by Hand Week 7
We Get Letters
I am taking a couple of sessions off from the current topic to answer
some issues that have been raised in letters and emails, some of which
have appeared in the feedback, and some of which were sent to me directly.
In this week’s installment I want to deal with the action-at-a-distance
As I stated
in the articles, modern science since the seventeenth century has consistently
rejected action-at-a-distance between objects unless they interact by
means of one of the well-established kinds of forces. At present these
are four: 1) the strong forces within the atom; 2) The weak forces within
the atom; 3) electrostatic or magnetic; and 4) gravitation. After Einstein,
it also became necessary that the speed of interactions between objects
at a distance operating under these four forces be limited to the speed
of light. Instantaneous interaction came to be considered impossible.
I also mentioned
that many attempts to justify astrology scientifically have consisted
of efforts to demonstrate one of two things: either that one of these
forces is the basis of astrological “influences,” or that some other type
of “force” that may be unknown to physics but that nevertheless follows
the basic rules, is responsible. This is the
position that I have been challenging in my articles thus far.
there is a weirdness in current quantum theory that appears to be, and
in fact may be, an example of action-at-a-distance of a kind that does
not entirely fit in with the traditional basis of physics. This is the
problem of non-locality.
theory developed between the two world wars, it became clear that there
were some things that one could not do with subatomic particles—things
that were taken for granted in the physics of larger bodies. With large
bodies, it is a relatively simple matter to determine the location and
the momentum of a body at any given point in time. This was very important
to classical physics (pre-twentieth century) because it had been argued
that if one could know the location and momentum of every object in the
universe, it would be possible in theory to describe exactly where every
object had been in the past, and where it would be in the future. This
is the basis of what is called determinism. Such being the case, anything
that was not determinate, such as free will, could not exist. It has always
been one of my major hee-haws that astrology gets singled out for denying
free will, and here we have this monstrous instance of classical physics
that goes way beyond astrology, and yet no one criticized it.
with subatomic particles such as photons and electrons, it became clear
that in any instance one could measure the location, or the momentum,
but not both at the same time. Measuring the momentum changed the location,
and measuring the location required changing the momentum. After a time,
it was also decided that this was not just a limitation of technique;
it was inherently impossible to do both at the same time. It could not
even be done in theory, although I gather there is some debate about that.
This principle became known as the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.
Effect on Astrology
may seem rather distant from astrology, it had an important consequence.
It destroyed the theoretical basis of the determinism of classical physics.
It did not exactly prove freedom of the will, but it “un-disproved” it.
Podolsky and Rosen versus Heisenberg
and others were not happy with the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. So
Einstein, along with Podolsky and Rosen, proposed a thought experiment.
Taking a pair of subatomic particles, they proposed that the two particles
be caused to collide. We will call these particles A and B. Once A and B
have “bounced” off of each other, it should be possible to measure the
momentum of A, on one hand, and the location of B, on the other, at some
time in the future. From this, it should be possible to calculate backward
and get the momentums and locations of A and B at the time of the
collision, thus violating the Heisenberg Principle.
order not to violate Heisenberg, A would have to interact with B and vice
versa after the collisions so that the locations of both A and B would
become undefined when the momentums of either were measured, or the
momentums of both would have to become undefined when the locations of
either were measured. Otherwise, the calculation of the locations and
momentums backward to the moment of the collision would allow both of
these to be determined at the same time, violating Heisenberg. The problem
was that at those later times the two particles would not be in physical
contact at all and their interactions would have to be instantaneous,
operating faster than the speed of light (which is supposed to be
impossible). This is what preserving Heisenberg under these conditions
would require. So Einstein and the others reasoned that the Heisenberg
Principle would have to be violated.
when it finally became possible to perform experiments to test the idea,
it turned out that the particles did follow Heisenberg. There was an
instantaneous interaction, and the two particles acted either as if they
were still in contact, or as if the interactions were exceeding the speed
of light. It has been proposed that in fact the two particles are in
contact sort of because they are actually nowhere in particular. This is
known as non-locality, the idea that subatomic particles under certain
conditions act as if they have no specific location. I think one can
imagine the furor over this, because this allows true action-at-a-distance
involving instantaneous transmission of signals, or it completely violates
our notions of space.
make a long story short, the type of interaction talked about
between subatomic particles has been proposed as a “mechanism” for all
manner of subtle and occult interactions. For those who are interested in
getting more info on this subject, let me refer you to Ray
White’s web page.
I am not
certain that I object to this, but there are two things that I would like
to say about it. First of all, the interactions studied are between subatomic
particles. It is not at all clear that one can generalize from subatomic
particles to the behavior of human beings and other things in the macroscopic
world. This is, in fact, one of the great problems in modern physics today.
There seems to be two kinds of physics: Relativity Theory for the macroscopic
world, and Quantum Theory for the subatomic world.
let us suppose for a moment that consciousness or mind does work somewhat
like subatomic particles. Then I would have to say that this so revolutionizes
science as we know it that the programs of the old science will have to
pass away and a completely new one will have to be born. I have no problem
with this, either. This is exactly the kind of gross change that must
occur in science if astrology and science are ever to achieve an accord.
What I have been saying here all along is that we should not be trying
to explain astrology by means of science as it is, but there is no problem
with trying to explain astrology by a science that has not yet come to
I am fascinated
by the kind of science that Ray White talks about in his web page, but
I think that it cannot yet be said to dominate the mainstream of physics.
We shall see what happens in the near future.
week I will address an issue raised by Glenn Perry on psychological astrology.