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Sean Carroll: A multiverse is the price we pay for unifying physics


Cosmologist Sean Carroll is a publisher’s dream, the way he promotes his new book, Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime.

Don’t knock his approach, please! When acting as a coach for local writers, I (O’Leary for News), spend quite a lot of time urging aspiring writers to do exactly what Sean Carroll is doing and I will probably use him as an example. A publisher simply can’t buy all the publicity a writer can generate by getting out there and promoting his own book. Here is Carroll, once again, defending the multiverse, and doing a much better job of explaining what it would really be like than many other believers in the idea do:

The Many-Worlds formulation of quantum mechanics removes once and for all any mystery about the measurement process and collapse of the wave function. We don’t need special rules about making an observation: all that happens is that the wave function keeps chugging along in accordance with the Schrödinger equation. And there’s nothing special about what constitutes ‘a measurement’ or ‘an observer’ – a measurement is any interaction that causes a quantum system to become entangled with the environment, creating a branching into separate worlds, and an observer is any system that brings about such an interaction. Consciousness, in particular, has nothing to do with it. The ‘observer’ could be an earthworm, a microscope or a rock. There’s not even anything special about macroscopic systems, other than the fact that they can’t help but interact and become entangled with the environment. The price we pay for such a powerful and simple unification of quantum dynamics is a large number of separate worlds.

Sean Carroll, “Splitting the Universe: Hugh Everett blew up quantum mechanics with his Many-Worlds theory in the 1950s. Physics is only just catching up” at Aeon

Right. And the price you pay for suicide is that nothing you do in this world afterward matters.

But at least he got rid of the importance of consciousness, right?

In my own research, I’ve gone even farther, arguing that the quest for quantum gravity is being held back by physicists’ traditional strategy of taking a classical theory (such as Albert Einstein’s general relativity) and ‘quantising’ it. Presumably nature doesn’t work like that; it’s just quantum from the start. What we should do, instead, is start from a purely quantum wave function, and ask whether we can pinpoint individual ‘worlds’ within it that look like the curved spacetime of general relativity. Preliminary results are promising, with emergent geometry being defined by the amount of quantum entanglement between different parts of the wave function. Don’t quantise gravity; find gravity within quantum mechanics.

That approach fits very naturally into the Many-Worlds perspective, while not making much sense in other approaches to quantum foundations. Niels Bohr might have won the public-relations race in the 20th century, but Hugh Everett appears ready to pull ahead in the 21st.

Sean Carroll, “Splitting the Universe: Hugh Everett blew up quantum mechanics with his Many-Worlds theory in the 1950s. Physics is only just catching up” at Aeon

A bit early to write the history of the 21st century when we are not even 20% into it. But, hey, Sean, keep writing. It’s nonsense but it is interesting nonsense.

See also: Sean Carroll: Physicists don’t even want to understand quantum mechanics. Carroll wants a multiverse out of any new findings, one suspects. One question many might have is, apart from the lack of a multiverse, how bad is the current situation in physics? What, besides that, is going wrong?

At Nature: The “bizarre logic” of the multiverse is explored in a review. Crease writes as if he would very much like to buy into Carroll’s ideas but still thinks that sanity has something to offer. Possibly, many establishment science figures teeter on that brink. In a review of cosmologist Sean Carroll’s new book, Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime

The multiverse is science’s assisted suicide

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Post-modern science: The illusion of consciousness sees through itself

I wonder how many proponents of the Multiverse or Many Worlds hypotheses would be so deeply invested in them and hopeful of eventual success were it not for the fact that these theories seem to offer an answer to the problem posed to naturalism/materialism by cosmic fine-tuning. If one is committed to naturalism one has to hope that something like the MWH will eventually be shown to be the case, even if it means believing something as extravagant as an infinity of worlds. Otherwise, cosmic fine-tuning is a very unwelcome skunk at the naturalist's picnic. Dick
I have no theoretical objection to a multiverse, but I don't think a simple MWI explains the fossil/DNA data. In the "many worlds interpretation," EVERY possible timeline is real. That's a huge step forward from traditional "monoversal" materialism, which cannot explain the fine-tuning of the universe or the stupendous odds against any initial self-replicating molecule. But MWI's "success" at explaining why statistical arguments don't rule out all forms of biological life creates a different problem for the interpretation--one that, so far, only the Discovery Institute writers seem to take seriously. Here's the problem: IF you agree that the statistical odds against life of any sort are insuperable (in a materialist monoverse), THEN you have to be willing to look hard at the statistical odds against complex life forms that aren't directly descended from some human ancestor. The "weak anthropic principle" explains why humans are here to ask questions about the staggering odds against our own existence, and MWI ANSWERS the questions about OUR OWN existence, but it utterly fails to explain why birds and other creatures developed irreducibly complex systems independent of the human line. To use an analogy, MWI can explain why YOU are a billionaire--you won the Galactic Sweepstakes. But it can't explain why your five cousins are ALSO billionaires. Intelligent design offers a more plausible answer: you and your cousins all INHERITED your money. Somerschool
Polistra, that analogy of yours in your post #3 is brilliant, absolutely brilliant. I' will be giving way to seemingly-maniacal bursts of laughter throughout the rest of the day, thinking about it. I've tried to match it, but can't get anywhere near it. Similarly, News' '... still thinks sanity has something to offer...' is beautful in its utter, utter brutality. No, I'm not a sadist at all, but sometimes something comes along that warrants nothing less than a female's fiercest bludgeon, albeit delivered with a bewildering grace ! They do hav a potential for greater cruelty, if my memory from my primary-school days serves me ! I think there should be a Nobel prize for taking the youknowwhat. Axel
'Crease writes as if he would very much like to buy into Carroll’s ideas but still thinks that sanity has something to offer.' (on edit: !!!!!) 'The price we pay for a unified theory of perpetual motion is the Piltdown Man.' (likewise: !!!!!) A hilarious, potentially fathomless source of humour. Axel
The price we pay for a unified theory of perpetual motion is the Piltdown Man. polistra
I think Oxford Professor John Lennox has said that “Nonsense remains nonsense, even when talked by world-famous scientists.” In this case the nonsense was written by a book author who isn’t a world-famous scientist. jawa
that is a cop out for those too (deep-time dependent assumption) indoctrinated to consider the simple science just outside their box. reference the YeC Moshe Emes series for Torah and science alignment. How why all deep-time dependent scientific hypotheses (like NDT and SCM-LCDM) and assumptions (like the Copernican Principle) have been falsified by the vastly higher probability explanation of the empirical observations. Pearlman

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