27
Aug
09

Hiding in the Quantum

While I was perusing for ANY POSSIBLE evidence (evidence, not arguments) for quantum phenomena and “free will,” I stumbled across this bit of vomit from Discover Magazine! It was published earlier this year after we have evidence AGAINST the “vibration theory of olfaction” (and so also against quantum tunneling) which was published back in 2004! Vosshall and Keller took the allegations of conspiracy within the scientific community made by Turin very seriously, so they tested it. They performed a double blind study to see if the prediction that a mixture of guaiacol and benzaldehyde would smell like vanilla. They also tested to see if aldehydes with different chain lengths would have different smells because, hey, they have different vibration frequencies (which they do, but it doesn’t play any role in smell). The results are practically amazing.

fig-1

Figure 1: additive synthesis and homologous series
(a) subjects rated (1-13) the vanilla character of samples presented with an interval of 30 seconds between samples
(b) odor dissimilarity of pairs of aldehydes rated from 0-10 (10 being very different)
(c) data shown in b are reploted to compare median similarity rating for pairs of aldehydes consisting of two odd, two even, or an odd and an even chain length

Look at the data, it shows something cool. Know what it is? That’s right kids, the sense of smell wasn’t fooled by those pesky quantum vibrations!

That’s got to be all, right? Well, as it turns out, Turin’s theory makes another prediction along with his accusations of conspiracy. It predicted that acetophenone (AP) and deuterated acetophenone (DAP), which are identical in shape and structure, but vibrate at different frequencies, would smell different. They tested this by having three different types of exposure. One in which both were regular AP, one in which both were DAP, and one which was had one of each. Subjects were then asked to rate the similarity of the two samples they received. ALL THREE SETS OF DATA WERE THE SAME! Yea, so, people thought AP smelled differently than AP just as much as people thought AP smelled differently than DAP.

Let’s see:

1) All three predictions of the Vibration Theory of Olfaction were proven to not happen

2) This was demonstrated in 2004

3) Discover Magazine published this in 2009

Quit trying to hide shit in the quantum, it’s annoying, Fleming’s work is useful, Turin’s theory of olfaction has been already demonstrated patently false.

Note to the author of the Discover Magazine article: pinanethiol is molecularly NOTHING like pinanol. While pinanethiol has a sulfur atom bound to a hydrogen atom that sticks out of the core of the structure while pinanol has an oxygen that’s bound one carbon up the making it farther into the molecule. Just look at the structures, man, seriously.

Today’s journalistic lesson: FACT CHECK! Those elephant wings aren’t quantum, they don’t exist!

Keller et al. A psychophysical test of the vibration theory of olfaction. 2004 Nature Neuroscience 7:337-338

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4 Responses to “Hiding in the Quantum”


  1. 1 Pliny-the-in-Between
    August 27, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    Well, all this proves is that they are hiding really well in the quantum – you know. behind the god of the gaps 😉

    On a serious note I have read and reread the article that started all this (thanks a lot – I needed another distraction in my life…) and I have a couple of questions about all these purported quantum effects in brains: How did it evolve? Everything we actually can measure in the brain is an electrochemical event triggered by agonist and antagonist agents operating on complex interlinked neurons. Assuming evolution (which I of course do), sentience must have evolved through some re-purposing, duplication or re-arrangement of existing structures or a combination. So we should be able to see demonstrable quantum effects affecting even the most primitive neuronal structures. Absent that, proponents of quantum thinking would have to demonstrate a mechanism whereby quantum effects could be introduced into protobrains somewhere along the line. Something unprecedented.

    More tangentially, and this is pure madcap wool gathering so don’t take it seriously; Could a PET scanner be used to test some of this? PET scanners use gamma rays created by the annihilation of a positron and an electron. Seems like that ought to be able to set up some interesting local effects in test neurons (outside of functioning human brains of course ;))

    One might also postulate that binary computers should be more susceptible to quantum effects than brains. Being far less complicated than a brain structurally, should be able to repeat operations billions of times without seeing the occasional quantum effect of the output?

    Sorry – I’ll top now as this is all way over my head.

  2. 2 jaredcormier
    August 27, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    Hey, Pliny, you’re the surgeon, how do you think reading this makes me feel? I just know a thing or two about biochemistry, evolution, and genetics, but even to me, this had a flashing neon sign saying:

    “I MADE THIS UP, IT EXPLAINS* WHY WE DON’T KNOW THIS!!!”
    *note: even though I have no reason to suspect or support this claim

    Oh, and you’re welcome.

  3. 3 Pliny-the-in-Between
    August 27, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    Sorry – just poking you with a stick. the PET scanner thing was priceless you have to admit 😉

    I did find Kauffman’s article to be a fairly interesting read though because its a great of example of how people couch really tenuous concepts into enough confusing language borrowed from a realm of science that almost nobody has a clue about to almost sound plausible. It seems like this thing pops up every few years and I’ve always wondered if it’s just another example of people trying to continue to try to elevate human minds above the rest of nature. Similar to some religions. The human brain is an amazing development even without ‘spooky action at a distance’.

  4. 4 jaredcormier
    August 27, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    That’s why my side hurts…bastard…

    And yes, the PET thing was a pretty nice shot at “quantum” (read magical) thinking. You’d think with the use of positron emitting particles and gamma rays in our bodies that they would lose consciousness…


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