Quantum BS

Highlights from Quantum Bullsh*t: How to Ruin Your Life with Advice from Quantum Physics, by Chris Ferrie

This book is a rant against the word “quantum” used to sell all sorts of new age nonsense by a real scientist. Hence it is liberally sprinkled with F-bombs and the word “sh*t” (not with the asterisk). It is also a pretty good non-technical introduction to the basics of quantum physics. In the quotes I am posting here I am substituting “f*ck” and “sh*t” so as not to offend search engines. Reconstructing the originals is left as an exercise for the reader 🙂

  • Page 7

    Everything with a temperature glows with a certain set of colors. Even you glow, albeit in infrared light. That’s right, your partner next to you in bed is a source of radiation. Better sleep with a tinfoil hat on tonight.

  • Page 12

    Math. Yes. f*cking right. I love it. I know, I know, you hated math in school or whatever. But I have to listen to you drone on about your yappy little dog and keto diet, so you are going to listen to me about this one tiny math equation for five goddamn seconds.

    I have studied quite a bit of math, and love it. The subject is not for everybody, but I get really annoyed with people who actually boast of their ignorance of math, though I do not go as far as Lazarus Long (Most of the time). So I really enjoyed this comment.

  • Page 16

    We all like positive vibes. It’s like eating sand—a bit salty but not going to kill you. However, if you eat sand as a replacement for food, then you are in trouble. And if you use “quantum energy” products as a replacement for conventional medicine, food, or other basic necessities, well, let’s just say the continuity of your life might end up discrete a lot faster than you expected.

  • Page 20

    The idea that some rogue entrepreneur has created some magic solution that “doctors don’t want you to know about” is the stupidest thing I’ve read on the internet, and I use Twitter.

  • Page 23

    But even for a quantum physicist, the vast majority of an individual human’s problems are defined on human scales—not microscopic scales. This is obvious when you realize that most of your issues are literally other humans.

  • Page 43

    …big lawyers are smart—at least when it comes to defending the financial interests of sh*tty people.

  • Page 61

    Particles are an idea, an idea that serves as an approximation to reality. Ideas that survive are useful.

  • Page 62

    Pure waves—that is, ideal waves with just one frequency—do not exist.

  • Page 90

    Suffice it to say, we don’t actually know how fundamental quantum processes eventually come together to create humans, thinking ones or otherwise. This is kind of the biggest leap of faith all practicing physicists believe in. I mean, it must be the case that somehow atoms interact in such a way that when seven octillion of them get together, they stop acting all quantum and start acting like f*cking idiots.

  • Page 98

    Here’s the thing: science is guided partly by logic, partly by intuition, and partly by luck. If we had to evaluate, test, or replicate every stupid claim we heard, nothing would ever get done.

  • Page 105

    The reason why very few scientific studies can say one thing causes another is that all possible common causes need to be ruled out, and there are infinitely many potentially hidden common causes.

  • Page 112

    But the robots living on Mars, for example, cannot be influenced in less than three minutes—the time it takes light to travel from Earth to Mars when they are closest. So if Elon Musk tweets “i coming to mars,” and a few seconds later, the Curiosity rover cheers (or probably sh*ts its metal pants), that has to be a coincidence, right?

    Note: This is when the Earth is directly between the Sun and Mars, and Earth is at aphelion and Mars is at perihelion. When Mars is on the other side of the sun it is more like 20 minutes.

  • Page 134

    The oldest interpretation of quantum physics is still the default. It’s the one in all university textbooks on quantum physics. It’s not difficult to describe because it says nothing at all. This is the don’t ask interpretation. It’s also been summarized by the phrase I’ve mentioned quite a few times already—shut up and calculate. Use the math, solve the problems, don’t complain. We could have just as well called it the f*ck off interpretation of quantum physics.

    This was what I learned in my graduate courses in Quantum Mechanics. In my undergraduate coures at Carleton Professor Casper did spend some time on interpretations of QM.

  • Page 137

    Cosmologists are the physicists who study the universe as a whole, including its entire history and potential future. Cosmologists try to reduce all that complexity to elegant mathematical theories—they beautify theories of outer space. They are not to be confused with cosmetologists, who beautify one’s outer face. Don’t make the mistake of buying someone a gift card to see a cosmologist. They will not thank you for it.

    Actually I would be quite happy to get a gift card to see a cosmologist, and I would thank the giver.

  • Page 140

    …. Everett was said to be a believer in quantum immortality. Now that sounds f*cking badass. Unfortunately, in practice, believing oneself to be immortal probably correlates well with other poor mental and physical health choices. Overweight, chain-smoking alcoholic? Who cares—I’m going to live forever in the multiverse!

  • Page 141

    Now consider the same scenario, but with you and a gun—quantum Russian roulette, as it were. The same logic (if you can call it that) applies. There is always at least one universe in which you survive this stupid game.

  • Page 142

    One of the most interesting things about alternate history plots, especially ones that involve time travel, is that the theme developed independently of quantum physics, and even the earliest examples within the science genre of this type of fiction predated Everett by decades. Then the idea of “science consultant” emerged, and everything went to sh*t.

    Thinking of SF I have read, the first of H. Beam Piper’s Paratime stories came out in 1948. Keith Laumer’s Worlds of the Imperium appeared in 1961. Everett first formally presented his interpretation at a conference in 1962. He had discussed it with other physicists back in the 1950s, but Laumer was not a physicist, and it seems unlikely that he would have heard about Everett’s work at that time.

  • Page 146

    An everyday pragmatist is someone who acts on information, not someone who believes in it. An everyday pragmatist is “doing the right thing” when the information has been used to serve some useful purpose. They get on with things and don’t dwell on arguments that have no practical value.

  • Page 150

    The twenty-first century will be referred to as the quantum age, or Armageddon, whatever comes first—it’s a close race.

  • Page 150

    If there is one thing I want you to take away from this book, it is to recommend it to all your friends. Also, I want you to remember that quantum physics is not mystical and doesn’t have magical properties with miraculous benefits. It does, however, grant us immense technological power, and that only comes from a well-understood and mature science. And nerds—a sh*t ton of nerds.

  • Page 161

    For the last hundred years, technological hardware has been based on our understanding of quantum physics. For the next hundred years, technological software will be based on our understanding of quantum mathematics.

  • Page 165

    “Life is like a box of chocolates. You open it up only to find a disappointingly melted goo of separated canola oil and cocoa-flavored syrup.” That’s an analogy.

  • Page 166

    A qubit, as alluded to, is the state of the smallest type of quantum system, like spin for example. It can be written numerically but requires more than a zero or one.

  • Page 172

    My task was only to upgrade your existing bullsh*t detector for the quantum age.

  • Page 172

    The problem in defining bullsh*t is that what counts as bullsh*t partly relies on the intentions of the bullsh*tter. But relying on this fact gives us a succinct working definition—bullsh*t is deceptive nontruth. It’s not necessarily a lie, because a lie implies the liar knows the truth. A bullsh*tter just doesn’t care. A quantum bullsh*tter almost certainly doesn’t know what is true about quantum physics, so they can hardly lie about it.

  • Page 172

    Humans thoughtfully lie, cheat, and steal because—unlike cats—they all have something to sell you.

  • Page 173

    Bullsh*t implies deception. Horsesh*t is also nonsense but stems from ignorance instead of deception.

  • Page 173

    In other words, don’t mistake horsesh*t for bullsh*t. Bullsh*t is a serious accusation.

  • Page 174

    Hitchens’s razor, and it goes like this—what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence….

    If someone comes at you with dubious, sensational, or otherwise questionable claims and insufficient evidence, it’s on them to go and get more evidence, not on you to find arguments against their claims.

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