Dan Glover's post on Bohr's measurement/observation and complementarity:

 Subject:  Bohr's measurement/observation and complementarity.
 Date:  Sat, 10 Jul 1999 20:03:57 -0700
 From:  Dan Glover <flameproof@burn.net>
 Organization:  N/A
 To:  quantonics email list post <quantonics@topica.com>
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(Site manager comment: minor edits to show who wrote what and to allow lines to flex length.)

Hello everyone

Kuntz wrote:

i thought i was into something which i would not do justice to. reading dan's mail my head started spinning, and i spent the whole night on it. but frankly i got the essence of it. let me do a bit of more homework. i need to read dan's mail a couple of times more.

Hi Kuntz

I am gratified that I could give you so much to think about. I realize this is difficult ground we're covering here but please stick with it. We all know much more than we think we do, as your last email indicates. :)

Doug wrote:


Do you see Bohr as a classicist? Or do you see him as a post modernist? Or is he a combination? Or something else entirely?


I have found that it is incredibly difficult to put a label on Bohr's philosophy. In my opinion Einstein was a classicist and in a way Bohr could be seen as a post-modernist but that is not really correct either. I lean towards something else entirely.

Doug wrote:

Does his use of a word like 'exist' and his attitude about what should be done about that which does not 'exist' disclose his own basic, innate philosophy?

Dan wrote:

Doug, this is a very good point. According to the framework of complementarity, that which does not exist has no value to the observation and can be completely ignored. In fact, "it" must be ignored in order for unambiguous communication to arise from the measurement, or the observation. This is why Bohr refused to speculate on where the observation originates. He realized that any attempt at speculation was just that and that the observation itself was of primary importance.

Bohr writes:

"Taking the indivisibility of the [Planck's] quantum of action as a starting point... every change in the state of an atom should be regarded as an individual process, incapable of more detailed description, by which the atom goes over from one so-called stationary state to another... On the whole, this point of view offers a consistent way of ordering the experimental data, but the consistency is admittedly only achieved by the renunciation of all attempts to obtain a detailed description of the individual transition processes." (page 109, The Philosophical Writings of Niels Bohr, Vol. one)

Bohr saw that the act of observing the atomic system is in no way different from the act of observing everyday reality. It is here that Bohr's innate philosophy becomes apparent. Just as consistency is only achieved in the atomic system by renouncing all attempts at defining the individual transition process, so it is in our perception in general. The individual transition processes are Dynamic and we only see the results, not the actual Dynamic processes taking place. This only becomes apparent at the atomic level however. We've learned to "blend" the transition states into a continuous stream in our everyday observations of reality.

Doug wrote:

Allow me to repeat similar questions from above for 'external.' What can we say about one who divides reality into 'external,' and 'internal?'

Dan wrote:

Doug, certainly this is looking at the problem from a classical point of view... from the MOQ point of view there is only the experienced and the non-experienced. Internal or external as we normally think of them as being exist only in subject/object ways of thinking. It is a symptom of being suspended in our language and culture, in my opinion, that the notion of internal and external arise in the first place. Perhaps this is unavoidable?

Doug wrote:

What can we say about physics' use of 'measurement?' When a physicist says s-he 'measures' something, what do they mean? What does a classical physicist mean? What do most quantum physicists mean? Which are thinking anthropocentrically? Was Bohr thinking anthropocentrically? Can an electron or photon measure an atom or a human? Or is 'measure' only something humans can do?

Dan wrote:

Doug, from what I understand of the use of measurement in quantum physics, it means 'the observation' as a complete and unitary whole. For the classical physicist, measurement entails breaking down the observation into transitional stages from here to there, something quantum theory renounces. Anthropocentricity seems implicit in any measurement by a human observer as far as I can tell. An electron or photon may measure an atom or a human but it is the human observer who must recognize the measurement and communicate it unambiguously with other humans for said measurement to be of value. So, no, measurement is not confined only to humans but to be of value it appears that it is.

I think Kuntz is stating the same when he writes:

dear quanto subscribers,

correct me if i am wrong. the reality that we are trying to comprehend, even in the case of complementarity, we find that it is limited to the dimensions that our material self pervades. the measurement that we are talking about extends only upto (n-1)th dimension. let me explain. consider that we are a point, the maximum dimension we can measure is nothing or infinity( this is a special case).consider that we are a line the maximum we can measure is a point ie line 2D point 1D. if we are a plane we can measure only a line. ie plane 3D line 2D. if we are a cube(say) we can view only planes. ie cube 3D plane 2D. it is elementary that we can also measure lower dimensions being in higher ones. that time is our fourth dimension, is the reason why we can measure 3D. and all the "reality" that we perceive is limited to the measurement in this dimension.by this token, we have as many dimensions and as many measurements( minus one). our five senses have measured reality only in the present dimension, and over the years as we mastered our static patterns, our impression of reality became contrived and that is the reason we seek out for the " truths" that we deem absolute instead of trying to evolve our dynamic patterns, transcend our present working dimensions and achieve dynamic quality. dan doug. if i make any sense, applaud me . if i dont, i need more chances . i am not able to understand SOM. please elaborate.

thank you.

Dan wrote:

Kuntz, don't feel bad about not understanding SOM for I do not either. I am not sure it is understandable. But it seems to me that you have a very good grasp on the problem and I am looking forward to hearing from you again soon!

And Doug, I've tried to address your questions as best I could but there are still many unanswered and perhaps unanswerable questions. Thank you both for sharing your comments!

Best wishes


©Quantonics, Inc., 1999-2006 Rev. 16Nov2003  PDR — Created 10Jul99  Dan Glover
(28Jan2002 rev - Add link to our note on two kinds of complementarity.)
(16Nov2003 rev - Repair spelling.)