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Nicolette Sinensky


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How does virtuality translate into reality?

This week in my bioelectricity class, we spoke about electrical stimulation of nerves. One method of stimulation is to place a electrode directly on the surface of a nerve. One of the considerations of this method, however, is that the anode (positively charged side) and cathode (negatively charged side) of the electrode each cause a redistribution of charge around the electrode. Consequently, the anode induces a complementary "virtual cathode" and the cathode creates a complementary "virtual anode." These components aren't actually there, but we can observe a similar redistribution of charge that implies that something unseen is going on. Despite the fact that these components are not physically present, they have real effects on the functionality of both the electrode and the nerve. The virtual cathode and anode can cause a very real, measurable voltage change in the nerve, and can effectively block a nerve signal, which is dependent on the voltage.

In what other ways can intangible entities have physical manifestations? In this case, the unintended effect has a negative consequence, but can we find useful applications of such a circumstance?

Also, if these imaginary aspects can effect reality, what does that say about our definition of what is real and what isn't?


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    Apr 7 2012: Observer effect state that the act of observation of a process or an event will have different outcome comparing with no observation. But in order to analyze the relation between the input and output, observation is inevitable. Base on such assumption, then nothing we observe is real. But to not to observe anything to get the "reality" is not achievable. So I think it is really difficult to distinguish real and imaginary.
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      Apr 7 2012: Just, this doesn't apply to the macro world, but to the quantum world.
      • Apr 7 2012: I don't believe you're correct. We arrive at the "macro world" through quantum decoherence. This decoherence is a direct effect of observation. It's been proven that quantum decoherence of elementary particles can even be observed at the macroscopic level given certain circumstances.

        Additionally, no matter what the experiment someone performs they must create some window of observation which has a direct effect on the outcome of the experiment. A prime example is when using an oscilloscope and observing the inter-modulation distortion caused by different windowing schemes.
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          Apr 7 2012: Rex, the problem is that in a macroscopic system, these quantum effects tend to cancel each other out.
          I'm not aware of any circumstances where quantum effects are observable in the macro world. Any more details you could provide ?

          Answering to your 2. paragraph: even if that were true, we have no possibility to prove it, because you couldn't compare an outcome that had an observer with one that had none.

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