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TagSabine Hossenfelder

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Quantum Physics Axed Materialism. Many Hope the World Won’t Know

Theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder struggles to explain how quantum mechanics is consistent with materialism

Quantum mechanics, which developed in the early twentieth century, has been a serious blow to materialism. There is no way to make sense of it if immaterial entities like information, observation, or the mind are not real. Theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder struggles against the effects of this fact. In a recent video, she asks, “Does Consciousness Influence Quantum Effects?” (November 19, 2022) She asks, why did some physicists like von Neumann and Wigner think that consciousness is necessary to make sense of quantum mechanics, and can consciousness influence the outcome of a quantum experiment? (0:33) Well, they had good reason. Any effort to exclude consciousness from reality fails. Hossenfelder, a hostile witness, kindly offers an example from the work of…

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The Big Bang

James Webb Space Telescope Shows Big Bang Didn’t Happen? Wait…

The unexpected new data coming back from the telescope are inspiring panic among astronomers

Physicist Eric J. Lerner comes to the point: To everyone who sees them, the new James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) images of the cosmos are beautifully awe-inspiring. But to most professional astronomers and cosmologists, they are also extremely surprising—not at all what was predicted by theory. In the flood of technical astronomical papers published online since July 12, the authors report again and again that the images show surprisingly many galaxies, galaxies that are surprisingly smooth, surprisingly small and surprisingly old. Lots of surprises, and not necessarily pleasant ones. One paper’s title begins with the candid exclamation: “Panic!” Why do the JWST’s images inspire panic among cosmologists? And what theory’s predictions are they contradicting? The papers don’t actually say. The…

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Female politician talking on media press conference, public relations, event

Why Science News Sucks — A Response to a Disgusted Physicist

There are reasons why science journalists can't usually be skeptical in the way that other journalists can. Here are some of them

In her usual forthright manner, theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder asks, by blog post and Youtube video, “Why does science news suck so much? It’s hardly an original question but among her suggested answers are some thoughtful reflections, including 9. Don’t forget that science is fallible A lot of media coverage on science policy remembers that science is fallible only when it’s convenient for them. When they’ve proclaimed something as fact that later turns out to be wrong, then they’ll blame science. Because science is fallible. Facemasks? Yeah, well, we lacked the data. Alright. But that’d be more convincing if science news acknowledged that their information might be wrong in the first place. The population bomb? Peak oil? The new ice…

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Man's hand holding white blank styrofoam ball with handwritten imaginary number formula against the white background.

Why Would a Purely Physical Universe Need Imaginary Numbers?

Our computers and the entire modern world depend on them, says science writer Michael Brooks in an excerpt from his new book

In an excerpt from his new book, The Art of More: How Mathematics Created Civilization, science writer Michael Brooks offers the intriguing idea that the modern world arose from imaginary numbers: Imaginary numbers are not imaginary at all. The truth is, they have had far more impact on our lives than anything truly imaginary ever could. Without imaginary numbers, and the vital role they played in putting electricity into homes, factories, and internet server-farms, the modern world would not exist Michael Brooks, “Imaginary Numbers Are Reality” at Nautilus (February 9, 2022) Imaginary numbers, are we recall from school, are the square roots of minus numbers. Two plus numbers, multiplied, result in a plus number. But so do two minus numbers.…

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Problem solving concept. Mixed media

Does Superdeterminism Resolve Dilemmas Around Free Will?

If we lack free will, we have no justification whatsoever to even believe that we lack free will

The conventional view of nature held by materialists, who deny free will, is that all acts of nature, including our human acts and beliefs, are wholly determined by the laws of nature, understood as the laws of physics. We cannot be free, they assert, because all aspects of human nature are matter, and the behavior of matter is wholly determined by physical laws. There is no “room” for free will. It’s noteworthy that physicists who have studied determinism in nature (specifically, in quantum mechanics) have for the most part rejected this deterministic view of free will and implicitly (if not explicitly) endorsed the reality of free will. There are two reasons for this. First, experiments that have followed from the…

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Science fiction interior - a hallway with reinforced gate.

Physicist: Does Captain Kirk Die Going Through the Transporter?

The problem has kept her up at night for decades, she says, and it appears we are no closer to an answer

Theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder is genuinely puzzled and asks readers for possible solutions: Does Captain Kirk die when he goes through the transporter? This question has kept me up at night for decades. I’m not kidding. And I still don’t have an answer. So this video isn’t going to answer the question, but I will explain why it’s more difficult than you may think. Sabine Hossenfelder, “Does Captain Kirk die when he goes through the transporter?” at BackRe(Action) (October 23, 2021) Why so difficult? Assume that all the information about a person is contained in the exact configuration in which it appears at one moment in time. Hossenfelder accepts that as the correct view. So the transporter converts you into…

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The universe within. Silhouette of a man inside the universe, physical and mathematical formulas.. The concept on scientific and philosophical topics.  Elements of this image furnished by NASA.

Philosopher: Panpsychism Is Not in Conflict With Physics at All

Responding to criticism from physicists Sabine Hossenfelder and Sean Carroll, Philip Goff points out that panpsychism is not a dualist perspective

At IAI.tv, University of Durham philosophy prof Philip Goff tells us that “The world of academic philosophy has been rocked by the conversion of one of the most influential materialists of the last thirty years, Michael Tye, to a form of panpsychism (panprotopsychism) in his latest book. And the main annual UK philosophy conference held a plenary panel on panpsychism this year for the first time in its history.” That’s part of a pattern in which philosophy and science are warming to panpsychism, the belief that either all entities or all living entities participate in consciousness. Dr. Goff, author of Galileo’s Error: Foundations for a New Science of Consciousness, offers some thoughts on what panpsychism is and isn’t: Panpsychism is the…

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Mars Base

Theoretical Physicist: Colonizing Mars Is a Ridiculous Idea

Making Mars habitable (terraforming) has been kicking around engineering circles for decades. What are the chances, given Moore’s Law-level increases in technology?

And so what does a theoretical physicist know about it, you ask? Well, when it’s Sabine Hossenfelder, she is alwaysworth listening to: The biggest problem is not that Mars is “minus 60 degrees Celsius or minus 80 Fahrenheit,” she explains, but that it has no magnetic field so the atmosphere was blown away by the solar winds. So to form Mars into a second Earth, we would first need to give it a magnetic field. How easy is that?: In a paper that was just published in April in the International Journal of Astrobiology, two physicists explain that all you have to do put a superconducting wire around Mars, simple enough, isn’t it? The circle would have to have a…

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Beautiful night sky, the Milky Way, moon and the trees. Elements of this image furnished by NASA.

“If Nobody Looks at the Moon, Does It Exist?” and Other Metaphysical Questions

If no one is looking at the moon, does it exist? Why has materialism been around for so long? Will computers ever be conscious? What happens to our consciousness after we die? Bernardo Kastrup tackles these questions and more with Michael Egnor in another bingecast! Show Notes 0:00:28 | Introducing Dr. Bernardo Kastrup 0:01:22 | How quantum mechanics points to…

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Full moon in a black night sky

Sixty Billion Stars. And No Aliens? What Now?

Are we approaching a crisis of faith in ET?

At Universe Today, Matt Williams asks if it is time to update the Drake Equation, by which you could settle — in your own mind — how likely the aliens are. It began to be developed nearly sixty years ago at a conference at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia. And everyone took for granted that we would be hearing from the aliens soon. That was the basis of Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) — keeping the hope alive. Rather than being an actual means for quantifying the number of intelligent species in our galaxy, the purpose of the equation was meant to frame the discussion on SETI. In addition to encapsulating the challenges facing scientists,…

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Theoretical Physicist Argues, the Sim Universe Is Pseudoscience

It’s a lot of fun in science fiction and some scitech celebs buy in. But Sabine Hossenfelder and others explain why it’s fiction

Theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder does not like the notion that we are living in a giant computer sim. Elon Musk likes it (“Elon Musk says there’s a ‘one in billions’ chance reality is not a simulation”) and so does Neil deGrasse Tyson (“Neil deGrasse Tyson says it’s ‘very likely’ the universe is a simulation”). Philosopher of science Nick Bostrom advanced that view in a seminal 2003 paper in Philosophical Quarterly. Former Astronomer Royal Martin Rees is sympathetic to it. Some call it the Planetarium hypothesis, when it is cited as a reason we do not see intelligent extraterrestrials. One source offers “15 irrefutable reasons” why, like Neo in The Matrix (1999), we might be living in a universe that is…

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open eye in space

A Physicist Asks, Was the Universe Made For Us? She Says No

But the question is more complicated than it appears at first

Sabine Hossenfelder thinks there is no way to determine an answer to the question of whether the universe was made for us because we have access to only one universe for data: There is no way to ever quantify this probability because we will never measure a constant of nature that has a value other than the one it does have. If you want to quantify a probability you have to collect a sample of data. You could do that, for example, if you were throwing dice.Throw them often enough, and you get an empirically supported probability distribution. But we do not have an empirically supported probability distribution for the constants of nature. And why is that. It’s because… they…

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Speed of Painted Dream

A Theoretical Physicist Grapples With the Math of Consciousness

Looking at the various theories, she is not very happy

She’s not very happy with what she sees: The currently most popular mathematical approach to consciousness is integrated information theory, IIT for short. It was put forward by a neurologist, Giulio Tononi, in two thousand and four. In IIT, each system is assigned a number, that’s big Phi, which is the “integrated information” and supposedly a measure of consciousness. The better a system is at distributing information while it’s processing the information, the larger Phi. A system that’s fragmented and has many parts that calculate in isolation may process lots of information, but this information is not “integrated”, so Phi is small. For example, a digital camera has millions of light receptors. It processes large amounts of information. But the…

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Concept of

Do We Really Have Free Will? Four Things to Know

Free will makes more sense of our world than determinism and science certainly allows for it

Free will is a contentious topic in science these days. Theoretical physicists weigh in sharply on one side or the other. Just this month, based on quantum mechanics, mathematician Tim Andersen says maybe and theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder says no. Based on cosmology, the study of our universe, physicist George Ellis said yes last June. With free will, as with consciousness, we don’t fully understand what’s involved. All insights from science are partial so we can’t look to science for a definitive answer. But maybe science can offer some hints. Here are four that might be helpful: 1.Has psychology shown that free will does not really exist? Psychological research on free will has supported the concept of free will but…

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Hands of a man tearing a piece of paper with inscription free will

Neuroscience Can Help Us Understand Why Free Will Is Real

Physicist Sabine Hossenfelder and biologist Jerry Coyne, who deny free will, don’t seem to understand the neuroscience

Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne seems obsessed with denying free will. In a recent post on his blog, Why Evolution Is True, he supported the claim of theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder that we do not have free will: If you’ve read this site, you’ll know that my own views are pretty much the same as hers, at least about free will. We don’t have it, and the fundamental indeterminacy of quantum mechanics doesn’t give it to us either. Hossenfelder doesn’t pull any punches: “This means in a nutshell that the whole story of the universe in every single detail was determined already at the big bang. We are just watching it play out.”… QED! Jerry Coyne, “Sabine Hossenfelder says we don’t…

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Glorious Sky - Elements of this Image Furnished by NASA

Bernardo Kastrup Argues for a Universal Mind as a Reasonable Idea

The challenge, he says, is not why there is consciousness but why there are so many separate instances of consciousnesses

In a recent podcast, Michael Egnor continued his discussion with philosopher and computer programmer Bernardo Kastrup; This week, the topic was panpsychism and cosmopsychism. (Last week, the topic was why consciousness couldn’t just evolve from the mud.) https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-096-Bernardo-Kastrup.mp3 A partial transcript follows: (The complete transcript is here. The Show Notes and Resources are below.) Dr. Kastrup made clear that he is not a panpsychism but rather a cosmopsychist. He explains the difference, defining panpsychism as follows: Bernardo Kastrup (pictured): Panpsychism, well, to be more accurately called constitutive panpsychism, it’s the notion that at least some of the elementary particles that constitutes the universe, at least some of them, are fundamentally conscious. In other words, they have experiential states, fundamental experiential…

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Asian women travel relax in the holiday. Standing on the mountain. Thailand

Bernardo Kastrup on Panpsychism and Cosmopsychism

How do we know what happens around us? Is the whole universe conscious? Dr. Michael Egnor and Dr. Bernardo Kastrup discuss panpsychism, cosmopsychism, and conciousness. Show Notes 00:35 | Introducing Dr. Bernardo Kastrup 01:29 | Panpsychism and cosmopsychism 02:42 | Using your senses to convey information to the mind 04:24 | Communicating feelings 05:33 | Differentiating complex internal states from…

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Paradigm of Quantum Wave

At Nautilus: Electrons DO have a “rudimentary mind”

Panpsychists in science believe that nature is all there is but, they say, it includes consciousness as a fundamental fact of nature

A leading theory of consciousness, Integrated Information Theory (IIT) proposed by University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Giulio Tononi and championed by by another leading neuroscientist, Christof Koch, has clear panpsychist affiliations. It is favored by proponents of the idea that electrons are conscious. Whoa!, you say. How can electrons be conscious? Wouldn’t they at least need a brain to be conscious? Let’s hear an explanation from proponent Tam Hunt (right) at Nautilus: You might see the rise of panpsychism as part of a Copernican trend—the idea that we’re not special. The Earth is not the center of the universe. Humans are not a treasured creation, or even the pinnacle of evolution. So why should we think that creatures with brains, like…

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Theoretical Physicist Slams Panpsychism

Electrons cannot be conscious, in Sabine Hossenfelder’s view, because they cannot change their behavior

Hossenfelder’s impatience is understandable but she underestimates the seriousness of the problem serious thinkers about consciousness confront. There is a reason that some scientists believe that the universe is conscious: It would be more logically coherent to say that you think the universe is conscious than to say that your own consciousness is an illusion. With the first idea, you may be wrong. With the second idea, you are not anything. 

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Milchstraße Panorama

Will AI End Astrophysics As We Know It?

Astrophysicists will certainly be spending much less time staring at very slowly changing skies

Far from reducing jobs in astrophysics, AI is likely to create many more of them. As far more information becomes available, talented people will be needed to interpret, teach it, and write about it for the public.

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