Re: [asa] Results of Cameron's Survey

From: David Clounch <>
Date: Mon Jun 29 2009 - 12:33:09 EDT

 George wrote:

"but is a statement that position-momentum pairs that violate it don't
exist. "

George, my question is (because I don't know the rules) is this true for
virtual particles as well?
The reason I ask is it seems to me virtual particles exist ontologically
but not in a way we could ever observe.

[an aside]
My son was telling me about muon decay and how it produces a number of
virtual particles, and there are always a neutrino/anti-neutrino virtual
pair produced, but these almost always destroy each other. But about every
millionth time they don't and the neutrino exits. And these neutrinos are
always left-handed. He was trying to tell me about the fact that all
neutrinos are left handed but there is no law or rule of nature as to why it
should be that way - that nobody knows why. My point is there are at least
10^6 virtual pairs for every real neutrino.
[end aside]

Obviously scientists believe in virtual particles. But, if we can never
observe them, are they really there? Aren't they beyond the edge of MN?
aren't they just something we pretend are there so we can get a logical
reason for things we are able to see (the observed products).

I agree with your statement as applied to real particles. Its not just about
limits of knowledge, but is a real statement about existence. I'm just
wondering if the same QM rules apply to virtual particles.

If virtual particles are just a game and don't have ontological existence,
then under the rules of MN aren't they really in the same category as
other beyond the (playground) edge topics (like ID is alleged to be)? If
the answer is yes, then are teachers allowed to discuss these areas where
God plays dice?

On Mon, Jun 29, 2009 at 11:10 AM, George Murphy <>wrote:

> Iain -
> This gets into the murky area of the interface between classical chaos
> theory & quantum mechanics, where I claim no great expertise. Since quantum
> mechanics is linear there's no "quantum chaos" in a straightforward sense.
> But in specifying the initial conditions more & more precisely for a
> classical system, as you suggest below, you'll eventually get to the limit
> specified by the uncertainty principle, & below that point you can't go.
> With a strong interpretation of QM even God can't because the uncertainty
> principle is not just about limits on what we can measure but is a statement
> that position-momentum pairs that violate it don't exist.
> Shalom
> George
> ----- Original Message -----
> *From:* Iain Strachan <>
> *To:* George Murphy <>
> *Cc:*
> *Sent:* Monday, June 29, 2009 11:13 AM
> *Subject:* Re: [asa] Results of Cameron's Survey
> On Mon, Jun 29, 2009 at 3:52 PM, George Murphy<>
> wrote:
> > You can put me down with Terry's #4. (Or, if only the 3 answers given
> > originally are allowed, as is usually the case with standardized tests,
> I'll
> > take #3 "under protest.")
> >
> > I would not absolutely rule out the idea of front-loading of design (#2)
> but
> > it seems to me that hardwiring the detailed outcome of any physical
> process
> > into its initial conditions billions of years in advance is just the sort
> of
> > thing that chaos theory - which is more precisely "sensitivity to initial
> > conditions" - rules out for systems of any complexity (i.e.,
> nonlinearity).
> George:
> Just a quick query here. Is it not the case that it's not ruled out so
> much as non-computable
> For example if I try to integrate the third order non-linear differential
> equations for the Lorenz Attractor<>then I experience that if a slight change is made to the initial values of
> the state variables, then after a certain time, two runs that are otherwise
> the same diverge and bear no resemblance to each other. But the smaller the
> initial delta, the longer it will take to diverge. However, divergences can
> be observed even at the machine precision level, for example if I change X0
> to X0*(1+eps) where eps is the smallest constant so that in the machine
> 1+eps > eps. (In standard double precision arithmetic eps has the value
> 2.2204e-016).
> But if one had a machine with billions of bits of precision for the
> arithmetic, instead of 53 (double precision arithmetic has 53 bits for the
> mantissa, 10 for the exponent and 1 for the sign, making 64 in total), then
> it's clear that macroscopic changes in the outcome will only appear after an
> immensely long time because the corresponding value of eps is so much
> smaller.
> So I wouldn't have said it was ruled out unless God only uses 64 bit
> arithmetic!
> Iain

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Received on Mon Jun 29 12:33:42 2009

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