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Boston Skeptics in the Pub: TONIGHT!

Just a reminder, skeptical New Englanders: come out to Tommy Doyle’s in Harvard Square tonight to hear Dr. Andreas Mershin discuss quantum quackery in a talk titled: Quantum Brain? He tells me the question mark is part of the title and very important, so please note it.

Here’s the Facebook page if you’d like to RSVP, and here’s the info on Boston Skeptics.

See you there!

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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15 Comments

  1. I’d like to hear that. I’m an electrical engineer who has been studying neuroscience for 3 years at Georgia Tech/Emory, and they have failed to mention quantum physics EVEN ONCE. I’m pretty sure they just don’t want us to learn The Secret of Brains.

  2. This whole arena kind of boggles me. I mean, it’s been known for the better part of a century that you need quantum mechanics to explain how molecules work. That part isn’t controversial (although how much quantum description you need to understand particular largish biomolecules remains an open question). But a quantum molecule is not a quantum brain is not a quantum mind. Trying to understand something like “consciousness” by appealing to the properties of individual protein molecules is like trying to debug Internet Explorer by studying the band-gap properties of doped silicon. The problem isn’t that an electron requires a kick of 1.12 eV to enter the conduction band; the problem is that you installed Windows Vista, fucker.

  3. Blake:

    That connection is exactly what I’m looking for in his thesis. The only thing I’ve found so far is still “these molecules are in a brain, so their quantum dynamics is brain dynamics.” But I haven’t had much chance to read yet, so maybe he’s more explicit somewhere.

  4. But we know that neurons are classical objects. That is, by the time you get to the size of a full brain cell, emergence has kicked in and you’re using classical dynamics. Within the cell, tiny proteins are sticking to and detaching from each other according to reaction kinetics which might well have a quantum component, but the cell overall is a big, classical glob which is either jizzing or not jizzing its various flavours of neurotransmitter.

    Really fucking cool shit happens when you consider the aggregate dynamics of many neurons put together in a cortex, but again, that’s where people use classical field theory.

  5. Oh, and:

    1. The various arguments that some kind of non-classical computation is necessary to support the nifty things human minds can do are all non-starters.

    2. Quantum computation doesn’t let you beat Gödel’s Theorem either. If you really want to break that barrier, you need Magic Pixie Dust computation.

    3. Stroke damage to the brain can destroy the “spooky” abilities like binding of sensory modalities which advocates of the Quantum Mind typically attribute to quantum spookiness. If a bloodbath in your parietal lobes can shut off this ability, can it really be attributed to esoteric properties of ultra-small-scale components?

  6. I haven’t read far enough to see if he’s trying to do #2. The last thing I read on this was Hofstadter, and I’m quite comfortable with a brain “restricted” by Gödel.

    As far as #3, I’ve been studying sensory processing for 3 years, now, but I’ve never heard of something that stupid. And I’ve been mostly learning among engineers, who are susceptible to that kind of woo. My brain had a severe TBI while I was studying, which is convenient, and I haven’t found any sort of binding like that. In fact, I was able to notice a loss of connection of some of the emotional memories with specific memories. Maybe the accident broke my quanta.

  7. So my final word is I’m REALLY interested to hear from Boston people about what he talks about. I’m happy to say that I haven’t found any quantum quackery in his work, so far, but I don’t see any other direction he could be going with his work.

    Has Kevin Trudeau come out with Quantum Nerves, yet?

  8. Um, in this context, “binding” just refers to the brain’s ability to connect information coming in from multiple senses to form a unified mental representation of a single object. You know, red plus flower smell plus ow my finger equals rose.

  9. Now and again, circumstances have forced me to dive down into the quantum woo (back when I was an active Wikipedia editor, for example, all sorts of nonsense would come to my attention). My memory is carrying around more bad explanations invoking Quantum Physics [jazz hands!] than is probably healthy.

  10. And now that I’ve spent this entire comment thread mouthing off, it looks like I won’t be able to attend the BSitP meeting tonight, after all. Sadness.

    Be snarky for me.

    With a little luck I’ll make it to the next bruncheon, though.

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