Saturday, November 08, 2008

Under the Microscope: What the Bleep? Part 1

Well, I've been watching some debunks from the awesome Captain Disillusion, and a few crappy UFO videos (giving them 1 star) suggested by people asking Cap'n D to debunk the dots in them. As a result, YouTube's recommending some woo for me. Think I'll take on one guy's video that popped up as a result. I haven't watched yet, but the one I'll be starting with claims that quantum mechanics justifies woo. I think I know where this will be going. Clicking over, and embedding so you can watch for yourself.

The start's rather random, with sprinkled in phrases, ideal for quote mining. Given the CGI, I'm thinking this is "What the Bleep Do We Know?" a particularly wootastic movie. The most recent comment says so and asks yourti, the video's poster why he didn't label it as such.

One that sticks out asks how we can know anything if the self is intangible. There's a nicely vague word woos probably love. "Self" probably qualifies as an abstract. Money also strikes me as an abstract, but good economists can make some predictions on it (Though the data's noisy enough to have no shortage of people calling it a soft or non-science). It's not immaterial at least, since it has effects on behavior and such.

Gets into parallel realities, which doesn't exactly help out the woos. If I could shift to a parallel reality, I'd be observing things change around me. And there'd be my parallel version to assassinate if I wanted to take over his life.

"Have you seen yourself through the eyes of someone else you've become?"

Uh, what's that got to do with the lookalike in the scene? But yeah, I have: It's called reminiscing, and it's a function of memory, often distorted with nostalgia.

"Looked at yourself through the eyes of the ultimate observer?"

I should call up my brother. Some theist philosopher ended up saying stuff doesn't go away when no one's looking because a deity's doing the observing. Of course, since this'll be on quantum mechanics, I'm curious how this ultimate observer works. Observation isn't a passive process.

After the fauxlisophical scene with people asking the "big" questions, "We can't explain it" and talking about people who investigate getting "lost down the rabbit hole". Yeah. From what I've seen, the people who actually study QM are much more stable than the people who just look long enough to declare it weird and magical.

I can dig the people who say it gets weirder and cooler the more you look. I know some proper scientists got quote mined, so I should be on the watch. Next guy goes on about QM explaining "how we feel about the universe" or some crap, but I think we can agree he's one of the deep woos.

Ramble about what sounds like the Indigo Children crap, and another guy going on about paradigms. Sorry, fella, but that won't help out. Science is pretty well anti-paradigm by its self-correcting nature.

"Modern materialism strips the people of the need to feel responsible." ...Wonder what he's been smoking. He's right in that religion does that. Don't see how QM imbues responsibility, since it's a part of modern materialism. I also don't see how weirdness links to responsibility.

"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery." Uh, fella, we're in the mystery because we want to be in the know, even if that's fatal for the mystery.

And title screen, confirming this guy didn't label his stuff properly. Though, that might be because he wants to avoid DMCA's. Anyway, I hope this means there'll be less random jumping around interviewees.

Onto some scene while a guy asks why we keep recreating the same stuff. Uh, we don't. We don't create reality, we're made from it.

"Internal world" and "external world". There's no difference between them. They're made of the same stuff, and no, the discovery of QM doesn't change that.

And I think I spot one person who's actually a scientist. He talks about the observation thing, and it doesn't require us conscious people: Things whack things to nail them down (collapse wave functions), essentially. That's how I understood QM.

Example of watching a brain's activities: Looking at an object and imagining and object trigger many of the same areas to light up. Nothing wooey about that. The act of imagining simulates sight in the brain, and looking at an object triggers recognition processes to the ideas of objects we hold for reference. Of course, woos will take that to mean that an imagined object is exactly as real as an observed object. I get the feeling this is a real neurologist or something being put into this "creating reality" context instead of just describing mental processes and the shortcuts that backfire into things like deja vu.

Onto Part 2:

"This camera is seeing more than what is around here because it has no objection and no judgment."

...What? We can look at what it showed by playing back the tape. Cameras are objective because they don't leave out the things we would label as irrelevant or unimportant. It's built to record, while we're built to survive and not waste precious time looking at blades of grass while a lion charges at us.

Going on about how our eyes might see more than our brains process. Duh. We prune stuff off to save time and sometimes ego. I'm now wondering if this is a scientist who had a bit of verbal stumbling recorded.

New interviewee saying we're trained only to see what we believe is possible. Uh, no. If that were the case, I'd be staring at blank screens during chunks of Mythbusters and videogames would never subvert my expectations. She goes on that bogus story about the Indians being unable to see the ships. Skeptico's covered this, along with the whole movie.

More baseless assertion about us creating reality. Possible quote mining of a guy who might have been blindsided by a 'why not solipsism?' type question. I could be wrong, because his computer has some seemingly pointless graphic of a brain. I hope that's his screen saver. No, we can't have certainty. That doesn't mean any of this reality creation crap is true. Series of probable quote mines.

The protagonist describes the ship dream and her roommate, sister, or whatever is apparently very easily impressed. She goes on about past lives, parallel worlds, and so forth. Uh, does it ever occur to these people that sometimes a dream is just a dream? Mention of anxiety medication, which I seem to recall that she abandons though the magic of QM at the end of the movie. Uh, you do realize they prescribe the stuff because it shows success when tested, and this What the Bleep stuff hasn't shown any promise, last I checked.

Guy talking about decisions in life depending on QM effects not "washing out". Our "macro world" understanding depends on quantum effects generally averaging out. They were accurate before QM's discovery, and they're still accurate afterward. Depending on odd QM effects not to cancel out is depending on massive dumb luck.

He apparently has some rage for subatomic physics since he's describing it as "made up". Well, the theories exist today because they're accurate in their predictions. We don't know it all yet, of course, but we're doing a hell of a lot better than the woos. ---Moves onto disjointed stuff about how weird QM is. Says without apparent basis that disappearing/reappearing particles are moving between parallel worlds. For pair production, I believe the answer is that they don't add up to anything: Opposite charges, spin, momentum, etcetera.

Guy talking about time and why it seems to move in one direction. I guess he's not acquainted with entropy. The reason we can't "remember" the future is because our memories are assembled by "spontaneous" chemical reactions that move towards overall increasing entropy. Reverse the process, and you're disassembling memories. Only way out of that would be dualism, and that's a new question I think I'd like to ask them.

Clip ends with her moving into some magic basketball court of unlimited possibilities. Moving onto part 3:

Start going on about matter mostly being empty space. That's odd, but that doesn't change the fact that dropping a hammer on your toe will probably hurt. Its solidity and mass are still the same, even if there's a lot of space between its parts. Somehow, though, this guy ends up saying the most "solid" thing it can be compared to is a thought. Somehow, I fail to see the connection. A thought is a complex collection of molecules (made of atoms) and electrical signals (made of an electron current). That's kind of like saying a hammer is made of jackhammers. One guy goes on to apparently conflate thoughts with the physicist's use of "information."

Talks about going back in time in QM. Uh, no. Whatever point you're making about the weirdness of applying the time axis to that level, it doesn't mean we can actually go back in time. No one from the future showed up to that time traveler's convention.

Dr. Quantum comes up. I saw this guy's skit earlier (not shown yet). He left out the part that observation is an active process. If you look at a rock, you have to shine a light on it, which warms it up. If you look at something as tiny as an electron, you're going to do more than just warm it up. Also, observation has nothing to do with consciousness. Substitute "whacking" for "observing" and you've got something that might be more appropriate. Plenty of rambling on about the word, and this one guy going on about poking around the brain and not finding "the observer". Uh, guy, the whole freaking brain is the observer. It's a system, not a distinct entity. We look at the parts to find out how our whole selves act as observers.

Of course, that has nothing to do with how QM uses the term.

"Four layers of the bio-body suit." Fun. A dualist. Maybe he's found the homunculus the other guy was looking for.

Anyway, that's 3 parts out of 10. Think I've done my due for the day.


William said...

It's definitely "What the Fuck Do We Know!?"; I saw Marlee Matlin there.

(I think this is the proper title, with "Bleep" as only an advertising euphemism. I've also seen it as "What the #$*! Do We Know!?". Oh, and I just checked Wikipedia -- it says it's also been "What tнe #$*! Dө ωΣ (k)πow!?")

MWchase said...

"Dth uhs ka-pow"?

Oh, Greek. Poor, poor, abused Greek.

Anonymous said...


On the whole internal world / external world / we create reality bit... There is some truth to it, but it's so horribly muddled. We do create our own internal reality, and that's where we actually live most of the time - in a mental model abstracted from our perceptions of the real world. (For example, our eyes actually see less than we perceive - the rest is confabulated.)

However, that is not to say that there isn't a real, objective world out there, or that our wishes and desires can affect it directly - it's just to say that our perceptions of the world aren't reliable, which is why we need science.

On the thing about matter being empty space... Ever hear about Major General Albert Stubblebine of the infamous "Stargate Project"? The guy who decided that, since matter is mostly empty space, he should be able to walk through walls? Of course, it's not that actual particles that stops you - it's the electromagnetic fields around and between them...

The Chemist said...

Came here from Orac's.

You might find this pertinent. Happy linking!