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Physicists Losing Their Grip??

Physicists Losing Their Grip?? - Physics Forum

Physicists Losing Their Grip?? - Physics Forum. Discuss and ask physics questions, kinematics and other physics problems.

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Old 12-22-2004, 12:53 PM
Posts: n/a
Default Physicists Losing Their Grip??

Got the following from somewhere. If you have time this holiday,
pls. go over it. It's a serious comment about what is occuring
inside quantum physics. What quantum reality versions (he
mentions a lot) do you believe in. What part did the author
make a wrong assumption, if ever. Thanks. - Consc.

Nick Herbert talks about "Quantum Reality":

"Physicists Losing Their Grip

One of the best-kept secrets of science is that physicists have
lost their grip on reality.

News of the reality crisis hardly exists outside the physics
community. What shuts out the public is partly a language
barrier-the mathematical formalism that facilitates communication
between scientists is incomprehensible to outsiders-and partly
the human tendency of physicists to publicize their successes
while soft-pedalling their confusions and uncertainties. Even
among themselves, physicists prefer to pass over the
uncomfortable reality issue in favor of questions "more

"No development of modem science has had a more profound impact
on human thinking than the advent of quantum theory. Wrenched out
of centuries-old thought patterns, physicists of a generation ago
found themselves compelled to embrace a new metaphysics. The
distress which this reorientation caused continues to the present
day. Basically physicists have suffered a severe loss: their hold
on reality." - Bryce DeWitt Neill Graham

Recent popularizations such as Heinz Pagels' Cosmic Code have
begun to inform the public about the reality crisis in physics.
In Quantum Reality I intend to examine how physicists deal with
reality -- or fall to deal with it-in clear and unprecedented

Nothing exposes the perplexity at the heart of physics more
starkly than certain preposterous-sounding claims a few outspoken
physicists are making concerning how the world really works. If
we take these claims at face value, the stories physicists tell
resemble the tales of mystics and madmen. Physicists are quick to
reject such unsavory associations and insist that they speak
sober fact. We do not make these claims out of ignorance, they
say, like ancient mapmakers filling In terra incognitas with
plausi ble geography. Not ignorance, but the emergence of
unexpected knowledge forces on us all new visions of the way
things really are.

The new physics vision is still clouded, as evidenced by the
multiplicity of its claims, but whatever the outcome it is sure
to be far from ordinary. To give you a taste of quantum reality,
I summarize here the views of its foremost Creators in the form
of eight realities which represent eight major guesses as to
what's really going on behind the scenes. Later we will look at
each of these realities in more detail and see how different
physicists use the same data to justify so many different
pictures of th e world.

Quantum Reality #1 The Copenhagen Interpretation, Part I (There
is no deep reality.) No one has influenced more our notions of
what the quantum world is really about than Danish physicist
Niels Bohr, and it is Bohr who puts forth one of quantum physics'
most outrageous claims: that there is no deep reality. Bohr does
not deny the evidence of his senses. The World we see around us
is real enough, he affirms, but it floats on a world that is not
as real. Everyday phenomena are themselves built not out of phe
nomena but out of an utterly different kind of being.

Far from being a crank or minority position, "There is no deep
reality" represents the prevailing doctrine of establishment
physics. Because this quantum reality was developed at Niels
Bohr's Copenhagen institute, it is called the "Copenhagen
interpretation." Undaunted by occasional challenges by mavericks
of realist persuasion, the majority of physicists swear at least
nominal allegiance to Bohr's anti-realist creed. What more
glaring indication of the depth of the reality crisis than the
official rejectio n of reality itself by the bulk of the physics

Einstein and other prominent physicists felt that Bohr went too
far in his call for ruthless renunciation of deep reality. Surely
all Bohr meant to say was that we must all be good pragmatists
and not extend our speculations beyond the range of our
experiments. From the results of experiments carried out in the
twenties, how could Bohr conclude that no future technology would
ever reveal a deeper truth? Certainly Bohr never in tended
actually to deny deep reality but merely counseled a cautious
skepticism t oward speculative hidden realities.

Bohr refused to accept such a watered-down version of the
Copenhagen doctrine. In words that must chill every realist's
heart, Bohr insisted: "There is no quantum world. There is only
an abstract quantum description"

Werner Heisenberg, the Christopher Columbus of quantum theory,
first to set foot on the new mathematical World, took an equally
tough stand against reality-nostalgic physicists such as Einstein
when he wrote: "The hope that new experiments will lead us back
to objective events in time and space is about as well founded as
the hope of discovering the end of the world in the unexplored
regions of the Antarctic."

The writings of Bohr and Heisenberg have been criticized as
obscure and open to many interpretations. Recently Cornell
physicist N. David Mermin neatly summed up Bohr's anti-realist
position in words that leave little room for misunderstanding:
"We now know that the moon is demonstrably not there when nobody
looks." (We will take a look at Mermin's "demonstration" in
Chapter 13.)

Quantum Reality #2. The Copenhagen interpretation, Part 11
(Reality is created by observation.) Although the numerous
physicists of the Copenhagen school do not believe in deep
reality, they do assert the existence of phenomenal reality. What
we see is undoubtedly real, they say, but these phenomena are not
really there in the absence of an observation. The Copenhagen
interpretation properly consists of two distinct parts: I. There
is no reality in the absence of observation; 2. Observation
creates reality . "You create your own reality," is the theme of
Fred Wolf's Taking the Quantum Leap.

Which of the world's myriad processes qualify as observations?
What special feature of an observation endows it with the power
to create reality? Questions like these split the
observer-created reality school into several camps, but all
generally subscribe to quantum theorist John Wheeler's memorable
maxim for separating what is real in the world from what is not.
"No elementary phenomenon is a real phenomenon until it is an
observed phenomenon," Wheeler proclaims. Without a doubt,
Mermin's description of the inconstant moon qualifies him for
membership in the observer-created reality school.

The belief that reality is observer-created is commonplace in
philosophy, where it serves as the theme for various forms of
idealism. Bertrand Russell recalls his fascination with idealism
during his student days at Trinity College: "In this philosophy I
found comfort for a time . . . There was a curious pleasure in
making oneself believe that time and space are unreal, that
matter is an illusion and that the world really consist of
nothing but mind."

Since pondering matter is their bread and butter, not many
physicists would share Russell's enjoyment of matter as mere
mirage. However, like it or not, through their conscientious
practice of quantum theory more than a few physicists have
strayed within hailing distance of the idealist's dreamworld.

Quantum Reality #3 (Reality is an undivided wholeness.) The views
of Walter Heider, author of a standard textbook on the
light/matter interaction, exemplify a third unusual claim of
quantum physicists: that in spite of its obvious partitions and
boundaries, the world in actuality is a seamless and inseparable
whole - a conclusion which Fritjof Capra develops in Tao of
Physics and connects with the teachings of certain oriental
mystics. Heitler accepts an observer-created reality but adds
that the act of ob servation also dissolves the boundary between
observer and observed: "The observer appears, as a necessary part
of the whole structure, and in his full capacity as a conscious
being. The separation of the world into an 'objective outside
reality' and 'us,' the self-conscious onlookers, can no longer be
maintained. Object and subject have become inseparable from each

Physicist David Bohm of London's Birkbeck College has especially
stressed the necessary wholeness of the quantum world: "One is
led to a new notion of unbroken wholeness which denies the
classical analyzability of the world into separately and
independently existing parts . . . The inseparable quantum
interconnectedness of the whole universe is the fundamental

Quantum wholeness is no mere replay of the old saw that
everything is connected to everything else, no twentieth-century
echo, for instance, of Newton's insight that gravity links each
particle to every other. All ordinary connection s-gravity, for
one-inevitably fall off with distance, thus conferring
overwhelming importance on nearby connections while distant
connections become irrelevant. Undoubtedly we are all connected
in unremarkable ways, but close connections carry the most
weight. Quantum wholenes s, on the other hand, is a fundamentally
new kind of togetherness, undiminished by spatial and temporal
separation. No casual hookup, this new quantum thing, but a true
mingling of distant beings that reaches across the galaxy as
forcefully as it reaches across the garden.

Quantum Reality #4 The many-worlds interpretation (Reality
consists of a steadily increasing number of parallel universes.)
Of all claims of the New Physics none is more outrageous than the
contention that myriads of universes are created upon the
occasion of each measurement act. For any situation in which
several different outcomes are possible (flipping a coiWritingn,
for instance), some physicists believe that all outcomes actually
occur. In order to accommodate different outcomes without
contradiction , entire new universes spring into being, identical
in every detail except for the single outcome that gave them
birth. In the case of a flipped coin, one universe contains a
coin that came up heads; another, a coin showing tails. Paul
Davies champions this claim, known as the many-worlds
interpretation, in his book Other Worlds. Science fiction writers
commonly invent parallel universes for the sake of a story. Now
quantum theory gives us good reason to take such st ories

Writing in Physics Today, a major magazine of the American
physics community, Bryce DeWitt describes his initial contact
with the manyworlds interpretation of quantum theory:

"I still recall vividly the shock I experienced on first
encountering this multiworld concept. The idea of 10 ^ 100+
slightly imperfect copies of oneself all constantly splitting
into further copies, which ultimately become unrecognizable, is
not easy to reconcile with common sense

Invented in 1957 by Hugh Everett, a Princeton graduate student,
the many-worlds interpretation is a latecomer to the New Physics
scene. DeSpite its bizarre conclusion, that innumerable parallel
universes each as real as our own actually exist, Everett's
many-worlds picture has gained Considerable support among quantum
theorists. Everett's proposal is particularly attractive to
theorists because it resolves, as we shall see, the Major
unsolved puzzle in quantum theory-the notorious quantum
measurement problem.

These four quantum realities should give you some feeling for the
diversity of claims regarding the world's ultimate nature. While
followers of Everett bear witness to uncountable numbers of
quantum worlds, plus more on the way, students of Bohr and
Heisenberg insist that there is not even one quantum world. In
their struggle to gain firm footing amidst the slippery bricks of
quantum fact, physicists have invented more realities than four.
Keep your wits about you as we press on.

Quantum Reality #5: Quantum logic (The World obeys a non-human
kind of reasoning.). Quantum logicians argue that the quantum
revolution goes so deep that replacing new concepts with old will
not suffice. To cope with the quantum facts we must scrap our
very mode of reasoning, in favor of a new quantum logic.

Logic is the skeleton of our body of knowledge. Logic spells out
how We use some of the shortest words in the language, words such
as and, or, and not The behavior of these little linguistic
connectors governs the way we talk about things, and structures,
in turn, the way we think about them.

For two thousand years, talk about logic (in the West) was cast
in the syllogistic mold devised by Aristotle. In the
mid-nineteenth century, George Boole, an Irish schoolteacher,
reduced logical statements to simple arithmetic by inventing an
artificial symbolic language which laid bare the logical bones of
ordinary language.

Boole's clear codification of the rules of reason jolted logic
out of the Middle Ages and launched the now-flourishing science
of mathematical logic. Outside the mathematical mainstream, a few
creative logicians amused themselves by constructing "crazy
logics" using rules other than Boole's, These deviant designs for
and/or/not, although mathematically consistent, were considered
mere curiosities since they seemed to fit no human pattern of

However, according to some New Physicists, one of these crazy
logics may be just what we need to make sense out of quantum
events. Listen to quantum theorist David Finkelstein calling for
mutiny against the rules of Boole:

"Einstein threw out the classical concept of time; Bohr throws
out the classical concept of truth . . . Our classical ideas of
logic are simply wrong in a basic practical way. The next step is
to learn to think in the right way, to learn to think

As an example of the usefulness of changing your mind rather than
changing your physics, quantum logicians point to Einstein's
general theory of relativity, which achieved in the realm of
geometry what they propose to do with logic.

Geometry is the science of points and lines. For two thousand
years only one geometry existed, its rules compiled by the Greek
mathematician Euclid in his bestselling book The Elements, which
once rivaled the Bible in popularity. The latest revival of
Euclid's Elements is your high school geometry book.

Coincident with Boole's pioneer work in logic, a few adventurous
mathematicians thought up "crazy geometries," games points and
lines could Play outside of Euclid's rules. Chief architect of
the New Geometry was the Russian Nicola] Lobachevski along with
German mathematicians Karl Gauss and Georg Riemann. Their
cockeyed geometries were regarded, like "on-Boolean logics, as
high mathematical play, clever business but out of touch with
reality. Euclidean geometry, as everyone knows, was the geometry,
being after all, nothing but common sense applied to triangles
and other geometric figures.

However, in 1916 Einstein proposed a radical new theory of
gravity that demolished the Euclidean monopoly. Einstein, in
opposition to Newton and everybody else, declared that gravity is
not a force but a curvature in space-time. Objects in free fall
are truly free and move in lines as straight as can be-that is,
lines straight by the standards of a gravity-warped geometry.
Einstein's theory has testable consequences: for instance the
deflection of starlight grazing the sun (confirmed by Eddington
in 1919) and the existence of black holes (according to
astrophysicists, in the constellation Cygnus, black hole Cygnus
X-1 resides). On Earth, where our common sense was formed,
gravity is weak and space almost Euclidean; out near X-1, high
school geometry flunks.

Einstein's lesson is plain to see, say the quantum logicians. The
question of the world's true geometry is not settled by common
sense but by experiment. Likewise with logic. For the rules of
right reason, look not inside your own head but get thee to a

Quantum Reality #6. Neorealism (The world is made of ordinary
objects.) An ordinary object is an entity which possesses
attributes of its own whether observed or not. With certain
exceptions (mirages, illusions, hallucinations), the world
outside seems populated with objectlike entities. The clarity
and ubiquity of ordinary reality has seduced a few physicists - I
call them neorealists - into imagining that this familiar kind of
reality can be extended into the atomic realm and beyond.
However, the unrem arkable and common-sense view that ordinary
objects are themselves made of objects is actually the blackest
heresy of establishment physics.

"Atoms are not things," says Heisenberg, one of the high priests
of the orthodox quantum faith, who likened neorealists to
believers in a flat earth. "There is no quantum world," warned
Bohr, the pope in Copenhagen; "there is only an abstract quantum

Neorealists, on the other hand, accuse the orthodox majority of
wallowing in empty formalism and obscuring the world's
simplicity with needless mystification. Instead they preach
return to a pure and more primitive faith. Chief among neorealist
rebels was Einstein, whose passion for realism pitted him
squarely against the quantum Orthodoxy: "The Heisenberg-Bohr
tranquilizing philosophy -- or religion? - is so delicately
contrived that, for the time being, it provides a gentle pillow
for the true believer from which he cannot very easily be
aroused. So let him lie there."

Despite their Neanderthal notions, no one could accuse
neorealists of ignorance concerning the principles of quantum
theory. Many of them were its founding fathers. Besides Einstein,
prominent neorealists include ,max Planck, whose discovery of the
constant of action sparked the quantum revolution; Erwin
Schrodinger, who devised the wave equation every quantum system
must obey; and Prince Louis de Broglie, who took quantum theory
seriously enough to predict the wave nature of matter.

De Broglie, a French aristocrat whose wartime involvement in
radio swerved his research from church history into physics,
fought for ordinary realism until 1928 when he converted to the
statistical interpretation (another name for Copenhagenism).
Twenty years later, however, influenced by David Bohm's
neorealist revival, de Broglie recanted and returned to the faith
of his youth:

"Those interested in the psychology of scientists may be curious
about the reasons for my unexpected return to discarded ideas . .
.. I am thinking not so much of my constant difficulties in
developing a statistical interpretation of wave mechanics, or
even of my secret hankering after Cartesian clarity in the midst
of the fog which seemed to envelop quantum physics [but the fact
that, as I examined the statistical picture) I could not help
being struck by the force of the objections to it and by a
certain o bscurity in the arguments in its defense . . . too
abstract . . . too schematic . . . I realized that I had been
seduced by the current fashion, and began to understand why I had
been so uneasy whenever I tried to give a lucid account of the
probability interpretation."

One of the physics community's few traditions is the custom of
celebrating the birthdays of its great men with a Festschrift - a
festival of papers. In 1982, Louis de Broglie, ninety years old
and gloriously unrepentant, was honored in this scholarly manner
by his scientific colleagues. Virtually every neorealist In the
world attended de Broglie's birthday party: there was no need to
send out for extra chairs.

Einstein, despite his numerous contributions to its success,
never accepted quantum theory into his heart and stubbornly held
to the oldfashioned belief that a realistic vision of the world
was compatible with the quantum facts. During the thirties
Einstein and Bohr engaged in an extended debate on the quantum
reality question. Bohr argued that as far a' reality was
concerned, quantum theory was a closed book. By 1928 Perceptive
physicists had already grasped the theory's essence. Quantum
theory would devel op in detail but its principles would not
change. Bohr's confidence has been upheld so far; fifty years
later, physicists still follow the old rules.

Quantum theory is complete as it stands, said Bohr. It has no
need of ordinary objects. Furthermore such objects cannot be
added without spoiling its predictive success. Ordinary objects
are not merely unnecessary luxuries in quantum theory, they are
strictly impossible.

Einstein's strategy was to confront Bohr with a series of thought
experiments which aimed to show that quantum theory had left
something out. He did not attempt to show that the theory was
wrong, but by demonstrating that it was incomplete Einstein hoped
to open the door for what he called "elements of reality."

As the winners tell the story, Bohr closed each of Einstein's
loopholes, but in the minds of each the debate was never settled.
Long after their arguments had ended, on the day Bohr died, his
blackboard contained a drawing of one of Einstein's thought
experiments. Bohr struggled with Einstein to the end.

Einstein too never gave up. In his autobiography he expresses his
final thoughts on the quantum reality question: "I still believe
in the possibility of a model Of reality - that is, of a theory
which represents things themselves and not merely the probability
of their occurrence."

Quantum Reality #7 (Consciousness creates reality.) Among
observercreated realists, a small faction asserts that only an
apparatus endowed with consciousness (even as you and 1) is
privileged to create reality. The one observer that counts is a
conscious observer. Denis Postle examines reality-creating
consciousness in Fabric of the Universe. I include this quantum
reality not only because it is so outlandish but because its
supporters are so Illustrious. Consciousness-created reality
adherents include ligh t/matter physicist Walter Heitler, already
cited in connection with undivided wholeness, Fritz London,
famous for his work on quantum liquids, Berkeley S-matrix
theorist Henry Pierce Stapp, Nobel laureate Eugene Wigner, and
world-class mathematician John von Neumann.

Hungarian-born von Neumann was the mathematical midwife for some
of the twentieth century's most exciting developments. Wherever
things were hottest, the brilliant von Neumann seemed to be there
lending a hand. In the late forties he invented the concept of
the stored-Program computer; today's computer scientists refer to
all computers from pocket calculators to giant IBMs as "von
Neumann machines." In collaboration with Oskar Morgenstern, von
Neumann laid the mathematical foundation for strategic game theo
ry, on which much government and corporate policy in both the
East and the West is based. He also worked on early robots and
helped develop the atom bomb. In 1936 with Harvard mathematician
Garrett Birkhoff he came up with the idea of quantum logic, but
von Neumann's biggest contribution to quantum reality research
was his book on quantum theory.

By the late twenties physicists had constructed a quantum theory
that met their daily needs: they possessed a rough mathematical
structure which organized the quantum facts. At that point von
Neumann entered the picture, putting physicists' crude theory
into rigorous form, settling quantum theory into an elegant
mathematical home called "Hilbert space" where it resides to this
day, and awarding the mathematician's sea] of approval to
physicists' fledgling theory.

In 1932 von Neumann set down his definitive vision of quantum
theory in a formidable tome entitled Die Mathematische Grundlagen
der Quantenmechanik. Our most general picture of quantum theory
is essentially the same as that outlined by von Neumann in Die
Crundlagen (The Foundations). Von Neumann's book is our quantum
bible. Like many other sacred texts, it is read by few, venerated
by many. Despite its importance it was not translated into
English until 1955.

Many of the issues I discuss in Quantum Reality were first made
public in von Neumann's book. For instance, there is von
Neumann's proof that if quantum theory is correct, the world
cannot be made of ordinary objects -Le., the neorealist
interpretation is logically impossible. Von Neumann posed, but
did not solve to everyone's satisfaction, the famous quantum
measurement problem which is the central issue of the quantum
reality question, In addition, von Neumann was the first to show
how quantum theory sugg ests an active role for the observer's
consciousness. Physical Objects would have no attributes, von
Neumann said, if a conscious observer were not watching them.

Von Neumann himself merely hinted at consciousness - created
reality in dark parables. His followers boldly took his arguments
to, their logical conclusion: if we accept von Neumann's version
of quantum theory, they say, a consciousness - created reality is
the inevitable outcome.

At the logical core of our most materialistic science we meet not
dead matter but our own lively selves. Eugene Wigner, von
Neumann's Princeton colleague and fellow Hungarian (they went to
the same high school in Budapest), comments on this ironic turn
of events: "It is not possible to formulate the laws of quantum
mechanics in a fully consistent way with out reference to the
consciousness . . . It will remain remarkable in whatever way our
future concepts may develop, that the very study of the external
w orld led to the conclusion that the content of the
consciousness is an ultimate reality."

Quantum Reality #8. The duplex world of Werner Heisenberg (The
world is twofold, consisting of potentials and actualities.)
Most physicists believe in the Copenhagen interpretation, which
states that there is no deep reality- QR # 1) and observation
creates reality QR # 2). What these two realities have in common
is the assertion that only phenomena are real; the world beneath
phenomena is not.

One question which this position immediately brings to mind is
this: "if observation creates reality, what does it create this
reality out of? Are phenomena created out of sheet nothingness or
out of some more substantial stuff?" Since the nature of
unmeasured reality is unobservable by definition, many physicists
dismiss such questions as meaningless on pragmatic grounds.

However, since it describes measured reality with perfect
exactness, quantum theory must contain some clues concerning the
raw material out of which phenomena spring. Perhaps using the
power of imagination we can peer beneath this theory and make
some shrewd guess about the background world against which our
familiar world of solid observations stands.

Werner Heisenberg was fully aware of the difficulties of
attempting to describe the subphenomenal world: "The problems of
language here are really serious," he said. "We wish to speak in
some way about the structure of the atoms and not only about the
'facts'-for instance, the water droplets in a cloud chamber. But
we cannot speak about the atoms in ordinary language." Although
he realized the difficulty in doing so, Heisenberg was one of the
few physicists to try to express what he saw when he looked into
quantum reality.

According to Heisenberg, there is no deep reality-nothing down
there that's real in the same sense as the phenomena] facts are
real. The unmeasured world is merely and achieves full reality
status during the act of observation: "In the experiments about
atomic events we have to do with things and facts, with phenomena
that are just as real as any phenomena in daily life. But the
atoms and the elementary particles themselves are not as real;
they form a world of potentialities or possibilities rather than
one of things or facts . . .

"The probability wave . - - means a tendency for something. It's
a quantitative version of the old concept of potentia in
Aristotle's philoso- phy. It introduces something standing in the
middle between the idea of an event and the actual event, a
strange kind of physical reality just in the middle between
possibility and reality."

Heisenberg's world of potentia is both less real and more real
than our own. It is less real because its inhabitants enjoy a
ghostly quantum lifestyle consisting of mere tendencies, not
actualities. On the other hand, the unmeasured world is more real
because it contains a wealth of coexistent possibilities, most of
which are contradictory. In Heisenberg's world a flipped coin can
show heads and tails at the same time, an eventuality impossible
in the actual world.

One of the inevitable facts of life is that all of our choices
are real choices. Taking one path means forsaking all others.
Ordinary human experience does not encompass simultaneous
contradictory events or multiple histories. For us, the world
possesses a singularity and concreteness apparently absent in the
atomic realm. Only one event at a time happens here; but that
event really happens.

The quantum world, on the other hand, is not a world of actual
events like our own but a world full of numerous unrealized
tendencies for action. These tendencies are continually on the
move, growing, merging, and dying according to exact laws of
motion discovered by Schrodinger and his colleagues. But despite
all this activity nothing ever actually happens there. Everything
remains strictly in the realm of possibility.

Heisenberg's two worlds are bridged by a special interaction
which physicists call a "measurement." During the magic
measurement act, one quantum possibility is singled out, abandons
its shadowy sisters, and surfaces in our ordinary world as an
actual event. Everything that happens in our World arises out of
possibilities prepared for in that other-the world of quantum
potentia. In turn, our world sets limits on how far crowds of
Potentia can roam. Because certain facts are actual, not
everything is possibl e in the quantum world. There is no deep
reality, no deep reality-as-we-know-it. Instead the unobserved
universe consists of possibilities, tendencies, urges. The
foundation of our everyday world, according to Heisenberg, is no
more substantial than a promise.

Physicists do not put forth these quantum realities as science
fiction Speculations concerning worlds that might have been, but
as serious pictures of the one world we actually live in: the
universe outside your door.

Since these quantum realities differ SO radically, one might
expect them to have radically different experimental
consequences. An astonishing feature of these eight quantum
realities, however, is that they are experimentally
indistinguishable. For all presently conceivable experiments,
each of these realities predicts exactly the same observable

The ancient philosophers faced a similar reality crisis. For
instance three ancient realities - 1. The World Tests on a
turtle's back; 2. The World is bottomlessly solid,- 3. The world
floats in an infinite ocean-led to identical consequences as far
as anyone could tell at that time.

Likewise modern physicists do not know how to determine
experimentally what kind of world they actually live in. However,
since "reality has consequences" we might hope that future
experiments, not bound by our current concepts of measurability,
will conclusively establish one or more of these bizarre pictures
as top-dog reality. At present, however, each of these quantum
realities must be regarded as a viable candidate for "the way the
world really is." They may, however, all be wrong.

Physicists' reality crisis is twofold: 1. There are too many of
these quantum realities; 2. All of them without exception are
preposterous, Some of these quantum realities are compatible with
one another. For instance QR # I (There is no deep reality) and
QR # 2 (Reality is observer-created) are in fact two halves of a
single consistent picture of the world called the Copenhagen
interpretation. But other quantum realities are contradictory: in
the many-worlds interpretation QR #4), for instance, the world's
deep reality consists of quadrillions of simultaneous universes,
each one as real as our own, which maximally mocks Bohr's
no-deep-reality claim. Not only can physicists not agree on a
single picture of what's really going on in the quantum World,
they are not even sure that the correct picture is on this list.

None of the conflicting options which physicists have proposed as
possible pictures of our home universe can be considered
ordinary. Even that quantum reality closest to old-fashioned
notions of how a world should behave -the neorealist contention
QR #6) that the world is made out of ordinary objects-contains,
as we shall see, the requirement that some of these objects move
faster than light, a feature that entails unusual consequences:
time travel and reversed causality, for example.

This book is a snapshot of the reality crisis in physics taken at
a moment when that crisis is not yet resolved. Nobody knows how
the world will seem one hundred years from now. It will probably
appear very different from what we now imagine. Here's what John
Wheeler, a physicist actively concerned with the nature of
quantum reality, imagines when he looks into the future:

"There may be no such thing as the 'glittering central mechanism
of the universe' to be seen behind a glass wall at the end of the
trail. Not machinery but magic may be the better description of
the treasure that is waiting."

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Old 12-22-2004, 01:49 PM
George Bajszar
Posts: n/a
Default Physicists Losing Their Grip??

> Got the following from somewhere. If you have time this holiday,

Especially when you are not in a state to egoisticize anything and
someone comes and punches you in the face. And then you go:
sure, go ahead and kill me like Slavek Krepelka, maybe that's the point.

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Old 12-22-2004, 02:36 PM
Bill Hobba
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Default Physicists Losing Their Grip??

"Consc" <[Only registered users see links. ]> wrote in message
news:1103719993.670932.218330@f14g2000cwb.googlegr oups.com...

I have not read the entire article - it looks long so I only may be able to
touch on a few points. So here goes.

Well one problem here is you will not see reality as discussed in physics
books (at least the ones I read) - it really is a philosophical issue.

And for good reason - as I said above it really is a philosophical issue.

That depends on a number of factors such as what interpretation of QM one
holds to and what one thinks 'reality' is.

They do - usually the outcomes of experiment.

Sure QM is out of the ordinary; but so are plenty of ideas in physics like
the existence of unseen fields that can transmit electrical influences in
antenna to other antenna on the other side of the world by bouncing of an
unseen ionosphere. QM is not alone is being out of the ordinary.

So we come ot the crux of the issue - QM has a number of differnt

Here we have another example of the philosophical flavor the whole thing.
There is a well known issue - what is called the collapse of the wave
function - the issue being exactly what can be counted as an observation and
what property does it posses that collapses a wave function. But linking
such to a problem with 'reality' is something else again - something not
necessarily suggested by the facts. Because we do not know exactly what
counts as an observation does not mean we in principle have a problem - it
means no more and no less than the theory in mute on the issue. However
recent investigations into the phenomena of decoherence has clarified a lot
about what is happening. For example primary state diffusion is a possible
answer and may in fact be experimentally verifiable -
[Only registered users see links. ]

It depends on the context Wheeler meant by 'real'. I take it to mean as
registered in controlled experiments.

I suggest only to those who want to read more into the evidence than is

Basically that seems to be the slant of the whole article - a desire to read
more into the facts than the evidence indicates. It might be good for
selling popular books on the subject (and I seem to recall buying and
reading a copy of Herbert's book ages ago) but not necessarily about being

For brevity rest snipped - not because it is rubbish but purely because I do
not think it would serve any purpose examining the same theme over and over
ie reading more into the facts than is warranted.

For a modern take on an interpretation that resolves most if not all the
issues see [Only registered users see links. ]


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Old 12-22-2004, 05:13 PM
Uncle Al
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Default Physicists Losing Their Grip??

Consc wrote:

Put it back.

[snip 600 lines]

Philosophy has no bearing on reality. If it did it would be
empirically falsified.

Uncle Al
[Only registered users see links. ]
(Toxic URL! Unsafe for children and most mammals)
[Only registered users see links. ]
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Old 12-22-2004, 05:28 PM
Posts: n/a
Default Physicists Losing Their Grip??

Uncle Al wrote:


Great, Al! That one's a keeper!
Tom Davidson
Richmond, VA

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Old 12-22-2004, 05:34 PM
Posts: n/a
Default Physicists Losing Their Grip??

"tadchem" <[Only registered users see links. ]> wrote in message
news:1103736509.785857.51750@z14g2000cwz.googlegro ups.com...

Keep this one, then.
"Thence we conclude that a balance-clock at the equator must go more
slowly, by a very small amount, than a precisely similar clock situated
at one of the poles under otherwise identical conditions."
Reference :
[Only registered users see links. ]

Time dilation has no bearing in reality and is empirically falsified.

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Old 12-22-2004, 06:58 PM
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Default Physicists Losing Their Grip??

Consc wrote:

Physics is not about reality and it NEVER has been. Physics is about
the invention of theories that work, because it can prove it can
accomplish that much.


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Old 12-22-2004, 07:08 PM
Mark Martin
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Default Physicists Losing Their Grip??

[Only registered users see links. ] wrote:


Bohr: "Physics isn't about how nature is. Physics is about what we can
say about nature."

-Mark Martin

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Old 12-22-2004, 07:20 PM
Posts: n/a
Default Physicists Losing Their Grip??

<[Only registered users see links. ]> wrote in message
news:1103741919.975296.294740@c13g2000cwb.googlegr oups.com...

How do we know they work if we're free to invent any data we want?

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Old 12-22-2004, 07:28 PM
Posts: n/a
Default Physicists Losing Their Grip??

We're not free to invent data, we're free to invent theories that fit
the data. Data is just data, it can verify one theory, or many
theories, depending on what that data is and what the theories are
trying to say.


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