Casey asked a question on the Pope Francis thread:
I have a general question I’d be pleased if the atheists answered: Have any of you guys had supernatural experiences, you know, ghosts and things, and what did you make of them then? Just out of interest, not really part of the debate here.
Her question was also taken up on the Overflow thread.
Further down we had japerz’ comment which people responding seemed to like:
In a sense there’s no such thing as the “supernatural” since everything that exists, simply exists, whether we can understand it or not. It’s only fairly recently we’ve been able to detect x-rays or solar wind or ultraviolet light, but they were there all along. “Supernatural” events neither confirm nor diminish my religious view. There’s simply a great deal about the fabric of reality that we don’t comprehend.
That said, I have two very sane, intelligent friends who experienced paranormal events which they found intensely disturbing — one was so troubled that he wrote a whole book about it.
Back on the Pope Francis thread, this was my conclusion:
Casey and others, it’s not just about ghosts or trapped energies, or experiences created by one’s brain, as per the overflow thread. Quantum scientists talk about particles flicking in and out of existence. Where do they think they are when they are ‘out’ of existence? They have to be somewhere or they wouldn’t come back.
Then there is ‘spooky action at a distance’ or quantum entanglement.
I’m not sure we’ll ever work out what’s going on, but my best guess is that our phenomenal world is nested in another reality where time/space does not exist. Also I suspect there is more interpenetration of those realities than we’ve realised to date.
The concept of ‘spooky action at a distance’ goes back at least to Einstein et al in 1935. This article has the best explanation I can find:
Quantum teleportation relies on the phenomenon of entanglement, through which quantum particles share a fragile, invisible link across space. Two entangled photons, for instance, can have correlated, opposite polarization states — if one photon is vertically polarized, for instance, the other must be horizontally polarized. But, thanks to the intricacies of quantum mechanics, each photon’s specific polarization remains undecided until one of them is measured. At that instant the other photon’s polarization snaps into its opposing orientation, even if many kilometers have come between the entangled pair.
Two questions immediately arise. Firstly, over how big a distance does this phenomenon occur? Secondly, if information is transmitted from one particle to the other how does the speed of transfer compare to the speed of light? To take the first, the linked article tells us that the Chinese first achieved quantum teleportation over 16km, then over 97km. A European and Canadian group reckon they’ve done 147km, but the paper hasn’t yet been published. Now the Americans have achieved the feat from New York City to Philadelphia. That’s about 155km, depending where the actual sites are.
With respect to the second question, just before we started discussion of spooky matters at LP John D sent me a link to an article in Gizmag Quantum “spooky action at a distance” travels at least 10,000 times faster than light. The Chinese have tried to measure the speed at which the information travels between entangled photons 15.3km apart. They found that at the very least it travels at 10,000 times the speed of light, but they absolutely do not know whether that’s how it happens at all. Action could in fact be instantaneous, which means an explanation going beyond space/time must be involved. That is, time and distance are simply bypassed. I reckon they are never going to measure it accurately enough to know for sure.
If scientists find they can’t break their distance record for quantum teleportation, it would then seem that space/time is a factor. That’s if the failure is not due to methodological problems.
Photons are incredibly small, are said to have no ‘rest mass’, and exhibit properties of both waves and particles. To me it is beyond belief that they could send out information in all directions which can be picked up 150 km away. If the link is unidirectional, hows that supposed to work?
To my simple mind, unburdened by more than a minimal knowledge of physics, space/time reality seems absurd. Old Democritus reasoned that matter could not be infinitely divisible, and so hypothesised the atom. I reckon exactly the opposite. However small a particle is it must be made up of something and therefore capable of further division, which is absurd. On the other hand, if you consider the cosmos, however big it is, there must be more space beyond, which is also absurd.
There’s a lot of stuff in the universe. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is 100,000–120,000 light-years across and contains 200–400 billion stars. There are some 200 billion galaxies in the universe. We thought they were held together by gravity (and we still don’t know how that works), but then they worked out that gravity couldn’t produce the cohesion and movement in the observed galaxies, so they posited dark matter. They thought that after the Big Bang the expansion of the universe must be slowing. In fact the found it was speeding up. That can’t go on indefinitely either, but meanwhile they posited dark energy to account for what they saw. So now they reckon the stuff we see is only 4.5% of the total stuff, dark matter accounts for 22.5% and dark energy 73%.
Do you want to see dark matter? Here it is:
Dark matter in this collision of at least four galaxies is shown in blue. Don’t get too excited. It’s not observed directly. They’ve constructed the map by measuring the bends in the light from distant galaxies to show what must be there that they can’t see.
This recent New Scientist article (paywalled) tells us that scientists don’t know how hot dark matter is, what particles it consists of or how it interacts with normal matter. There is a suggestion that it might get more energetic when “bullied” by normal matter.
This NASA site whence comes the above image explains that ‘dark energy’ is just a name for what scientists don’t understand, but they are suggesting that empty space is not empty at all. As to dark matter, they are much more certain about what dark matter is not than what it is. Disturbingly, the observed lensing, the bending of photons where dark matter should be, is insufficient to account for the matter required to satisfy gravitational effects.
Before I go I’ll tell you about three spooky things I couldn’t explain.
The first was when I was at boarding school. I was working at the residence of the chaplain on the school grounds, when over smoko his wife, a very sensible person, told us of an experience she had working as a nurse. She was nursing an older lady in a private residence and had to sit with her through the night. She may have drowsed, but she became aware of a man in the room, dressed in top hat and tails who walked around the bed. Problem was the bed was against the wall.
When she told the rest of the family about her experience next morning, they said, “Oh that’s [whatever the name was], he often shows up!”
I’m convinced she was telling the truth.
Second, over 25 years ago my wife and I were woken by a distinct knocking noise one night. We got up and ran around the house trying to identify the source. Eventually I figured it was coming out of the wall between our bedroom and the lounge room. As soon as I identified it and pointed it out to my wife it stopped. We went back to bed and went straight to sleep.
We never spoke about it again until a couple of years ago when on another LP thread (which I wish I could find) I wanted to share the experience so I checked her memory, which was very much in accord with mine. We’d never been bothered or alarmed and it’s never happened again. The curious thing is that as far as I can make out that part of the wall is hollow and effectively sealed.
The third was just a story I read in the local paper. It was about ESP and stuff and they told the story of a two women who were identical twins. One travelled to Tasmania and when she was there she had a terrible toothache which required dental attention. The one in Brisbane had a terrible toothache also, which unaccountably disappeared when her sister’s tooth was fixed in Tasmania. I gather those two have had other similar experiences.
I actually used to know the woman who had the sympathetic toothache. She used to work for me. Very talented and very grounded. I must find out where she is and call her up some time!
The article in the newspaper quoted experts who assured us that these things were just coincidences. I’m not so sure.