Monday, December 8, 2008

Love Is...

I am a determinist. To me, this means that I believe that, given a perfect snapshot of the position and momentum of every particle and subparticle in the entire universe, and also given infinite computing power and infinite time, it would be possible to extrapolate the history of the universe from start to finish. The problem with this, of course, is that you can't ever know the position and momentum of a particle.

Now, I will be the first to admit that I do not have the best grounding in Quantum Mechanics. But, it seems to me that what this says is that there will be a random component to any observation one can make, not that there will be a random component to anything that happens. And so, I believe that randomness is a property of observation, not a property of any event.

I mentioned this to my friend, M*, the other day and she asked "What about love?"

"Love is just a chemical reaction."

"A chemical reaction?"

"Well, a series of them." I thought for a moment about what else it could be. "Although, I suppose there are also nuclear reactions. Wouldn't it be funny if it turned out the feeling of 'love' was actually the transumation of lead into gold inside your heart?"





* I have to admit that I was somewhat hungover for this conversation and therefore the quotes are rough paraphrases at best. I apologize if I have misrepresented the gist of anything anyone may have said.

8 comments:

Linguo said...

this is actually a dubious interpretation of quantum mechanics. it might hold up if you throw logic out the window (and some philosophers quite consciously do that for this purpose) but the much more conservative interpretation (i.e. much easier to swallow) which is still consistent with the formalism is that the position and momentum (and any other property) of a particle are not fully determinate at any moment. in this light heisenberg "uncertainty" is a huge misnomer. of course in addition to believing (with many scientists on my side) that the universe is not deterministic, i'm not even a scientific reductionist anyway. ps this is mike b.

Linguo said...

furthermore, as your absurd example involving transmutation helps demonstrate, even to a scientific reductionist it is doubtful that love is a chemical or nuclear reaction.

jon314 said...

I'm also drawn to Newton's clockwork universe but unfortunately as far as we know the universe is not deterministic. This was up for debate until sometime in the 1960s when Bell's theorem showed that if a particle really was in a determinate state before measurement, this would create an observable effect. Experiments then confirmed that the uncertainty principle is a fundamental property of the universe and not of our lab equipment.

unconventionalwisdom said...

The kid's a chip off the old block, evidently -- another specialist in quantum linguistics: the principle that language is not deterministic, and therefore you won't know before you speak what you will have said until it's too late...

Maddy said...

I like this theory.
Also, I was almost angry at first that one could say that something as absolute and all-encompassing as love could be "predicted" and described by some chemical reactions. Because I feel as though love should be bigger and more fundamental than chemical reactions, and thus couldn't possibly be created by them. Mostly I'm just a romantic and an Idealist, and I want love to be the most beautiful and magical thing. I want it to be better than dinky chemical reactions. But if I think for one second about anything that exists in the world, it occurs to me that everything is unfathomably improbable that the word dinky is hardly an appropriate adjective for chemical reactions (:

I think it's okay by me if the world is made up of chemical reactions.

terriblenews said...

So, I tried to read that Bell's Theorem wikipedia page and it was pretty... poorly written. The trick with all this QM stuff is that it is based on observations. What I think I believe is that the exact same sequence of events will always produce the exact same results. It is, however, impossible, by any means I can think of, to be completely 100% sure that you are producing the exact same sequence of events in any sort of experimental set up. I intend to read up more on all this quantum stuff later, at which point I will be convinced that my current position is untenable, or I will have a better counter argument. :*)

And dad, I think what you mean is that I will never know what I've said until someone has heard it. :*)

And Maddy, I keep remembering you talking about those intra-cellular transport mechanisms with the ladder climbing molecules — probably one of the simpler chemical reactions that goes on in the body and yet fantastically complicated and utterly fascinating.

In conclusion, although I believe that love is theoretically predictable — I think you have to be able to make some impossible observations first.

Linguo said...

ARGH! URGH! let me lecture you at length someday on quantum mechanics!

Linguo said...

Grrrrrrr. I want to EXPOUND AT LENGTH.