superposition, truth and Pom Pom-plants

Sitting outside at the U-Town-Campus. Still feeling like an ant in an architecture model.

Reading about education principles and Sachas essay on sensible atoms … nano-philosophy. Preparing the panel for tomorrow and monday (student-workshop I). Thinking about abstraction.

Having food at the canteen on the campus. At the Indian stand I ask for vegetarian dishes. “All dishes are vegetarian, even vegan”, the man proudly says.

Walking to Science-Drive (CQT). Big hedges consisting of plants that my father fosters in his garden very carefully. Nearly no familiar plants around. Although, I know now, what these giant room-plants remind me on: Pom Pom! A character of a Hungarian cartoon from the 80ies – sitting on a tree waiting for his friends: a girl and a dog – when they walk by, he jumps on their heads. Yes, these plants are perching on street-trees – waiting for a hike.

At CQT Jenny is working concentrated. Someone enters the office, discussing something about noise and random at quantum computers. Jenny and him are working on a proposal. Turns out, that he is somehow responsible for the space-management, his name is Björn.

Made an appointment with Agata for today. Meeting for coffee (only, that I won’t drink coffee today, to get a better chance for sleep this night). Libby joins our conversation. They ask me, what will happen at the cabinet – my approach, my aims. We also speak about their work. Agata, says she explores how our noses can detect substances – a process called smelling. And both of them work with atomic gases. We speak about superposition. I ask if they understand only through equations or if they imagine something. Libby says that it sometimes happens, that she thinks about images. I ask for an explanation of superposition. Libby takes a glass and puts it six inches away (the glass leaves a small water-puddle on the black table) – pointing, that the glass can only be either there or there. In superposition this ONE glass is sort of in both positions at the same time – but only on quantum-level, which means in the scale of atoms and photons.

(Stefanos,  who works at the “Leibniz-Institut fuer Festkoerper- und Werkstoffforschung“ in Dresden explained me, that a particle in quantum dimension can bounce at a surface many times and at one time, maybe it gets trough – it is just a question of how many times it tries. Now this doesn’t happen with a human body – check out Bruce Nauman “Bouncing in the corner”, 1968 (starting at 3:50 min) because, it is just too large – too many bounces would be necessary.)

My trouble is, that I can imagine different ways for the glass being on to places at the same time. Either I can imagine two glasses at the same time, that are both transparent – or one glass floating in the middle referring to these two puddles, where the glass could be – or I just look at the two puddles and connect them with the concept “glass”, which is easy, since they refer with their round shape very much as an icon to the original “glass”.

In dreams many more “illogical” things happen – only that we consider them as “untrue”, despite the fact, that we spend one third of our lives in this state of being. Personally, when I heard about superposition, I was happy, that especially physicists were discovering this surprising irritating moment. I guess, it is just one of many. My belief is, that we all live in a big illusion. But this sounds maybe too negative. I like, that we make up our own worlds, that we are ‘creators’ just by being alive. Which also includes, that I like, that people (re-)search for more hidden things and truths. Only that is even hard, to find out, what means ‘true’?

In my university seminars in philosophy I learned, that there are different sorts of truths: one is the contingent truth: e.g. ‘the door is open’, whether this statement is true or false, very much depends on the presuppositions and conditions, such as time and place. For my room, this is true and false at the same time. One door is open, the other is closed. How about yours, by the way? Second form is the absolute truth e.g. ‘the green glass is green’, a=a and ‘a circle is round’ these truth include presupposition in the definition, therefore, they are permanently true. Which is nice! Only math and logic can produce these truths. The snag is, that they hardly apply to every day life.

After attending the first lectures in philosophy about 10 years ago, I was overloaded and amazed, that the bus would arrive nearly in time, although, that everything is soooo incredibly complex. Even ‘easy’ decisions became a challenge since than. It was a remarkable point, to me. The fewer you think, the faster you are. And being ‘fast’ seem to be a value in our society. Doubt slows you down. Therefore it looks like, that is it avoided – like silence. Because silence and doubt are like seed and soil.

I have always been a fan of Sokrates. He was walking around Athens and asking questions to people – in oder to make them think and question of their believes (there are no documents recorded by himself, only through Plato and other philosphers). Obviously, it got him very much into troubles, since he was accused to be a danger for the youth. He defended himself, but was executed by the age of 70. His apology is famous: The sentence “I know, that I know nothing” became important in Western philosophy.

“This man, on one hand, believes that he knows something, while not knowing [anything]. On the other hand, I – equally ignorant – do not believe [that I know anything]”

The impreciseness of the paraphrase of this as “I know that I know nothing” stems from the fact that the author is not saying that he does not know anything but means instead that one cannot know anything with absolute certainty but can feel confident about certain things. Chaerephon, a friend of Socrates asked Pythia, The Oracle of Delphi : “Is anyone wiser than Socrates?”. The answer was: “No human is wiser”. Socrates tried to find someone who is wiser than himself, since he denied any knowledge, among politicians, poets, and craftsmen. It appeared that politicians claimed wisdom without knowledge; poets could touch people with their words, but did not know their meaning; and craftsmen could claim knowledge only in specific and narrow fields. The interpretation of Oracle’s answer might be Socrates’ awareness of his own ignorance.“ – quoted from Wikipedia

Last year I heard about a paper of over-confidence in California, published in SCIENCE. I guess, it shows, that Socrates was merely true in his observation and assumptions. The aim of the study was to find out in what way, people profit from this quality, since 80% of male population and 75% of female population overestimate their skills. Only 5% underestimate them. Their explanation of the pro-side was, that under certain conditions people profit from their false self-confidence, because they ‘fight’ on resources even, if they were ‘objectively’ worse or wouldn’t have any chance – this should be, why they (we) ‘won’ the competition in evolution against the understatement-people. They found out, that the less people know, the more they think, they can judge on something that they have no clue about and they underestimate the knowledge of actual competent people. That is a strange psychological balance. (by the way: Malaysian, Indonesian and Chinese students overestimate their knowledge more than Americans – even Japanese and Singaporian students rather underestimate their knowledge!)

Back in the office – writing e-mails and waiting for Keng Hoong. We speak about the blog and other PR-questions in Quantum-Cafe. I suggest to open a dairy (this diary). He recommends some places for me to explore – but food would be the best in Singapore. He asked, if I am missing beer. I am a bit surprised by this question, but actually, he is right. Is was missing beer, a couple of times. Also, mainly the alcohol-free versions. They would be brilliant in a weather like this!

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