Reading a multipart discussion of quantum physics at Ross Rhodes' excellent website The Bottom Layer, I understood an important point for the first time.
For years I was under the impression that observation is the factor that causes the quantum probability wave to resolve itself into a single point (a particle). But in an endnote to "Chapter Two: The Double Slit Experiments," Rhodes clarifies things. In order for the quantum unit to express itself as a particle ...
It is not necessary to see or comprehend the information that is available. The experimenter cannot make information go away by not looking at it. If the information is available, it will [be] reflected in the measurement outcome.
He gives a series of simplified examples of double-slit experiments, showing that in all cases, the outcome doe not hinge on the experimenter actually being aware of the measurement that was taken; what counts is simply whether the measurement was taken and whether the information is still available.
Since I quoted a long passage from Rhodes in my previous post, I don't want to include another lengthy excerpt. Those who are interested are urged to read the chapter for themselves.
Why is this important? It gives us a clue about the nature of reality. New Age books often claim that we bring objects into existence simply by looking at them, and they point to quantum physics (and the Copenhagen interpretation) for support. But physics does not say that the experimenter manifests the particle by looking at it. In fact, the experimenter need not be looking at all. All that matters is that the experimenter has constructed a test that produces the relevant information - i.e., the measurement. Even if no one ever looks at the measurement data, the fact that the measurement has been obtained and is still available to be viewed is sufficient to affect the outcome of the experiment and determine whether the quantum unit behaves like a particle or a wave.
The words "is still available to be viewed" are italicized because they are key. If the measurement is taken but then erased, without ever having been seen by a sentient observer, and if the behavior of the quantum units is only analyzed after the erasure, then the quantum units will behave as if no measurement had ever been taken. But if the measurement still exists, even if it has not been seen, then the quantum unit will behave as if a measurement had been taken.
The availability of the information, regardless of whether or not it is actually viewed, is the determining factor. Rhodes sums up,
It turns out that, so far as experimentalists have been able to determine, the difference is whether the analysis of the results at the back wall is conducted when information about the electrons' positions at the slits is available, or not....If we demand to know which slit the particle went through, then a particle must appear at one slit or the other so that we will have an answer to our question; and so our curiosity has caused there to be a particle at one of the slits, and now there is a particle; and if there is a particle at one slit or the other, it must obey the rules for particle motion, and so it does.
Conversely, if we do not demand to know which slit the particle went through, no particle need appear at either slit; and so we have not caused there to be any particle, and now there is no particle; and if there is no particle at either slit, the system remains free to roam the universe in whatever form seems most pleasing to itself.
And all of this is determined at the time we demand the knowledge, not at the time we institute any mechanical processes for obtaining the information.
So it is our "demand" for knowledge that determines how the quantum unit behaves. And this demand can take place after the experiment has been completed, when we decide whether or not to retain the measurements (keep them available) or erase them (make them unavailable). And this after-the-fact decision on our part determines how the experiment was run in the first place.
Which makes no sense at all in the context of physical objects moving in space. In the context of information processing by a Cosmic CPU, on the other hand, it's pretty much what we might expect.