John Archibald Wheeler

/Tag: John Archibald Wheeler

Why the first humans were not allowed to eat from the Tree of Knowledge

As always in science, every answered question breeds new questions. Now that we understand that the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge are metaphors for, respectively, the wave function and the collapse of the wave function (see my earlier post, "The Tree of Knowledge as a Metaphor for Superposition of States and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle"), we are faced with more questions. Why did God not want Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge? And what was so terrible about the forbidden fruit that eating it warranted capital punishment?[1] Let us recall that, according to our tradition, Adam and Eve were prohibited from eating from the Tree of Knowledge only for three hours. Adam and Eve were created on the sixth day—the Eve of the Sabbath (Erev Shabbat). With [...]

Shoo Away the Mother Bird

If a bird's nest chances before thee in the way, in any tree or on the ground, with fledglings or eggs, and the mother sitting upon the fledglings, or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the mother with the young; thou shalt shoo away the mother, but the young thou mayest take unto thyself; that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days. (Deut. 22:6-7) Many years ago, I was at a physics conference in Princeton in honor of the 85th birthday of Professor John Archibald Wheeler. At the lunch break, I set alone at a table to eat my kosher lunch (I am always embarrassed eating this airplane food typically served at conferences whenever I order kosher food. The sound of unwrapping the cellophane attracts everyone’s [...]

Re’eh – the Power of Seeing the Blessings

The Torah portion Re’eh, begins with the verse: Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse. (Deut. 11:26) The first word of this verse, re’eh, literally means “see” in Hebrew. So, literally, this verse should be translated as: See, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse Spoken words are heard, not seen. Why did Moses implore people to see, as he was about to set before them a blessing and a curse? To understand this, we need to look at the following verses defining the blessing and the cure: The blessing, if ye shall hearken unto the commandments of the Lord your God… (Deut. 11:27) …and the curse, if ye shall not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord your God… (Deut. 11:28) Does this [...]

Witnesses – See and be Seen

By the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall the one liable to death be put to death; he shall not be put to death by the mouth of one witness. (Devarim-Deuteronomy 17:6) I wrote about witnesses in my earlier post imaginatively called Witnesses. As Deuteronomy, restates many mitzvoth (commandments) introduced earlier, which is why it is also called Mishneh Torah – the repetition of Torah – the portion Shoftim-Judges restates the law of witnesses first introduced in in the book of Bamidbar-Numbers, portion Massei. So we shall revisit this fascinating subject. The Judgment of the Sanhedrin: "He is Guilty!" (1892 painting by Nikolai Ge) I.     An accused criminal and a Schrödinger cat Most criminals are convicted in the US bases on circumstantial evidence. Rare is the case when a jury gets to hear [...]

Two Beginnings

B’reshit bara Elokim et hashamaim v’et haaretz… In the beginning, God created heaven and earth… Alternative translation: With two beginnings God created heaven and earth… Genesis 1:1   *This is an abridged and updated version of my paper “Towards Reconciliation of Biblical and Cosmological Ages of the Universe” Presented at the Third Miami International Conference on Torah & Science in Dec. of 1999 and published in B’Or HaTorah, 13 (2002) p. 19. Contemporary science places the age of the universe in the thirteen to fourteen billion years range, or 13.787 ± 0.02, [1] to be precise.  This age is derived from both theoretical models as well as experimental data.  (For an overview of theoretical and experimental approaches to dating the universe and our planet Earth see my original paper TOWARDS RECONCILIATION OF BIBLICAL AND [...]

On the Nature of Time and the Age of the Universe

Presented at the International Torah and Science Conference in Miami International University on December 18, 2005 Alexander Poltorak   Introduction. This is the third in a series of articles, in which I attempt to sketch various approaches to reconciling a cosmological age of the universe currently estimated at 13.75 billion years with the Jewish tradition setting this age at less than six thousand years (5770 as of the day of this writing, to be exact). The first article [1] tackled this problem from the point of view of Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics suggesting that there were two distinct forms of existence—physical and proto-physical—and that the first conscious observers, Adam and Eve, collapsed the universal wavefunction, bringing the world from amorphous proto-physical existence into tangible physical existence.  This approach leads to two distinct [...]

Tale of Entangled Goats

And he shall take the two he goats, and place them before the Lord at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. And Aaron shall place lots upon the two he goats: one lot "For the Lord," and the other lot, "For Azazel." (Leviticus 16:7-8) In the last Torah portion, Metzorah, we learned about two entangled birds. This week, we learn about two entangled goats. I don’t know if these goats studied quantum mechanics, but they can sure teach us a thing or two about quantum entanglement. Entanglement is one of the mysteries of quantum mechanics. On a macro level, entanglement is easy to understand. Imagine a coin sawn into two halves along the plane parallel to the face of the coin. One half has only heads and the other half has only [...]