Quantum mechanics is a strange theory, and it has been used to justify all manner of religious claims such as extra-sensory perception. This year we bring together five experts on the physics of quantum mechanics to discuss what we know and what we don’t know. We will work both to make the basic laws of quantum mechanics accessible to the non-expert, while at the same time addressing cutting-edge debates in the philosophy and application of quantum physics.
Location: The Twentieth Century Club, 4201 Bigelow Blvd., Pittsburgh, PA
To register, go to this link.
Friday, April 6
7:00 P.M. Registration opens
7:30 PM. Welcome. David Snoke, President of the Christian Scientific Society
7:45 P.M. Dr. Erica W. Carlson, “Quantum Mechanics For Everyone”
Abstract: Can I use quantum mechanics to create my own reality? Does God play dice? Quantum mechanics takes us into the wild and wacky world of the really small where particles are waves, waves are particles, and the physical intuition we have from our everyday life doesn’t seem to work. If we lived in Quantumland, we could sit in three chairs at once and even speed without getting a ticket. Using everyday objects like a slinky, some dice, and soda pop cans, we’ll uncover how quantum mechanics really works.
Bio: Erica W. Carlson, Ph.D., is Professor of Physics at Purdue University. Prof. Carlson holds a BS in Physics from the California Institute of Technology (1994), as well as a Ph.D. in Physics from UCLA (2000). A theoretical physicist, Prof. Carlson researches electronic phase transitions in novel materials. In 2015, she was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society “for theoretical insights into the critical role of electron nematicity, disorder, and noise in novel phases of strongly correlated electron systems and predicting unique characteristics.” Prof. Carlson has been on the faculty at Purdue University since 2003, where she also serves as the faculty advisor for Cru and Ratio Christi. She occasionally does speaking engagements on the intersection of Christianity and science with Reasons to Believe and Ravi Zacharias International Ministries
8:45 P.M. Dr. Jeffrey Koperski, “Mysterious Ways: Does God Govern through Quantum Mechanics?”
Abstract: Accounts of divine action span the range from deism to God’s direct determining of every event. The most popular models among theologians are somewhere in between, one of which relies on the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics. For such an account to work, random quantum fluctuations must be amplified into the macroscopic realm. What has not been recognized is the degree to which modern physics prevents such fluctuations from infecting meso- and macroscopic systems. Once all the relevant physics is considered, models of divine action based on quantum randomness are shown to be far more limited than is generally assumed. Unless some sort of new physical mechanism is discovered, the amplification problem cannot be solved.
Bio: Jeffrey Koperski is professor of philosophy at Saginaw Valley State University, Michigan. He has a Ph.D. (Philosophy) from Ohio State University and a B.E.E. (Electrical Engineering) from the University of Dayton. His areas of expertise are philosophy of science and philosophy of religion. While most of his early work focused on chaos theory, his more recent publications deal with issues at the intersection of philosophy, science, and religion. He is an editorial board member for Philosophy Compass and has published articles in Philosophy of Science, the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, and Zygon, among others. His first book, The Physics of Theism: God, Physics, and the Philosophy of Science, was published by Wiley-Blackwell in 2015.
Saturday, April 7
8:30 A.M. Breakfast and open discussion
10:00 A.M. Dr. Robert B. Griffiths “Waves, Particles and a Few Theological Reflections”
Abstract: Quantum mechanics underlies much of modern physics and chemistry and their technological applications. While the theory has been developed to a point which allows reliable calculations in a wide variety of circumstances, its connection with microscopic reality remains a topic of ongoing controversy. I will use a particular paradox involving wave-particle duality to illustrate some of the difficulties; its basic features can be understood without any prior knowledge of quantum theory. Following that I will make some comments on how Christians might best respond, in this climate of uncertainty, when seeking to relate our faith to developments in quantum science.
Bio: Robert Griffiths is Otto Stern University Professor of Physics at Carnegie-Mellon University. Born in Etah, Uttar Pradesh in 1937 to Presbyterian missionaries, he attended Princeton University, where he earned a BA in Physics in 1957. He then earned both an MSc and PhD in Physics from Stanford University in 1958 and 1962 respectively. In 1981, he was awarded the A. Cressy Morrison Award of the New York Academy of Sciences, in 1984, the Dannie Heineman Prize for Mathematical Physics, and in 1987 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, and he is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and a Fellow of the American Scientific Affiliation. In 2002 he published the book, Consistent Quantum Theory. His research interests continue to include the foundations of quantum mechanics, quantum computation, and the relation of physical science and Christian theology.
11:00 AM Dr. David Snoke, “Alternative Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics”
Abstract: Most physical theories have one set of equations and one interpretation of those equations. Quantum mechanics, however, has one set of equations that everyone agrees on, but many possible interpretations. The standard approach to understanding quantum mechanics is the “Copenhagen” interpretation, in which “measurement” is taken off the books, so to speak, and not covered by the equations. I will review other, more speculative interpretations of quantum mechanics ,including the Many-Worlds view (which posits many alternate realities), hidden determinism, and faster-than-light interactions, and I will discuss what implications they have for our view of reality. I will discuss what potential there is for experiments or calculations to help us eliminate or confirm various interpretations.
Bio: David Snoke is Professor of Physics and the University of Pittsburgh, where he runs an experimental laser optics lab. He received his bachelor’s degree from Cornell University in 1983 and his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1990, and was an Alexander von Humboldt postdoctoral fellow with Manuel Cardona at the Max Planck Institute from 1990-1992. He was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 2006 “for his pioneering work on the experimental and theoretical understanding of dynamical optical processes in semiconductor systems.” In addition to many publications in scientific journals, he has also published several articles on the philosophy of science and religion, and the book A Biblical Case for an Old Earth.
12:00 P.M. Pizza lunch and open discussion
1:00 PM. Dr. Andrew Jordan, “Quantum reality, information and interpretations: A God’s eye view”
Abstract: There are many fundamental questions in quantum mechanics that are widely debated, including (1) whether the wave function describes objective or subjective reality, (2) whether quantum measurement simply reveals underlying reality or actively changes that reality, (3) whether reality at the quantum level actually exists or is created. This talk will explore ideas in quantum information from the point of view that human agency is fundamental. We will also raise the question of God as a master observer, and if the concept of omniscience can coexist with quantum uncertainty.
Bio: Prof. Jordan received his B.S. in Physics and Mathematics (1997) from Texas A&M University and his Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics (2002) from the University of California, Santa Barbara, supervised by Prof. Mark Srednicki. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Geneva (2002-2005) with Prof. Markus Büttiker, and a research scientist at Texas A&M (2005-2006) with Prof. Marlan Scully. He joined the University of Rochester as Assistant Professor of Physics in 2006, was promoted to Associate Professor with Tenure in 2012, and full Professor in 2015. He received the NSF CAREER award in 2009 and was named a Simons Fellow in theoretical physics for 2017. Prof. Jordan’s research interests are in quantum physics and information, condensed matter theory, and quantum optics.
2:00 P.M. Panel discussion of the speakers