Astrology by Hand Week 7
Letters, We Get Letters
As promised last week, I am taking a couple of sessions off from the current topic to answer some issues that have been raised in letters and emails, some of which have appeared in the feedback, and some of which were sent to me directly. In this week’s installment I want to deal with the action-at-a-distance problem.
As I stated in the articles, modern science since the seventeenth century has consistently rejected action-at-a-distance between objects unless they interact by means of one of the well-established kinds of forces. At present these are four: 1) the strong forces within the atom; 2) The weak forces within the atom; 3) electrostatic or magnetic; and 4) gravitation. After Einstein, it also became necessary that the speed of interactions between objects at a distance operating under these four forces be limited to the speed of light. Instantaneous interaction came to be considered impossible.
I also mentioned that many attempts to justify astrology scientifically have consisted of efforts to demonstrate one of two things: either that one of these forces is the basis of astrological ”influences,” or that some other type of ”force” that may be unknown to physics but that nevertheless follows the basic rules, is responsible. This is the position that I have been challenging in my articles thus far.
Heisenberg and Non-locality
However, there is a weirdness in current quantum theory that appears to be, and in fact may be, an example of action-at-a-distance of a kind that does not entirely fit in with the traditional basis of physics. This is the problem of non-locality.
As quantum theory developed between the two world wars, it became clear that there were some things that one could not do with subatomic particles—things that were taken for granted in the physics of larger bodies. With large bodies, it is a relatively simple matter to determine the location and the momentum of a body at any given point in time. This was very important to classical physics (pre-twentieth century) because it had been argued that if one could know the location and momentum of every object in the universe, it would be possible in theory to describe exactly where every object had been in the past, and where it would be in the future. This is the basis of what is called determinism. Such being the case, anything that was not determinate, such as free will, could not exist. It has always been one of my major hee-haws that astrology gets singled out for denying free will, and here we have this monstrous instance of classical physics that goes way beyond astrology, and yet no one criticized it.
However, with subatomic particles such as photons and electrons, it became clear that in any instance one could measure the location, or the momentum, but not both at the same time. Measuring the momentum changed the location, and measuring the location required changing the momentum. After a time, it was also decided that this was not just a limitation of technique; it was inherently impossible to do both at the same time. It could not even be done in theory, although I gather there is some debate about that. This principle became known as the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.
The Effect on Astrology
While this may seem rather distant from astrology, it had an important consequence. It destroyed the theoretical basis of the determinism of classical physics. It did not exactly prove freedom of the will, but it ”un-disproved” it.
Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen versus Heisenberg
Einstein and others were not happy with the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. So Einstein, along with Podolsky and Rosen, proposed a thought experiment. Taking a pair of subatomic particles, they proposed that the two particles be caused to collide. We will call these particles A and B. Once A and B have ”bounced” off of each other, it should be possible to measure the momentum of A, on one hand, and the location of B, on the other, at some time in the future. From this, it should be possible to calculate backward and get the momentums and locations of A and B at the time of the collision, thus violating the Heisenberg Principle.
In order not to violate Heisenberg, A would have to interact with B and vice versa after the collisions so that the locations of both A and B would become undefined when the momentums of either were measured, or the momentums of both would have to become undefined when the locations of either were measured. Otherwise, the calculation of the locations and momentums backward to the moment of the collision would allow both of these to be determined at the same time, violating Heisenberg. The problem was that at those later times the two particles would not be in physical contact at all and their interactions would have to be instantaneous, operating faster than the speed of light (which is supposed to be impossible). This is what preserving Heisenberg under these conditions would require. So Einstein and the others reasoned that the Heisenberg Principle would have to be violated.
Unfortunately, when it finally became possible to perform experiments to test the idea, it turned out that the particles did follow Heisenberg. There was an instantaneous interaction, and the two particles acted either as if they were still in contact, or as if the interactions were exceeding the speed of light. It has been proposed that in fact the two particles are in contact sort of because they are actually nowhere in particular. This is known as non-locality, the idea that subatomic particles under certain conditions act as if they have no specific location. I think one can imagine the furor over this, because this allows true action-at-a-distance involving instantaneous transmission of signals, or it completely violates our notions of space.
To make a long story short, the type of interaction talked about between subatomic particles has been proposed as a ”mechanism” for all manner of subtle and occult interactions. For those who are interested in getting more info on this subject, let me refer you to Ray White’s web page.
I am not certain that I object to this, but there are two things that I would like to say about it. First of all, the interactions studied are between subatomic particles. It is not at all clear that one can generalize from subatomic particles to the behavior of human beings and other things in the macroscopic world. This is, in fact, one of the great problems in modern physics today. There seems to be two kinds of physics: Relativity Theory for the macroscopic world, and Quantum Theory for the subatomic world.
However, let us suppose for a moment that consciousness or mind does work somewhat like subatomic particles. Then I would have to say that this so revolutionizes science as we know it that the programs of the old science will have to pass away and a completely new one will have to be born. I have no problem with this, either. This is exactly the kind of gross change that must occur in science if astrology and science are ever to achieve an accord. What I have been saying here all along is that we should not be trying to explain astrology by means of science as it is, but there is no problem with trying to explain astrology by a science that has not yet come to be.
I am fascinated by the kind of science that Ray White talks about in his web page, but I think that it cannot yet be said to dominate the mainstream of physics. We shall see what happens in the near future.
Next week I will address an issue raised by Glenn Perry on psychological astrology.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rob Hand, author of Planets in Transit and other works, is now involved in the translation and publication of texts regarding ancient and medieval astrology through ARHAT Media Inc.