The "observer effect": Is it proof the system is "aware it's being observed?"

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posted on Nov, 28 2011 @ 10:37 AM
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I've seen numerous threads on ATS where the OP and people posting in the thread don't really seem to understand the observer effect. Here's just one example of a recent thread which exemplifies some of the misconceptions seen on ATS about the observer effect:

The mind creates what we call reality

To add to the confusion is the movie titled "What the bleep do we know" which blurs the distinction between quantum fact and quantum fantasy, and since this is the only exposure many people have had to quantum mechanics, some people don't seem to know where one ends and the other begins. Here is a youtube clip with a well known excerpt from that movie which is actually a featured video if you search "double slit experiment":

Quantum Physics Double Slit Experiment - What The Bleep Movie



The video is a pretty good demonstration of double slit experiment concepts, but the part that confuses people occurs at about four and a half minutes where the narrator says of the electron's behavior when we tried to determine which slit it went through:

The electron decided to act differently, as though it was aware it was being watched


So it's easy to see how some people can watch that and infer from that comment that it shows some kind of awareness in the electron, and soon we are talking about the consciousness of the universe and so on.

However I stumbled across an observer effect when cooking the thanksgiving turkey this year that may help people better understand the observer effect on a macro scale and decide if it really involves awareness.

To make sure the turkey is fully done it is recommended you use a meat thermometer to verify the temperature got high enough to kill harmful bacteria. As it turns out I have two thermometers of drastically different sizes, one is about three times as large as the other. These are some examples of similar models to the two I have, first is the hefty model:



Then I have a second model with a much skinnier probe like this:



Note how the probe on the second model is much skinnier than the first model. Now I checked them both in the same pot of hot water and they read the same temperature and they both read close to 100C in boiling water so they are reasonably well calibrated.

So the turkey comes out of the oven after 4 hours and I stick one thermometer in one breast and the other in the other breast. The skinny probe says it's done and the fat probe says it's not done, because it's reading 10 degrees cooler.

So I thought it odd the two sides of the turkey could end up at such different temperatures, and I then switched the probes putting them in different locations in the opposite breasts. This time the readings were a little closer because I hadn't let the probes cool down fully before making the measurements. So I became intrigued by this and let the probes cool completely and tried again in various locations and I got a repeatable result:

The fat probe always gave a lower temperature reading if both probes were cooled to room temperature before inserting. So I think what I uncovered was an "observer effect" that the fatter probe has so much metal mass to it, that it actually acts like a heat sink and actually changes the temperature of what it's measuring (at least in the turkey, not so much in the water), in this case lowering it by at least several degrees.

The skinny probe may have an effect also but it's a much smaller effect and the consistent difference between the skinny and the fat probes made me realize the fat probe is really creating an observer effect on a macro scale that people might be able to actually understand, so that's why I started this thread, to share this finding.

Now I ask you, do you think the turkey was aware it was being observed when the fat probe reported a different result than the skinny probe? No? Then why would anyone think the electron was aware it's being observed? It's no more aware than the turkey.

And in fact some of you may not be aware of this but double slit experiments have been conducted along the lines of my turkey/meat thermometer experiment, which yielded similar results, meaning that by varying parameters about how the observations are made, the effect described in that video can become more or less pronounced.

The reason the observer effect is so prominent in quantum mechanics is that quantum particles are so small they are nearly impossible to measure without affecting them. At least with a meat thermometer, if you use a small enough probe, you can minimize the observer effect and not change the state (temperature) of what you are measuring too much by the very act of measuring it.

So hopefully you will consider this and come to the same conclusion I have, that neither the electron nor the turkey are "aware" they are being observed, even though the very act of measuring them can change them. This also means that some of the quantum insights in the movie "What the bleep do we know" such as:

What the Bleep Do We Know!?

the quantum channeling of Ramtha, the 35,000-year-old Lemurian warrior, and on to even greater nonsense.
are not really very insightful at all and are just based on misconceptions about the observer effect, which I hope this example made a little bit more clear. Did it?

Or do you think the turkey was really aware after being cooked in the oven for 4 hours, and that's why it responded to being measured by the meat thermometer, especially the fat one that acted like a big heat sink?



edit on 28-11-2011 by Arbitrageur because: clarification




posted on Nov, 28 2011 @ 10:45 AM
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You are only making this thread because you are part of my reality.

Mostly the internet is working like that it seems as that a large part of what I think shows up on various fora I read during the day. Now one can conclude that my mind is more focused on these topics thus distinguishing them from other topics.

Unfortunately I had to conclude otherwise which makes my reality somewhat bizarre. It has it pros though cause I never am without money or job because I can just pick the jobs that I already know they would hire me for on forehand.



posted on Nov, 28 2011 @ 10:45 AM
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Dead turkeys have feelings too.

Neat, kitchen science is one of my favorite varieties.



posted on Nov, 28 2011 @ 10:48 AM
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reply to post by Phage
 


?

You consider Quantum Physics to be "kitchen science", or am I misunderstanding that term?



posted on Nov, 28 2011 @ 10:51 AM
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reply to post by tothetenthpower
 

No.
I consider conducting an experiment in the kitchen to be kitchen science. Whether or not it has anything to do with quantum mechanics.

But the point is neither the subject of the observation nor the observer require "awareness" for the particle/wave nature of quanta to manifest.
edit on 11/28/2011 by Phage because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 28 2011 @ 11:03 AM
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reply to post by Phage
 


How could you know this for sure without awareness? The observer must be aware to register the outcome or are you sure the measuring device recorded anything at all if no one ever checks it? Is the cat dead or alive in the box?



posted on Nov, 28 2011 @ 11:03 AM
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I admit that I may not be thinking "quantumly," but I've been aware of the double-slit experiment since I first started reading sci-fi in the '50s, and the observer effect still eludes me. Or, to state it another way: I don't believe the electrons display any kind of "consciousness" toward the observer. But, having eliminated that, then what does this experiment show? Is the lack of explanation of the effect accepted as an explanation in itself? No on ever seems to address that question, just leaving the conclusion to trail off into infinity, as if the inconclusiveness itself were the only conclusion available and/or necessary.



posted on Nov, 28 2011 @ 11:06 AM
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reply to post by Snoopy1978
 

It doesn't matter if the cat is dead or alive.
The measuring device records something whether or not the results are collected.

edit on 11/28/2011 by Phage because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 28 2011 @ 11:15 AM
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reply to post by Phage
 


That's what I thought you meant


I follow the same line of thought when it comes to these things...

SImply too many variables of unknown for me to have a valid or educated opinion on the matter.



posted on Nov, 28 2011 @ 11:19 AM
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Originally posted by Ex_CT2
then what does this experiment show? Is the lack of explanation of the effect accepted as an explanation in itself? No on ever seems to address that question, just leaving the conclusion to trail off into infinity
If you agree the observer effect isn't an indication of awareness then you apparently agree with the premise of the OP.

The observer effect isn't actually such a mystery, that we can affect a system by measuring it.

The mystery is the dual particle/wave nature of quantum particles. About the only thing that everyone seems to agree on are the experimental results. There are several ideas about how those results can be interpreted but we don't seem to have an agreement on the correct interpretation, though I have read about the possibility of some experiments in the near future which the authors claim may finally help answer this question.

reply to post by Phage
 

It's nice to see at least one person got my point.



posted on Nov, 28 2011 @ 11:36 AM
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From my limited understanding on the subject, I think this has something to do with the quantum wave function. It is a weird phenomenon that (until recently) was considered to be merely a statistical tool (in other words, not a real physical aspect of the universe) when understanding reality. Basically, it's the idea that when something is observed, the universe collapses that set of waves into a concrete reality for the duration of the measurement. When not observed, all possibilities are equally viable.

arstechnica.com...

To me, it's all.. well, the good Doctor explains it best..

edit on 11-28-2011 by rogerstigers because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 28 2011 @ 11:56 AM
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Originally posted by Snoopy1978
reply to post by Phage
 


How could you know this for sure without awareness? The observer must be aware to register the outcome or are you sure the measuring device recorded anything at all if no one ever checks it? Is the cat dead or alive in the box?


Excellent point and this goes to the heart of the matter.

In the double slit experiment the subatomic particle becomes aware of a second slit. Think about it. Nothing has changed. It goes through one slit it behaves like a particle. You add a second slit and it behaves like a wave. Why? What has changed? You just added a second slit, so why behave like a wave? The subatomic particle is aware of the second slit. The awareness is the Observer. This awareness extends to our consciousness.

An Observer is Aware of a measurement.

We see this in the Delayed Choice experiment. The Observer's choice determines a past measurement. If the OP is correct, the Observers choice should be irrelevant after an event has occurred.

Here's a little bit more on the Delayed Choice Experiment:


How long can we delay the choice? In Wheeler's original thought experiment, he imagined the phenomenon on a cosmic scale, as follows:

1. A distant star emits a photon many billions of years ago.

2. The photon must pass a dense galaxy (or black hole) directly in its path toward earth.

"Gravitational lensing" predicted by general relativity (and well verified) will make the light bend around the galaxy or black hole. The same photon can, therefore, take either of two paths around the galaxy and still reach earth – it can take the left path and bend back toward earth; or it can take the right path and bend back toward earth. Bending around the left side is the experimental equivalent of going through the left slit of a barrier; bending around the right side is the equivalent of going through the right slit.

3. The photon continues for a very long time (perhaps a few more billion years) on its way toward earth.

4. On earth (many billions of years later), an astronomer chooses to use a screen type of light projector, encompassing both sides of the intervening and the surrounding space without focusing or distinguishing among regions. The photon will land somewhere along the field of focus without our astronomer being able to tell which side of the galaxy/black hole the photon passed, left or right. So the distribution pattern of the photon (even of a single photon, but easily recognizable after a lot of photons are collected) will be an interference pattern.

5. Alternatively, based on what she had for breakfast, our astronomer might choose to use a binocular apparatus, with one side of the binoculars (one telescope) focused exclusively on the left side of the intervening galaxy, and the other side focussed exclusively on the right side of the intervening galaxy. In that case the "pattern" will be a clump of photons at one side, and a clump of photons at the other side.

Now, for many billions of years the photon is in transit in region 3. Yet we can choose (many billions of years later) which experimental set up to employ – the single wide-focus, or the two narrowly focused instruments.


www.bottomlayer.com...

In other words it shouldn't matter if the Observers choice is meaningless. We have seen this in delayed choice experiments and quantum eraser delayed choice experiments.

The Observer has an Awareness of measurement which seems to directly affect the quantum system. If the Observer is just a bystander then our Awareness of which path information shouldn't matter.



posted on Nov, 28 2011 @ 12:14 PM
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Originally posted by Matrix Rising
In other words it shouldn't matter if the Observers choice is meaningless. We have seen this in delayed choice experiments and quantum eraser delayed choice experiments.
I think you missed the point of my OP.

The observer effect was anything but meaningless, it had a profound effect (to me at least) in changing the state of the system it was measuring; with at least one measurement technique it was telling me my turkey wasn't done, when in reality, it was done.

So the observer effect is quite meaningful, not meaningless, in my turkey as well as in quantum experiments.

But there's no need to invoke awareness to explain either result. If I poke a hole in a plastic bag full of water I get one stream of water. If I poke a second hole in the bag I get a second stream of water. You can say the water is "aware" of the second stream but in reality it will just try to go through as many openings as you present to it so it's not really aware.
edit on 28-11-2011 by Arbitrageur because: clarification



posted on Nov, 28 2011 @ 12:26 PM
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Originally posted by rogerstigers
From my limited understanding on the subject, I think this has something to do with the quantum wave function. ...

arstechnica.com...
Your source echoes the comment I made about a future experiment possibly resolving the question:


What does all this mean? It means that someone is going to have to do a very elegant and difficult experiment to test this.
I think until such experiments are done, it's an open question.



posted on Nov, 28 2011 @ 12:41 PM
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reply to post by Arbitrageur
 


Understood but I do disagree on this point.


But there's no need to invoke awareness to explain either result.


I think Awareness is a must and therefore subatomic particles must carry some level of Awareness.

How can which path information be known(observed) if there's not an Observer there to be aware of which path information?The universe is known and observed by us because we're aware of which path information. How can the universe exist if their isn't an Observer to be aware of which path information? So subatomic particles have to carry some level of Awareness.

Your water analogy proves my point. If you poke holes in the bag the water will interfere. This is the same with subatomic particles when you add a second slit. It goes even further. Put a measuring device before the two slits and obtain which path information, the particle will behave like a particle. Try that with water and you will just get a wet measuring device. My point is there has to be some level of awareness carried by the subatomic particle to know when it's going through two slits without being measured and when which path information is being obtained.

People make the mistake of not connecting Awareness on a quantum level to Consciousness on a classical level. You then get a paradox if you don't connect the two.



posted on Nov, 28 2011 @ 01:25 PM
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reply to post by Matrix Rising
 


The closest way I can approximate this is in software parlance. We have a pattern we use called the "Observer Pattern". In this pattern there is something, usually a collection or container that watches a set of items for events. The items being watched don't know that they are being watched, they just send out information. When the observer receives an event, it reacts based on the type of information received.

Another technique we use is somethign called a event sink. This can receive the information being sent and hold it until something needs to review it.

In this case, I view the information representing a photon as an item being watched. It has all this information related to it, but none of that information means anything until something uses it. That information is then parsed into something meaningful for the observer. I think this is what quantum wave collapse may be.. the breakdown of an information queue into a solid "report" as such.

Your information is only as useful as the reports you have available.
A database administrator taught me that.
edit on 11-28-2011 by rogerstigers because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 28 2011 @ 01:26 PM
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I'd always understood (haha ok I've never really understood) the observer effect as being more abstract than this, in that the act of observation itself causes the change in the system. In this example the observation isn't changing the result, the big cold piece of thermometer metal is changing the result. I'm probably misunderstanding the theory despite having read various explanations of it dozens of times...

I also thought the idea was that the conscious observer caused the waveform to collapse, but never took this as an implication that the waveform itself needed to be conscious and 'know' anything. A ball doesn't have to know about gravity in order to fall to the floor, it is just acted on by a force (at least if viewed from within the framework of classical physics). In this case the 'force' would be the conscious observer - although calling it a force seems a little weird (as do gravity, electromagnetism, strong/weak nuclear forces etc but that's just me I suppose).

I also thought that this phenomenon was supposed to only work at the tiny quantum level (ie. there is a waveform to collapse) and not the macro level (so Schrodingers cat was a thought experiment and never supposed to describe a real cat being in superposition of alive/dead).

Somebody tell me the many ways in which I am wrong? I can take it



posted on Nov, 28 2011 @ 01:30 PM
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Hi! You should read up on the physicist Eugene Wigner who argued that your consciouness played a part in all of that. Remember me at Christmas.



posted on Nov, 28 2011 @ 04:08 PM
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Originally posted by morkington
I'd always understood (haha ok I've never really understood) the observer effect as being more abstract than this, in that the act of observation itself causes the change in the system. In this example the observation isn't changing the result, the big cold piece of thermometer metal is changing the result. I'm probably misunderstanding the theory despite having read various explanations of it dozens of times...
This post of yours is precisely the reason why I created this thread! So I really appreciate your post! You aren't the only one who thinks at a quantum scale the observer effect is really mysterious.

My point is that the observer effect isn't really all that mysterious either when sticking a big cold metal object into a hot turkey and finding it changed the temperature it was trying to measure, or in observing the electron in a double slit experiment. It's what the electron does as a result of the observer effect that's mysterious, but the fact that observing it can affect it, is not all that mysterious. So my OP claim is, the observer effect isn't really any more abstract at the quantum scale.

While I could reduce the observer effect on the turkey by using a smaller probe, scientists have also changed the observer effect on the electron such that not all the wave functions collapse, maybe only half of them do for example. So even the parallel about the type of measurement made affecting the magnitude of the observer effect holds true for both the turkey thermometer experiment, and the double slit experiment.


Originally posted by morkington
I also thought that this phenomenon was supposed to only work at the tiny quantum level (ie. there is a waveform to collapse) and not the macro level (so Schrodingers cat was a thought experiment and never supposed to describe a real cat being in superposition of alive/dead).
I'm not claiming any kind of quantum effect on my turkey. But I am claiming that the observer effect is a phenomenon which occurrred with my turkey. These are two separate concepts.
1. The act of measuring a system can have an effect on the system being measured, and
2. What is the effect on the system.

At the quantum scale, it is #2 that's mysterious, and not so much #1 which I hope the turkey analogy illustrates.
edit on 28-11-2011 by Arbitrageur because: clarification



posted on Nov, 28 2011 @ 09:45 PM
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Its stated in "Quantum Physics Double Slit Experiment - What The Bleep Movie"


The electron decided to act differently, as though it was aware it was being watched


Is it to be understood that the above statement does NOT suggest the electron was Aware.

But merely says as though it was aware...


My English as you know is very poor indeed, but are people reading too much into this?


Being as though is NOT quite the same, as "being" in my opinion...

But then again perhaps it is my lack of knowledge in the art of English Communication?





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