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FQXi BLOGS
November 17, 2019

CATEGORY: Blog [back]
TOPIC: Why We Should Nuke Mars and/or Commit Quantum Suicide [refresh]
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FQXi Administrator Zeeya Merali wrote on Jul. 12, 2009 @ 09:43 GMT
Yes, you read the title of this post correctly. Yesterday at the FQXi conference, Paul Davies gave an argument for why we should detonate a nuclear bomb on Mars--in an effort to _find_ life.

The light-hearted session was already fairly surreal--taking place on the beach at Ribeira Quente rather than in a conference room, following an expedition to view whales and dolphins. (The photo, courtesy of Hyung Choi, shows Tanmay Vachaspati and Paul Davies (both standing on the right) taking questions.) Chairman (deck-chairman?) Max Tegmark opened the floor (sand?) for discussion of slightly off-the-wall ideas that could get people arguing and Davies obliged.

Davies began with an “optimistic” estimate that if life exists on Mars, then it’s probably in microbe form living at least 200 meters underground. Since we don’t have the prospect for drilling that deep into the planet for signs of life anytime soon. Davies suggested that we should send in a nuclear missile then follow with a Viking-style lander to examine the resulting crater.

You can guess that there were a few objections. Garrett Lisi opened with the most obvious first question: “Won’t the probe just show that Mars is a barren nuclear wasteland?” No, says Davies, the missile won’t kill life deep underground, just uncover it.

Davies was quick to acknowledge other reasons against the plan; many think it’s a terrible suggestion because it involves “an act of violence against a neighboring planet.” (“What if they nuke us back?” asked Tegmark.) But, added Davies, it was no worse than sending an unsterilizised probe up there, as we have already done. (Tegmark: “In other words, we’ve already sent up bio weapons, so why not send up nukes?)

Maulikh Parikh worried about the fallout, but Davies replied that the environment is already pretty radioactive.

Peter Byrne quipped that “it would just mutate the Martians--and turn them into us!”

Davies finished by lamenting that while he advocates the idea, he’s found it hard to get support from others.

Glenn Starkman joked that a way to get support would be to explode a nuclear bomb on Earth first and just blame the Martians for it…

The idea was put to vote and it came back 50/50. Feel free to add your own opinion.

By then, Tegmark had thought of an alternative use for any spare nuclear warheads that might be at the disposal of foundational physicists. He proposed using it in an extension of the “Quantum Suicide Experiment” (which Cristi Stoica has been discussing to great effect in the “Ethics in the Many Worlds Scenario” thread).

In the thought experiment’s conventional form, a physicist hoping to test if parallel universes exist rigs up a “quantum gun” such that when the trigger is pulled it either fires or sticks based on the results of the measurement of the spin of a quantum particle. She then points it at her head and pulls the trigger. According to the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, the universe splits in two each time the particle’s spin is measured, with one universe corresponding to each outcome. In one universe the physicist lives; in the other she dies. This continues each time she tries to kill herself. So, if the physicist finds herself pulling the trigger again and again, and yet still living, it would serve as evidence for the many worlds interpretation. (Please do not try this at home!)

“The problem with this,” explained Tegmark, “is that only the physicist is convinced.” To rectify this, Tegmark proposed sharing the joy of discovery by involving a larger number of people in the quantum game, using a quantum nuclear bomb rather than a quantum gun.

Strangely, nobody was keen to volunteer for such an experiment. Tevian Dray let Tegmark down gently by explaining that “in the current global financial climate, it may be best to combine both your experiment and Paul Davies’--we’ll send you to Mars with the nuclear bomb and you can perform your quantum suicide experiment there.”

Other speakers brave enough to talk on the beach were Tanmay Vaschaspati (video footage to come...) and Lisi (photo courtesy of Hyung Choi), who inkeeping with his desire to keep everything "exceotionally simple," gave a cheap and cheerful 5-minute derivation of quantum mechanics from information theory.



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John Merryman wrote on Jul. 12, 2009 @ 20:08 GMT
Didn't the banking industry try this with derivatives? Last I heard the value of open contracts was over a quadrillion dollars, on a world economy that's worth a fraction of that?

http://market-ticker.denninger.net/archives/1193-Kneale
-You-Asked-For-It.....html.

What if, in some other dimension, nature closes all the contracts and those many worlds collapse back into one?

Need to think this through, guys.

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Jul. 12, 2009 @ 23:48 GMT
Of course detonating nukes on mars violates the 1963 open air test ban treaty. It really is not a good idea.

The MWI idea of quantum suicide is a bit of a gamble. Quantum interpretations are IMO meta-physical overlays. We might indeed have a near infinte number of alternate lives that we enter into and experience all of them. We are resurrected out of time, so to speak. However, I would not bet one's life on this.

LC

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rabbit wrote on Jul. 13, 2009 @ 04:00 GMT
"This continues each time she tries to kill herself. So, if the physicist finds herself pulling the trigger again and again, and yet still living, it would serve as evidence for the many worlds interpretation"

Doesn't this show that if anyone dies, ever, then; the many worlds interpretation is wrong?

/r

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Cristi Stoica wrote on Jul. 13, 2009 @ 09:07 GMT
~ The costs of being blessed by the Multiverse ~

In each of the Twelve Holy Spots on the Earth (corresponding to the twelve vertices of the celestial icosahedron) lies a huge black sphere. The spheres are connected to an array of nuclear bombs, distributed in triangular networks on each face of the icosahedron. Each black sphere contains a quantum device which measures the spin of a...

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Brian Beverly wrote on Jul. 13, 2009 @ 11:33 GMT
Why use a bomb? Launching radioactive material into space is dangerous. It would be better to use an idea that is similar to deep impact . It would need to be big, heavy and fast but it would create a huge crater without the need for nukes.

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Jul. 13, 2009 @ 12:03 GMT
Of course this is rampant speculation, but I would imagine quantum suicide means you "start all over again." In other words, maybe your life starts again at the elementary quantum event that started your path integral. This might be conception itself.

I am not a big fan of quantum mind ideas, but quantum death might also mean that all conscious observers are a part of a single path integral of mind(s). In that setting upon death our life may continue not as oursleves but as anybody. In this setting we are in the end "everybody." Each conscous mind is then a particular eigen-branch in the many worlds, and our individual existence is just one subset of this eigen-branching.

MWI is not something I particularly believe in, nor do I uphold any of these scenarios in particular.

Lawrence B. Crowell

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James Andrix wrote on Jul. 13, 2009 @ 16:39 GMT
Rabbit:

No, it just means that we are in the universe in which they died. If I committed quantum suicide, half of future Rabbits would see me survive, while half would see me die, but all of the future me's would see me survive.

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Stefan Weckbach wrote on Jul. 13, 2009 @ 18:32 GMT
Well, there are many interesting viewpoints here and in the thread in which Christi Stoica brought the dilemma of the MWI to the point ("Ethics in the Many World's Scenario"). In a strictly deterministic multiverse all mutually exclusive brain-states are realized, even those in which i turn to be a mass murder instead of a brave citizen. Besides the consequence of having no "free will" in a strictly deterministic multiverse, the MWI is in contrast to "objective" randomness of events because a sample of 10 consequtively surviving quantum suicide Maxes (or nuclear bombs) don't really tell us if we live in a multiverse or not but could also tell us to live in a world that can generate *mysterious exceptions* of our best elaborated physical rules. If so, one can ask if those rules are themselves only runaways of - not only probability rules - but even events that are not governed at all by statistics and therefore are *true random* in the sense of *no rules*. Given enough time, all that can happen will happen, even infinitely many times if we ground this line of reasoning on *fairly sampled* probabilities. If not, nobody can truly explain why something is happening, neither in the MWI scenario nor in the *no rules* scenario, because in the MWI scenario it's hard to explain the initial conditions and the very existence of a probabilistic structure (quantum mechanics) with the help of probabilities (the latter could also be true in some or all no-MWI-scenarios).

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Jack Mallah wrote on Oct. 22, 2009 @ 15:13 GMT
Zeeya Merali wrote:

"if the physicist finds herself pulling the trigger again and again, and yet still living, it would serve as evidence for the many worlds interpretation"

No, it wouldn't. The fraction of surviving physicists would still be reduced by the same factor, and finding yourself to be one would be just as unlikely in the MWI as in a single-world interpretation. The moral costs would be the same as well. See my eprint

"Many-Worlds Interpretations Can Not Imply 'Quantum Immortality'"

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amrit wrote on Oct. 22, 2009 @ 18:11 GMT
There is only one real universe, existent universe.

Many Worlds exist only in the mind.

Consciouss observer is aware of that.

Sometime physics turns in mathematical philosophy.

We need exact examination of physical terms, many of them are pure imagination that has no coorespondence in real world.

yours amrit

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Jason Wolfe wrote on Oct. 23, 2009 @ 02:26 GMT
Jack,

I agree with your comment regarding the quote: "if the physicist finds herself pulling the trigger again and again, and yet still living, it would serve as evidence for the many worlds interpretation"

This could also be interpreted as evidence of God, magic, or a box of dud bullets. I hope nobody tries this.

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Oct. 23, 2009 @ 09:07 GMT
Of course we have all our ideas ,our opinions .

Personally I agree with Amrit ,the uniqueness of our Universe ,a sphere for me ,is important .

The multiverses ideas imply more confusions about this unknew ,we are here on Earth to calalyze a 3D system and a time of evolution which is constant .And our laws are inside the only one universe of course .

The imaginaries of our mind always imply a confusion about the understanding of this uniqueness where we are all a part .

Sincerely

Steve

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Jack Mallah wrote on Oct. 23, 2009 @ 16:04 GMT
Jason,

While it's good to see that you agreed with me, your next sentence suggests that in fact you did not agree with what I said.

Survival of attempted suicide could indeed be evidence for magic or dud bullets; but it could not be evidence for the MWI in that same way. The MWI is simply not one of the things that could in principle enhance your survival probability in that situation, unlike the things you listed. Please read my eprint for details.

I believe in the MWI, BTW. Just not in 'quantum immortality', which is a fallacy.

Sincerely,

Jack

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Jason Wolfe wrote on Oct. 23, 2009 @ 19:21 GMT
Dear Jack,

I get ten minute breaks at work, so I have to speed read and reply. Sorry I missed your point.

While I'm ok with a multiverse of unique universes, I disagree with the MWI. Short of ten thousand Jack's knocking on my door, each with their own, universe leaping equipment, there is no way to definitively prove this. It also fails the Occam's Razor test because it's easier and simpler just to say that an eigenstate is picked at random; we're all familiar with random events. Furthermore, everytime a decision has to be made, another universe has to spring into existence; this is a ridiculous violation of conservations of energy. If the MWI interpretation is correct, I could build an Alcubierre hyperdrive with a never ending supply of new universes with which to convert into energy. I think that those who embrace MWI are unwilling to admit that something cannot be known precisely. Maybe it's a need for certainty or control.

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Jack Mallah wrote on Oct. 26, 2009 @ 15:07 GMT
Dear Jason:

If you like conservation laws and you want to pick the mathematically simplest interpretation of QM, then the MWI is actually what you want, on both counts.

The MWI is often mis-described in popular accounts, which is why you thought it violates conservation laws and so on.

As explained in my blog post "Why MWI?", the MWI is nothing but the assumption that the wave equation of QM in configuration space is all there is to the dynamics. "Branching" is just what happens when a lump of wavefunction splits up - like when a wave is partailly reflected - and the resultant lumps go seperate ways in configuration space.

Ironically, unlike the MWI, random 'collapse' would violate conservation laws as the wavefunction suddenly changes. There is also no well-defined conditions under which it would occur. It also would add a lot of complexity to the wave equation to introduce a collapse mechanic. It is not at all simple to do so; people have been trying for years and all approaches have problems.

Besides that, random numbers also have a lot of algorithmic complexity which deterministic systems don't have, so while they may seem simple at first glance, a deeper look shows they are very much against Occam's Razor. Symmetry is simple. Randomness is sudden violation of symmetry.

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Oct. 26, 2009 @ 18:03 GMT
Dear Mr Mallah ,

Nice to know you ,

I read your discussions with Jason "the creative",I try to understand why people focus on this interpretation of our laws where the time in reversible furthermore .

I wan't be pessimist about MWI but we can't mesure our quantum mechanic, where the mathematical and fundamental coherences and invariances are a physical reality.

If we analyze the determinism with this kind of extrapolations, how can we arrive to a good conclusion ? It's impossible !

Mr Everett and Mr Wheeler are competents ,it's evident ,but is it a reason to accept all their extrapolations of the mind.

Let's be pragmatic ,the uniqueness of our universe is important,essential even .

The observation is the same for all observers if the synchronization is made with relativity of course .

Can we multiplicate like we want our imaginaries ,yes but is it fundamental ,it's an other question .That becomes sciences fiction after .

It's the same with the superimposing .

I have an other point to say too .How are going to interpret the people in fact .The public ,the society can interpret that bizarely .And about the thermodynamics ???

The violation and inequalities are just an extrapolation of the mind in a whole point of vue ,in our 3D and this time constant of evolution .All needs limits foe the referential ,the fundamental referential .

Our waves functions must be pragmatics in their superimposings in my opinion .

No No it's impossible these multiverse or MWI ,and if the 4 D strigs and branes completes these infinity of dimensions ,oh my God .it lacks only the others imaginaries and it's the best book of sciences fiction never made .Spielberg will love ,it's sure .

Just a thought .

Regards

Steve

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Jason Wolfe wrote on Oct. 26, 2009 @ 22:07 GMT
Dear Jack Mallah,

How about MWI-light? I had entertained the idea that conservation of energy will all one physicall manifested universe to exist; that engages the laws of motion. Simultaneously, all of the quantum phenomena exists around us like a fog. It can have its own influence on events, and can span the past and the future. It would give the supernatural community something to work with. This quantum uncertainty around us can occasionally produce ghosts for us. It might even harbor life. But it does not have direct access to the laws of motion of our concrete reality. Would you go for an "astral-MWI"? In my opinion, the two would fit nicely and would fit nicely. The laws of physics are very picky about specific information transfer; but I think they might allow some access to "reality" through a quantum-astral.

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Jack Mallah wrote on Oct. 27, 2009 @ 17:38 GMT
Dear Jason:

There is no evidence for what you suggest, nor any mathematical or philosophical motivation for supposing it, nor is it at all compatible with regular quantum mechanics. So it is pure fantasy.

If you believe in the supernatural, you might want to educate yourself out of it by checking out the JREF web site. They offer $1M to anyone who can show proof of a supernatural ability. Obviously no one has won it.

Regards,

Jack

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Jason Wolfe wrote on Oct. 28, 2009 @ 08:58 GMT
Dear Jack,

The MWI and the occult are identical in the sense that neither can be proved definitively. You can't just create a whole other universe every time you decide what you want for breakfast. I can't give the MWI any more credence than a shadow universe made out of discarded wavefunctions. Nobody knows what it means to collapse a wave function. If you insist that the wave function is still there, I have to ask you where it gets its energy from. If it can't get a Big Bang's worth of energy, then it has to exist as a shadowy universe of wavefunctions.

It's not my intent to, in any way, belittle either of these points of view. The occult has a tendency to fall short of measureable results; yet it has the uncanny ability to leave behind a great many coincidences. The only way I can reconcile a many worlds interpretation in an energetically reasonable way is to make such a connection.

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Jack Mallah wrote on Oct. 28, 2009 @ 15:04 GMT
Dear Jason:

Obviously you have not read what I wrote. Energy is not an issue for the MWI, which is just the standard wave equation. Anyone who knows physics knows that. Obviously you do not know physics nor care to learn.

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Jason Wolfe wrote on Oct. 28, 2009 @ 17:54 GMT
Dear Jack,

I am sorry if you feel annoyed by my idea, but in truth, it makes sense. I will argue it from your blog at http://onqm.blogspot.com/2009/07/why-mwi.html.

You disagree with the collapse of the wave function, in your own words, "it doesn't work because generally speaking, in proposed models that give mathematical details of 'collapse', small residues remain in the other...

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Jack Mallah wrote on Oct. 29, 2009 @ 14:44 GMT
Dear Jason:

I am not annoyed at your idea, which makes no sense at all. I was annoyed at you either not reading what I wrote or ignoring it.

You wrote "Do you agree that the non-local nature of quantum mechanics is truly foundational?"

The MWI is local, so, no.

You wrote "I have personally experienced this kind of instinctive connection with someone else, over the phone, hundreds of miles away, in fact. I couldn't obtain detailed numeric information, but I could tell what kind of a person this was."

It is much more likely that, if you did tell what kind of person it was, their words and tone of voice were what conveyed that info. Maybe you don't remember what they said but think you do.

Like I wrote before, the JREF offers $1M to anyone who can prove they have such an ability. If you win that money, then I promise I will take a serious look at your claims. If not, then I'll have to go with the overwhelming evidence that there are no psychic powers, as so many people have tried and failed to win it.

You wrote "If there are many worlds in your opinion, then how do the brains of everyone in these many worlds remain isolated from one another? How do you maintain isolation between your thoughts, and the thoughts of your other selves in these other universes? How do you restrict quantum entanglement between your thoughts, and the thoughts of someone nearby who you have a close affinity with? By the way, are all of your other selves in these other universes always in the same identical geographic location as you are?"

The answers, in order of your questions:

- decoherence

- decoherence and linearity

- there is no mechanism that would cause such entanglement

- no

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Jason Wolfe wrote on Oct. 29, 2009 @ 18:40 GMT
Jack,

Good luck with your MWI.

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