UPDATED: As if to emphasize my point, this story just came through my news feed—Scientists show future events decide what happens in the past.
Even though it was conducted in October 2014, news of Dr. Andrew Truscott's "delayed-choice" experiment began making the rounds last week, largely thanks to an article on IFLScience.
To quote the site, which does a rather good job of simplifying the concepts:
Physicists have succeeded in confirming one of the theoretical aspects of quantum physics: Subatomic objects switch between particle and wave states when observed, while remaining in a dual state beforehand.
In the macroscopic world, we are used to waves being waves and solid objects being particle-like. However, quantum theory holds that for the very small this distinction breaks down. Light can behave either as a wave, or as a particle. The same goes for objects with mass like electrons.
This raises the question of what determines when a photon or electron will behave like a wave or a particle. How, anthropomorphizing madly, do these things “decide” which they will be at a particular time?
The dominant model of quantum mechanics holds that it is when a measurement is taken that the “decision” takes place. Erwin Schrodinger came up with his famous thought experiment using a cat to ridicule this idea. Physicists think that quantum behavior breaks down on a large scale, so Schrödinger's cat would not really be both alive and dead—however, in the world of the very small, strange theories like this seem to be the only way to explain what we we see.
Still with me? It's all about the observer effect.
Truscott's experiment, which built off research from 2007, demonstrated that the observer effect could also be applied to helium atoms as well, in addition to photons.
Let that sink in, folks. Atoms. You know what is made of atoms?
What this all boils down to is the implication that fundamental aspects of reality aren't fully determined until we measure them.
This really isn't news, though. Ever since scientists discovered that vision is just light passing through the lens of our eyeballs, we've known that what we call "reality" is subjective, in spite of science's claims of material objectivity. We're trapped inside our bodies, and the only way to interpret the "objective" outside world is through our subjective experience. It's simply, as philosopher Bernardo Kastrup puts it, "all a matter of perspective: observation from within and from without." But at the end of the day, it's still observation.
Remember that damn dress that took the internet by storm in February 2015? About half the planet's population had a different perception of what color it was. Some saw a white and yellow dress, some blue and black. Our senses can't be trusted, yet the entire canon of scientific knowledge is based upon the assumption that our five senses can yield objective results (I implore anyone unfamiliar with Dean Radin's work to take a look at his peer-reviewed double-slit experiment).
Here's an additional wrinkle: if the observer effect can affect the quantum level, doesn't it have some bearing on observation of the paranormal? We are told that the phenomena of the fringe can't exist because they can't be repeated in a laboratory—but maybe that's the whole point. If an atom, the building block of all reality, can change based on whether or not it is observed, couldn't higher intelligences manipulate this concept to evade detection by the scientific establishment? Doesn't the old phrase "Seeing is believing" lean more toward "Believing is seeing"?
How can we declare with any certainty what "is" and "isn't" real?
To my mind, Truscott's findings are highly suggestive of the fact that we don't really know anything, and that the Materialist paradigm needs to be at the least reexamined, at the most thrown out wholecloth. In some sense, the only thing we can measure is the fact that we can't measure; the emperor may well be stark naked, and all of us are afraid to speak out against the Church of Science.
I'll leave this post with the words of someone whose thinking I greatly admire, psychonaut-cum-philosopher Terence McKenna.
We all, I suppose here, give great credence to what is called 'Quantum Physics.' Is there anyone here who would care to explain to the group several of the core doctrines of Quantum Physics?... Yet this is our truth. How crazy are you if your truth is something you can't even understand?... We believe that somewhere among us, somebody understands these tensor equations of the third degree, and that if it got real tight, we could go to them and they would then explain what reality is...
This is a headful of shit, this kind of thinking. What you are actually dealing with is what Wittgenstein called "The Present at Hand"—it implies that only that which can be grasped matters.
And the quark cannot be grasped, the meson, the electromagnetic field, none of it. These things need to be understood for what they are, which is: little shingles which we epoxy onto the face of the Universal Mystery. And once you have a bunch of these little shingles epoxied onto the face of the Mystery, then you can't see the mystery at all anymore, and you call that an explanation.