle” molecules of water with minute quantities of homeopathic remedy, feed that to someone and effect the quantum state of molecules within their body (as for interacting with their ‘life-force’ there is no such form of energy, ‘energy’ being a word that is also frequently abused by woo merchants). Entanglement is extremely fragile for one thing; it is difficult even for physicists to create an entangled pair that survives for more than milliseconds, and impossible to produce a stable state that could be sustained through multiples dilutions with water and ingestion by a living organism. Besides which, entangled particles only share states: one particle does not ‘become’ like the other. Even if a molecule of water could become entangled with say a molecule of Arnica the water would not become Arnica, it would merely share a random, unknown, indeterminate state with that molecule, which it would immediately lose on contact with, well, anything including the other water molecules around it. If, as homoeopathists claim, water has memory, quantum mechanics isn’t the justification for it.
The lesson here is that for all its weirdness and ”spooky action at a distance” as Einstein called it, quantum theory does not justify magic. If you see or hear anyone using the word “quantum” outside of the realm of actual physics, be wary; they almost certainly don’t know what they are talking about and probably want to sell you something.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting theory i ever had, I always hate science but today i read and admit that science is the best subject to study, We get indepth knowledge of everything, Thanks