Why Physicists Can't Fight

By QuantumG

Disclaimer: This is humour. You may not find it funny. That's your problem. Deal with it.

Have you ever wondered how many physicists out there could stand up in a fight? I have. You'd assume the answer is pretty low, just look at these guys. Besides, to become really good at martial arts you need to accept a certain amount of mysticism. In fact, it's not hard to imagine that at some point the ultimate battle will be fought between martial arts and physics. Both sides will get their best contenders together and go at it: Quantum Physics vs Snake & Crane Arts of Shaolin. Is there no way to spare the bloodshed? If there's one thing good physicists respect it's a thought experiment. I'm going to present such a thought experiment that, using the awesome power of martial arts, shows quantum theory is incorrect. Maybe that'll make the physicists back down. After all, who wants to see nerds bashed?

My thought experiment is based on a real experiment performed by Helmut Schmidt (no, not that Helmut Schmidt). He began his experiment by connecting a true random number generator to a computer. True random number generators use a quantum event, like an atom decaying, to generate a sequence of numbers. I don't know how many numbers Schmidt generated, but let's say it was over 100. Schmidt had his computer store this sequence of numbers in an ordinary data file on the hard disk of the computer. He then connected a big LED display to his computer such that when the computer was instructed it would scroll a 1 across the display if the first number in the data file was greater than 0 and would scroll a 0 across the display if it was not, and then repeat that process for every other number in the data file. He took his computer and display to a meeting of martial arts experts and requested that they use their well trained minds to try to influence the total number of 1s that are scrolled across the display. After running the experiment the software Schmidt had used indicated what percentage of the numbers were greater than 0. According to the manufacturer of the random number generator the result should have been 50%. Indeed, the many tests that Schmidt had made of his software indicated that the result should have been 50%. The result was not 50%. I can't tell you what the result was, but it was such that there was a less than .1% chance that the results could have just been a fluke.

This experiment, and experiments like it, show that consciousness can affect reality. Ok, time to put my thinking hat on. Suppose I were to repeat the above experiment twice with two seperate groups of martial arts experts. Clearly this is something you'd do anyway. Suppose also that both groups were to demonstrate that they could affect the output of the random number generator as Schmidt found they could. Now imagine we take the data file that we used when we tested the first group and use this data file to re-test the second group, except instead of displaying a 1 when a number is greater than 0, we display a 0 and visa-versa. Even though we're willing to accept that a data file that no-one has observed before can be altered conciously by the first group, we are not willing to accept that the same data file can be altered by the second group. We would expect the second group to fail, because we already know there are more positive numbers than negative ones in the data file and the second group is trying to will the opposite to be true. If they don't then clearly quantum theory is wrong, as it claims a wave function can only be collapsed once. But if they do fail then quantum theory is still wrong! Allow me to explain.

Quantum theory tells us it is not possible to send a message faster than the speed of light. As I'll explain shortly, our thought experiment implies that we can. It would be nice if we could do our experiment here on earth but it simply isn't big enough. Light takes less than 0.05 seconds to go from one side of the planet to the other (and that's assuming it could go straight through the middle). We just can't get our martial arts experts to think that fast! However, light can take anything between 3 minutes to 21 minutes to get to Mars depending on where it is at the time. What if we were to perform this "re-used datafile test" on Mars within 3 minutes of performing the original test here on Earth - say, if the test was to take 1 minute and we started it here on Earth at 1:00pm but we started our test on Mars at 1:01pm, the total time from first test start to second test end being 2 minutes. Those martial arts experts on Mars will know if the martial arts experts on Earth are doing the same experiment with the same data file, because they'll fail to will it the opposite way, and more importantly, they'll know it after only 2 minutes. So the martial arts experts on Earth can send a faster-than-light message to the martial arts experts on Mars simply by choosing which data file to use in their test.

Maybe if the martians start their test at 1:04 they will fail but if they start their test before hand then they'll succeed. That would certainly make everything ok, right? Well no, because then it is clear that the data file has been observed in two mutually exclusive states. Quantum theory allows our data file to be in a super-position of states, but only as long as no-one has observed it.

I think I've demonstrated that if we can consciously affect a quantum state then quantum theory is self-contradicting (i.e., it's wrong). Unfortunately the only way we know how to consciously affect a quantum state is by observing it with martial arts experts. To a physicist this means Schmidt's experiments are just bunk. Most physicists believe it is not possible to affect a quantum state - they're just random, that's why we use them in true random number generators. Pretty tough words. If, instead of using martial arts experts, we were to discover a particular kind of mineral or design a machine which could do the same thing physicists would sit up and take notice, but the experiments of Helmut Schmidt are just too mystical for serious physicists to take seriously.

Of course if we were to accept every crack pot claim on the planet we'd have to throw out a lot more than quantum theory, but Schmidt's experiments are easily reproducable. One doesn't even need their own true random number generator, there are a multitude of services that offer them, although only a few claim the numbers are a result of quantum events. I reproduced the experiment using this source of random numbers and a simple Windows program I wrote. Unfortunately I didn't have a big LED board available. But I did have a single martial arts expert, myself, having been formally trained in ninjitsu over 10 years ago. Using the true random numbers from this source I was able to make them 54% positive. Whereas using a "non-true" random number generator (the C rand() function) I was unable to get any value but 50%. Perhaps if I had a room full of martial arts experts our collective mental training could give us results like 80% (or even 100!) in which there would be no doubt that we had affected the outcome, but for now, quantum theory lives to see another day.

My god, I just received the most disturbing phone call from Steven Hawking. This is on!
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