Ideas at the heart of quantum theory, to do with randomness and the character of the molecules that make up the physical matter of our brains, lead some researchers to suggest humans can’t have free will.
QUANTUM SHORTS 2013: SHORTLISTED, OPEN CATEGORY
Or, A Depressing Thought
I am an isotope of the atom now called Thorium. I am radioactive, which gives me a special power: No one knows when I might emit an alpha particle. Only I know. Only I choose when. It's totally up to me. Me!
Well, OK, not "totally." There are certain, shall we say, "guidelines." It seems to me that it's sorta like hunger: When you're full, you almost never eat. When you're hungry, you look to eat as soon as possible. Emitting alpha particles is sort of like that: if I feel hungry, I'll emit quickly. Or if I'm full, I'll probably wait. I expect to start to get hungry in about seven thousand years. Wow!
And nothing is more important than that moment when I choose to emit, to die as Ionium, and to re-form into Radon. It's the Transformation Moment! It can be done only once!
I have a mass of 230 -- 140 neutrons and 90 protons. That's a lot! It's hard to believe that my Dad, Uranium, had 238 of 'em, and threw off 8 to turn into me. Sure, his brothers also fathered other isotopes of Thorium, but Ionium was special! My father never talked much about his children; he just "did it" -- died to become his own son, me!
It's kinda sad that no one calls me Ionium any more; they say I'm "just" another isotope of
Thorium. But I have a special uniqueness; my mass is unique at 230! And no one can take that away from me.
There's something I need to ask you. It's a little embarrassing, but I need to get it off my chest (so to speak). It's something I need to know, and here's the question: Do I actually make the choice of when to emit my alpha particle? Or is there some "rule" or "procedure" or "process" I don't know about, that "forces" me to send out that alpha particle when I do? I'm thinking about this because I've seen my brothers react to those electron-photon pairs which appear out of nowhere. They pop right up, and nudge my brothers, and right away they send out their alpha particles, and change into Radon. And then the electron-photon pairs just disappear! Goodby, Ionium brothers!
I've also noticed that when I talk to my electrons, they're wriggling all over! They never stay still long enough for me to focus on them. I'm thinking that maybe all that wriggling is done
randomly. Maybe. Maybe not! What do you think?
I think these questions are important, because if I don't freely choose to change, to give up my Ionium-ism and become Radon, then I don't have free will! And if I don't have free will, nothing I do matters; It's all pre-determined!
This is really important, because if *I* don't have free will, then neither do ANY of my
radioactive brothers! And, I expect, neither would any of my other relatives! Atoms, molecules, DNA, viruses, cells, organs, animals, none would have free will!
And even more important, if THEY don't have free will, then neither do YOU! If it's all
predetermined, then it's predetermined for ALL of us! What a depressing thought!
So, please, take your time to consider this issue, and then get back to me. I'm "Ionium" at the Thorium Production Facility of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, P.O. Box 808 Livermore, California 94551-0808. After all, we're all in this together.