The Wacky Tale of Quantum Physics and Angel Cards by Betsy Chasse (Co-Creator of “What The Bleep Do We Know?!”)

Posted by on January 22, 2014 in Quantum Physics with 2 Comments
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Betsy Chasse - co-creator of the hit film “What The Bleep Do We Know?!” and author of the book "ipping Sacred Cows: The Uplifting Story of Spilt Milk and Finding Your Own Spiritual Path in a Hectic World."

Betsy Chasse – co-creator of “What The Bleep Do We Know?!” and author of the new book “Tipping Sacred Cows: The Uplifting Story of Spilt Milk and Finding Your Own Spiritual Path in a Hectic World.”

The following is an excerpt from the newly released book by Betsy Chasse titled “Tipping Sacred Cows: The Uplifting Story of Spilt Milk and Finding Your Own Spiritual Path in a Hectic World.”  Betsy is the co-creator of the hit movie “What The Bleep Do We Know?!”

The Wacky Tale of Quantum Physics and Angel Cards and How It All Means Absolutely Nothing and Everything

So you’re at a dinner party, and a really handsome guy is sitting across from you. He’s charming, smart, and super cute. You’ve been digging deep in your How to Get That Hot Guy in Bed Handbook, and you’ve used just about everything it’s got and   still   nothing.   Suddenly   you   remember—because   you learned it in this book—that when all else fails, if you use your sexiest voice (pull out your reading glasses if you have them or borrow someone’s if you don’t) and lay some of your cerebrally sexy quantum physics jargon on him, he’ll quiver to attention like a well-strummed string theory. Chances are, he knows just about as much about it as you do, and that basically amounts to nothing. And I don’t mean that ironically (mostly) in the sense that quantum physics basically tells us that matter is made up of basically nothing. I mean that you don’t actually know anything about it. Who does, really? The point is that it’s scientifically proven that guys like a sexy librarian.*

The only people who really understand the weird world of quantum physics are probably physicists, and even they will tell you they don’t really understand much. This is not surprising. Quantum physics in action shows that reality—the world, the universe, and everything in it (or seemingly not in it)—is a very wacky place, filled with everything and nothing. It’s a place where electrons can be in two of different places simultaneously (the quantum superposition principle goes one step further and theorizes that an electron can be all the possibilities of its self all at once), where an electron that bumped into another electron a billion years ago instantly knows what that other electron is doing even if it’s a zillion light years away (entanglement). What quantum physics is, is science attempting to explain the nature of reality. What quantum physics is not is a religion, life philosophy, or a reason to stop taking your meds.


Tipping Sacred Cows coverBefore we continue, let us review—quantum physics explained à la Betsy. Quantum physics is basically all about how the tiniest particles, so small that mitochondria have to use a microscope to see them, act upon and shape reality. The generally accepted take is that reality (material reality, the universe, everything and anything, the quantum foam† if you will), in terms of what quantum physics says about it, is an ever-shifting field of energy that is constantly reacting to “input.” Input can mean anything from changing physical conditions in the universe to our individual thoughts and actions impacting the quantum field. As it turns out, even scientific measurement during experiments affects particles, determining their action (some like to say that is us affecting the measurement; some scientists don’t like that assertion at all!). But if you’re in the “we are doing it!” club, then basically quantum physics says that the stuff that makes up all of the stuff in the universe collapses into a finite particle when we pay attention to it or observe it. Until then, it’s just a wave of possibility. I am still trying to make this happen with my hips when I “observe” them in the mirror and attempt to invoke the force to reduce them in size, but for whatever reason, my hips don’t seem to want to play the quantum mash-up game. They are clearly only interested in reacting to another kind of input (chocolate, no doubt).

The take away, which is a doozy, is that our thoughts actually shape reality, at least a little bit. Of course, I don’t know one person who has been able to shift reality from, say, a Honda to a Porsche without doing some serious heavy lifting of material stuff. Never mind that quantum physics says you’re not actually touching material stuff, just energy. Oh, quantum physics, how you love to complicate things. And who needs any more complications in their life?

When I asked my favorite quantum physicist, Amit Goswami, PhD,‡ why I should care about understanding quantum physics, he promptly said, “The truth is, you probably shouldn’t.”

I took that to mean that knowing and caring about quantum- isms is not going to get me anywhere near the reality of my life and the stuff that is important in it, like, you know, happiness— unless, of course, that guy across the table has a soft spot for a nerdy chick who can eloquently explain the distinction between the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and Schrödinger’s Wave Equation (just for the record, I can, and for the record it hasn’t gotten me laid, but I say, try and try again—even if it’s a trick question).

After years of hanging out with some pretty cool scientists as they tried to figure out the reality of our reality, it has become obvious to me that once we think we know something about anything quantum and come up with an awesome theory about it, the fucker is apt to change and shift. Next thing you know, a new understanding is riding in on a wave like we should have been expecting it all along. As a result, the one take away I have from understanding anything from quantum physics, which I will now share with you because I am kind and loving, dammit, is this: being willing to live in the mystery is something to really strive for. The blurrily known mystery can help you find the happiness you seek, grasshopper.

For the last decade or so, quantum physics has been all the New Age rage, and to be fair, I am guilty of perpetuating that tale—that super cute story of how Quantum met Perception, but then Attraction came on the scene and made an awkward love triangle, because Quantum could never stay true to either one for very long. That is to say, I made a film about how understanding the wacky world of quantum was the answer to all our woes. And suddenly it became a religion, to some at least.

The movie spread the message, spawning an entire industry of quantum this and quantum that. I often imagine the infomercial dude—you know, the loud one, standing in front of the rows of people sitting with that awesome deer-in-headlights look as he presents the problem, only distorting the reality a tiny, big bit: did you know that if you truly understood the magnitude of the implications of quantum physics on reality, you would simply vanish off the face of the earth? It’s that wacky! But don’t worry, folks (phew—audience wipes collective brow)! Understanding quantum reality also means that you will ascend immediately into the realms of the gods! You will be able to hang out with Fred Alan Wolfe (also known as Dr. Quantum) and party like a Higgs boson, out of sight, but totally there to make your quantum ride the best it can be!

“Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded  as  real.  If  quantum  mechanics  hasn’t  profoundly shocked you, you haven’t understood it yet.” So says Niels Bohr.§

So, Niels, what I’d really like to know is, what exactly am I supposed to do with that? Hmm, no answer. I mean it’s cool, really cool, but this is a book about finding happiness, not the Higgs boson. And sometimes I worry that we get caught up in “knowing” cool stuff for the sake of knowing it, and we lose what really matters.

Okay, I’m here to cause some quantum discord. This isn’t going to be a place where I regale in the mystical magical world of quantum physics, turning old Niels into a quantum God; this is where I’m going to nucleate that myth like a good old can of Coke and Mentos explosion. Well, sort of (okay, just for clarification, the term quantum discord doesn’t really mean discord; it actually means finding a correlation between two nonclassical [entangled/joined] subsystems—so in fact, it’s actually correlated, not uncorrelated, but only in the nonclassical sense. Now go look that up and let me get to my point). It sounded good so I went with it, and I bet if I hadn’t said anything you would have simply nodded your head and laughed. That’s what I usually do, so just go with me here. My point is, understanding quantum physics is essentially not going to really do anything for you. It has absolutely no bearing on whether or not you’re going to be happy or enlightened. It’s not going to win you the lottery or get you laid. Your ability to describe the nature of reality in terms of bosons, electrons, and particles is not going to help you when your kid has just eaten a Sharpie and you’re trying to figure out if his lips look cute in neon blue or if you should call poison control.

Understanding the Planck scale|| is not going to bring you inner peace and is more likely to exhaust you as you surf the ever-cresting waves of possibilities. And I know you’ve read In Search of Schrödinger’s Cat: Quantum Physics and Reality (1),  and maybe it blew your mind, but are you finally happy and fulfilled and able to die knowing you’ve learned everything you’ve come here to learn about quantum physics? I’m going to bet no. You want to know where knowing about this stuff will really help with your life? If you are at a party going for the hot guy doing the sexy librarian thing, then understanding these things might help you get, erm, enlightened in a different way.

Knowing about the ins and outs of quantum stuff will also help you greatly in your life if you are, in fact, a physicist.

And, okay, I admit it, it is fun to explore the idea that we are forever riding a wave of possibility until we believe (observe) and that possibility becomes a reality (a particle). Plus, I enjoy whipping out my quantum chatter at a party when someone has me pegged for the dumb blonde. But, after mumble-mumble years of riding that wave, the truth is, it wasn’t what brought me peace.

Why? Because ultimately, knowing about science isn’t what brings peace and happiness. Okay, maybe it does if you’re a scientist, or a science enthusiast, and it’s your soul’s desire to know science, but often it isn’t the answer you’re looking for. We like to use science to ground us, because we like proof. We like to be able to say, “Because science says so.” It’s sort of like saying “Because I said so” to your kids.

We really do like a good metaphor, and some of quantum physics can be used as a good metaphor for life. One of my favorites is the quantum leap. Quantum leaps may be across distances, but one example commonly spoken of in quantum physics occurs when an electron makes a jump from one energy level to another and does so without traveling through any of the points in between. No time passes in the leap and there is no gradual ramping up of the energy. Just presto, an electron goes from one quantum state to another!

When we hear that someone has made a quantum leap in life, we usually think that person has made some huge, seemingly instantaneous life change. We might even think of the old television  show  Quantum  Leap  and  picture  someone  diving through a wormhole and instantly coming out the other side in a whole new reality replete with a new house, car, and wife. But while we use these words and images as metaphors to describe big changes, in physics a quantum leap is in fact a very, very, very small leap.

Here’s another metaphor: Physics says that everything is mostly empty space, which could be taken to mean that nothing is really solid. It’s cool to know that not because you can use that information to walk through the bathroom wall to get away from a really bad date, but to understand that appearances can be deceiving. What we see isn’t always what we think we see (because usually we’re thinking from our lazy brain and not our conscious one). So instead of trying to shape-shift in order to get away from that bad date, you should probably be asking yourself what you saw in that guy in the first place. My point is, even if science doesn’t bring peace and happiness, it can be helpful to understand that some things we understand to be true scientifically can be used metaphorically.

To be fair to all us quantum enthusiasts, it appears that quantum physics is showing us that most things you think you know about yourself probably aren’t true. You’re more amazing than you could even imagine, and reality is probably far more mind boggling than you realize. More mind boggling than I can explain here. The universe is a truly an amazing thing (if it is a thing, which would assume that it’s real—but I’m going stop right there and neatly sidestep that rabbit hole).

The reality is, and I hate to burst your particle, but it’s highly unlikely you’re going to be able to change anything in your reality with just a thought. In my humble opinion, the concept is simply mental masturbation. Yep, I just said that. It is a rabbit hole; it’s not a religion or a life philosophy. While it may be fun to  fall  down  the  quantum  wormhole  for  a  mind-bending session  with  friends  over  dinner,  and  while  it  is  useful  in helping explain the nature of reality, it is not really great at solving our big, macro life problems.

This is one of my biggest sacred cows: the difference between talking about it and being it, philosophy (or intellectual mumbo jumbo) versus practical application. We humans love our cows whether they’re in the form of quantum physics, crystals, aura readings, or (insert any of your favorite New Age fetishes or spiritual rituals here). We have a habit of making these things our dogma, our religion.# Instead of being open to all the possibilities  of  our  own  amazing  abilities,  we  use  things  like quantum physics as a way to avoid looking at ourselves and the reality we’re sitting in, right here and right now. In my opinion, the talismans we wear have simply become a way to escape from doing the real work on the big talismans we were born with—our intuition and our ability to reason things out and get beyond our emotional responses. We have become so desperate for the quick fix that we believe our talismans are really going to save our asses when the red and blue lights flash behind us, so we speed along in life, not actually realizing that we should probably just drive the speed limit. You and the cop may be one, but you’re still going to get a ticket, and that shit is real and expensive.  We  expect  that  having  an  understanding  of  the workings of the universe will somehow give us the power to control it, but just like expecting the universe to divvy up the spoils (as in, asking the universe or God or anyone else for the stuff we want), once again we’re giving our true power to anything but ourselves. It’s time to take it back.

At the risk of alienating a lot of people who might “like” me on Facebook, none of that “stuff ” really matters—not your birth sign, not the cycle of the moon, not the fact that Mercury is in retrograde for like the thousandth time this year. It wasn’t until someone told me about the whole Mercury issue that it actually began to fuck with me (hmm, think about that for a minute).

There are many interesting studies in which people are given a placebo (fake) pill, surgery, or test. In these studies, the people who take the placebo sometimes have just as much success as the people taking the real deal. Sometimes they even have more, especially if the real deal isn’t so great. The people who took the placebo didn’t know that’s what they were getting; they just believed it would have an effect. Sort of like when my computer and phone took a nosedive right after I heard from a friend how Mercury was messing with her life. Was it really Mercury wreaking havoc, or was  it  my  own  belief  that  it  was  Mercury—does  it  matter? I believed, and that’s all it took. I observed it to be true, and it was. But is this really the observer effect in action? Or am I just seeing what I want to see? I guess it just depends on what you believe.

So here we are back at belief again. Wow, that little word is so powerful. For the record, I am not suggesting you throw out your dream catcher or tear up your animal cards. Go ahead and have your aura photographed and read that book on quantum physics. It is possible that seeing that dark circle around you in your aura photograph will finally force you to deal with the true issues, like why you keep dating the wrong men or taking jobs that make you feel miserable, or why you need an aura picture to tell you what you probably already instinctively know. Because we do usually already know what we need to know; we just have a tendency to ignore such things until something finally pushes us over the edge. If it’s the flipping of the angel card, so be it.

But just remember, my dear, you are part of the quantum foam. Your electrons are made of the same stuff that makes up the universe and that angel card. If we are truly connected to everything (entangled) as they say, then ultimately, everything comes from you and me and your friends and that hot guy across the dinner table. Not the aura picture, the animal cards, or the crystal around your neck. Because we are indeed the dream weavers. We are the creatives, and everything comes from us, not the other way around.

Be careful not to let your ego go crazy here. I don’t mean this in some narcissistic “it’s all about me” way, although you could run with that if you want. It simply means that when your psychic tells you that you will meet the man of your dreams on a beach as you tumble out of the water, chances are you’re going to book the first flight to Tahiti and spend days, waterlogged and pruney and with sand in places you didn’t know existed, waiting for him. Because you believe with every ounce of your being everything your psychic tells you, it’s probably going to happen, even if that guy ends up being a douche five years later. Why? Because you believed it and took action. Basically, unless you do something about it, that bunny foot isn’t going to do it for you. You are the accelerant, you are the observer in your life, and everything starts and ends with you. So check in with yourself before you buy that ticket; ask yourself why you want that man and why it has to be Tahiti (although, if you’re going to jump on a plane to meet a man, it might as well be in Tahiti).

One of the fun things quantum physics tells us is that there is a probability for everything. This is loosely based on the Copenhagen interpretation, which (in its boiled-down form) says that all of the possibilities available in the wave aspect of matter will immediately collapse into one “finite” particle-like event upon observation in an experiment. Hence the saying “collapsing into reality,” which is very popular in the New Age community, mostly because it’s nice to think we have the power to collapse reality. And in a way, we do, just probably not the way we’d like to think we do. If you want to bring the micro out into the macro, go from possibility to reality, then see it like this: your life is the experiment, and you are the observer, but it’s not going to happen unless there is action on your part. Someone’s got to drop the first particle into the cylinder. The questions you should be asking are, What action am I taking? and From what place within me am I taking that action?

All of these talismans are tools you can use. If it makes you feel better to know you have your lucky rabbit’s foot, then carry it. If you want to check your horoscope before you make that important call, do it. If you want to understand the inner workings of “reality,” read that quantum physics book. But don’t give away your true power. The power in knowing that, really, everything you seek you have, if you observe it as so. Maybe not the car, but the wisdom to know how to get the car. Maybe not the guy, but the wisdom to know you didn’t want him anyway.

It’s all stored neatly within the amazing quantum computer you carry around with you all the time: you—your brain, your body, consciousness (which is either inside or outside of you depending on whom you ask; it’s that piece of you science has yet to explain). Take a moment to think about what your brain and your body are doing right now. It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it? And if they can do that, imagine what else they’re capable of doing. Who or what is the part of you that knows the answers before you ask the question? Who or what is the part of you that sees you in the world? What is that you capable of doing? Rabbit’s foot or no rabbit’s foot. You are, in fact, the quantum accelerator.

And here is another reason quantum physics is cool. Quantum physics says we are inextricably connected to each other and to everything because all matter is made of energy and it all hangs out in the quantum field or, you might say, The Void. If you want to have some conscious choice about how those waves end up as particles, you have to have awareness (be conscious) of those waves of potential. You have to be aware that things are the way they are because you are perceiving (observing) them that way, and if you want to change your reality, you have to be willing to change the way you see your reality. You have to be willing to hang out with your other self. In order to change the way you see your reality, it’s important to know that other possibilities exist and then be willing to sit with the uncomfortableness of the unknown. We have to get quiet enough to hear the waves of possibilities, see the waves, feel the waves. We don’t need anything else (shoot, and I just invested in a whole new set of angel cards), just the willingness to be; and once we’ve been for a while, we can make a choice to do. Amit Goswami calls it the “do be do be do.”(2)

You can pick any way you want to do this being—meditate on a cushion, listen to music, do yoga, or exercise. I find that hanging out in my back yard, listening to the birds while I spend time trimming the roses, helps me find my being space. Me and the flowers just being one together. But sometimes it takes sitting with the conflict instead of shoving it aside in favor of smelling the roses. Holding the idea that many out- comes are possible—that’s a piece of quantum that is useful to you right now. We’re quick to want to resolve and make up, but being in the space you are in and holding the juxtaposition creates the opportunity for the new thought to arrive. Essentially, sometimes it’s best to just hang out in the foam with all the other cool waves, patiently waiting until you see the one you really want to collapse. Without even realizing it, the answer to my  contemplation  floats  on  a  wave  into  my  consciousness; I observe it, and poof, it’s a particle. But I caution you to be realistic in how you view your reality. There is nothing more embarrassing than leaving a store and telling the nice man carrying your heavy box to put it in the back of the Porsche while standing in front of a Kia, or attempting to create a grand exit and walking into a wall.

Notes
*  Here is proof! Or at least a discussion about how sexy and librarian coexist, simultaneously in the same person. ere is this thesis, written in 2005 as part of an MA requirement for the University of Maryland, College Park.  Thee author, one Christine Ann Lutz, gave her thesis the rather awesome title of From Old Maids to Action Heroes: Librarians and the Meanings of Librarian Stereotypes. To learn about Lipstick Librarians and Librarian Avengers (who would have thought?) check it out at: http://drum.lib.umd.edu/bitstream/1903/2670/1/umi-umd-2587.pdf

†  Quantum foam is the term coined by John Wheeler as a way to get your head around the stuff that everything, all of the particles and fields and matter that are the universe, schmooze around in . . . the primordial ooze of the universe, if you would like a loose metaphor, in which everything does its thing, except instead of ooze you imagine it as foam. It is the roux of the universal stew, if you want another, even looser metaphor. Quantum foam can also be used as a way to say, “Time ain’t smooth, it’s a hot foamy mess.” The concept is still a little frothy (har-har) as new experiments and data shed more light on how such a concept fully acts in and on space and time.

‡  If you don’t have a favorite quantum physicist, I’m telling you, right here, that all the cool people have one—a favorite quantum physicist that is. I’m nerdy enough to say that it is outright fun to have conversations with someone who creates mathematical stories that look like art using symbols that look like a mix of Egyptian and Mayan hieroglyphs, and who talks about things like the God particle (officially it’s called the Higgs boson, but God particle sounds sexier). Inner geek says “squee!”

§ If you are just checking into the quantum universe, Niels Bohr is pretty much one of the godfathers of modern quantum mechanics. He won a Nobel Prize in physics and, most coolly, helped Jews during World War II.  Then, afer a daring escape from Denmark, was one of the team that developed the nuclear bomb; the coolness factor on that one is conflicted.

||  Here’s the Planck scale as explained by me, nerdy layperson. Named for Max Planck, it theorizes that there is a point when there are enough quantum particles at the party to start actually acting on gravity, and it becomes comparable to all other fundamental forces. An implication of that nifty idea is of great interest in that the quantum possibilities, since they are now acting on gravity, can theoretically be said to exist in the relative world, the world that we see in our daily lives set in time and space. And because the observer effect, not to be confused with the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, shows that we can change how quantum particles act when we pay attention to them, it means that if we are impacting particles at the quantum level, and at that level there is a point when the particles gather enough magic mojo to act in the relative universe, then we can, by force of consistent  observation,  actually  shift the  world  around  us  on  different levels.  The truth is (as I’ve been told by many a physicist—most recently Dean Radin) that it takes practice for an observer to really make anything bigger than a particle do anything worth measuring. In other words, I guess staring for hours at my Kia and attempting to will it into a Porche is not going to work.

# If you were looking for a very dry but descriptive explanation of the connection between quantum physics and spirituality, you might read this. If you can get through it, call me and we’ll hang out: http://www.theistic science.org/talks/qps1/.

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  1. Reviews and Interviews/Blogs for Tipping Sacred Cows! | Betsy Chasse | January 23, 2014
  1. thatcrazytoaster@mail.com' Katherine L. says:

    Wow, that was a much needed breath of fresh air for me. Funny too. Thanks a bunch!

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