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Week Nine (Mon, 3/21): Experimental Metaphysics and the Nature of Nature

today's notetakers: 
kgould & tiffany

I. today's theme song
(supplied by leamirella, seconded by tangerines, Apo, spreston, smile, combining old music, new technology, ambiguous gender and sexual orientation): Your Woman

see also the "robot opera" flagged by spreston: Death and the Powers, in which the lead character "uploads himself... into the realm of digital immortality"

II. coursekeeping
on Wednesday we will welcome Tian Hui Ng, the HC choral director, who will talk about the history of musical notation, using the body as an instrument/ technology, and other related topics (rubikscube, Muna, shin1068111 getting ready, w/ posts about decoding "meaning" in musical scores)

(as a reward for reading ALL of Barad's Chapter 7--NO reading for Wed!)

Next week,
we will repeat our "paneling" exercise, so...

this Friday you need to tell us what group you will speak for next week.

These panels are ("from the outside") about collective practices we have not yet explored together. Come to class prepared to "speak for" a group whose lives or work circumstances shaped, or were impacted by, an interesting intra-action of science w/ one of our other three categories: gender, information, or technology. In your post, describe the group you will speak for: when did they flourish, where did they flourish, and in what context? Who was their constituency, or audience? Why do they matter? 

Let's brainstorm some possibilities....

Also, Friday a week (April 1): your third 4-pp. project is due (1 of 3 of these...); it could arise from the panel, but doesn't have to: it does need however to foreground an intra-action with science. You are not required to have a writing conference, but if you'd like one, we're willing--and now we are switching "writing groups," so you should schedule a meeting w/ the one-of-us-you-haven't-yet-met-with.

II. selecting our new texts/films --
only 1/2 of you "voted" on this second round
MissArcher2 will select a 50-pp. excerpt from World Wide Mind: The Coming Integration of Humanity, Machines, and the Internet (and follow up on author Mike Chorost's offer to Skype w/ us!)

organize your own field trip to see Source Code (rubikscube's suggestion

and for the dystopian fiction you all are longing for (??!!):
Anne's bright idea is Octavia Butler's short story, "Bloodchild"

also! just out! (too late for us, but next time 'round....)
James Gleick's The Information: A History. A Theory. A Flood.

III. from the remainder of the forum (a little thin this week??)

(following up on spreston re:
the difference between "in" and "and") 

in the case of Nawal Essadawi was contributing in the Egyptian revolution... also a physician.... now she is giving much care to her humanistic writings using her scientific background and advanced technologies.... for Essadawi, and many other  scientist-humanistic women, there is no contradiction between "women in technology" and "woman and technology".

Will the goal of feminist science studies  be to try to find a “truth” about humans and human society? ... Realizing how complicated the world is and trying to explain and embrace those complications is perhaps the truth that Barad and others what us to see.

fawei: if all the 'science studies' wind up becoming highly developed, uses for discoveries or what is being researched can be assessed better. It's also probably true that absolute 'truths' will never be established again, and everything will exist as a variety of possibly conflicting viewpoints all gathered in one large field of study with too many aspects to be an expert in all of.

Hillary G: For a subject that initially appears to be aimed toward breaking boundaries, it has an incredibly distinct goal and motivation....

Apo: The past never happened: This week's class discussion on Barad was very interesting ...there’s no objectivity...the past never ends. I wonder what Barad would think about the concept of information if it’s not readily visible or decodable.

vgaffney: “Matter and meaning are not separate elements”.... we must rely on content in order to have knowledge. I can see why this approach would have interesting ethical implications, especially with the argument that there is no objectivity: how can we judge actions and intentions if there’s no objective lens through which to judge? ...whether information can be decoded if the content itself appears to be absent.

Oh, but there is objectivity! Barad just "gets @ it" a different way-->

IV. "Experimental Metaphysics and the Nature of Nature"

from the film, "What the "Bleep" do we know?"

Epistemology and ontology:  Asking what can we know versus what exists.

Epistemic claims vs. ontic claims

Uncertainty vs. indeterminate-ness

Bohr vs. Einstein

Formulisms vs. theories

The Challenge of Quantum Theory:  
How is it different from classical physics?

Superpositions of properties, distinct from mixtures of properties

And in systems of particles, the possibility of super-superpositions between entities, i.e., so-called entanglements

Complementary properties (position and momentum, energy and time, orthogonal spin directions) and ordinary properties

The uncertainty principle versus an indeterminacy principle (Heisenberg and Bohr)

The Measurement Problem: How does one get from indeterminate properties to determinate ones?--the "collapse" of the wavefunction is not part of the quantum theory.  

Objectivity: Separability and Nonseparability

Einstein--Objectivity requires separate individual objects of study--a view from above, or elsewhere

Bohr--Objectivity is obtained through unambiguous and reproducible measurements--given by a "cut" provided by the details of the experimental arrangement. (Epistemic)

They both share a humanism however, i.e., humans are fully determinate and separate from objects of measurement--humans are special.


What is Barad's proposal?

Phenomena--Barad urges us to consider the entangled state as the fundamental entity, not the object and not the apparatus defined separately to inter-act with one another.  

It is through intra-actions, the "cut" that determines boundaries and properties of the components of the phenomenon that those components become determinate. "Agential separability."   "Contingent objectivity." 

Barad's extension:

Humans are part of nature and therefore part of the entangled arrangements of objects (that which is measured) and agents (that which makes measurements). Different "cuts" determine the state of the world, bring into being the properties and conditions of reality.  "Relational objectivity."  

While humans may have agency to choose a cut, i.e, an apparatus, we don't influence the outcome, once chosen, the physical world emerges. As such objectivity (reproducibility and unambiguity) is maintained and further is due to an ontological state of affairs, the way the world is.  She is a realist.  But also, by the variety of possible cuts, imagines and embraces a fully interactive and fundamentally emergent world, with humans embedded in phenomena like all else.

Extension from "piddly experiments" to the "material discourses of the world."

She contrasts "Knowing as part of being, from being part of nature" vs. "knowing as a human spectator, from outside of nature."

"The knower and the known are entangled." 

What do you think?

Is she convincing?  Has she achieved a new contribution to this physical theory we call Quantum Physics?

How are her proposals for a new interpretation of the components of quantum theory an example of feminist science studies?

What interpretive claims does the short film we watched make?  Which would Barad, Bohr, Einstein agree with?

What would you like to understand better?  What questions remain for you?

course notes:  kgould & tiffany