yes, a tedious debate, but with mathematical rigour!

Conway and Kochen say this search is hopeless, and they claim to have proven that indeterminacy is inherent in the world itself, rather than just in quantum theory. And to Bohmians and other like-minded physicists, the pair says: Give up determinism, or give up free will. Even the tiniest bit of free will.

Their argument starts with a proof Kochen created with Ernst Specker 40 years ago. Subatomic particles have a property called “spin,” which occurs around any axis. Experiments have shown that a type of subatomic particle called a “spin 1 particle” has a peculiar property: Choose three perpendicular axes, and prod the spin 1 particle to determine whether its spin around each of those axes is 0. Precisely one of those axes will have spin 0 and the other two will have non-zero spin. Conway and Kochen call this the 1-0-1 rule.

Spin is one of those properties physicists can’t predict in advance, before prodding. Still, one might imagine that the particle’s spin around any axis was set before anyone ever came along to prod it. That’s certainly what we ordinarily assume in life. We don’t imagine, say, that a fence turned white just because we looked at it — we figure it was white all along.

But Kochen and Specker showed that this assumption — that the fence was white all along — can’t hold in the bizarre world of subatomic particles. They used a pure mathematical argument to show that there is no way the particle can choose spins around every imaginable axis in a way that is consistent with the 1-0-1 rule. Indeed, there is a set of just 33 axes that are enough to force the particle into a paradox. It could choose spins around the first 32 axes that conform with the rule, but for the last, neither 0 nor non-zero would do. Choosing zero spin would create a set of three perpendicular axes with two zeroes, and choosing non-zero spin would create a different set of three perpendicular axes with three non-zeroes, breaking the 1-0-1 rule either way.

" if humans have even the tiniest amount of free will, then atoms themselves must also behave unpredictably."

Posted by: Kevin Jones | August 17, 2008 at 10:34 PM