Monday, 27 February 2017

Brian Cox on Ghosts: Reuploaded.

This is a republished version of my previous post: "Brian Cox on ghosts: the truth hurts" which somehow has become delisted.Celebrity physicist Brian Cox recently made some interesting comments on an episode of the Infinite Monkey Show from Manchester, regarding advances in physics and what they quite possibly mean for some more archaic notions regarding the reality of nature. Referring to the work done at the large hadron collider in Geneva and specifically the discovery of the Higgs Boson and how it relates to ghosts, Cox remarked:
"Before we ask the first question, I want to make a statement: We are not here to debate the existence of ghosts because they don't exist. If we want some sort of pattern that carries information about our living cells to persist then we must specify precisely what medium carries that pattern and how it interacts with the matter particles out of which our bodies are made. We must, in other words, invent an extension to the Standard Model of Particle Physics that has escaped detection at the Large Hadron Collider. That's almost inconceivable at the energy scales typical of the particle interactions in our bodies. I would say if there's some kind of substance that's driving our bodies, making my arms move and legs move, then it must interact with the particles out of which our bodies are made. And seeing as we've made high precision measurements of the ways that particles interact, then my assertion is there can be no such thing as an energy source that's driving our bodies."
 To some Cox' approach here may seem harsh, cold even. He seems to have taken very little care in considering the beliefs of others in the statement and it's comparable to statements he made regarding ghosts in the past. Unfortunately, we have to accept that it's Cox's prerogative to approach the subject of ghosts in this manner. As a physicist, Cox works in a domain concerned with formulating an accurate and utilitarian description of nature. Though unexplored areas of physics sometimes involve more esoteric ideas such as hidden dimensions and many worlds, these aren't wild flights of fantasy, they're mathematically sound and provide an explanation for some aspect of reality that has been shown to exist. Cox has spoken without ambiguity on the subject of ghosts, and I think it's necessary for people to do this. I myself offered an explanation of why the laws of physics don't allow for the existence of ghosts last year. I regretted my ambiguity somewhat when I saw people commenting on the post that I stated in my conclusion that ghosts may exist, but ghost hunters and paranormal investigators must try harder to find empirical evidence. I can see how the conclusion given below could give that impression, but it isn't really how I felt:
"To accept the existence of ghosts requires the rewriting of all of the above laws and theories of physics, does that mean that we should stop looking? Not necessarily, but believers must accept that a high standard of evidence is required to start rewriting the textbooks."
The only aspect of the statement made by Cox in which I really disagree to any extent is that the LHC has proventhat ghosts don't exist. It's just made an existence which already bordered on almost utterly unlikely, even more unlikely. That's why I don't really view this comment as offering anything new to the argument. If you weren't already convinced by Newton's laws, the laws of thermodynamics, Einstein's energy-matter equivalence and literally almost all of physics and biology you aren't likely to be convinced by the LHC's probing of ultra-high energy states.

Belief in ghosts isn't generally informed by knowledge, it's informed in acceptance of anecdote as evidence. In a desire to believe. In the effectiveness of psychological phenomena such as cognitive dissonance in protecting weak and ill-formed ideas. Cox's words, like the words of any other scientist, are unlikely to sway believers in ghosts or any other supernatural phenomena. In fact, it's likely to cause them to do what most of us do when our beliefs are threatened, run to our echo-chambers and lash out at perceived aggressors.

Unsurprisingly, this is what is occurring on facebook and other social media right now.

Aside from the insults, accusations of being a member of the Satanic Illuminati, claims that he is an "astormior" (he isn't) who aren't scientists anyway (they are) and threats to curse/haunt Cox, on the various paranormal groups where I've seen this discussed, I've only seen one real attempt to raise a coherent argument against Cox. The idea that lots of people claim to have seen a ghost, therefore ghosts must exist.

Such arguments don't consider that there isn't some critical mass of anecdotal evidence, at which point it becomes empirical evidence. Nor do they consider cultural influences, psychological factors or the fact that some people just lie. All of which, alongside plain old misattribution, can account for such a wealth of sightings. Looking at exchanges such as the ones above I have to wonder who these people are trying to convince? Their "arguments" certainly won't win over skeptics or anyone who believes that concepts should be supported by some level of evidence. Are these simply exercises in self-persuasion? Isn't that the point of some of these groups? To be echo chambers in which flawed ideas won't be challenged?

This idea speaks a lot about the culture we currently live in, Cox has spoken the truth in so much that it is a pretty close reflection of reality, the laws of physics don't allow for ghosts to exist. And the laws and models of physics become more well evidenced and complete every day. Yet speaking this truth has earned Cox ire and accusations of self-appointed superiority. I'm inclined to paraphrase a very pertinent quote offered by Michael Gove last year:

"The general public are tired of experts." After all. They tend to tell us things we don't want to hear.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Confronting Quantum Woo. The Double Slit Experiment.

Let's continue with our dissection of the alleged quantum/conscious connection by moving further into the Collective Evolution article, an exploration that will lead us straight to Young's double-slit experiment, without question one of the most famous and crucial experiments in the history of physics. In addition to showing that the double slit experiment doesn't suggest that consciousness collapses the wave function of a particle, I'll attempt to go further and show that the double slit experiment suggests considerable evidence that "consciousness hypothesis" offered by quantum-woo proponents must be false. To do this I'll first suggest a hypothesis for consciousness inspired wave-collapse as I couldn't actually find one in Lanza's book. The article linked above, QUANTUM THEORY SHEDS LIGHT ON WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DIE: THE AFTERLIFE gives its evidence for Robert Lanza's "theory" that consciousness relates somehow to quantum physics.
"His theory implies that our consciousness does not die with us, but rather moves on, and this suggests that consciousness is not a product of the brain. It is something else entirely, and modern science is only beginning to understand what that might be. This theory is best illustrated by the quantum double slit experiment. It’s is a great example that documents how factors associated with consciousness and our physical material world are connected in some way; that the observer creates the reality."
To consider this relationship an element of science we first need a working hypothesis. The suggestion of a hypothesis offered by Lanza and others in regard to consciousness caused wavefunction collapse can be phrased very informally as:
"Consciousness can exist separately from matter. This consciousness can be shown to have a physical effect in the collapse of the deBroglie wavefunction of a travelling particle. Consciousness is otherwise physically imperceptible. This effect this best shown in Young's double slit experiment." 
This is my interpretation, as I mentioned above Lanza fails to offer an explicit hypothesis in his book and I've struggled to find one elsewhere. Let's call this the QC hypothesis, and return to it in a moment.

I'm sure many of you are familiar with Young's double slit experiment, but I'll give a brief introduction for those that aren't.The double slit experiment was revolutionary as it was our first outright hint that there is more to matter and energy than first suspected, namely that both light and matter on scales far smaller than that of our macroscopic world display both wave and particle characteristics (Actually, a more accurate description would be that both matter and light can be modelled as a wave and a particle. In reality, light is neither). The concept of particle and wave duality was staggering enough for light, but a series of experiments involving electron diffraction showed that matter possessed the same duality of nature. If you want more details about the double slit experiment, the Wikipedia page is actually a pretty decent resource. Rather than wax on about the finer points, I'll use a computer simulation to show the results of the double slit experiment and what this tells us about the nature of matter. Consider below, when reading the phrase collapse of the wavefunction, this refers to an electron switching from a wave-like behaviour to a particle-like behaviour. For example, the appearance of a single dot on a fluorescent screen is particle-like.

We start with a hypothetical apparatus set up as shown below.

Figure 1:
An electron gun fires electrons through two narrow slits onto a fluorescent screen. Where an electron hits the screen a white dot is left behind. We aren't going to concern ourselves too much with the widths of the slits(1nm) or the energy of the electrons(38V).

Figure 2
As the electrons stream through the slits one by one they appear on the screen seemingly randomly. In fact, this underlines how the probabilistic nature of quantum physics can still be reconciled with the deterministic nature of classical physics. We cannot predict with any certainty where the next particle will strike the screen, but we can predict with absolute certainty the overall distribution of a large number of electron hits.

Figure 3
The final distribution shows wide bands of electron hits punctuated with thin black bars showing virtually no elections strikes. These bars don't line up with the blockages in the equipment, and the distribution clearly doesn't resemble what we would get from firing hard projectiles such as bullets through scaled up slits where we would expect a graph of the hits to be two "humps" corresponding to the openings, with some lying between. Compare that to the graph yielded by our electron firing simulation in Figure 4 below.

This fringe pattern is destroyed if we run the experiment again, but this time with one of the slits, slit 1 in the case below, closed. Figure 5 below.

The fringe pattern is known as interference and it can be explained easily using an analogy to water waves. When two waves meet at the point of their maxim amplitude the overall amplitude is increased as in Figure 6 ( left. The waves are in phase.

When two waves meet with maximum amplitude and minimum amplitude, the waves cancel. Unsurprisingly, this is destructive interference. Figure 7 ( left. The waves are said to be out of phase.

These patterns are achieved every time this experiment is conducted. Even though the precise build is random and probabilistic, the final distribution is deterministic and fully predictable. Remember this, it's crucial for later when we reassess the consciousness/wavefunction collapse hypothesis. 

These wavefunctions, known as deBroglie waves, are a mathematical interpretation of how a particle propagates through space, they are composed of all the possible positions of the particle at any time and the probability of finding a particle at that particular point. In what follows you'll see why it's necessary to describe the propagation of a particle through space as a wave function. In an attempt to understand these effects in the above experiment, we reopen both slits and turn down the current of the electron gun to allow one electron at a time to hit the screen. Remarkably the fringe pattern returns, albeit slowly, defying the idea that it is the wave function of one electron is interfering with its neighbour. In fact, it's clear that the electron interferes with itself.

Stop laughing at the back!

The consequence of this is we are forced to abandon the classic idea of a particle possessing a single defined trajectory through space. The passage above demonstrates that the particle can be considered passing through each slit, with the contribution of each slit in the wave pattern causing constructive and destructive interference. How does physics explain this? Well.... we can't. We can offer interpretations of this phenomena, such as the Copenhagen interpretation which states that quantum systems don't possess definite properties prior to measurement, only probabilities that reduce to certainties on measurement. There are other interpretations such as many worlds interpretation, but it's the Copenhagen interpretation I'm most comfortable with. There is good experimental evidence to support the idea that quantum qualities become definitive only upon measurement. Einstein argued against this and suggested quantum systems contain hidden variables in his EPR arguments, which were countered by Bell's inequalities and later answered by a modification of the same known as the CHSH inequality. As I don't want to digress too much I won't discuss those further here, but it's well worth a Google search if just to see how even opposition to an idea in science can sometimes strengthen and refine that idea.

So, we're left with an ambiguity, a hole in our carefully crafted quantum science. You may imagine this is where quantum woo merchants begin their machinations, as that's often the tactic of the pseudoscientist, to insert pseudoscience into a gap in conventional understanding. But, It's actually in our attempts to resolve this ambiguity and obtain what we refer to as which way information, that our quantum woo merchants operate.

Figure 8:
In an attempt to resolve the mystery of which slit the electron passes through, we introduce a new element to our experimental setup. We scatter photons off the electrons to see if the electron is in the vicinity of slit 1 or slit 2 and follow their path to the fluorescent screen.

Figure9&10: When we observe the results from this test on our fluorescent screen the interference pattern is gone, replaced by a distribution that is just the sum total of particles passing through the slit. The wavefunction now collapses prior to reaching the screen. It is as if our act of observation itself caused the wavefunction to collapse, and this is most certainly the quantum-woo merchant's interpretation of
this experiment. This brings us to our first misunderstanding supporters have of quantum physics and I can't express how fundamental this is to every conclusion they reach following this.

The Fundamental Error 1: It is not the presence of the conscious observer that collapses the wavefunction, it's the action they perform on the system that causes the wavefunction collapse. 

Let's consider this first in the case of the example given above, electrons fired at a fluorescent screen. When we bombard the electrons with photons the interaction changes the state of the system catastrophically as despite lacking mass, photons do carry momentum.

Mathematically we can show this quite easily if the wave is made of a superposition sum of all the possible states of the particle with constants that represent the probabilities of finding the particle in any of an infinite amount of positions, the probabilities of these possible locations must be 1 as the particle is certain to be somewhere. Therefore if we make the probability of one of these possible states 1 by locating the particle, the other probabilities must be zero! Thus, the wavefunction "collapses" from a superposition to a simple value. I've show this below crudely in a form that describes a "which slit" superposition.

An easy way to understand this physically is by analogy. Imagine me asking you to determine the location of tennis balls I'm firing into a darkened room. The only instrument I'm going to give you to do this is a tennis racquet. There's no way of you doing this without fundamentally changing the state of the ball. You may be able to give me the position of the ball at impact, but you would find it impossible to give me information about the ball after impact. The act of measurement has destroyed the information you had, there is no way you can violently examine that system without changing it fundamentally.

We call any measurable quantity in quantum physics, an observable. Obviously, this is a name that doesn't help the layman distinguish between an "observation" and a measurement". The choice of name seems to suggest that observation is a crucial part of quantum physics, rather than the true meaning of the name: a quantity which can be observed. Other examples of observables are energy, momentum and spin, the above principle applies to these qualities too, any attempt to know one destroys the wavefunction. We often find proponants of quantum woo run versions of the above experiment in which the electrons are fed through spin selectors, therefore collapsing the wavefunction for in the same way as a bombardment of photons does for which way information. We can define this by considering quantum systems to be in extremely delicate balance, with slight perturbations causing collapse.

This is what we find anytime a quantum system interacts with a classically defined object. It's nothing to do with an observer as the following thought experiment should show.

Thought Experiment 1

Of course, the big question is can measurements occur without an observer? The key to considering this idea is to remember that the CHSH inequality has shown there are no hidden variables. Before a measurement is made a quantum system has no determinable observables. In light of this consider this thought experiment.
An isolated nucleus of Uranium 238 exists in the far reaches of space, it has zero momentum. It emits an alpha particle via the process of alpha decay and becomes a thorium 234 nucleus. The conservation of momentum tells us that the total momentum of these two daughter particles must be zero, therefore the momentum in an undefined direction of the alpha particle must be matched by an equal momentum in the negative direction of the thorium 234 nucleus.  Neither direction can be known, until the thorium 234 particle interacts with a particle of dust with a defined location. Suddenly both daughter particles have a definitive directions and thus momentum vectors, they must as there is a physical effect on the space dust.
This interaction can be considered a crude form of measurement, the wave function for both particles has collapsed, no observer necessary.

Finally, let's return to our QC hypothesis, to see how what we've covered strongly implies it is inconsistent with reality.

"Consciousness can exist separately from matter. This consciousness can be shown to have a physical effect in the collapse of the deBroglie wavefunction of a travelling particle. Consciousness is otherwise physically imperceptible. This effect this best shown in Young's double slit experiment." 

Let's  question for a second what we would expect to find if the double-slit experiment was repeated in a world in which the QC hypothesis is true. Surely, an unavoidable consequence of the fact that we can't detect or protect our experiment from incursions and interactions from disembodied consciousness is that we should expect that there would be occasions in which the wavefunction collapses for no discernable reason. It would be as if we'd attempted to gather which way information with the later addition of a photon source and a conscious observer, despite us doing no such thing. If the QC hypothesis were true we would expect to see random wavefunction collapses. This has never been shown to happen. I think that strongly implies that the above hypothesis is incorrect in some way. Either consciousness does not exist separate from matter, or consciousness is not responsible for wavefunction collapse.

 Or Both.

Finally, just for fun.

Thought experiment 2

Plinkett and Nadine are conducting the double slit experiments with the electron gun set to a slow voltage with the particles released at 2 minutes intervals. They do not attempt to collect which way information. As Plinkett observes particle 2 hit the screen at 2:00, Nadine attempts to escape. Plinkett corners her in the living room 3 minutes later. Too exhausted by the struggle to return to his basement lab, he decides to watch the experiment progress on the VHS relay his friends at Lightning Fast VCR set up for him and that he began recording at time 0:00 when the first particle hit the screen. Plinkett tells Nadine when they turn on the VCR they will see particle 3's impression on the screen. Nadine agrees but adds that if they rewind the tape they will see the point appear at 4:00. Plinkett argues that they will not as their was no conscious observer present at this time. He believes the particle will not be present on the tape before 5:00 despite being automatically fired at 4:00. His finger hovers over rewind. 
Who is correct? 
Correct answers get a pizza roll. 

Computer package used: Open University S207, The Physical World: Electron Diffraction. 

Monday, 13 February 2017

Confronting Quantum Woo. Part 1: Common Mistakes.

As many of you know, as well as being a blogger of ill-repute, I'm also a student of physics, part-time, currently in my third year of a degree. For the past year and a half, that study has concentrated on aspects of quantum mechanics. As a result of this, I'm shocked at how quantum mechanics is presented to the general public. Much of what I read about quantum theory in over the counter pop-science books before I began studying was simply wrong or over-simplified to the point where it may as well be wrong. Nowhere is this more prevalent that when it's used for the purposes of supporting mind-body duality or psi-phenomena or any number of unverified non-materialistic ideas. When used in this way, quantum physics is distorted and misrepresented to the nth degree, but correcting those distortions is laborious and often unrewarding.

There's another reason many qualified physicists don't debate these ideas. As Robert May, President of the Royal Society from 2000-2005, responded when asked why he refused to debate creationists:
'That would look great on your CV, not so good on mine'. 
There's an argument that professors arguing against pseudoscience risk lending credibility to that pseudoscience. Would a debate between a leading biologist and a creationist like Ken Ham, risk legitimising creationism in the eyes of believers? Quite possibly. Also, it's hard to live debate pseudoscience from a scientific standpoint. the pseudo-scientist is free to make any claims without validation, whilst the scientist must rely on peer-reviewed studies and available data. That either requires an encyclopaedic knowledge of a subject that few possess and the ability to predict curve balls the pseudo-scientist may throw out. Unfortunately, this means that occasionally very bad ideas and concepts go unchallenged by the people with the requisite skills and qualifications to challenge these ideas.

What follows started as my appraisal of an article published on the website collective evolution on 14th January, entitled "QUANTUM THEORY SHEDS LIGHT ON WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DIE: THE AFTERLIFE" but it soon became clear to me that there's so much wrong with the article, and much of that touches not just on the misunderstanding of quantum physics, but of science as a whole that one post simply wouldn't cover all the bases. Nor, would it seem prudent to limit the criticism to this one post. The criticisms I'll make also apply to at least three other quantum physics/consciousness survives death articles I read in preparation for writing this. In addition to that, it's necessary to focus on the main source for the article in more depth than I originally intended. I'll also reference points made to me by supporters of quantum woo when these and other such articles were published on a social media sites.

In the first part, I'll cover some common mistakes made by supporters of quantum woo that also apply to arguments that favour other pseudo-scientific ideas. In the second part, I'll deal with mistakes that are specific to quantum physics.

The list that follows is by no means complete.

Common Mistake 1: "Scientist X believes Y"  An argument from authority.

The article quotes two prominent contributors to quantum mechanics, Max Planck and Eugene Wigner. The quotes are as follows
“I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.” Max Planck (1931)
“It was possible to formulate the laws of quantum mechanics in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness.” -Eugene Wigner (undated-taken from a letter written in the last decades of his life) 
What's important to note is these observations are separate from Planck and Wigner's work in quantum physics. What Planck and Wigner are discussing here are their beliefs, not their theories. There are no scientific findings that show consciousness is necessary as part of a quantum system. This is exemplified by the fact that Wigner's quote continues "....I firmly believe that in whatever way our future concepts may develop, the very study of the external world leads to the conclusion that the content of consciousness is an ultimate reality..." Wigner's belief has yet to have met fruition. Quantum physicists quite happily formulate the laws of physics on a non-macroscopic scale without recourse to consciousness. This may be why the article fails to cite the whole quote and omits a source for the quote.

When quoting these two prominent figures in quantum physics who believed that consciousness was fundamental to the associated theories, proponents of quantum woo don't mention hundreds of equally prominent figures who strongly believe consciousness has no role no play in the collapse of the wave function. They also fail to recognise there's a reason that the scientific method is so successful, it forces those that use it to abandon their beliefs at the door. It prevents belief from becoming theory. Therefore, these quotes fall firmly into the logical fallacy category of argument from authority.

Which brings us to:

Common Mistake 2: The Doctor/scientist trope. An argument from false authority. 

The article goes on to discuss another scientist, Robert Lanza, who unlike Planck and Wigner is attempting to prove a correlation between quantum physics and consciousness. But there's a clear bait and switch here. Also, unlike Planck and Wigner, Lanza isn't a physicist or a mathematician. Here's how the article describes Lanza's qualifications and expertise. See if you can spot the bait and switch:
"In 2010, one of the most respected scientists in the world, Robert Lanza, published a book titled Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding The True Nature of the Universe. An expert in regenerative medicine and the scientific director of Advanced Cell Technology Company, Lanza is also very interested in quantum mechanics and astrophysics..."
Interested? So not qualified then? I'm very interested in psychology, but I don't for one second assume this gives me the right to start proposing revolutionary theories in the field. I think Lanza and others who propose revolutionary ideas in quantum physics are suffering from a form of the Dunning-Kruger effect, they believe a cursory knowledge of the subject they aim to pontificate one is sufficient simply because they only possess a cursory knowledge of the subject!

Proponents of Lanza's theory fail to see the issue with his lack of qualifications as a result of what science blogger Max Power calls the "doctor scientist trope" most easily exemplified in popular culture.

There's no argument that Lanza is remarkably skilled in his field of cell biology. His achievements speak for themselves and he is clearly a remarkably intelligent man. But, he isn't a physicist. You wouldn't go to a cardiologist for a root canal, would you? And I doubt adding "he's the best cardiologist in the world, with an interest in dentistry" would change your mind.

Supporters of quantum woo often meet this argument by claiming that developments in science often come from left field, and even I have pointed out in the past that the progress of science is sometimes non-linear.

Common Mistake 3: Do the math(s).... Ignoring the formal presentation of quantum physics

 In the course of writing  this rebuttal Lanza's lack of qualifications in the area of quantum mechanics were sharply illustrated to me, courtesy of one of his supporters during a facebook conversation. Martin sent me a page of Lanza's book Biocentricism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe in an attempt to show me how mathematically robust it is. In the text, Lanza attempts to explain a Lorentz transformation between two inertial reference frames exemplified by the twin paradox.  

Even though Lorentz transformations strictly don't have much use in quantum mechanics, breaking down the passage above shows Lanza doesn't have the requisite mathematical skill to formulate theories in quantum physics. There are several problems with the above passage. First the trivial: Lanza doesn't use standard SI units. Equations such as the Lorentz transformation equations of which there are several are based on the use of standard units. Conversion from years and seconds and miles and metres are simple enough but it's telling that Lanza hasn't attempted to use his conclusion in an actual example. Secondly, the v doesn't represent the velocity of the travelling frame but the relative velocity between the two frames, which is only a trivial error if we model one of the frames as stationary. If both frames are moving relative to each other, it's certainly not trivial.

A mistake that is also far less trivial is the fact that Lanza, rather laughably, gets the equation he cites as "quite simple" and later "meat and potatoes" completely wrong! He gives the Lorentz factor, which is found in all the Lorentz transformations, explicitly as:

ΔT = t√1-v²/c²

Where he gives delta T as the time in the moving observer's reference frame and t as the real time in the stationary observer's frame. Lanza takes the square root of just 1, not of 1-v²/c². This is completely laughable as the square root of 1 is just 1 so why would Lanza think it was relevant to include? Possibly because even very basic maths eludes him?

Let's look at the actual formulation Lanza needs, and consider its use in an example of a muon travelling towards Earth at a velocity of 3/5 the speed of light. If an observer on Earth records the time elapsed for the particle as 2.75 us, how much time elapses for an observer travelling with the particle?
Where the delta tau (the curly t) is the time progression in the reference frame of our travelling particle and delta t the time progression in our hypothetical lab.

Rearranging to make delta tau our subject gives:

Plugging in our values

Which is a reasonable result in fitting with Einstein's theory of special relativity which states that clocks run slower for moving observers, the result using Lanza's formula remains consistent but is incorrect.

From what I can see from a brief look at a PDF of Lanza's book is that there is little to no mathematics, the Lorentz factor is one of the only equations I can see given explicitly at any point and it's both nothing to do with quantum mechanics and wrong!

This is so important because more so than other areas of physics, quantum mechanics is based on abstract mathematical models. The values and associated probabilities of observables in quantum mechanics arise from manipulations of Schrodinger's equation as do concepts such as Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. Without being able to perform these manipulations one simply can't do quantum physics. Does that make me sound like an elitist snob?

Tough. It's the truth.

Looking through the index of Lanza's book shows no mention of Schrodinger's equation. When he mentions a particle existing in a superposition of states he doesn't seem to understand that wavefunctions and superpositions are mathematical models, not physical realities. We need these mathematical descriptors in quantum physics because it's beyond our ability to physically describe or determine these states. Lanza isn't alone in these mathematical failings, I've yet to see an article or book that proposes a connection between consciousness and quantum mechanics that doesn't gloss over or reject mathematical formalism. 

Speaking of books...

Common Mistake 4: Popular Literature Vs Peer Reviewed Literature

No major scientific breakthroughs have ever been made in popular literature, if Lanza's work is so revolutionary why hasn't he submitted it to peer-review. It may be because Lanza hasn't actually conducted any experimentation for himself. His "theory" is based on his misinterpretation of existing work by other physicists. There are no original results in his book, nor is there a working hypothesis. His book simply wouldn't pass peer-review, nor would the work of his fellow quantum woo distributors such as Deepak Chopra. Supporters of Lanza and Chopra would argue that peer review isn't perfect and they are right, it's not. Sometimes bias shows through and sometimes findings that pass peer review are overturned, but it's literally the best system we have for assessing scientific ideas. The infrastructure of modern scientific understanding is based on the framework of peer review, anyone can put literally anything in a book or on the internet, the same cannot be said for peer-reviewed journals.

Supporters of quantum woo often meet this argument by claiming that developments in science often come from left field, and even I have pointed out in the past that the progress of science is indeed sometimes non-linear in nature. In the course of making this rebuttal, they will often cite Einstein and special or general relativity as an example of a paradigm changing ideas emerging from non-establishment sources. And it's certainly true that in 1905 when Einstein wrote four of the major papers of his career that changed physics forever, he was not part of the physics establishment working as he did as a patents clerk. Despite this, Einstein still was a qualified physicist, his degree didn't lie in cell biology as with Lanza, or epidemiology as with Deepak Chopra. Proponents of quantum woo often go on to cite the physics establishment's reluctance to accept many of Einstein's findings as if confirming their theories and concepts also having validity. The problem with this idea is plucky Einstein's ideas didn't win through because he simply stuck at them, or published vanity press books. Einstein's theories won out because people went out and collected evidence that could only be explained by those theories being correct. This is something that has yet to be done for the quantum/consciousness connection. If indeed, this is something that can be evidenced at all.

Common Mistake 5: When No Formal Education Is An Advantage

When considering quantum woo claims one of the first arguments I make is that in two years of formal, degree level education in the subject, I've haven't come across one reference to consciousness as a cause of wave-function collapse. That's in roughly seven text books and hundreds of pages of additional material in addition to hours of lectures and tutorials. A mathematical model of reality can't have a component that can't be described mathematically, and there is no formal description of consciousness. This incredulity is often met with accusations that formal physics education actively seeks to suppress radical theories. As the aforementioned Martin put to me:
"No. You've just spent two years studying the "shut up and calculate" side of QT while either ignoring, or being denied information on, the nature-of-reality side of things."
Except quantum physics education does include discussion of the nature of reality. The many worlds and Copenhagen interpretations of quantum physics are heavily discussed in physics degrees. What isn't discussed is wild unfounded speculation.

There's a supremely unthinking arrogance in suggesting that a lack of formal education in an extremely complex subject is a benefit to its understanding and even to developing new ideas within its framework. Further suggesting that such an education may actually be detrimental. It's an insult to the people who've dedicated their lives to furthering knowledge in these fields, be they any field of science of any discipline at all for that matter.  And further to that it's potentially quite dangerous. We rely on scientists and good avenues of communication to reach politicians and world leaders with correct and contemporary scientific findings so they can make informed decisions. The suggestion that a formal education isn't needed to understand these complicated concepts muddies these waters. 
As an example of this perhaps none is more prescient than that of climate change.

We are currently in a situation in which a major World leader believes climate change is a hoax. Unless proper scientific information can be relayed to the American government quickly, they likely to pull out of various carbon-emission limiting deals and protocols. Following this, without the caution of listening to actual climate scientists being heeded, other countries may well follow suit and also extricate themselves from such deals.

In the next part: how proponents of quantum woo abuse the most fundamental experimental in quantum physics, the double slit experiment.