“If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics.”
If you were to ask a Quantum Physicist who they would really, really, really like to smack around if they had the chance, they'd probably look at you funny and say "No one". Physicists tend to be nice like that. But, if you were to ask them who has contributed most to the general public's confusion regarding Quantum Physics, the answer you'll most likely hear is “Deepak F**ing Chopra” (being nice does not preclude occasional swearing).
Deepak Chopra is a one-man ‘woo-woo’ factory. He has, these past few decades, made a career out of mangling intricate scientific concepts and repackaging them in gaudy, new-age garb. The method is simple. Lift a technical term from the field of Quantum Mechanics , explain it in a manner that is either grossly over-simplified or flat out wrong and then crowbar it into a hodge-podge construction of Eastern mysticism and pseudo-scientific gobbledygook.
In order to best demonstrate just how wrong Chopra can be, it is neccessary to give a quick introduction to some of the terms he uses and what they actually mean. For instance, the Wave Function of a particle represents all of its potential states and locations within a certain timeframe. For the purposes of brevity we shall focus purely on how Wave Function pertains to position. Consider the following hypothetical scenario.
Imagine a long, empty corridor with a door at each end, we shall call them Door A and Door B. An invisble man enters through Door A (yes an invisble man, its a hypothetical situation people. If I wanted it could have been an invisible, unicorn-riding velociraptor with a pipe and a smoking jacket, let it go). As the invisble man makes his way from Door A to Door B we consider the corridor to represent his Wave Function. The space inside the corridor contains every possible position he may occupy and every possible path he may take from one door to the other. As long as the corridor remains closed we have no way to ascertain the exact position of our invisible guest.
So, in order to discover where he might be, we begin letting people walk in the opposite direction from Door B towards Door A. The moment one of these people bump into our mysterious visitor, his position becomes certain. At the moment of interaction he is no longer potentially occupying a range of space but is definitively occupying a single spot within the corridor. Similarly, physicists seeking to collapse the Wave Function of a particle into a point can do so by introducing additional particles with which it can interact. As a collision takes place its position can be noted and mapped to that specific location.
Now it must be clear, consiousness does not enter into this scenario in the real world. The wave function of a photon from the sun is just as easily collapsed by a rock in the Martian desert as it is by a human eye on Earth. The key here is interaction. Physicists have used the term observation because, well, they were describing what had been observed about these interactions. Chopra however cuts out interaction entirely and makes conscious observation the be all and end all of the matter. Consider the ludicrous implications of the following statement from Chopra;
"If we do not look at it, the moon is gone. In this world, only an act of observation can confer shape and form to reality — to a dandelion in a meadow, or a seed pod, or the sun or wind or rain. Anyway, it’s amazing, and even your dog can do it too."
That's right, if nobody is looking at the moon, in Deepak Chopra's world, that means it ceases to exist. But hang on a minute. If the moon requires observation to exist, how did it form in the first place? Where would it go if we all blinked simultaneously? If it did pop out of existence what force would bring it back when we opened our eyes? While we're on the subject, I can't see the hair on my head without the aid of a mirror. Does this mean that when I'm alone I become bald? And what happens when someone joins me? Does my hair grow out really, really fast or does it simply pop back into existence? And why the blooming heck does it always come back ginger? Oh, that's right, because it is always ginger and it is always there, whether someone is looking at it or not.
My hair is not a particle and neither is the damned Moon. The moon is a colossal structure made up of billions upon billions of particles that are constantly interacting with each other. The Moon, as well as every other astronomical object for that matter, existed for billions of years prior to the evolution of entitities capable of observing them. The stars of distant glaxies were fusing hydrogen into helium just fine before we invented the high powered telescopes needed to view the process.
Debunking this Quantum Quackery requires no experiment or complex mathematics. A few moments to consider the implications of this model of reality generates sufficient cause to toss it aside. But, this man has been repeating his nonsense for years, both in books and on the public speaking circuit. I see only three possible reasons for him to continue to endorse nonsense that is so easily falsified.
- He is relying on his audience's ignorance of a notoriously difficult scientific field.
- He actually believes what he says and is , himself, completely ignorant on the subject.
- All of the above.
Another significant factor of Chopra's success is that there seems to be an unending line of credulous celebrities ready to credit him as their spiritual guru. From his longtime association with Michael Jackson to the gushing praise of Mike Myers, Deepak Chopra maintains a constant spot in the limelight. One which he continuously uses to push his vacuous, easily digested non-science on a celebrity obsessed population. These endorsements serve to grant him an air of authority in the public sphere, one which he would never have been able to earn based on merit alone.