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Rob Sheldon on the Many Worlds thesis: what about Eugene Wigner?

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Rob Sheldon

Further to: Science writer: Many Worlds (multiverse) as a fantasy, physicist verging on nihilism, Rob Sheldon notes,

What I find so contradictory about MWI (the QM interpretation that Ball unloads his frustration on), is that it assumes that the wavefunction splits at every “decision”, without taking into account that a wavefunction is non-local and global. This was the view of Nobel laureate Eugene Wigner, which didn’t get a mention in Ball’s list. Wigner said that the final outcome is fixed, not because of parallel universes, but because the universe is being observed by an outside observer. For all Ball knows (and that includes physicists too), the wavefunction is completely determined elsewhere in the universe, and the “split” we calculate here was completely determined and hence not a split at all, and MWI collapses down to ordinary reality.

“Oh no, that was Einstein’s “hidden variable” theory which was disproven in the 70’s!”, a true believer is likely to object. No, because the “hidden variable” theory replaces an observer with static existence.

Wigner didn’t promote some sort of “Einstein locality”, he promoted a person observing the Universe. And that makes all the difference.

Which is probably why his theory didn’t get even an honorable mention.

Presumably, any unobservable cosmic-level weirdness is better.

See, for example, this comment:

MWI follows inevitable as a deduction from the principles of quantum mechanics …

Eugene Wigner?

See also: As if the multiverse wasn’t bizarre enough …meet Many Worlds

and

But who needs reality-based thinking anyway? Not the new cosmologists

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7 Replies to “Rob Sheldon on the Many Worlds thesis: what about Eugene Wigner?

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Of note: at the 8:30 minute mark of the following video, Schrodinger’s cat and Wigner’s Friend are highlighted:

    Divinely Planted Quantum States – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCTBygadaM4#t=156s

    Wigner also stated:

    “It was not possible to formulate the laws (of quantum theory) in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness.” Eugene Wigner (1902 -1995) from his collection of essays “Symmetries and Reflections – Scientific Essays”; Eugene Wigner laid the foundation for the theory of symmetries in quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963.

    “It will remain remarkable, in whatever way our future concepts may develop, that the very study of the external world led to the scientific conclusion that the content of the consciousness is the ultimate universal reality” –
    Eugene Wigner – (Remarks on the Mind-Body Question, Eugene Wigner, in Wheeler and Zurek, p.169) 1961

    Of related note to the preceding Wigner ‘consciousness’ quotes, it is interesting to note that many of Wigner’s insights have now been experimentally verified and are also now fostering a ‘second revolution’ in quantum mechanics,,,

    Eugene Wigner – A Gedanken Pioneer of the Second Quantum Revolution – Anton Zeilinger – Sept. 2014
    Conclusion
    It would be fascinating to know Eugene Wigner’s reaction to the fact that the gedanken experiments he discussed (in 1963 and 1970) have not only become reality, but building on his gedanken experiments, new ideas have developed which on the one hand probe the foundations of quantum mechanics even deeper, and which on the other hand also provide the foundations to the new field of quantum information technology. All these experiments pay homage to the great insight Wigner expressed in developing these gedanken experiments and in his analyses of the foundations of quantum mechanics,
    http://epjwoc.epj.org/articles....._01010.pdf

    That Wigner’s insights into the foundations of quantum mechanics are driving ‘the Second Quantum Revolution’ is certainly powerful evidence substantiating Wigner’s claim that ‘consciousness is the ultimate universal reality’

    Of supplemental note:

    Here is Wigner commenting on what I believe is the key experiment that led Wigner to his Nobel Prize winning work on quantum symmetries,,,

    Eugene Wigner
    Excerpt: When I returned to Berlin, the excellent crystallographer Weissenberg asked me to study: why is it that in a crystal the atoms like to sit in a symmetry plane or symmetry axis. After a short time of thinking I understood:,,,, To express this basic experience in a more direct way: the world does not have a privileged center, there is no absolute rest, preferred direction, unique origin of calendar time, even left and right seem to be rather symmetric. The interference of electrons, photons, neutrons has indicated that the state of a particle can be described by a vector possessing a certain number of components. As the observer is replaced by another observer (working elsewhere, looking at a different direction, using another clock, perhaps being left-handed), the state of the very same particle is described by another vector, obtained from the previous vector by multiplying it with a matrix. This matrix transfers from one observer to another.
    http://www.reak.bme.hu/Wigner_.....io/wb1.htm

    i.e. In the experiment the ‘world’ (i.e. the universe) does not have a ‘privileged center’. Yet strangely, the conscious observer does exhibit a ‘privileged center’. This is since the ‘matrix’, which determines which vector will be used to describe the particle in the experiment, is ‘observer-centric’ in its origination! Thus explaining Wigner’s dramatic statement, “It was not possible to formulate the laws (of quantum theory) in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness.”

  2. 2
    Mapou says:

    Dr. Sheldon is absolutely correct. Nonlocality is the rule, not the exception. A multiverse breaks nonlocality by virtue of having multiple local systems. ‘Universe’ implies many in ONE for a reason. The ONENESS of the universe is why we have nonlocal principles such as the conservation of energy, spin, etc. Personally, I believe that even gravity is a nonlocal phenomenon.

  3. 3
    Diogenes says:

    Sheldon is wrong as usual.

    [MWI] it assumes that the wavefunction splits at every “decision”, without taking into account that a wavefunction is non-local and global.

    No. Sheldon is wrong. MWI is based on an superposition of entangled macroscopic collections of atoms. Entanglement is non-local by definition. I agree wavefunctions are non-local but MWI is a non-local idea. The outer product of the particle state and the observer apparatus is a non-local description. The physical observation interaction between the observer and observed particles is local, following the usual, well-tested rules of quantum field theory (e.g. QED etc.)

    Wigner said that the final outcome is fixed, not because of parallel universes, but because the universe is being observed by an outside observer. For all Ball knows (and that includes physicists too), the wavefunction is completely determined elsewhere in the universe… and MWI collapses down to ordinary reality.

    No. There is no evidence that observers, big or little, visible or invisible, have the power to collapse wavefunctions. The wavefunction collapse has never been observed nor well-defined, and “observer” is not well-defined in non-MWI interpretations. “To observe” is only well-defined in MWI.

    Hypothesizing an invisible observer is non-parsimonious and does not solve the alleged problem because there’s no evidence observers have this super-power to cause violations of Schrodinger’s equation far away by looking.

    “Oh no, that was Einstein’s “hidden variable” theory which was disproven in the 70?s!”, a true believer is likely to object. No, because the “hidden variable” theory replaces an observer with static existence.

    Again: no proof any observers, big or little, visible or invisible, have the power to collapse wavefunctions. What problem does this solve? It assumes what we’re arguing about.

    Sheldon is begging the question: we ask “Where’s your observation of wavefunction collapse” and Sheldon presents a claim that assumes his hypothesis is already true as evidence that his hypothesis is true.

  4. 4
    Mapou says:

    Diogenes:

    No. Sheldon is wrong. MWI is based on an superposition of entangled macroscopic collections of atoms. Entanglement is non-local by definition.

    Entanglement is an experimental observation that proves nonlocality. Superposition, by contrast, is just an interpretation. It cannot be falsified. It excludes experimental verification by definition. It’s an ad hoc, ad ignoramus interpretation of the wave function because physicists have no clue as to why particle interactions are probabilistic. The blind is leading the blind.

  5. 5
    ppolish says:

    How many worlds did I create today, give or take? A dozen? A few trillion? How about my dog?

    Do I wake up in the same world I go to sleep in? Is my dog the same dog in the morning? Maybe the me that takes a leak in the middle of the night isn’t the same me who went at bedtime?

  6. 6
    wallstreeter43 says:

    Ppolish or maybe u have a zillion you’s each taking a leak. Can you imagine the amount of urine when all of our zillion counterparts go to the bathroom.

  7. 7
    ppolish says:

    All Knowing God renders MWI useless. Omniscient & Omnipresent, God knew/knows which slit fcol.

    MWI is ignorant Atheist crud sorry.

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