Tag Archives: Science

It’s all quantum physics, I tells ya!

One of those fascinating little tidbits that always amuses me concerning quantum physics is that whole time/speed. Oh, you know what I’m talking about, it’s what happened to Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes. Their spaceship travels at speeds upwards towards the speed of light, and they age less than the space around them. It’s an Einstein thing, look it up.

So, the faster an object travels, the slower it’s relative time versus the time of the non-moving space around it, and, since the speed of light is the universal maximum, then at the speed of light, time stops. If that’s the case, light which travels as both particles and waves is really weird. Light particles would then be essentially “timeless”. From their relative perspective, they are passing through all points along their trajectory simultaneously. Then how can it have amplitude, which is a function of time? Quantum physicists apparently don’t like it when people say quantum physics is weird, but, come on! It is weird. It’s weird because, no matter how well documented and proven it is, it’s counter-intuitive. It behaves in ways that our senses tell us would be nonsense. That doesn’t make it nonsense, that’s just a natural bias we have.

Then you get into causality, which, at the quantum level can happen mathematically in reverse. (OK, this is way out of my depth, but I got it out of a fairly well-regarded book on the subject, which I can’t call to mind right now.) That’s not saying it actually does happen with the cause coming after the effect, just that mathematically, it could work that way.

Honestly, Doctor Who wouldn’t be any fun without this sort of science.

Why do I bring up all this stuff? Because I was reading quite a funny article on intercessory prayer, and the incredibly flawed studies that have been published on the subject and popularized in the media indicating that they have values, despite being thoroughly invalid studies. You can read about it here.

The article briefly looks at several prayer-related studies and points out some of the warning signs of a poor-constructed clinical trial. My favorite though, has to be an Israeli study which is summed up like this:

In 2000, Leibovici looked at patients admitted to the hospital for brief stays in 1990-96. He randomly assigned them to one of two groups, and had prayers said for the members of one group. The control group got no treatment. Mortality rates showed no difference, but subjects in the prayed-for group had less fever and shorter hospital stays, significant at the p=4% level. Note that the praying was all done 4 to 10 years after the patients had either recovered or died. So Leibovici is making the extraordinary claim that prayers are altering the past.

So my question is: If that’s true, does the act of looking at the records “freeze them”? That is, now that the doctors have looked at the records of the non-prayed for group, if another group of people prayed for them, would their records change or would it be too late? That vaguely sounds like another one of those quantum physics things where you can’t know where the particle behaves differently when you observe it.

Anyway, that study would appear to have been a tongue in cheek, but the others aren’t.

The article is good information if you’re not familiar with some of the potential mistakes in clinical trials that can render them invalid (or at least deeply flawed.)