Never trust an atom. They make up everything.”
My workmate’s joke got me thinking of the topic for my column this week. It has layers. Layer 1: atoms do make up everything. Layer 2: the truth about atoms is not straightforward. Layer 3: Most non quantum physicists don’t know much about quantum physics.
This doesn’t stop people spouting about it. Gwyneth Paltrow has said a thing or two about quantum mechanics and how it causes emotions to “negatively change the structure of water.” A friend showed me a website she found called QuantumMAN (what about QuantumWOMAN?). QuantumMAN claims to be revolutionising medical treatment by “replacing chemical-based drugs with downloadable medicines.” Their tagline is “Treat Disease with Data not Drugs!” With QuantumMAN you can treat chronic kidney disease, get vaccinated for malaria, and lose weight, all without wasting money on material goods! You do, however, have to waste money on downloading nothing. It costs $20 US. Oh, and enjoy your QuantumMAN data massage! Who needs physical contact? I must say, QuantumMAN chiropractic sounds a lot safer than the real thing.
Dr Deepak Chopra, author of “Ageless Body, Timeless Mind” (have you noticed he’s aging? What’s up with that?) has attempted to use quantum physics as evidence for his healing techniques. Chopra argues that what he calls “quantum healing” cures basically any illness, including cancer, through effects that he claims are literal quantum mechanics.
In an interview with Richard Dawkins, Chopra admitted that the word “quantum” was a metaphor “it’s just a metaphor, just like an electron of a photon is an indivisible unit of information and energy, a thought is an indivisible unit of consciousness.” Since the “process” Chopra describes has nothing to do with quantum physics, the word “quantum” could be replaced by any word. “Sausage healing” makes as much sense as “quantum healing,” if not more.
Physicists object to Chopra’s use of the term “quantum” in reference to medical conditions and the human body. It is a way of impressing and confusing people so they think they are taking part in something important and powerful.
The thinking of people using the word “quantum” willy nilly seems to be “quantum physics doesn’t seem to make sense, and my thing makes no sense, therefore they are both real! Quantum theory proves it!”
“Quantum” has been appropriated and tacked onto anything someone wants to make sound both mystical and science-y.