Precognition: class III impossibility

In Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration Into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel (2008), Michio Kaku assigns precognition to the Class III of impossibilities: those violating the laws of physics (the other example given is perpetual motion).

Class I (may be possible within a century or two) includes teleportation; class II (may be possible in the distant future) includes time travel.



Filed under physics

3 responses to “Precognition: class III impossibility

  1. Considering the current attack on the nature of Time by modern theoretical physicists, I find such pronouncements hard to accept. Quantum entanglement can, in a relativistic environment, create paradoxes of cause and effect in which, to certain relativistic observers, the effect appears to precede the cause. If we take this at face value then the rigid founding assumption of thermodynamics, that an effect always follows its cause in time, is as dead in the water as the concept of “at the same time”, aka simultaneity, in Newtonian mechanics. Now let us add a dose of Twistor theory, in which the universe may loosely be described as “light-ray space” where every point is a photon and a point in ordinary spacetime is represented by all the photons that ever have, or every will, pass through it. A puff of theory you might think, except that it hugely simplifies certain important calculations in particle-particle interactions and is widely used for this reason. Then there is that moment of “now” which any pronouncement about precognition must attend to. There is no law of physics for “now”. Relativity gives us a block spacetime, as complete in the future as it was in the past. Quantum mechanics gives us a sum-over-histories – every possible path throughout not only space but also time: Richard Feyman had his histories bouncing off the beginning and end of the Universe! Thermodynamics gives us a relentless forward grind but no way of knowing where we are in it – even if we can devise a modified relativistic thermodynamics to define a “forwards” consistent with quantum weirdness. In the middle of all this we get a grand pronouncement that precognition breaks the laws of physics. Just like faster-than-light teleportation or the spatial separation of a particle’s spin from its momentum (both recently confirmed by experiment) used to, I suppose? I am sorry Mr. Kaku, but I am a down-to-earth scientific sort of chap. You and whose laws of physics?

  2. On a more motivational level than my previous comment, one must wonder why such “classical materialist” scepticism is still prevalent in the post-quantum era. I would suggest that an emotional attachment to a rigorous atheistic materialism lies at the core of pronouncements such as these. There is a desperate need in such people to avoid the slightest taint of things beyond the material world, which their atheist materialism decrees must be irrational hokum. They have a great fear of contamination, of falling from rationalism. Precognition is just one of many phenomena to trigger that fear of unreason, through its traditional association with Things Beyond.
    Not only quantum mechanics, as I described above, but also symbolic information will both disobey classical physics at the drop of a hat. Scientifically, the human brain is an electrochemical system operating on the fringes of quantum science, while the mind is a flow of complex symbolic information. Rationally, therefore, one might expect precognition to reflect the laws of the quantum and of the symbol (for example, symbols can hold untruth but the “information” of the physicist always truthfully reflects its source).
    Rejection of this rationality is itself irrational, a self-defeating emotional scream by the atheistic materialist who cannot bear to have their faith in their own rationality challenged.

    • I should add that Dunne was well aware of this emotionality in his readers, and this was why he always sought to decouple his scientific theory from his metaphysical embroiderings. But even he was surprised by the irrational outbursts of the self-styled rationalists of the day, who notably included that champion of atheistic materialism, his old friend H G Wells.

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