What are the implications of the observer effect?

Physicists have discovered that light will behave both like a wave and like a particle. In the classic experiment, light particles are directed through two narrow slits, and instead of projecting a particle beam, they produce an interference pattern as if they are waves. But, when the same experiment is performed while the researchers are monitoring the individual slits, the interference pattern goes away and light begins acting like a particle again!

I have included two video links which clearly demonstrate this phenomenon and relate it to uncertainty:

Dr. Quantum:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfPeprQ7oGc

Youtube thumbnail

Uncertainty and light:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VH7z3TZFYWQ

Youtube thumbnail

What do you consider the impact of this discovery on the world of physical sciences? Do you see any relationship between these experiments and parapsychology? This is a science question, so I would appreciate reasoned responses, but I'm more interested in your opinions. Thanks!

Update:

I'm very surprised that after a week, nobody has mentioned that these experiments demonstrate the limitations of our scientific processes to explain observable phenomenon. I am not trying to relate this directly to parapsychology, but the results in this experiment seem to make our current scientific explanations obsolete at some level. Sometimes, the illogical and unbelievable actually are real.

TR gave a good answer from the scientific viewpoint, and claptic and Mel also gave interesting answers. Thanks to everybody for providing their opinions in a civil manner!

Update 2:

Thanks again to everyone who answered. I'm going to let this go to voting :^)

9 Answers

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  • John
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Dr. Quantum is a great video :) I'm really out of my league with the quantum physics. I have really only a layman's knowledge of this stuff. The double split experiment is one of the most incredible experiments in the history of science though in my opinion, and it demonstrates some inescapable yet seemingly absurd conclusions. The strangest is the observer effect. What I understand is that the act of observing is necessarily an interaction between particles, hence one particle is affected by the observation and the other isn't, they decohere, the wave function collapses and you see the particle behavior instead. I think Feynman said something about this experiment, that everything about QM could be deduced from these results, or something to that effect. That would certainly make this experiment historic in its impact on science.

    Regarding parapsychological phenomenon, I don't see any necessary relationships between the two. I know it's tempting to make this comparison based on the observation of interaction at a distance and seeming communication between distant particles (and some have written whole books on this conjecture). But at this point it is only conjecture and there are utterly no mechanisms in place to explain any aspect of psi, nor even sufficient evidence yet to accept that it even exists. Would QM be part of an explanation for psi (e.g., telepathy) assuming that at some point it was shown to exist? Possibly, but how would the brain be able to code for information at the quantum level? What mechanism would transfer thought as the sum total of a certain population of interconnected neurons firing together into a coded message at the quantum level? It seems very implausible to me, QM or not.

  • 4 years ago

    I can absolutely guarantee you that there are distant stars in the universe that we have "not yet" observed that do, in fact, exist. You have a SERIOUSLY flawed conception of "manifesting in the physical universe" if you believe the Observer Effect as you have presented it here. If this is, in fact, "fundamanetal" to Quantum theory, then I submit that quantum theory is completely unfounded and needs to be reconsidered as a valid hypothesis. More likely, the error lies with your understanding.

  • 1 decade ago

    This is a coinciding of science and religion, that is, what science is now able to describe the Hindu have been describing for aeons. Maya, or the great illusion, is so because of observance. The light acting like a particle is synonymous with the illusion given credence by our observation and wave behavior is synonymous with the unlimited spiritual potential beyond the illusion obtained by paralyzing fleshly eyes. The impact on science is to lead them another step away from their stiff necked materialism.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Its really a double edge sword. Lets say there was a connection found between quantum physics/Heisenberg uncertainty principal and parapsychology. The aspect of parapsychology that you are addressing would no longer fall under the category of parapsychology, but under the category of physics.

    Honestly to answer your question, I don't see a relationship between the two fields. Of course, eventually if something exists, quantum physics will touch it in some form or other, since its the base of our entire universe. Quantum physics is a fairly new field of science, and offers a whole new universe of exploration. Its easy to jump the gun on findings and say "Hey, this is this and therefore this must be this." But that would be folly, especially to the majority of us who have to get the laymans rundown on any quantum physics experiment. We have to explore a lot more than we have.

    I apologize if I drifted too far from your question.

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  • 1 decade ago

    Well, let's go to the basics of observation. Scientists have discovered that while viewing an atom...the location of the electrons in the outer shell are shown to be affected.

    The second website demonstrates observer effect, which presuposes a natural ESP skill. See also, Harold Puthoff books and Ingo Swann's books

    Yes, quantum physics is addressing this aspect: specialists are Dr. Harold Puthoff and Dr. Brian Smith

    Source(s): upscale.utoronto.ca/.../Harrison/DoubleSlit/DoubleSlit.html www.bottomlayer.com/bottom/reality/chap2.html
  • 1 decade ago

    Just a short addendum to TR's response, with which I agree. I'd just remind you that in "real" science we rely upon measurable results from valid experimentation. The famous double-slit experiment, though very odd, is repeatable. Since we don't live at the quantum scale (thank goodness!), we don't directly interact with those phenomena nor the probable tiny other dimension in which they occur. So, we cannot just yet conduct too many validating experiments. We certainly cannot link quantum phenomena to parapsychology or paranormal activity. It's fun to think about, but there just isn't any firm experimental ground upon which to make reproducible observations, and therefore, no way to draw any meaningful conclusions to your question (darn it!).

    Source(s): I'm a scientist.
  • 1 decade ago

    The way we view our reality is an illusion. Our observation and perception is what holds everything together as a physical reality. When we are removed from the scenario, true reality returns to it's natural state.

    This is not a scientific answer, this is a spiritual one. We are here in this illusion for a reason. This is why we are not able to see things as they really are. If we could do so, this physical reality would fall apart and whatever purpose we have for being in this physical reality would no longer be relevant. Perhaps we chose to come here and experience a physical reality and for that reason, whatever we focus on becomes solid, material, physical, when in truth, it is absolutely not solid at all.

    How else can someone explain light behaving differently, simply because someone is watching? What power does my body have on light that exists outside of my physical body?

    I don't think that this has to do with the observer being powerful enough to change the way the light behaves...if that was the case, we would see the waves because that is the intention, the desire. I think it has to do with the light being a conscious intelligent thing. The light is conscious of human observation and is behaving according to some preset standard.

    As far as parapsychology is concerned and how this might relate to it...I'm not sure. Maybe people who are open to psychic activity and having psychic experiences are open to the light consciousness...maybe they cooperate with the light and that's why they are able to "see" things beyond our physical reality.

    I really don't know what I mean by that :) this is a very complex thought, I would have to chew on it for a while.

    BTW, I really like Dr. Quantum! :)

    *edit*

    A little more just came to me. Maybe people who are psychic...and healers, are interacting with the light, instead of merely observing it.

  • gregg
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    What that proves is there is power in sight. The power of sight is greater than the power of photons which every object emits that causes the color, the shade.

  • 1 decade ago

    It makes me wonder why our "scientists" are doing more work and experiments with the power of the mind?!

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