Archive for July 11th, 2012

July 11th, 2012

The Standard Model of Particle Physics Written Out

by Max Andrews

With the recent discovery of a new boson, which is likely to be the elusive Higgs boson, the standard model for particle physics would not be complete.  Keep in mind that this only confirms the model that has been used for a long time now.  This explains the early moments after the big bang where there was the electroweak force which separated and became the electromagnetic and weak nuclear forces (there’s also the strong nuclear force).  This doesn’t unify the theory of gravity. Physicists must still develop a theory of quantum gravity.

July 11th, 2012

Word of the Week Wednesday: Decoherence

by Max Andrews

Word of the Week: Decoherence

Definition: A loss of coherence between the angles of components in a superposition and a loss of information due to environment, which gives the appearance of a wave function collapse.

More about the term: A wave function collapse occurs when the outcome of a quantum state is determined by an observer. An observer can be a concious observer or even the interaction of particles.  Instead of a determinate state, decoherence is akin to pulling one string out from an entire knot of strings. Decoherence is a major talking point and factor in multiverse scenarios.

In 1956 Hugh Everett III published his Ph.D. dissertation titled “The Theory of the Universal Wave Function.”  In this paper Everett argued for the relative state formulation of quantum theory and a quantum philosophy, which denied wave collapse.  Initially, this interpretation was highly criticized by the physics community and when Everett visited Niels Bohr in Copenhagen in 1959 Bohr was unimpressed with Everett’s most recent development.[1]

July 11th, 2012

At Least on Average, A Human Life is Good

by Max Andrews

Reblogged from Alexander Pruss.

A stranger is drowning.  You know nothing about the stranger other than that the stranger is drowning.  You can press a button, and the stranger will be saved, at no cost to yourself or anybody else.  What should you do?

Of course you ought to press the button.  That’s simply obvious.

But it wouldn’t be obvious if at least on average a human life weren’t  good, weren’t worth living.  If on average, a human life were bad, were not  worth living, you would have to seriously worry about the likely bad future that you would be enabling by saving the stranger.  It still might well be right to pull out the stranger, but it wouldn’t be obvious.  And  if on average a human life were neutral, it wouldn’t be obvious that it’s  a duty.

So our judgment that obviously a random stranger should be saved commits us  to judging that at least on average a human life is good (or at least will be  good).

Now suppose we get exactly one of the following pieces of information:

  • The stranger is a member of a downtrodden minority.
  • The stranger is currently a hospital patient (and is drowning in the bathtub of the hospital room).
  • The stranger’s mother did not want him or her to be conceived.
  • The stranger is economically in the bottom 10% of society.

None of these pieces of information makes it less obvious that we should save the stranger’s life.  This judgment, then, commits us to judging that on average the life of a member of a downtrodden minority, or of a hospital patient or of someone whose mother did not want him or her to be conceived, or of someone economically in the bottom decile is at least on average good.