Friday 23 September 2011

Buddhism and Quantum Mechanics

I'm down deep with quantum mechanics.

I've got a buddy, much more qualified to speak on the subject than I, who considers the whole shebang a complete red herring, but I'm feeling it, for sure. And I'll tell you why.

I spent many years trying to impress girls with the pretense that I dug the Eastern religions. Naturally I had no tangible success using this strategy, but I did end up reading a bunch of interesting stuff about how these philosophies, in particular Buddhism, view the nature of reality. I ended up marrying a Buddhist, as it goes, probably because I couldn't try to impress her in this suicidal manner.

There is a link between this Eastern thinking and this Western science, and I intend to find out more.

There are many various and sometimes conflicting schools of thought in Buddhism, just as there are conflicting schools of thought within science. Common to them all is the idea of our perceived reality being considered illusionary, either literally or figuratively. Those schools that would figuratively consider our perceived reality to be illusionary propose that our human condition prevents us from understanding the true nature of existence - that it compels us to believe that we are somehow apart from the elements of which we are composed. The schools that literally consider our perceived reality illusionary tell us that our world, our universe, simply is not there; it is a construct of our collective perceptions.

Both of these ideas strike a chord with the theories of quantum mechanics, in which, at a sub atomic level, our constituent particles have properties which exist in innumerable positions simultaneously, or not at all. The vastly greater proportion of our volume is absolute nothingness, and the actual matter of the entire human race could be comfortably contained within a table tennis ball. Even this minute matter, the entire human race, might have more in common with the transience of wing's beat, the energy of a wave, than with our imagined dust.

If the ideas within quantum mechanics hold true then, as with Schrodinger's cat, the nature of the existence of all things requires an observer. It requires perception, without which there is nothing. This is the literal perception of reality. However, it is the consolidation this science lends to the idea of our figurative perception of reality which soothes me, that in understanding what in truth we are, at an elemental level, we can find our escape.

Here's an interesting story of a meeting of two fine minds: Deepest UberSpod Anton Zeilinger, he who realised quantum teleportation, and the Dalai Lama, in 1998


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