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Ways forward for quantum physics (ways that lead somewhere … not everywhere, anywhere, and nowhere all at once)

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Hydrogen atom orbitals/Marquardt

In Aeon, quantum physicist Adrian Kent outlines the problem quantum physics presents to a scientific picture of reality:

Bell was one of the last century’s deepest thinkers about science. As he put it, quantum theory ‘carries in itself the seeds of its own destruction’: it undermines the account of reality that it needs in order to make any sense as a physical theory. On this view, which was once as close to heresy as a scientific argument can be but is now widely held among scientists who work on the foundations of physics, the reality problem is just not solvable within quantum theory as it stands. And so, along with the variables that describe potentialities and possibilities, we need to supplement our quantum equations with quantities that correspond directly to real events or things – real ‘stuff’ in the world.

Kent suggests that quantum collapse theories as put forward by Giancarlo Ghirardi, Alberto Rimini, Tullio Weber and Philip Pearle I th 1980s offer the best way forward:

Their approach became known as the ‘spontaneous collapse’ model and their brilliant insight was that we can find mathematical laws that describe how the innumerable possible outcomes encoded in a quantum description of an experiment get reduced to the one actual result that we see. As we have already noted, the tension between these two descriptions is at the heart of the quantum reality problem.

When using standard quantum theory, physicists often say that the wave function – a mathematical object that encodes all the potential possibilities – ‘collapses’ to the measured outcome at the end of an experiment. This ‘collapse’, though, is no more than a figure of speech, which only highlights the awkward fact that we do not understand what is really happening. By contrast, in Ghirardi-Rimini-Weber-Pearle models, collapse becomes a well-defined mathematical and physical process, taking place at definite points in space, following precise equations and going on all the time in the world around us, whether or not we are making measurements. According to these new equations, the more particles there are in a physical system, the faster the collapse rate. Left isolated, a single electron will collapse so rarely that we essentially never see any effect. On the other hand, anything large enough to be visible – even a dust grain – has enough particles in it that it collapses very quickly compared to human perception times. (In Schrödinger’s famous thought experiment, the cat’s quantum state would resolve in next to no time, leaving us with either a live cat or a dead one, not some strange quantum combination of both.)

In passing, Kent touches on the “many worlds” theory (which I wrote about here) developed by Hugh Everett III, and what has since become of it:

On this view, every time any of us does a quantum experiment with several possible outcomes, all those outcomes are enacted in different branches of reality, each of which contains a copy of our self whose memories are identical up to the start of experiment, but each of whom sees different results. None of these future selves has any special claim to be the real one. They are all equally real – genuine but distinct successors of the person who started the experiment. The same picture holds true more generally in cosmology: alongside the reality we currently habit, there are many others in which the history of the universe and our planet was ever so slightly different, many more in which humanity exists on Earth but the course of human history was significantly different from ours, and many more still in which nothing resembling Earth or its inhabitants can be found.

The problem is that, from Everett and his early followers onwards, they have never managed to agree on a clear story about how exactly this picture of branching worlds is supposed to emerge from the fundamental equations of quantum theory, and how this single world that we see, with experimental outcomes that are apparently random but which follow definite statistical laws, might then be explained. One of the blackly funny revelations in Peter Byrne’s biography The Many Worlds of Hugh Everett III (2010) was the discovery of Everett’s personal copy of the classic text The Many-Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, put together in 1973 by the distinguished American physicist Bryce DeWitt and a few of Everett’s other early supporters. To DeWitt’s mild criticism that ‘Everett’s original derivation [of probabilities]… is rather too brief to be entirely satisfying’, Everett scribbled in the margins ‘Only to you!’ and ‘Goddamit [sic] you don’t see it’. On another paper addressing the same issue, his comment was the single word ‘bullshit’. Although generally in more civil terms, Everettians have continued to argue over this and related points ever since.

Indeed, the big unresolved, and seemingly unsolvable, problem here is how statistical laws can possibly emerge at all when the Everettian meta-picture of branching worlds has no randomness in it. More.

Presumably it has no randomness because everything actually happens (probability: one).

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Is there cosmic justice in the fact that the many worlds proponents never managed to agree on a reality single enough to meet the standards of most contemporary physicists?

Kent closes on the well-advised note that “Quantum theory might not be fundamentally correct, but it would not have worked so well for so long if its strange and beautiful mathematics did not form an important part of the deep structure of nature.” Yes, and now what are the other parts?

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

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One Reply to “Ways forward for quantum physics (ways that lead somewhere … not everywhere, anywhere, and nowhere all at once)

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    as to decoherence or spontaneous collapse

    The Mental Universe – Richard Conn Henry – Professor of Physics John Hopkins University
    Excerpt: The only reality is mind and observations, but observations are not of things. To see the Universe as it really is, we must abandon our tendency to conceptualize observations as things.,,, Physicists shy away from the truth because the truth is so alien to everyday physics. A common way to evade the mental universe is to invoke “decoherence” – the notion that “the physical environment” is sufficient to create reality, independent of the human mind. Yet the idea that any irreversible act of amplification is necessary to collapse the wave function is known to be wrong: in “Renninger-type” experiments, the wave function is collapsed simply by your human mind seeing nothing. The universe is entirely mental,,,, The Universe is immaterial — mental and spiritual. Live, and enjoy.
    http://henry.pha.jhu.edu/The.mental.universe.pdf

    The Renninger Negative Result Experiment – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C3uzSlh_CV0

    Dr. Henry chides physicists for being in a state of denial about the evidence

    Quantum Enigma:Physics Encounters Consciousness – Richard Conn Henry – Professor of Physics – John Hopkins University
    Excerpt: It is more than 80 years since the discovery of quantum mechanics gave us the most fundamental insight ever into our nature: the overturning of the Copernican Revolution, and the restoration of us human beings to centrality in the Universe.
    And yet, have you ever before read a sentence having meaning similar to that of my preceding sentence? Likely you have not, and the reason you have not is, in my opinion, that physicists are in a state of denial…
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....-designer/

    Even a prominent atheist philosopher, though not a physicist, admits that consciousness is an entirely different ‘cat’ that is not reducible to material explanation:

    Mind and Cosmos – Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False – Thomas Nagel
    Excerpt: If materialism cannot accommodate consciousness and other mind-related aspects of reality, then we must abandon a purely materialist understanding of nature in general, extending to biology, evolutionary theory, and cosmology. Since minds are features of biological systems that have developed through evolution, the standard materialist version of evolutionary biology is fundamentally incomplete. And the cosmological history that led to the origin of life and the coming into existence of the conditions for evolution cannot be a merely materialist history.
    http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/pro.....9919758.do

    “I have argued patiently against the prevailing form of naturalism, a reductive materialism that purports to capture life and mind through its neo-Darwinian extension.” “…, I find this view antecedently unbelievable—a heroic triumph of ideological theory over common sense”.
    Thomas Nagel – “Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False” – pg.128

    Moreover denying consciousness is fundamental to reality, and insisting that material is foundational to reality, in spite of the empirical evidence, leads to ‘psychopathic’ consequences:

    The Heretic – Who is Thomas Nagel and why are so many of his fellow academics condemning him? – March 25, 2013
    Excerpt:,,,Fortunately, materialism is never translated into life as it’s lived. As colleagues and friends, husbands and mothers, wives and fathers, sons and daughters, materialists never put their money where their mouth is. Nobody thinks his daughter is just molecules in motion and nothing but; nobody thinks the Holocaust was evil, but only in a relative, provisional sense. A materialist who lived his life according to his professed convictions—understanding himself to have no moral agency at all, seeing his friends and enemies and family as genetically determined robots—wouldn’t just be a materialist: He’d be a psychopath.
    http://www.weeklystandard.com/.....tml?page=3

    Existential Argument against Atheism – November 1, 2013 by Jason Petersen
    1. If a worldview is true then you should be able to live consistently with that worldview.
    2. Atheists are unable to live consistently with their worldview.
    3. If you can’t live consistently with an atheist worldview then the worldview does not reflect reality.
    4. If a worldview does not reflect reality then that worldview is a delusion.
    5. If atheism is a delusion then atheism cannot be true.
    Conclusion: Atheism is false.
    http://answersforhope.com/exis.....t-atheism/

    Moreover, this psychopathic characteristic inherent to the atheistic philosophy is born out empirically, in that people who do not believe in a soul tend to be more psychopathic than the majority of normal people in America who do believe in a soul. You can pick that psychopathic study of atheists around the 14:30 minute mark of this following video:

    Anthony Jack, Why Don’t Psychopaths Believe in Dualism? – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?l.....zOk#t=862s

    Supplemental note:

    Is Shor’s algorithm a demonstration of the many worlds interpretation?
    Excerpt: David Deutsch is very fond of pointing out Shor’s integer factorization algorithm is a demonstration of the many worlds interpretation. As he often asked, where else did all the exponentially many combinations happen?
    Are there any other alternative interpretations of quantum mechanics which can explain Shor’s algorithm, and the Deutsch-Jozsa and Simon’s algorithm?
    ,,, this argument is totally wrong for a simple reason: the real Universe – our Universe – is a quantum system, not a classical system. So it is normal for quantum systems in a single Universe to behave just like the quantum computer running Shor’s algorithm. On the contrary, if we only use the classical computers, we exponentially slow down the computer relatively to what it could do. In this sense, Deutsch’s “argument” shows that the many-worlds interpretation is just another psychological aid for the people who can’t resist to incorrectly think about our world as being a classical world of a sort.,,,
    There is one more lethal conceptual problem with the “many worlds” explanation of the Shor’s algorithm’s speed: the whole quantum computer’s calculation has to proceed in a completely coherent way and you’re not allowed to imagine that the world splits into “many worlds” as long as things are coherent i.e. before the qubits are measured. Only when the measurement is completed – e.g. at the end of the Shor’s algorithm calculation – you’re allowed to imagine that the worlds split. But it’s too late because by that moment, the whole calculation has already been done in a single (quantum) world, without any help from the parallel worlds.
    (Many more excellent answers are on the site)
    http://physics.stackexchange.c.....rpretation

    Verse Quote and Music:

    Colossians 1:17
    And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

    “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
    William Shakespeare – Hamlet

    Evanescence – The Other Side (Lyric Video)
    http://www.vevo.com/watch/evan.....tantsearch

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