Monday, January 23, 2012

Deepak Chopra thinks physicists stole quantum from him.

Deepak Chopra is a name that gets exasperated sighs from the scientifically literate whenever it is heard.  He is one of the most profitable names in the world of newage (rhymes with sewage) and his ability to misuse words is legendary.  His personal favorite is the word 'quantum', much to the chagrin of actual physicists.  To quote Inigo Montoya, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

He relies on the fact that most people are utterly baffled by the world of quantum mechanics to sell his particular brand of snake oil.  He understands that your average person knows that quantum is a word used by scientists and nothing more.  As such he knows that if he throws it and other equally exotic sounding words around, he can convince the credulous of anything.

Recently, in a short interview by Richard Dawkins for his recent documentary "Enemies of Reason", Deepak Chopra took his hijacking of the scientific terminology to an even greater depth of depravity.  During a segment (which can be viewed here), Chopra claimed that:
"the aficionados in the world of quantum physics have somehow hijacked the word for their own use"
This is a rather amazing feat by physicists considering that the word first entered the scientific literature in 1841, 105 years before Chopra's birth.  Apparently quantum theorists have mastered time travel in their spare time.

The word quantum was first used by Julius von Mayer in a letter on the formulation of the first law of thermodynamics.  The word comes from the Latin "quantus" for "how much".  It is generally used as a short hand way of writing a 'quantum of energy', meaning a single unit of energy.  A good example being how a photon is a single quantum of the electromagnetic force.

The term quantum has since gone on to refer to the area of physics that involves the very small.  It is renowned as being an area of science that is both counter intuitive and hard to grasp.  This was summed up perfectly by Richard Feynman when he stated "If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics".

This quote, along with the myriad bizarre concepts of the quantum realm have fed an ever growing number of charlatans who profit off the ignorance of the general public when it comes to the various fields of advance science.  They know that such words as quantum lend an air of respectability to their otherwise meaningless ramblings.  In doing so, they further mislead the public away from the discoveries of science, not to mention out of their hard earned cash.

Despite sounding authentic and wise to laymen, Deepak Chopra and his ilk earn nothing but ire and perpetual face palms from the scientific community.  His stance on 'quantum' can be summed up by this clip from the ever poignant "Futurama", enjoy.

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ToB said...

Yes, I take Chopra's glomming onto quantum physics as an example of science that is too difficult for general knowledge to grasp. It's almost inevitable that some would attempt to invest that realm of misunderstanding or lack of understanding with a spiritual dimension and profit from that.

Cyc said...

And profit he does. He has created a multi-million dollar industry based around his name and his pseudo-scientific babbling.

Trickster said...

"A good example being how a photon is a single quanta of the electromagnetic force."

You mean a single quantum. Quanta is the plural of quantum, and seeing a post complaining about its use while using it incorrectly hurts my brain. :(

Also, I think Deepak Chopra is sincere in his beliefs, ill-formed though they may be. I don't think he exploits the word on purpose, I think he really believes that there are metaphysical implications from a theory he has not personally taken the time to bother to understand. Not that this makes it any better, mind you.

I also can't stand him partly because I have some rather out-there theories involving consciousness and existence that are highly mathy in nature, and many of the things I'd like to say I can't use natural terms like "non-local" because the new-agers have adopted it to mean "without a physical basis" which is the opposite of what I want to say. It's very frustrating to know that any attempt to discuss some of my beliefs immediately gets turned into babble if I use intuitive terms just because others are using them for partially-formed and contradictory concepts.

Cyc said...

Well I feel a bit foolish for letting that slip by Trickster, it is fixed now, thank you for pointing that out.

I am not entirely sure if he is sincere or not, but either way he has helped lead the newage movement further into trying to infect what is otherwise good science with their absurdities.

Timmytop said...

THANK. YOU. I'm linking to this post from my page, The Atheist Elephant.