Particle physics: Do electrons have free will?

At Slashdot (“News for nerds. Stuff that matters”), “snahgle” advises,

Mathematicians John Conway (inventor of the Game of Life) and Simon Kochen of Princeton University have proven that if human experimenters demonstrate ‘free will’ in choosing what measurements to take on a particle, then the axioms of quantum mechanics require that the free will property be available to the particles measured, or to the universe as a whole. Conway is giving a series of lectures on the ‘Free Will Theorem’ and its ramifications over the next month at Princeton. A followup article strengthening the theory (PDF) was published last month in Notices of the AMS.”

Hmmmm. There seems to be a confusion here between “freedom” and “free will.” Freedom just means that no law of nature forces the electron into one path rather than another. Free will requires, at minimum, consciousness and rationality – the ability to observe one’s state and form a conscious intention about it.

We better keep this straight before, ripping off the animal rights playbook, someone forms a “particle rights” movement. (Though I think Weed Rights International will probably precede Particle Rights Universal.)

Also, today at Colliding Universes:

Origin of life: “Primordial soup” belief undermines traditional spirituality?

Cosmology: I seem to have yanked particle physicist Lawrence Krauss’s chain

Origin of life: Speculation rents the “science” costume – leaves withouthead

Coffee! Greatest sci-fi special effects

Colliding Universes is my blog on competing theories about our universe.

Denyse O’leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.

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