Readers may remember the recent Nature review of cosmologist Sean Carroll’s new book, Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime. Now, at the New York Times, Carroll reveals that
For years, the leading journal in physics had an explicit policy that papers on the foundations of quantum mechanics were to be rejected out of hand. Of course there are an infinite number of questions that scientists could choose to worry about, and one must prioritize somehow. Over the course of the 20th century, physicists decided that it was more important to put quantum mechanics to work than to understand how it works. And to be fair, part of their rationale was that it was hard to actually see a way forward. What were the experiments one could do that might illuminate the measurement problem?
The situation might be changing, albeit gradually. The current generation of philosophers of physics takes quantum mechanics very seriously, and they have done crucially important work in bringing conceptual clarity to the field. Empirically minded physicists have realized that the phenomenon of measurement can be directly probed by sufficiently subtle experiments. And the advance of technology has brought questions about quantum computers and quantum information to the forefront of the field. Together, these trends might make it once again respectable to think about the foundations of quantum theory, as it briefly was in Einstein and Bohr’s day. Meanwhile, it turns out that how reality works might actually matter. Our best attempts to understand fundamental physics have reached something of an impasse, stymied by a paucity of surprising new experimental results. Scientists discovered the Higgs boson in 2012, but that had been predicted in 1964. Gravitational waves were triumphantly observed in 2015, but they had been predicted a hundred years before. It’s hard to make progress when the data just keep confirming the theories we have, rather than pointing toward new ones.Sean Carroll, “Even Physicists Don’t Understand Quantum Mechanics” at New York Times
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?
Hat tip: Philip Cunningham
See also: At Nature: The “bizarre logic” of the multiverse is explored in a review of cosmologist Sean Carroll’s new book, Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime. 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.
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