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New Scientist skins Schrodinger’s cat

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From Richard Webb:

Quantum physicists just can’t agree on how to handle the fundamental uncertainty that apparently underpins reality. We round up their best attempts so far

In 2011, 33 physicists and philosophers at a conference in Austria on “Quantum physics and the nature of reality” were asked to nominate their favourites, listed below. The percentages of the delegates backing the various options do not add up to 100 – in keeping with the spirit of quantum theory, the poll allowed multiple answers.

Here’s an interesting, moderately sane one:

The information interpretation – 8 votes, 24 per cent
Information-theory interpretations stem from a growing realisation among physicists that the most basic currency of reality might be not stuff, but stuff we know about stuff –bits of information. When we observe a quantum object, we extract information from it, and it is this that causes it to lose its quantum mojo. More.

See also: In search of a road to reality

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One Reply to “New Scientist skins Schrodinger’s cat

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    It is interesting to note that some of the physicists who favor the Information-theory interpretations of Quantum Mechanics are the very physicists who are making cutting edge breakthroughs in quantum mechanics. First, John Wheeler, who started the ball rolling with ‘it from bit’, was certainly no slouch in physics:

    It from bit? by Rachel Thomas – Dec. 2015
    Excerpt: John Archibald Wheeler (1911-2008) is a legendary figure in physics. He worked with Niels Bohr to explain nuclear fission, worked on the hydrogen bomb at Los Alamos, and taught many eminent physicists including Richard Feynman, Kip Thorne and Hugh Everett. He was the father of modern general relativity, was key in developing our understanding of black holes and, indeed, popularised the term “black hole” (after it was suggested to him by an audience member at a conference) and coined many others, including “worm hole” and “quantum foam”.
    Wheeler categorised his long and productive life in physics into three periods: “Everything is Particles”, “Everything is Fields”, and “Everything is Information”. (You can read more about his life and work in his autobiography, Geons, Black Holes and Quantum Foam.) The driving idea behind the third period was spurred by his contemplation of the age-old question: “How come existence?” And his answer, first published in a brilliantly written (and very entertaining) paper in 1989, was it from bit:
    “It from bit symbolises the idea that every item of the physical world has at bottom — at a very deep bottom, in most instances — an immaterial source and explanation; that what we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes-no questions and the registering of equipment-evoked responses; in short, that all things physical are information-theoretic in origin and this is a participatory universe.”,,,
    One clear consequence of “it from bit” is the importance of the observer: reality requires one. “I think [Wheeler] was very radical,” says Zeilinger. “He talks about the participatory universe, where the observer is not only passive, but the observer in certain situations makes reality happen.”

    John Archibald Wheeler stated this:

    “it from bit” Every “it”— every particle, every field of force, even the space-time continuum itself derives its function, its meaning, its very existence entirely—even if in some contexts indirectly—from the apparatus-elicited answers to yes-or-no questions, binary choices, bits. “It from bit” symbolizes the idea that every item of the physical world has a bottom—a very deep bottom, in most instances, an immaterial source and explanation, that which we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes-no questions and the registering of equipment—evoked responses, in short all matter and all things physical are information-theoretic in origin and this is a participatory universe.”
    – Princeton University physicist John Wheeler (1911–2008) (Wheeler, John A. (1990), “Information, physics, quantum: The search for links”, in W. Zurek, Complexity, Entropy, and the Physics of Information (Redwood City, California: Addison-Wesley))

    “I think of my lifetime in physics as divided into three periods. In the first period, extending from the beginning of my career until the early 1950?s, I was in the grip of the idea that Everything Is Particles. I was looking for ways to build all basic entities – neutrons, protons, mesons, and so on – out of the lightest, most fundamental particles, electrons, and photons.
    I call my second period Everything Is Fields. From the time I fell in love with general relativity and gravitation in 1952 until late in my career, I pursued the vision of a world made of fields, one in which the apparent particles are really manifestations of electric and magnetic fields, gravitational fields, and space-time itself.
    Now I am in the grip of a new vision, that Everything Is Information. The more I have pondered the mystery of the quantum and our strange ability to comprehend this world in which we live, the more I see possible fundamental roles for logic and information as the bedrock of physical theory.”
    – J. A. Wheeler, K. Ford, Geons, Black Hole, & Quantum Foam: A Life in Physics New York W.W. Norton & Co, 1998, pp 63-64.

    Likewise, Anton Zeilinger, a leading physicist in quantum mechanics (Quantum Teleportation, Leggett’s Inequality, Delayed-choice entanglement swapping, etc.. etc..), followed in Wheeler’s footsteps and stated this:

    “In conclusion, it may very well be said that information is the irreducible kernel from which everything else flows. Thence the question why nature appears quantized is simply a consequence of the fact that information itself is quantized by necessity. It might even be fair to observe that the concept that information is fundamental is very old knowledge of humanity, witness for example the beginning of gospel according to John: “In the beginning was the Word.”
    Anton Zeilinger – Why the Quantum? It from Bit? A Participatory Universe?

    “It is operationally impossible to separate Reality and Information”
    (48:35 minute mark)
    “In the beginning was the Word”
    John 1:1 (49:54 minute mark)
    Prof Anton Zeilinger speaks on quantum physics. at UCT

    As well, Vlatko Vedral, Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford, also stated that “The most fundamental definition of reality is not matter or energy, but information”:

    “The most fundamental definition of reality is not matter or energy, but information–and it is the processing of information that lies at the root of all physical, biological, economic, and social phenomena.”
    Vlatko Vedral – Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford, and CQT (Centre for Quantum Technologies) at the National University of Singapore, and a Fellow of Wolfson College – a recognized leader in the field of quantum mechanics.

    Vlatko Vedral was instrumental behind an experiment that ‘thermodynamically’ demonstrated that information is its own distinct physical entity that is separate from matter and energy:

    Quantum knowledge cools computers: New understanding of entropy – June 2011
    Excerpt: No heat, even a cooling effect;
    In the case of perfect classical knowledge of a computer memory (zero entropy), deletion of the data requires in theory no energy at all. The researchers prove that “more than complete knowledge” from quantum entanglement with the memory (negative entropy) leads to deletion of the data being accompanied by removal of heat from the computer and its release as usable energy. This is the physical meaning of negative entropy. Renner emphasizes, however, “This doesn’t mean that we can develop a perpetual motion machine.” The data can only be deleted once, so there is no possibility to continue to generate energy. The process also destroys the entanglement, and it would take an input of energy to reset the system to its starting state. The equations are consistent with what’s known as the second law of thermodynamics: the idea that the entropy of the universe can never decrease. Vedral says “We’re working on the edge of the second law. If you go any further, you will break it.”

    Scientists show how to erase information without using energy – January 2011
    Excerpt: Until now, scientists have thought that the process of erasing information requires energy. But a new study shows that, theoretically, information can be erased without using any energy at all.,,, “Landauer said that information is physical because it takes energy to erase it. We are saying that the reason it (information) is physical has a broader context than that.”, Vaccaro explained.

    New Scientist astounds: Information is physical – May 13, 2016
    Excerpt: Recently came the most startling demonstration yet: a tiny machine powered purely by information, which chilled metal through the power of its knowledge. This seemingly magical device could put us on the road to new, more efficient nanoscale machines, a better understanding of the workings of life, and a more complete picture of perhaps our most fundamental theory of the physical world.

    Matter, energy… knowledge: – May 11, 2016
    Running a brain-twisting thought experiment for real shows that information is a physical thing – so can we now harness the most elusive entity in the cosmos?


    John 1:1-4
    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

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