The Quantum World

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sociologists on the world of quanta ~ what we give to it!

In the first year of the twentieth century, a professor of theoretical physics in Berlin, Max Planck, suggested that light was not absorbed smoothly, but rather in small bundles or "quanta." Five years later, a Swiss patent clerk, Albert Einstein, proposed that the radiation itself must exist as quanta. Thus was born a new age in physics — the age of the quantum — in which some of the most basic assumptions of classical physics were swept away, and a magnificent new theoretical structure created.
This new physics was steeped in higher mathematics. Its concepts were often in contradiction with common sense. It rapidly became increasingly abstract and complex, to such an extent that even those well versed in classical physics were often unable to follow its labyrinthine turns and twists. Well, that's all well and good for the creative intellectual. How can the layman understand it? 

Well, it can be understood as analogies, examples, and imaginative insights, acquainting the layman with the historical development and basic meaning of such momentous theories and discoveries as Bohr's energy levels of the atom, Pauli's exclusion principle, de Broglie's wave theory, Bohr's correspondence principle. Schroedinger's wave equation, Heinsenberg's uncertainty principle, Dirac's fundamental laws of quantum mechanics, Sommerfeld's fine structure theory, Feynman's world lines, electron spin, invariance, the quantum number, and numerous other concepts that so drastically changed our notion of the universe.

~ Henry Margenau, Professor of Physics, Yale University.

Now, let me begin talking about what I call the social quantum view.  Firstly, perhaps I must defend my own science, sociology, a soft science yes but one that gets left out indeed of the world and its information mechanics. I think I have only to point to experiments that have been done to prove the world of quanta as those same experiments explain social reality. There is 'no thing' to describe until it is observed.

Once observed, then how to describe it. As a single observer of an event/thing, I can only describe it using the information I have which has been socially acquired. I can draw on that and arrive at a description. Now, getting others to agree with that description, that effectually socially arrived description that I used from my social data bank, is another problem; because all of us and including scientists have a social data bank.

What I must do is to ask others in my field to observe what I observed and for us to compare notes, what we arrive at will also be of a social description, affirmed socially based on the social dynamics of the group  for the purpose of gaining a description that we can all agree on - a socially agreed upon description what sociologist now call ~ agreement reality.

Of course, a thing observed can be assumed to ultimately have an absolute character or objectivity or what Weber called an ideal type. Now, this absolute is only assumed because we assume that no man can know intimately every part/thing in the universe. Such omnipotent data is unknowable to anything or to any man 'observer' here on earth in the same way. Firstly because of location and second because of meaning which comes into the scenario through interaction with others in a place.

However, I could argue that location does not matter as on the quantum level there is no distance between one point and another - this was labeled non-locality. Essentially, what I mean is that from our position on the earth, empirically, we cannot say we know the other side of the universe in the same way we know our immediate surroundings.

The sociologist understands that not everything in the universe can not be known immediately or even objectively but we can assume for the sake of creating a stable and dependable social reality that an absolute character or quality as in nature of the universe exists.  

Therefore, I can assume that what I experience as the universe is similar to someone else's as long as I start from the assumption of an absolute. Yet, from my personal point of view what I see and describe could be different from another person's who is in another place than I am as we can understand that location is relevant as the meaning which I acquire from being in a place is different from someone else's and this would have a significant impact on my description. 

What sociologists give to the world of quanta is just this. Social interaction in a place does have an impact on description and can determine how the social imagination in a place can use the information obtained in/from a place to describe objects/behavior observed by him/herself and others in that same place. 

What about non-locality in the world of quanta?  Good question, right? Answering as a sociologist, I would say that it such a question takes us back to the assumption of absolute nature of the universe. Social reality then both objective from a bird's eye view and subjective. Like a telescope that can zoom in and out on a fixed object. We see more when we zoom out holding still to the fixed object which can give a broader context. Yet, is the social reality of the fixed point changed when we zoom back in or go back out again?  If you answer no ~ that's understanding the application of non-locality in the social reality.

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