Lv 4
Jill asked in Science & MathematicsPhysics · 9 years ago

The Act of Observation (Measurement) creates the Whole Universe?

Physicists, can you help me understand the implications of this statement?

My knowledge of quantum physics is limited, and I would like to know how physics at this level is able to operate within these sorts of objective/subjective constraints?

Does this mean that scientific observation is less a picture of reality than a sort of mirror in which the observer sees himself?

Does this make the physical world a product of human consciousness?

Roger Jones (physicist) speaks of an "observer created reality in which the observer and observed ... cannot be broken down into independent components" because, "the observer has an uncontrollable and non-removable effect on what is observed."

Physicist Fred Wolf said, "When we look at the universe "We are looking at ourselves."

Garry Zukav once said, "We cannot eliminate ourselves from the picture....physics is the study of the structure of consciousness."

How does this affect science/physics? Does it mean that when it comes to elementary knowledge, what science produces is not universally true or real, but is created by the observer? Does this not make it subjective rather than objective?

Have physicists found ways of dealing with, and working around this effect in order to produce objective studies? Or do they just have to try to work within it's limitations?

Please explain to me how they may be able to do that? Thanks.



Am so enjoying and learning from all your great answers ... Many thanks.


16 Answers

  • ?
    Lv 7
    9 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    The real truth is that no one can really know. Why? Because everything that we think that we perceive is, in fact, a projection. This is true of all the senses, but I will use vision to explain. Light from an object or event enters the eye and sets off a series of signals which are sent to the brain which then projects them on to itself and perceives them. Now, logically speaking, there is no need for an eye or a light source for any of this to happen. It is logically possible that you are the only conscious being in the universe.

    But lets move away from the idea of a holographic universe, and grant that there may be a reality external to yourself. this is also logically possible.

    And, if I may, one more toy for you to play with. Here is a logical fact, anything contained must be smaller that its container. Since we know that anything that enters your awareness is contained within your mind, then it must follow that your mind is the larger of the two. Any concept of God, Galaxies, Black Holes, Buddhas, all these things pale in comparison to the mind that contains them.

    And, at some level or another, everyone one of us (if there is an "us") knows the truth about these matters.


    Edit: @danman I agree with you about infinity. It appears that there is something about our living mind that wants to expand. It seems to mold itself around its concepts and the larger and/or more intricate these concepts are, the happier it is. To attempt to conceive the inconceivable is simply irresistible to it.

  • 9 years ago

    It is from quantum mechanics. It derives from Shrodinger's wave equation. This is an abstract equation. It only resolves into things we can observe, such as position and velocity, when we measure something, which requires the involvement of a conscious observer. Until such an observation is made, the state of the system can't be determined. In essence, the equation only drops the system (of particles) into the 4 dimensions at the point of observation. ("Shrodinger's cat" is a thought experiment which provides an example of this. So the observer is inextricably interlinked with the universe they are observing. But observation requires some interaction, (for example light may hit a particle and travel back to the observer). This interaction disturbs the system in a way that can't be determined in advance, so the system has already become indeterminate again by the time the observer has the observation.

    It doesn't mean that the observer creates the universe. It means that the universe is not how we perceive it to be and we/our observations are inextricably interlinked with it and our observing it causes it to change. The current models that science has are not quite true. There are unresolved conflicts. But what it implies is that the nature of the universe is not as we perceive it. We perceive our perceptions of the universe rather than perceiving the universe, and in perceiving we move the universe. The models work very well in most cases. If/when a new model emerges that resolves the current conflicts it will be objectively correct and universally applicable. But it's highly specialised and abstract and not readily accessible or easy to interpret in a way that relates to how we perceive things.

    I've only really scratched the surface here. There are some principles that are relevant that I haven't even touched on. And there are different interpretations that get put forward. But it is essentially objective and the experiments are objective and repeatable and confirm that the models accurately describe how systems behave (given that there are elements of probabilities involved). It's just that consciousness, observation, space, time, energy are all bound up together and inseparable.

    This is about small scale stuff. It's not really noticeable when we look at large scale objects.

    The answer to your yes/no questions would be "No". They would exaggerate what the models are saying. I think the words of Roger Jones "observer created reality" are overstating it, although the rest of the sentence is correct. Observer is bound up with and influences, rather than creates.

  • 9 years ago

    The statement is generalized, but quantum physics suggests that observation collapses the wave function. That is demonstrated by the famous double slit experiment where particles, like an electron are shot forth out of an electron gun at a wall which allows you to identify where the particle hit. But between the gun and the wall is a plate with a single slit. After a short time, a single band of hits is detected on the wall.

    Amazingly when you add a second slit however, the pattern on the back wall is not two bands of hits, but a pattern known as an interference pattern. This pattern only occurs when the particle acts like a wave.

    However, if you put a measuring device to determine what slit the particle goes through, the back wall shows two bands (not the interference pattern).

    This suggests literally that particles, or the basis of matter and everything, are in all possible positions and that the act of observing, collapses the wave function, and the particle snaps into reality ... the reality of going through one or the other slits (not both of them as a wave would).

    It's bizarre ... but then so is quantum mechanics which describes the world at those scales quite accurately. It really is how the universe works ... comprehending it is a bit more difficult.

    So in this sense, the act of observation creates reality, at least in the case of particles. But that in theory could be extended to the universe since the universe is comprised of the very same particles.

    But does measurement or observing require intelligence or consciousness? You're not going to find that answer on Yahoo for sure.

  • okei
    Lv 4
    9 years ago

    Your question reminds me of verse one of Buddha's sayings which I was reading recently. "we are what we think, arising out of our thoughts, our thoughts make the world".

    How do physicists deal with subjectivity? I don't think they do. What they do is very cunning...they create an objective model of reality which is purely abstract and it's not a universal model, but a model chosen depending on the situation, e.g. the sun as a point source of light and gravity in the grand scheme, gravity as irrelevant in the molecular scheme. They choose the model which most beautifully and accurately predicts real experience, and the model thus provides a theoretical foundation for reality. Of course, they run into problems when different theoretical foundations contradict each other, or if they stop being accurate and then they work it to fix this.

    So as you see, very few physicists concern themselves with metaphysics, of why these models work. This is changing, but only in the hope that by thinking metaphysically, they might come up with better models.

    The moment something is turned into a model, a theory, there is no subjective, the subjective has been made objective. Even in the social sciences, if it's modelling human satisfaction and the act of questioning how someone feels effects the outcome of the response, the model can only deal with the objective data collected from observation. The trick then is to observe in ways which do not influence, but in physics perhaps this is sometimes truly impossible. The universe is not a Big Brother state!

    So in summary, there is the physics of observing and collecting data, and the physics of theoretical models. The latter never has any link or basis in reality and though it's motivation is to predict and agree with the former, it could even be studied if reality didn't exist. As for the collectors of data, when and how they might influence the data is an intriguing question, and one again which the model makers can theorize about and prove within the logical framework of their models the Heisenberg uncertainty principle that some kind of influence is inevitable. I don't know the details because I never liked physics much, lol. I liked the abstract side of it though.

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  • 9 years ago

    They're simply stating that the ways in which we think of the universe are coloured by our preconceptions.

    eg, Bacon, a creationist, postulated the Big Bang Theory and called it the beginning of the Universe - the moment of creation. He expected to see a moment of creation because of his preconceived ideas about the nature of "god". However, the Big Bang theory doesn't actually imply a creation, only a change of state. The fact that we cannot infer a structure for the universe before the planck time, doesn't actually mean that the universe didn't exist before then.

    In the last 5 years there have been a number of experiments relating to quantum entanglement and observation. They're hard to explain, but have to do with single photon and paired photon diffraction experiments. A photon traveling through a diffraction slit should be diffracted according to how close to the edge of the slit it travels. If many photons are traveling at the the same time they are thought to interact with each other and cancel each other out in some areas and reinforce each-other in other areas, so you see a series of light and dark bands on the screen at which the photons are aimed. However if you send a single photon down the same track, there is no other photon in our subjective reality for it to interfere with, but it will still only ever produce the same pattern of bright and dark bands even though it has an equal statistical likelihood of landing anywhere. So either the laws of physics are fundamentally wrong or those single photons are interacting with "ghost" particles.

    The last thing to think about is the schroedinger's gedankenexperiment called "Schroedinger's Cat." You place a cat in a box that you can't look into. In the box is a small amounjt of a radioactive isotope such that there is a 50% chance that it will decay in the time of the experiment, amechanism that measures radioactive decay and another that releases a poison gas if decay is detected. If decay of the isotope occurs in the time taken for the experiment, then the cat will die. If no decay is detected, then the cat will survive. But relative to the observer, who cannot see the state of the cat until the experiment is over, the cat could be either alive or dead. It exists in a probabilistic state until such time as an observation is made and that probability waveform collapses into either a dead cat or an alive cat. The act of observing influences the experiment directly.

  • Maria
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    Your argument is easily refuted. It is really nothing more than the old, tired First Cause Argument for the Existence of God. Let's simplify your assertion. Premise 1 - Everything has a cause. Premise 2 - Nothing can cause itself. Premise 3 - There cannot be an infinite chain of causation. Premise 4 - There must, therefore, be a First Cause. Conclusion - The First Cause is God, therefore God must exist. The problem with that argument lies between Premises 1 and 2. If everything has a cause and nothing can cause itself, then God must have a cause, and the cause of God must have a cause, etc. ad infinitum. That, however, violates Premise 3. Premise 1 could be rewritten to say "Either everything has a cause or something exists which did not have a cause." On the surface, that seems to clear up the problem. But does it? If we are going to attribute to God the ability to self-create, why can we not also attribute that ability to the Cosmos, thus negating the need for God? In any case, your argument seems to be based on the assumption that the Big Bang was the beginning of the Cosmos. That is not necessarily the case. There is a cosmological theory that is gaining support in the scientific world. That theory postulates that the event we refer to as the Big Bang was nothing more than the most recent iteration in a series of Big Bangs. An excellent book on the subject is "The Universe Before the Big Bang" by physicist Maurizio Gasperini.

  • I'm afraid there is no answer to this question in science yet and I don't imagine there will be for some time but there getting many clues cropping up through the quantum realms.

    Therefor I can only tell you what I believe but as this is the ultimate question of reality nobody knows for sure.

    I believe this reality is simply an illusion of consciousness much like a dream where we're unaware we are dreaming. Our five senses are part of this holographic illusion, that keeps us all separate and keeps us all trapped. Through meditation it is possible to connect to a higher source of consciousness which by all accounts is NON-local, this throws up many answers about consciousness and how it is a non-local entity.

    It would take a few books to explain this completely so I'll leave you with an interesting video link.

    Just understand, you won't find the answers your after in science, its far too corrupt, biased, self-serving and institutionalized. Anyway who goes against the official belief system is considered an idiot who supports sudo-fringe science. You will only find your answers through meditation. When you learn to connect to the source or the higher consciousness, it is like an encyclopedia of human knowledge and wisdom.

    A quick question. Take away all your senses, now where are YOU? In this state where you have no senses, I want you to prove to me that the floor you stand on, or the wall closest to you actually exists anymore. It's impossible to prove because there is nothing without senses.

  • danman
    Lv 6
    9 years ago

    Kuma makes some interesting observations.

    Without consciousness there could have been no Maimonides, Plato, Socrates, Freud, or Einsteins of the world.

    Once that consciousness is snuffed out at death, can there be any more observations at all?

    It is the study of the combined consciousness of thousands of observers throughout history that has advanced science to where it is today.

    The passing of time can only be measured by the conscious, when consciousness ends so does time. No matter the argument pro or con the argument must come from awareness.

    But Kuma's theory of containers being big enough to hold the concept......I know my conscious brain cannot fathom infinity....I am painfully aware of that limitation.

  • Enigma
    Lv 6
    9 years ago

    Once Zhuangzi (4th century BCE philosopher) dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn't know he was Zhuangzi. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Zhuangzi. But he didn't know if he was Zhuangzi who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Zhuangzi. Between Zhuangzi and a butterfly there must be some distinction!

    Some people may think that everything is just an (optical) illusion of whatever we see. Some may believe that whatever we think is in existence now is just a dream of a deity, and when the deity wakes up, everything vanishes.

    On the scientific note, light (dualistic characteristic, as particle or wave, from experiments) does give rise to the weird notion that it behaves according to whether there is a conscious observer or not. This, itself, may lead to the question of "what is reality" though quantum physics tries to explain it by deterministic probabilities. Deterministic probabilities means "by large numbers" they behave in predicted manner - just like huge number of electrons will hit upon the cathode ray tubes.

    Many things are relativistic - what we observed are in relation to others. Even time itself is relative and depends upon motion (or speed), and therefore the "reality" of 2 observers are different, if one is moving at 99.9999999999% of light while the other is on earth.

  • Anonymous
    9 years ago

    Zukav is a creator of fiction science, which means popularizing scientific theories in ways that are totally exagerated and extrapolated.

    It is true that Schroedinger's ideas are part of modern physics, as are those of Niel Bohr.

    It is true that observation alters elementary particles as they are observed.

    It is not true that the entire universe was created by an act of observation.

    That's Upside downism.

    It's back to Frontism.

    Only intellectuals whose income depends on book revenues get crazy enough to say such things.

    You don't believe Dick Morris do you?

    And why not?

    Because you know that his income depends on saying outlandish and astounding things.

    Zukav same thing.

    Part of a long and half serviceable tradition of self appointed science popularizers.

    Existence precedes essence.

    It also precedes observation.

    It also precedes measurement.

    It also precedes quantification.

    Before there was the observer or the observation event, there was the particle.

    The particle was not created by the observer or the observation event.

    Bohr never thought that, and neither did Schroedinger. They were serious human beings, not like Garry Zukav, who is a cash grabbing book whore and clown.

    Source(s): Mentats know, and this knows particle physics.
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