Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Wheeler's 'Participatory Universe' Through Systemic Functional Linguistics

Gribbin (1990: 212):
Wheeler goes on to consider the whole universe as a participatory, self-excited circuit.  Starting from the Big Bang, the universe expands and cools; after thousands of millions of years it produces beings capable of observing the universe, and "acts of observer–participancy … in turn give tangible 'reality' to the universe not only now but back to the beginning."  By observing the photons of the cosmic background radiation, the echo of the Big Bang, we may be creating the Big Bang and the universe.

Blogger Comments:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, Wheeler's "acts of observer participancy" are acts of construing experience as meaning.  The history of the universe, from the Big Bang onwards, is meaning that is created when experience is construed.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

The 'Schrödinger's Cat' Paradox Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [9]

Gribbin (1990: 208):
So, unlike the Einstein–Podolsky–Rosen thought experiment, the cat–in–the–box experiment really does have paradoxical overtones. It is impossible to reconcile with the strict Copenhagen interpretation without accepting the "reality" of a dead–alive cat, and it has led [Eugene] Wigner and John Wheeler to consider the possibility that, because of the infinite regression of cause and effect, the whole universe may owe its "real" existence to the fact that it is observed by intelligent beings.


Blogger Comments:

As demonstrated in previous posts, Schrödinger's thought experiment only has paradoxical overtones from the epistemological perspective that was first formulated explicitly in science by Galileo, in which an "objective reality" is not understood to be a construal of experience as meaning.

As demonstrated in previous posts, the mistaken notion of Schrödinger's cat being both dead and alive arises from not distinguishing potential meaning, as construed by the wave function, from instances of that potential, construed as particles.

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, the 'whole universe that may owe its "real" existence to its being observed by intelligent beings' is the meaning construed of experience.

Friday, 23 June 2017

The 'Schrödinger's Cat' Paradox Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [8]

Gribbin (1990: 207-8):
But suppose we replace ["Schrödinger's human"] by a computer.  The computer can register the information about the radioactive decay, or lack of it.  Can a computer collapse the wave function (at least inside the box)?  Why not?  According to yet another point of view, what matters is not human awareness of the outcome of the experiment, or even the awareness of a living creature, but the fact that the outcome of an event at the quantum level has been recorded, or made an impact on the macroworld.  The radioactive atom may be in a superposition of states, but as soon as the Geiger counter, even, has "looked" for the decay products the atom is forced into one state or the other, either decayed or not decayed.

Blogger Comments:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, the collapse of the wave function is a construal of experience as an instance of meaning in the field of quantum physics.  In contrast, the "superposition of states" of a radioactive atom is a construal of experience as potential meaning in the field of quantum physics.

By the same token, observing (or imagining or talking or writing about) a computer or geiger counter registering ± radioactivity is construing experience as an instance of meaning.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The 'Schrödinger's Cat' Paradox Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [7]

Gribbin (1990: 207):
The chain is endless.  Imagine that we have announced the ["Schrödinger's Human"] experiment in advance to an intrigued world, but to avoid press interference it has been performed behind locked doors.  Even after we have opened the box and either greeted our friend or dragged the corpse out, the reporters outside don't know what's going on.  To them, the whole building in which our laboratory is based is in a superposition of states.  And so on, back out in an infinite regression.

Blogger Comments:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, there is no infinite regression here, and 'the whole building is not in a superposition of states.  A superposition of states is the potential meaning that can be made in realising a construed situation.  The reason the reporters outside 'don't know what's going on' inside the room is that instances of that potential meaning cannot be construed by them.

Monday, 19 June 2017

The 'Schrödinger's Cat' Paradox Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [6]

Gribbin (1990: 205-7):
Moving in the other direction, since this is only a thought experiment we can imagine a human volunteer taking the place of the cat in the box… .  The human occupant is clearly a competent observer who has the quantum–mechanical ability to collapse wave functions.  When we open the box, assuming we are lucky enough to find him still living, we can be quite sure that he will not report any mystic experiences but simply that the radioactive source failed to produce any particles at the allotted time.  Yet still, to us outside the box the only correct way to describe conditions inside the box is as a superposition of states, until we look.

Blogger Comments:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, any humans inside the box construe their experience as (an instance of) meaning, whereas the humans outside the box construe their experience as (an instance of) different meaning.  When humans outside the box look into the box, they construe that experience as (an instance of) meaning, that can be compared with that construed by the human inside the box.  The "superposition of states" is the potential meaning that can be construed by those outside the box until they look and construe one instance of that potential.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

The 'Schrödinger's Cat' Paradox Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [5]

Gribbin (1990: 205):
Arguments about the cat in the box have gone for fifty years.  One school of thought says that there is no problem, because the cat is quite able to decide for itself whether it is alive or dead, and that the cat's consciousness is sufficient to trigger the collapse of the wave function.  In that case, where do you draw the line?  Would an ant be aware of what is going on, or a bacterium?

Blogger Comments:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, other species construe their experience in terms of the non-linguistic semiotic systems specific to their species.  These do not include linguistic construals such as 'I am alive, and therefore, not dead'.  Only language affords meanings such as 'the cat/ant/bacterium is alive/dead'.  When a language user looks inside the box, one instance of the potential meanings is construed: either a smashed bottle of poison with a dead cat, or an intact bottle with a live cat.  The collapse of the wave function is the instantiation of (linguistic) meaning potential.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

The 'Schrödinger's Cat' Paradox Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [4]

Gribbin (1990: 205):
Schrödinger thought up the example to establish that there is a flaw in the strict Copenhagen interpretation, since obviously the cat cannot be both alive and dead at the same time.  But is this any more "obvious" than the "fact" that an electron cannot be both a particle and a wave at the same time?  Common sense has already been tested as a guide to quantum reality and been found wanting.  The one sure thing we know about the quantum world is not to trust our common sense and only to believe what we see directly or detect unambiguously with our instruments.  We don't know what goes on inside the box unless we look.

Blogger Comments:

From the perspective of Quantum theory, to say what's happening when we are not looking is 'to produce an error', as Richard Feynman cautioned.

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, a cat being "both alive and dead at the same time" confuses potential with instance. An instance of that potential is only construed when an observation is made.

By the same token, an electron is not "both a particle and a wave at the same time" because particles are construed instances of quantum potential, whereas waves are construed quantum potential, and it is only instances that are actual.

The "common sense" that has been "found wanting" by the results of Quantum experiments is the worldview based on the mistaken epistemological assumptions of Galileo (and Descartes), as previously explained here. When these assumptions are jettisoned, Quantum Physics no longer seems mysterious or paradoxical.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

The 'Schrödinger's Cat' Paradox Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [3]

Gribbin (1990: 205):
It is one thing to imagine an elementary particle such as an electron being neither here nor there but in some superposition of states, but much harder to imagine a familiar thing like a cat in this form of suspended animation.

Blogger Comments:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, imagining a cat, like seeing a cat, is a construal of experience as an instance of meaning.  On the other hand, the "superposition of states" — live cat vs dead cat — is a construal of experience as potential meaning.  It does not equate with an instance of a cat being in suspended animation, since this misinterprets the range of potential as a single instance.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

The 'Schrödinger's Cat' Paradox Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [2]

Gribbin (1990: 203-5):
Schrödinger suggested that we should imagine a box that contains a radioactive source, a detector that records the presence of radioactive particles (a Geiger counter, perhaps), a glass bottle containing a poison such as cyanide, and a live cat.  The apparatus in the box is arranged so that the detector is switched on for just long enough so that there is a fifty–fifty chance that one of the atoms in the radioactive material will decay and that he detector will record a particle.  If the detector does record such an event, then the glass container is crushed and the cat dies; if not, the cat lives.  We have no way of knowing the outcome of this experiment until we open the box to look inside; radioactive decay occurs entirely by chance and is unpredictable except in a statistical sense.  According to the strict Copenhagen interpretation, just as in the two–hole experiment there is an equal probability that the electron goes through either hole, and the two overlapping possibilities produce a superposition of states, so in this case the equal probabilities for radioactive decay and no radioactive decay should produce a superposition of states.  The whole experiment, cat and all, is governed by the rule that the superposition is "real" until we look at the experiment, and that only at the instant of observation does the wave function collapse into one of the two states.  Until we look inside, there is a radioactive sample that has both decayed and not decayed, a glass vessel of poison that is neither broken nor unbroken, and a cat that is both dead and alive, neither alive nor dead.

Blogger Comments:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, the "two overlapping possibilities", and the "superposition of states" they produce, are construals of experience as potential meaning.  Instances of that potential are only construed when observations are made.

The mistaken notions that a radioactive sample is "both decayed and not decayed", that a vessel is "neither broken nor unbroken", and that a cat is "both dead and alive, neither alive nor dead" all arise from misconstruing potential meanings of experience as instances of Galilean "objective reality".

Friday, 9 June 2017

Quantum Theory Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [13]

Gribbin (1990: 201-2):
According to our best theories of particle behaviour, the vacuum is a seething mass of virtual particles in its own right, even when there are no "real" particles present.  And this is not idle tinkering with the equations, for without allowing for the effect of these vacuum fluctuations we simply do not get the right answers to problems involving scattering of particles by one another.  This is powerful evidence that the theory — based directly on the uncertainty relations, remember — is correct.  The virtual particles and vacuum fluctuations are as real as the rest of quantum theory — as real as wave/particle duality, the uncertainty principle, and action at a distance.

Blogger Comments:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, the "seething mass of virtual particles" is a construal of experience as quantum physical potential, whereas the "real particles" are actual instantiations of that quantum physical potential.  'Virtual' and 'real' are both construals of experience as meaning.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Quantum Theory Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [12]

Gribbin (1990: 198):
So a proton is even more the centre of its own cloud of activity than an electron is.  As it moves on its way through space (and time) a free proton is constantly emitting and reabsorbing both virtual photons and virtual mesons.

Blogger Comments:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, the emitting of "virtual" particles is the instantiation of quantum system potential as photons and mesons — they are no longer "virtual" when instantiated — whereas the "reabsorption" of photons and mesons reflects a change in the quantum system potential that can be instantiated as a result of the particle interactions.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Quantum Theory Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [11]

Gribbin (1990: 198):
Protons and neutrons — nucleons — can only exchange mesons when they are very close together, essentially when they are "touching", to use an inappropriate expression from the everyday world.  Otherwise, the virtual pions cannot get across the gap during the time allowed by the uncertainty principle.

Blogger Comments:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, it is the quantum system potential — the probability of pi meson instantiation — that varies with the distance between nucleons.

It can be seen that the 'uncertainty principle' is a (Galilean) way of interpreting quantum physical data in the absence of the notion of instantiation, which provides a distinction between potential and instance as perspectives on the meaning being construed of experience.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Quantum Theory Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [10]

Gribbin (1990: 197-8):
Yet two protons are held together in the nucleus by exchanging, repeatedly, pions that weigh a good fraction of the proton's own weight, and without the protons losing any mass themselves.  This is only possible because the protons are able to take advantage of the uncertainty principle.  A pion is created, crosses to another proton and disappears all in a twinkling of uncertainty allowed while the universe "isn't looking".

Blogger Comments:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, "taking advantage of the uncertainty principle" is the instantiation of quantum system probabilities.  The creation of a pion is an instantiation of that potential, and its disappearance signals a change in the system potential that can be instantiated.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Quantum Theory Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [9]

Gribbin (1990: 196):
The photons exist only for a tiny fraction of a second, less than 10⁻¹⁵ sec, but they are popping in and out of existence around the electrons all the time.  It is as if each electron is surrounded by a cloud of "virtual" photons, which only need a little push, a little energy from outside, to escape and become real.  An electron moving from an excited state to a lower state in the atom gives the excess energy to one of its virtual photons and lets it fly free; an electron absorbing energy traps a free photon.  And the same sort of process provides the glue which holds the nucleus together.

Blogger Comments:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, the "cloud of virtual photons" is a construal of experience as physical potential.  The "popping into existence" of each "real" photon is an instantiation of that potential.  The "popping out of existence" of each "real" photon indicates a change in the physical potential — a change of what can be instantiated physically — as a result of the particle interactions.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Quantum Theory Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [8]

Gribbin (1990: 196):
The uncertainty principle applies to the complementary properties of time and energy as well as to position/momentum.  The less uncertainty there is about the energy involved in an event at the particle level, the more uncertainty there is about the time of the event, and vice versa.  An electron does not exist in isolation, because it can borrow energy from the uncertainty relation, for a short enough period of time, and use it to create a photon.  The snag is, almost as soon as the photon is created it has to be reabsorbed by the electron, before the world at large "notices" that energy conservation has been violated.

Blogger Comments:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, uncertainty is an interpersonal assessment of meaning in terms of probability.  Probability is a feature of the construal of experience as potential meaning.  The creation of a photon in particle interactions is an instantiation of the system of quantum potential.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Quantum Theory Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [7]

Gribbin (1990: 195-6):
This confirmation that nuclear forces, as well as electric forces, can be thought of purely in terms of interactions between particles is a cornerstone of the physicists' view of the world today.  All forces are now regarded as interactions.  But where do the particles that carry the interactions come from?  They come from nowhere, something for nothing, in accordance with the uncertainty principle.

Blogger Comments:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, (observed) particles are construals of experience as instances of meaning.  The "nowhere" they "come from" is the (theorised) physical potential of which they are actualisations.

The translation of the virtual into the actual is construed grammatically by aspect, which, with tense, is one of the complementary features of time, an inherent property of processes.  Halliday (2008: 35):
The grammar of every language is (in one of its metafunctions, the ideational) a construal of human experience: it constructs our “reality” by transforming our experiences into meanings. And in doing this, the grammar often has to choose: to choose either one way of seeing things, or the other. For example, think of time. Either time is a linear progression, out of future through present into past; or else it is a translation from the virtual into the actual. It can’t be both. We may choose to model it (and note here that I am talking about our grammar — not our theory of grammar, our “grammatics”; so we means the speakers of the language, not the linguists) … so let us say our language may choose to model it either as tense, or as aspect;

Friday, 26 May 2017

Einstein's 'Time' Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [6]

Gribbin (1990: 192-3):
The flow of time in the everyday world is a statistical effect, largely caused by the expansion of the universe from a hotter to a cooler state.  But even at that level the equations of relativity permit time travel, and the concept can be very easily understood in terms of space-time diagrams.
Motion in space can proceed in any direction and back again.  Motion in time only proceeds in one direction in the everyday world, whatever seems to be going on at the particle level. … The technique for time travel allowed by relativity theory […] involves distorting the fabric of space-time so that in a local region of space-time the time axis points in a direction equivalent to one of the three space directions in the undistorted regions of space-time.  One of the other space directions takes on the rôle of time, and by swapping space for time such a device would make true time travel, there and back again, possible.

Blogger Comments:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, the notion of a flow of time confuses the unfolding of a process (flow), with the dimension (time) along which the process unfolds.

Similarly, the notion of time travel misconstrues duration in time as motion in time.  It is because time is endured, rather than moved through, that we only experience time "in one direction".  It is this category error that undermines the validity of treating the time axis as equivalent to any of the space axes.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Einstein's 'Time' Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [5]

Gribbin (1990: 191-2):
Imagine a Feynman diagram that encompassed all of space and time, with the tracks of every particle laid out on it.  Now imagine viewing that diagram through a narrow slot that only allows a limited segment of time to be scanned, and move the slot steadily up the page.  Through the slot, we see a complex dance of interacting particles, pair production, annihilation, and far more complex events, an ever-changing panorama.  All we are doing, though, is scanning something that is fixed in space and time.  It is our perception that alters, not the underlying reality.  Because we are locked into a steadily moving viewing slot, we see a positron moving forward in time rather than an electron moving backward in time, but both interpretations are equally real.


Blogger Comments:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, the notion of a particle moving forward or backward in time, rather than enduring in time, is a category error.

The imagined Feynman diagram construes experience as a static image, with both the duration in time and the movement in space of particles represented as lines. That is, the diagram itself construes a static universe — and takes a God's eye view.

What we call "reality" is meaning construed of experience — in the first instance, of perceptual experience.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Einstein's 'Time' Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [4]

Gribbin (1990: 191):
But the reality is a photon track in space-time, linking my eye, perhaps with the Pole Star.  There is no real movement of time that sees a track developing from the star to my eye; that is just my perception from my viewpoint.  Another equally valid viewpoint sees that track as an eternal feature around which the universe changes, and during those changes in the universe one of the things that happens is that my eye and the Pole Star happen to be at opposite ends of the track.

Blogger Comments:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, (the perception of) the movement of a photon from the Pole Star to an eye on Earth is a construal of experience as meaning.  The notion of a 'movement of time' is inconsistent with the construal of time in Physics as a dimension like space — since there is no analogous movement of space.

The "equally valid" viewpoint is invalid on several fronts, largely because it confuses the "non-unfolding" in time of a photon as process (analogous to the "non-ticking" of a hypothetical clock moving at light speed) with the unfolding in time of the locomotion process of the photon from the Pole Star to an eye (analogous to the movement of a hypothetical clock through space at light speed).

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Einstein's 'Time' Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [3]

Gribbin (1990: 191):
The mystics and popularisers who seek to equate Eastern philosophy with modern physics seem to have missed this point [that time stands still for photons], which tells us that everything in the universe, past, present, and future, is connected to everything else, by a web of electromagnetic radiation that "sees" everything at once. Of course, photons can be created and destroyed, so the web is incomplete.

Blogger Comments:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, if time stands still for a photon, then a photon is not itself a process that unfolds in time — analogous to the ticking process of a locomoting clock — and, if it is not a process that unfolds in time, then no processes can be ascribed to it, not even a metaphorical process of "seeing".

On the other hand, the creation, locomotion and destruction of a photon are material processes that a photon does participate in, and so, which do unfold in time, just as the creation, locomotion and destruction of a clock are material processes that a clock participates in, and which do unfold in time.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Einstein's 'Time' Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [2]

Gribbin (1990: 190):
A photon of the cosmic background radiation has, from our point of view, been travelling through space for perhaps 15,000,000,000 years since the Big Bang in which the universe as we know it began, but to the photon itself the Big Bang and our present are the same time.  The photon's track on a Feynman diagram has no arrow on it not only because the photon is its own antiparticle, but because motion through time has no meaning for the photon — and that is why it is its own antiparticle.

Blogger Comments:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, the two timescales construed here are the dimensions of two distinct processes: the unfolding of the travelling process vs the unfolding of the photon as process.  The duration of the travelling process is about 15,000,000,000 years, whereas the photon does not unfold as a process.  The notion of 'motion' through time is a category error, as previously explained.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Einstein's 'Time' Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [1]

Gribbin (1990: 190):
But what does the photon itself "see" as the arrow of time? We learn from relativity theory that moving clocks run slow, and that they run slower the closer they get to the speed of light. Indeed, at the speed of light, time stands still, and the clock stops. A photon, naturally, travels at the speed of light, and this means that for a photon time has no meaning. A photon that leaves a distant star and arrives at the earth may spend thousands of years on the journey, measured by clocks on earth, but takes no time at all as far as the photon is concerned.

Blogger Comments:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, the "arrow of time" is a construal of experience as meaning that conflates the unfolding of a process (arrow) with the dimension along which it unfolds (time).  This relates to time being a dimension that is endured, not traversed (see previous post).

To say that moving clocks run slower the closer they get to the speed of light is to construe that a process — the ticking of a clock — unfolds at a slower rate the faster the process itself is travelling through space.

To say that, travelling at the speed of light, time stands still and the clock stops, is to construe that a process that is itself travelling at the speed of light ceases to unfold in time.  That is, without the unfolding of a process, there is no dimension, time, along which it unfolds.  No process, no time.

To say that, for a photon travelling at the speed of light, time has no meaning is to construe that a photon itself does not unfold as a process when it is in motion.

To say that a photon travelling from a distant star to the earth takes thousands of years, measured by clocks on earth, but takes no time at all as far as the photon is concerned, is to construe that a photon itself does not unfold as a process for those thousands of years.

In physics, a photon is construed to exist only when it is in motion.  That is, construed as a process, light either doesn't unfold (when travelling) or doesn't exist (when not travelling).  This would seem to invalidate the construal of a photon as a process unfolding in time.

To be more explicit, the notion of a photon as a process follows from construing it as unfolding in time.  This follows from Einstein's original thought experiment of imagining himself riding a photon, and subsequent explanations in which a ticking clock is substituted for Einstein or for the photon.  Both Einstein and a clock do mediate the unfolding of processes — a mental process in the case of Einstein observing, a material process in the case of a clock ticking.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

"The Flow Of Time" Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [2]

Gribbin (1990: 184-5):
The track of an electron is represented on a Feynman diagram by a line.  An electron that sits in one place and never moves produces a line that moves straight up the page, corresponding to motion in the time direction only; an electron that slowly changes its position, as well as being carried along by the flow of time, is represented by a line at a slight angle to the line straight up the page, and a fast–moving electron makes a bigger angle with the "world line" of a stationary particle.


Blogger Comment:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, this demonstrates the error of misconstruing extent in time (duration), as movement in time (location).  In a Feynman diagram, a particle that doesn't move is misconstrued as moving through time, instead of persisting through time.  Particles are not carried along by the flow of time, because this notion confuses the unfolding of processes (flow) with the dimension along which they unfold (time).

Friday, 12 May 2017

"The Flow Of Time" Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [1]

Gribbin (1990: 183):
Physicists often use a simple device to represent the movement of particles through space and time on a piece of paper or on a blackboard.  The idea is simply to represent the flow of time by the direction up the page, from bottom to top, and motion in space across the page.

Blogger Comment:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, the notion of particles moving through time can be seen as a category error, mistaking Extent for Location: motion.  To explain, in the case of space, there is the distinction between
  • Location (motion): the object moved from A to B, and
  • Extent (distance): the object moved three metres.
However, in the case of time, although the grammar provides the same distinction
  • Location (motion): the object moved from from noon to 1pm and
  • Extent (duration): the object moved for one hour
both renderings actually construe the Extent (duration) of the object's motion.  There is no distinct traversal of the dimension of time, analogous to the traversal of any of the three dimensions of space.

The notion of a 'flow of time' — derived from (an interpretation of) the Second Law of Thermodynamics — also involves a category error, mistaking the unfolding of processes (flow) for the dimension along which processes unfold (time).  Physics treats time as a dimension just like space, but there is no 'flow of space'.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

The Thoughts Of Bohr vs Einstein Through Systemic Functional Linguistics

Gribbin (1990: 183):
Bohr and his colleagues could live with a reality in which the position and momentum of the second particle had no objective meaning until they were measured, regardless of what you did to the first particle.  A choice had to be made between a world of objective reality and the quantum world, of that there was no doubt.  But Einstein remained in a very small minority in deciding that of the two options open he would cling to objective reality and reject the Copenhagen interpretation.

Blogger Comment:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, the position and momentum of any particle are not construed as meaning until they are measured.  "Objective reality" and the quantum world are both construals of experience as meaning.  The findings of quantum theory expose the epistemological error in the notion of an objective reality secundum Galileo.

Monday, 8 May 2017

The Thoughts Of Einstein On The Copenhagen Interpretation Through Systemic Functional Linguistics

Gribbin (1990: 182):
The point of the argument was that, according to Einstein and his collaborators, the Copenhagen interpretation had to be considered as incomplete — that there really is some underlying clockwork that keeps the universe running, and that only gives the appearance of uncertainty and unpredictability at the quantum level, through statistical variations.  According to this view, there is an objective reality, a world of particles that have momentum and position, both precisely defined, even when you are not looking at them.

Blogger Comment:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, "objective reality" is a construal of experience as meaning.  When we are not looking, there is no experience to be construed as meaning, and so: there are no construals of experience as particles with momentum and position.  The Copenhagen Interpretation is not incomplete; instead it exposes the epistemological error of Galileo and Descartes.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

The Thoughts Of Bohr On The Double-Slit Experiment Of Quantum Theory Through Systemic Functional Linguistics

Gribbin (1990: 175-6):
Bohr suggested that the very idea of a unique "world" may be misleading, and offered another interpretation of the experiment with two holes.  Even in that simple experiment, of course, there are many paths that an electron can choose through each of the two holes.  But for simplicity, let's pretend there are just two possibilities, that the particle goes through hole A or through hole B.  Bohr suggested that we might think of each possibility as representing a different world.  In one world, the particle goes through hole A; in the other, it goes through hole B.  The real world, the world that we experience, is neither of these simple worlds, however.  Our world is a hybrid combination of the two possible worlds corresponding to the two routes for the particle, and each world interferes with the other.  When we look to see which hole the particle goes through, there is now only one world because we have eliminated the other possibility, and in that case there is no interference.  It isn't just ghost electrons that Bohr conjures out of the quantum equations, but ghost realities, ghost worlds that only exist when we are not looking at them. … Combine that with the puzzle that an electron at A knows whether hole B is open or closed, and that in principle it knows the quantum state of the entire universe …


Blogger Comment:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, each path "choice" of an electron is the construal of an instance of potential meaning, with instance frequencies in line with potential probabilities.

The two possible paths do not represent different worlds, but are construals of different potential meanings.  Each path is a construed instance of that potential.

The "world that we experience" corresponds to the instantial meanings construed of experience.  It is not a hybrid combination of possibilities (potential), but the instantiation of potential meaning.

The interference patterns are not the result of "possible worlds" interfering with each other.  They are the accumulation of instances whose frequencies correspond to the probability values of the system potential, as represented by the wave equations.

When we look to see which hole an electron goes through, that experience is construed as an instance of meaning, in line with the different probabilities of a different system potential.

The "ghost worlds" that Bohr conjures out of quantum equations are construals of potential meanings, instances of which only "exist" when experience is construed.

Electrons don't "know" anything.  Our construal of them as meaning depends on the system potential of which each is an instance.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

The Copenhagen Interpretation Of Quantum Theory Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [3]

Gribbin (1990: 175):
In his first exposition of what became known as the Copenhagen interpretation, back in 1927, Bohr stressed the contrast between descriptions of the world in terms of pure space-time coordination and absolute causality, and the quantum picture, where the observer interferes with and is a part of the system that is being observed.  Coordinates in space-time represent position; causality depends on knowing precisely where things are going, essentially on knowing their momentum.  Classical theories assume that you can know both at once; quantum mechanics shows us that precision in space-time co-ordinates has to be paid for in terms of uncertainty of momentum, and therefore causality.

Blogger Comment:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, both descriptions of the world in terms of pure space-time coordination and absolute causality, and the quantum picture, are each construals of experience as meaning.  The observer is part of the system in the sense that it is the observer that construes the experience as meaning.  To know the position and momentum of particles is to have construed experience as meaning.  Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: x):
… “understanding” something is transforming it into meaning, and to “know” is to have performed that transformation.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Quantum Theory Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [6]

Gribbin (1990: 174):
Persist in asking for a physical picture of what is going on, and you'll find all physical pictures dissolving into a world of ghosts, where particles only seem to be real when we are looking at them, and where even a property such as momentum or position is only an artefact of the observation.

Blogger Comment:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, quantum particles, and such properties as momentum and position, are only construed as meanings when we are looking at them.  The "dissolving" is simply the cessation of construal, and to speak of "a world of ghosts" is 'to produce an error', as Feynman made clear; see original relevant post here.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

The Double-Slit Experiment Of Quantum Theory Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [13]

Gribbin (1990: 173-4):
[Feynman explains:] In quantum mechanics, an "event" is a set of initial and final conditions, no more and no less.  An electron leaves the gun on one side of our apparatus, and the electron arrives at a particular detector on the other side of the holes.  That is an event.  The probability of an event is given by the square of a number which is, essentially, Schrödinger's wave function, ψ.  If there is more than one way in which the event can occur (both holes are open inside the experiment), then the probability of each possible event (the probability of the electron arriving at each chosen detector) is given by the square of the sum of the ψ's, and there is interference.  But when we make an observation to find out which of the alternative possibilities actually happens (look to see which hole the electron goes through) the probability distribution is just the sum of the squares of the ψ's, and the interference term disappears — the wave function collapses.

Blogger Comment:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, an event is a construal of experience as meaning.  The probability of an event is the construal of experience as potential.  The observation of an event is the construal of experience as instance.

The interference pattern that builds up on the detector screen, when there is more than one way that the event can occur, is the construal of the statistical distribution of instances in line with the potential probabilities of the system.

When experience is construed as instances of an electron going through one of the slits, the probability of the system potential is changed, and the statistical distribution of instances reflects this.

Each collapse of the wave function is the construal of experience as one instance of the overall range of system potential.

Friday, 28 April 2017

The Double-Slit Experiment Of Quantum Theory Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [12]

Gribbin (1990: 173):
What's worse, as soon as we stop looking at the electron, or whatever we are looking at, it immediately splits up into a new array of ghost particles, each pursuing their own path of probabilities through the quantum world.  Nothing is real unless we look at it, and it ceases to be real as soon as we stop looking.

Blogger Comment:

(Note that here, again, the author, like many physicists, in saying what happens when we are not looking, unwittingly violates the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Physics.  As Feynman cautioned, this is to produce an error.)

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, when we look, we construe the experience as meaning, and when we stop looking, we stop construing the experience as meaning.  There are no ghost particles pursuing their own paths, and 'real' itself is a construal of experience as meaning.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

The Double-Slit Experiment Of Quantum Theory Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [11]

Gribbin (1990: 173):
The observation that crystallises one ghost out of the array of potential electrons is equivalent, in terms of wave mechanics, to the disappearance of all of the array of probability waves except for one packet of waves that describes one real electron.  This is called the "collapse of the wave function," and, bizarre though it is, it is at the heart of the Copenhagen interpretation, which is itself the foundation of quantum cookery [i.e. applications].

Blogger Comment:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, this is not at all bizarre.  The collapse of the wave function is the semiotic process of instantiation.  In observing, experience is construed as an instance of meaning (electron) in line with the potential (wave of probability) that it instantiates.

Monday, 24 April 2017

The Double-Slit Experiment Of Quantum Theory Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [10]

Gribbin (1990: 172-3):
In the simplest experiment with two holes, the interference of probabilities can be interpreted as if the electron that leaves the gun vanishes once it is out of sight, and is replaced by an array of ghost electrons that each follows a different path to the detector screen.  The ghosts interfere with one another, and when we look at the way the electrons are detected by the screen we then find the traces of this interference, even if we deal only with one "real" electron at a time.  However, this array of ghost electrons only describes what happens when we are not looking; when we look, all of the ghosts except one vanish, and one of the ghosts solidifies as a real electron.  In terms of Schrödinger's wave equation, each of the "ghosts" corresponds to a wave, or rather a packet of waves, the waves that Born interpreted as a measure of probability.

Blogger Comment:

(Note that here the author, like many physicists, in saying what happens when we are not looking, unwittingly violates the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Physics.  As Feynman cautioned, this is to produce an error.)

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, the interference of probabilities construes the potential of the system, as instantiated by the statistical distribution of particles.

When the electron is out of sight, it does not "vanish"; the electron, as an instance of meaning, is simply no longer being construed.  Nor is the electron replaced by an array of ghost electrons taking different paths to the detector; the notion of an 'array of ghost electrons' misconstrues the potential of the probabilistic system (wave) as statistical instances (particles).  Nor, therefore, do 'the ghosts interfere with one another', and 'the traces of interference' construes the statistical distribution of particles that instantiates the probabilities of the system as potential.

When we look, therefore, there is no vanishing of ghosts, and no solidifying of one ghost as a real electron.  In looking, experience is being construed as meaning: as one instance (particle) of the system as potential (wave of probability).

Saturday, 22 April 2017

The Double-Slit Experiment Of Quantum Theory Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [9]

Gribbin (1990: 172):
[The quantum world] is holistic; the parts are in some sense in touch with the whole. And this doesn't just mean the whole of the experimental setup.  The world seems to keep all its options, all its probabilities, open for as long as possible.  The strangest thing about the standard Copenhagen interpretation of the quantum world is that it is the act of observing a system that forces it to select one of its options, which then becomes real.

Blogger Comment:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, this is not strange at all.  In the act of observing, experience is construed as an instance of meaning (particles being fired through slits at a detector screen).

The strangeness only arises through an epistemological error: mistaking an instantiation of meaning for an instantiation of (nonsemiotic) "reality".  The error can be sourced to Galileo and Descartes, as previously discussed (e.g. herehere and here).

Thursday, 20 April 2017

The Double-Slit Experiment Of Quantum Theory Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [8]

Gribbin (1990: 172):
As Feynman explained to his BBC TV audience in 1965, if you have an apparatus that is capable of telling which hole the electron goes through, then you can say that it either goes through one hole or the other.  But when you have no apparatus to determine through which hole the thing goes, then you cannot say that that it goes through either one hole or the other.  "To conclude that it goes either through one hole or the the other when you are not looking is to produce an error," he states.

Blogger Comment:

Feynman's explanation of quantum physics is in line with the view of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory that the acts of looking (and saying) are acts of construing experience as meaning.  If no-one is looking, there is no meaning being construed of an experience.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The Double-Slit Experiment Of Quantum Theory Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [7]

Gribbin (1990: 172):
You might say that the double-slit experiment tells us that we are dealing with waves; equally, by looking only at the pattern on the detector screen you can deduce that the apparatus has two holes in it, not one.  The whole thing is what matters — the apparatus, the electrons, and the observer are all part of the experiment.  We cannot say that an electron goes through either hole, without looking at the holes as it passes (and that is a different experiment).  An electron leaves the gun and arrives at a detector, and it seems to possess information about the whole experimental setup, including the observer.

Blogger Comment:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, the double-slit experiment tells us that the frequencies of instances of meaning (particles) are in line with the probability (wave) of potential.

The observer is part of the experiment in the sense of being the construer of the experience as meaning.

An electron does not possess information about the experimental set-up.  As a semiotic construal, an electron is an instance of potential: a participant in a process unfolding according to circumstances.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

The Double-Slit Experiment Of Quantum Theory Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [6]

Gribbin (1990: 172):
What we see is what we get.  An experimental observation is only valid in the context of the experiment and can't be used to fill in details of things we do not observe.

Blogger Comment:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, it is only when we are observing that experience is being construed as an instance of meaning.

Friday, 14 April 2017

The Double-Slit Experiment Of Quantum Theory Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [5]

Gribbin (1990: 171):
When we try to look at the spread-out electron wave, it collapses into a definite particle, but when we are not looking it keeps its options open. In terms of Born's probabilities, the electron is being forced by our measurement to choose one course of action out of an array of possibilities. There is a certain probability that it could go through one hole, and an equivalent probability that it may go through the other; probability interference produces the diffraction pattern at our detector. When we detect the electron, though, it can only be in one place, and that changes the probability pattern for its future behaviour — for that electron, it is now certain which hole it went through. But unless someone looks, nature herself does not know which hole the electron is going through.

Blogger Comment:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, the reason we construe a particle rather than a wave is that the wave is a construal of potential only, and it is the instance, the particle, that we construe when we are looking.  When we are not looking, we are not construing experience as meaning.

The measurement does not force an electron to choose from the potential.  The measurement is the construal of one instance from the probabilistic array of potential instances.

The diffraction pattern at the detector records the instance frequencies, in line with the probability of the system as potential.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

The Double-Slit Experiment Of Quantum Theory Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [4]

Gribbin (1990: 171):
We can try cheating — shutting or opening one of the holes quickly while the electron is in transit through the apparatus.  It doesn't work — the pattern on the screen is always the "right" one for the state of holes at the instant the electron was passing through.   
We can try peeking, to "see" which hole the electron goes through.  When the equivalent of this experiment is carried out, the result is even more bizarre.   
Imagine an arrangement that records which hole an electron goes through but lets it pass on its way to the detector screen.  Now the electrons behave like normal, self-respecting everyday particles.  We always see electrons at one hole or the other, never both at once.  And now the pattern that builds up on the detector screen is exactly equivalent to the pattern for bullets [i.e. for particles, not waves], with no trace of interference.  The electrons not only know whether or not both holes are open, they know whether or not we are watching them, and they adjust their behaviour accordingly.  There is no clearer example of the interaction of the observer with the experiment.


Blogger Comment:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, this result is not at all bizarre. Construing experience as an instance of an electron going through one hole reduces the potential of the electron going through the other hole to a probability of zero, and the statistical distribution of all such instances reflects this.  Electrons don't need to "know" anything, and the "interaction of the observer with the experiment" is the construing of experience as meaning.

Monday, 10 April 2017

The Double-Slit Experiment Of Quantum Theory Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [3]

Gribbin (1990: 170-1):
Indeed, for electrons or photons, if we took a thousand identical experiments in a thousand different laboratories, and let one particle pass through each experiment, we could add up the thousand different results and still get an overall distribution pattern in line with diffraction, just as if we'd let a thousand electrons through one of those experiments together.  A single electron, or a single photon, on its way through one hole in the wall, obeys the statistical laws which are only appropriate if it "knows" whether or not the other hole is open.  This is the central mystery of the quantum world.

Blogger Comment:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, there is no mystery here.  As construals of experience as meaning, the frequencies of particles "instantiate" the probabilities of the quantum as potential, as represented by the wave equation.

The notion of particles obeying statistical laws is invalid on two counts. Interpersonally, it misconstrues probability (modalisation) as obligation (modulation), and ideationally, it misconstrues different orders of experience, the material (particles) and the semiotic (statistical laws), as being of the same order.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

The Double-Slit Experiment Of Quantum Theory Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [2]

Gribbin (1990: 170):
The diffraction pattern of the electron two-hole experiment is a pattern of ψ² [wave intensity]. If there are many electrons in the beam, this has a simple interpretation — ψ² represents the probability of finding an electron in some particular place.  Thousands of electrons rush through the two holes, and where they end up can be predicted on a statistical basis using this interpretation of the ψ wave — Born's great contribution to quantum cookery.  But what happens to each individual electron? …
And we still get this pattern if we slow down our electron gun so much that only one electron at a time goes through the whole setup.  One electron goes through one hole, we would guess, and arrives at our detector; then another electron is let through, and so on.  If we wait patiently for enough electrons to pass through, the pattern that builds up on our detector screen is the diffraction pattern for waves.

Blogger Comment:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, this demonstrates that the wave model is a construal of experience as the probability of a quantum system as potential.  Each electron is a construal of experience as instance, and the diffraction pattern is the accumulation of instances, with instance frequencies in line with the probabilities of the system as potential.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

The Double-Slit Experiment Of Quantum Theory Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [1]

Gribbin (1990: 168-9):
"Probability waves" seem to decide where each "particle" in the beam goes, and probability waves interfere just as water waves do. … The rules of wave behaviour are needed to assign probabilities to the appearance of an electron — a particle — or not. We don't see a wave.  We cannot say what the electron is "really" doing during its passage through the apparatus.


Blogger Comment:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, probability waves are construals of experience as system potential, whereas particles are construals of experience as instances of that potential.  The interference patterns are construals of experience as the statistical distribution of instance frequencies, in line with the potential probabilities.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Quantum Theory Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [5]

Gribbin (1990: 162):
Can Eddington's doubts really be taken at face value?  Is it possible that the nucleus, the positron and the neutrino did not exist until experimenters discovered the right sort of chisel with which to reveal their form?  Such speculations strike at the root of sanity, let alone our concept of reality.  But they are quite sensible questions to ask in the quantum world. … But the interpretation of particles is all in the mind, and may be no more than a consistent delusion.If we cannot say what a particle does when we are not looking at it, neither can we say that if it exists when we are not looking at it, and it is reasonable to claim that nuclei and positrons did not exist prior to the twentieth century, because nobody before 1900 ever saw one.


Blogger Comment:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, the nucleus, the positron and the neutrino did not exist as meanings until experimenters discovered the means of construing experience as such.

Moreover, the construal of experience as particles is "all in the mind", in the sense that particles, like all meanings, are the content of consciousness, projected into semiotic existence by mental (and verbal) processes.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

The Thoughts Of Eddington Through Systemic Functional Linguistics

Gribbin (1990: 161-2):
"The discovery [of the nucleus] does not go beyond the waves which represent the knowledge we have of the nucleus," says Eddington [in The Philosophy Of Physical Science], for nobody has ever seen an atomic nucleus.  All we see are the results of experiments, which we interpret in terms of the nucleus.

Blogger Comment:

This is consistent with the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory to the extent that the 'knowledge we have of the nucleus' is the meaning 'nucleus' that we construe of experience in experiments.  The 'waves which represent' such knowledge are construals of experience as potential (probability) rather than instance (frequency).

Sunday, 26 March 2017

The Copenhagen Interpretation Of Quantum Theory Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [2]

Gribbin (1990: 161):
Secondly, all we know about are the results of experiments. … What we can learn from experiments, or from the equations of quantum theory, is the probability that if we look at a system once and get answer A then the next time we look we will get answer B.  We can say nothing at all about what happens when we are not looking, and how the system gets from A to B, if indeed it does.  The "damned quantum jumping" that so disturbed Schrödinger is purely our interpretation of why we get two different answers to the same experiment, and it is a false interpretation.  Sometimes things are found to be in state A, sometimes in state B, and the question of what lies between, or how they get from one state to another, is completely meaningless.
This is the really fundamental feature of the quantum world.  It is interesting that there are limits to our knowledge of what an electron is doing when we are looking at it, but it is absolutely mind-blowing to discover that that we have no idea at all what it is doing when we are not looking at it.

Blogger Comment:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, this is not 'mind-blowing' at all.  If there is no observation, then there is no construal of experience as meaning — e.g. as particles and their states.  The construing of experience as a probabilistic system is the construing of experience as potential rather than instance.  The construing of experience as particles in state A, B etc. is the construing of experience as instances, with instance frequencies in line with (and predicted by) the system probabilities.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

The Copenhagen Interpretation Of Quantum Theory Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [1]

Gribbin (1990: 160-1):
Today the key features of the Copenhagen interpretation can be more easily explained, and understood, in terms of what happens when a scientist makes an experimental observation.  First, we have to accept that the very act of observing a thing changes it, and that we, the observers, are in a very real sense part of the experiment — there is no clockwork that ticks away regardless of whether we look at it or not.

Blogger Comment:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, the observer is part of the experiment in the sense that it is the observer that construes the experience as meaning.  No observer, no construal of experience — as particles, as time etc.  The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics is consistent with the SFL distinction between experience and meaning, and the view that meaning is immanent within semiotic systems rather than transcendent of them.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Quantum Theory Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [2]

Gribbin (1990: 160):
By choosing to measure position precisely, we force a particle to develop more uncertainty in its momentum, and vice versa; by choosing an experiment to measure wave properties, we eliminate particle features, and no experiment reveals both particle and wave aspects at the same time; and so on.

Blogger Comment:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, measuring the position or momentum of a particle is a construal of experience as meaning.  Any uncertainty lies in such construals as propositions, as enactments of interpersonal meaning by an observer.

Measuring wave properties does not eliminate particle features. Measuring wave properties is construing wave properties; and simultaneously not measuring particle features is simultaneously not construing particle features.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

The Thoughts Of Bohr Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [3]

Gribbin (1990: 160):
[Bohr] pointed out that that whereas in classical physics we imagine a system of interacting particles to function, like clockwork, regardless of whether or not they are observed, in quantum physics the observer interacts with the system to such an extent that that the system cannot be thought of as having independent existence.

Blogger Comment:

The perspective of classical physics derives from Galileo's notion of primary (vs secondary) qualities and Descartes notion of res extensa (vs res cogitans), as previously discussed here and here.

Bohr's perspective on quantum physics is consistent with Systemic Functional Linguistic theory in as much as 'the interaction of the observer with the system' means that, without the observer, there is no construal of experience as meaning.  It is the semiotic construal of experience that has no independent existence from the observer.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

The Thoughts Of Bohr Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [2]

Gribbin (1990: 160):
The idea of complementarity, that both wave and particle pictures are necessary to understand the quantum world (although in fact an electron, say, is neither wave nor particle), found a mathematical formulation in the uncertainty relation that said both position and momentum could not both be known precisely, but formed complementary and in a sense mutually exclusive aspects of reality.

Blogger Comment:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, the complementarity of wave and particle and the complementarity of position and momentum are different types of complementarity.

The complementarity of wave and particle is a construal of experience as the complementarity of potential and instance, whereas the complementarity of position and momentum is a construal of experience as a complementarity of instances.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

The "Arrow Of Time" Through Systemic Functional Linguistics

Gribbin (1990: 159):
Very few things in physics "care" which way time flows, and it is one of the fundamental puzzles of the universe we live in that there should be a definite "arrow of time," a distinction between the past and the future.

Blogger Comment:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, time is a construal of experience as meaning: as an inherent property of processes.  Halliday & Matthiessen (1999: 113):
Whatever the mode of occurrence of any figure, it will always unfold in time.  This temporal unfolding is construed as an inherent property of the process itself, realised grammatically in tense and aspect;
Halliday (2008: 35):
The grammar of every language is (in one of its metafunctions, the ideational) a construal of human experience: it constructs our “reality” by transforming our experiences into meanings. And in doing this, the grammar often has to choose: to choose either one way of seeing things, or the other. For example, think of time. Either time is a linear progression, out of future through present into past; or else it is a translation from the virtual into the actual.
The location or extent (duration, frequency) of a process in time is construed as a circumstance of its unfolding.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

The Thoughts Of Heisenberg Through Systemic Functional Linguistics

Gribbin (1990: 156-7):
The more accurately we know the position of a particle, the less accurately we know its momentum, and vice versa. … But what the uncertainty principle tells us is that, according to the fundamental equation of quantum mechanics, there is no such thing as an electron that possesses both a precise momentum and a precise position.
This has far-reaching implications.  As Heisenberg said at the end of his paper in the Zeitschrift, "We cannot know, as a matter of principle, the present in all its details."

Blogger Comment:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, Heisenberg's conclusion is about constraints on construals of experience; either the precise position of an electron can be construed, or the precise momentum of an electron can be construed.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Quantum Theory Through Systemic Functional Linguistics [1]

Gribbin (1990: 123-4):
There is no model of what the atom and elementary particles are really like, and nothing that tells us what goes on when we are not looking at them. But the equations of wave mechanics (the most popular variation on the theme) can be used to make predictions on a statistical basis. … Quantum theory does not say what atoms are like, or what they are doing when we are not looking at them. Unfortunately, most of the people who use the wave equations today do not appreciate this and only pay lip service to the rôle of probabilities. … [Students] learn to think of the waves as real, and few of them get through a course in quantum theory without coming away with a picture of the atom in their imagination. People work with the probabilistic interpretation without really understanding it …

Blogger Comment:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional linguistic theory, both 'the atom and elementary particles' and the scientific model of them are construals of experience as meaning; the former are phenomena, the latter metaphenomena (phenomena about phenomena).

When no observations are being made, no experience is being construed as meaning ('what atoms are like and what they are doing').

The wave equations of quantum mechanics are metaphenomena: phenomena about the phenomena construed of experience.  The wave function construes phenomena as potential (wave), providing the probabilities of the phenomena as instances (particle frequencies).

Sunday, 29 January 2017

The Thoughts Of Bohr And Born Through Systemic Functional Linguistics

Gribbin (1990: 120-1):
Bohr stressed the importance of experiments in our understanding of the quantum world. We can only probe the quantum world by doing experiments, and each experiment, in effect, asks a question of the quantum world. … In addition, we have to interfere with the atomic processes in order to observe them at all, and, said Bohr, that means that it is meaningless to ask what the atoms are doing when we are not looking at them. All we can do, as Born explained, is to calculate the probability that a particular experiment will come up with a particular result.

Blogger Comment:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, each observation is a construal of experience as meaning.  When no observation is being made, there is no construal of experience as meaning ('what particles are doing').  Born's probability interpretation of the wave function is a construal of experience as potential ('where particles are likely to be').

Sunday, 22 January 2017

The Thoughts Of Born Through Systemic Functional Linguistics

Gribbin (1990: 118-9):
Born found a new way of interpreting Schrödinger's waves. The important thing in Schrödinger's equation that corresponds to physical ripples on the pond in the everyday world is a wave function, which is usually denoted by the Greek letter psi (ψ). … [Born] tried to find a way of associating a wave function with the existence of particles. The idea he picked up on was one that had been aired before in the debate about the nature of light, but which he now took over and refined. The particles were real, said Born, but in some sense they were guided by the wave, and the strength of the wave (more precisely, the value of ψ²) at any point in space was a measure of the probability of finding the particle at that particular point. We can never know for sure where a particle like an electron is, but the wave function enables us to work out the probability that, when we carry out an experiment designed to locate an electron, we find it in a certain place.


Blogger Comment:

From the perspective of Systemic Functional Linguistic theory, the complementarity of wave and particle is the complementarity of potential and instance.*  The wave model is concerned with the probability of construing experience as a particle across a range of locations, whereas the particle model is concerned with each instance of construing experience as a particle across a range of locations, with the frequency of instances reflecting the probability of potential.

This is not a trivial observation.  Everett's 'many worlds' interpretation of quantum mechanics mistakes potential for instance, and leads to the notion of a multiverse, where potential universes are misconstrued as actual universes.

* This suggests that, when system probabilities are eventually included in the SFL model, each system of features will be represented as a wave of probability.