[OPE-L:3263] Re: Re: Re: starting points

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@Princeton.EDU)
Date: Thu May 18 2000 - 17:40:10 EDT

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Oops been a while since I read David Lindley's wonderful Where Does the
Wierdness Go? Why Quatum Mechanics is Strange But not as Strange as You

Let me modify this from my own 3260:

abstract labor can only be undefined except in relation to the system of
prices just as as (to make a bad analogy) a beam of atoms is undefined
except after it has been passed through a Stern Gerlach magnet.

Well, there seems to be an interesting analogy from value to quantum
measurements in terms of the exact meaningless of what is being measured
except as it is defined by the process of measuring it.

Has anyone ever made it before? Or is my poor understanding of physics
obvious here?

Consider Lindsay's intro for the tyro:

"In classical physics, we are accustomed to thinking of physcial properties
as having definite values, which we can try to apprehend by measurement.
But in quantum physics, it is only the process of measurement that yields
any definite number for a physical quantity, and the nature of quantum
measurements is such that it is no longer possible to thik of the
underlying physical property (magnetic orientation of atoms, for example)
as having any definite or reliable reality before the measurement takes
place...[I]n quantum physics, it is only the conjunction of a system with a
measuring device that yields definite results, and because different
measurements (applying a Stern-Gerlach magnet with either up down or left
right orientation, for example) produce results that, taken together, are
incompatible with the preexistence of some definite state, we cannot
usefully define any sort of physical reality unless we describe not only
the physical system under scrutiny but, also and with equal importance, the
measurements we are making of it.
"This is no doubt baffling. We are through long familiarity grounded in the
assumption of an external, objective, and definite reality, regardless of
how much or how little we know about it. It is hard to find the language or
the concetps to deal with a 'reality' that only becomes real when it is
measured. There is no easy way to grasp this change of perspective, but
persistence and patience allow a certain new familiarity to supplant the

Compare Mattick, Jr:

"Characterstic of social labor in capitalism is precisely that the
transformation of quantities of various forms of concrete labor into
quantitites of homogeneous, abstract labor occurs *only* through market
exchange. The productive activities investigated by political economy under
the name 'labor', though carried out for society at large, are exercised
under the control and to account of individual enterprises. Thus through
the work of production is in fact social labor, its social character is
*invisible* until the products are sold. Only THEN can the place of a given
piece of work in social production be measured--for only THEN does it
*have* such a place." (capitals mine).

Value, like magnetic orientation, does not seem to be a property of things
unless measured. We must not attribute any reality or credibility to them
before the measurement. Strictly speaking, we cannot even claim they
(value, magnetic orientation) are indeterminate or indefinite before
measurement. Seems to be something in the comparison here except in one
case the wierdness is physical, in the other social.

Yours, Rakesh

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