Quantum Surrender of Science
Through such fundamental scientific principles as reductionism, complex systems have become nothing more than the sum of their parts where pre-existing local hidden variables reside that autonomously determine the outcome of all measurements as independent of the subjects who study them. From the principle of locality, where objects are only influenced directly by their immediate surroundings, to their counterfactual definiteness (CFD) in which every possible measurement (in practice or theory) yields a single definite result, we have built a predictable world that behaves deterministically via prior causal occurrences. Such theories have become the truths we live by right down to Albert Einstein’s “God does not play dice”; a cornerstone of scientific thought that affirms physical theories must be deterministic to be complete. Until recently, scientific principles as these were allegedly absolute maxims of our world view. That is until Quantum Physics, more popularly known as Quantum Mechanics, was discovered.
Science likes to laud how Quantum Mechanics was discovered, as if it were a building block atop classical scientific principles. But, as you will see, it turned many of scientific so-called truths that are still being taught in classrooms today on their head.
Through Quantum Mechanics, emergentism has trumped reductionism, finding that “strong interaction between units produce new phenomena in higher levels that cannot be accounted for solely by reductionism.” Emergent phenomenon was discovered by physicist Erwin Schrödinger in which enantiomer molecules, “made up of precisely the same atoms, in precisely the same arrangement, have different properties when interacting with other molecules.” Simply put, in the words of Nobel physicist Philip W. Anderson, to the chagrin of Occam, “more is different”.
Bell’s Theorem, developed by physicist John S. Bell, aptly demonstrated that “no physical theory of local hidden variables can ever reproduce all of the predictions of quantum mechanics”, and no algorithm could avoid nonlocalities, concluding that determinism/CFD and local hidden variables cannot both be true. Bell’s Inequalities went on to show that quantum mechanically entangled particles “have been shown to influence each other when physically separated by 18 km, thus the principle of locality is false.” Bell’s Theorem empirically proved that the world is in fact nonlocal, that is, as recounted in New Scientist, “things can influence one another instantaneously regardless of how much space stretches between them, violating Einstein’s (Special Relativity) insistence that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light”, which depends on the principle of locality to work. This means, as recounted in the infamous EPR paradox, when “the spin of one particle is measured, the spin of the other particle is now instantaneously known.” Moreover, “the most discomforting aspect of this paradox is that the effect is instantaneous so that something that happens in one galaxy could cause an instantaneous change in another galaxy.”
The Heisenberg uncertainty principle further demonstrated that the fundamental constituents of matter behave indeterministically, and with complementarity, as in the case of ecological and biological phenomena where the very act of being observed or measured changes the results. One good example can be found when trying to measure features of an electron; “The more precisely one can localize the position of an electron along an axis, the more imprecise becomes the ability to determine its linear momentum along this axis and vice-versa.” Complementarity describes how the physical properties exist in pairs and how the manifestation of these properties is driven by trade-offs between these complementary pairs, which are not fixed, thus indeterministic. In physics, these different states of “known” and “unknown” are captured by the concept of the wavefunction, which represents the probability distribution that any given system will be in any of the possible states (unknown), and the particle, which represents the singular resulting state after a probability comes to fruition (known). When the position of a wave is defined, concentrated at one point, it in turn has an indefinite wavelength. On the flip-side, when a wavelength is fixed, its oscillation, hence position, becomes indefinite. Each property, once they have interacted, becomes entangled with its relative state.
The bizarreness of the phenomenon only grows deeper. A study, called the double-slit experiment, demonstrated that these waves and particles are in actuality inseparable, expanding the complementarity principle to what is called wave–particle duality. The experiment identified that that the electron properties can switch back and forth between being a wavefunction probability and being a precisely measured particle, and although both views can never be viewed at the same time, the electron in reality is both a wave and a particle simultaneously, and it is merely the act of measurement that toggles the view. The wave can be likened if you were standing at a fork in a road, and as you walk down one of the two paths, the path you walk down has its probability distribution narrowed as it becomes detailed and known (particle), while the path you left behind has its probability distribution widen as it gets further away and becomes less known (wave). But, moreover, both roads still remain as both the wave and the particle, for it is only your conscious interaction with one of the roads that drives your perception of the state change.
This interaction-induced phenomenon is called the observer effect (as described in the Wigner’s Friend analogy, an extension of the Schrödinger’s Cat thought experiment), and/or the measurement problem, depending on if the interpretation is based on “consciousness causes collapse” or “measurement causes collapse”. According to the Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, after the wave is measured, it coalesces into a single physical particle/outcome through what is called the wavefunction collapse (i.e. – collapse of the wave probabilities into a single known particle).Flipping a coin can be used as an analogy. As the coin is flipped into the air the wavefunction contains all probabilities (heads, tails, or other), and higher probabilities are just wider openings for the wave to enter and “become” the particle of a single reality.
Where the Copenhagen interpretation presumes the wavefunction collapses into a single reality, the Many Worlds interpretation conversely denies the wavefunction collapse through a theory that assumes that the wave is sustained, containing all outcomes in parallel worlds, where the act of measurement generates a “splitting” or “branching” that merely hones in on one of those worlds. In other words the Copenhagen interpretation views the wave as unrealized probabilities that ultimately result in a single derived reality while the Many Worlds interpretation views the wave not as probabilities, but actualities simultaneously existing in parallel worlds where the act of conscious observation or measurement drives an irreversible difference between which branch will be perceived, while the other branches will be perceived by other observers in alternate worlds. This is described in Parallel Universes, by Fred Alan Wolfe, as “the wave takes advantage of each opening possibility for it to flow into…just as an ocean wave splits into parts, flowing into different channels or eddies.” Yet, when one attempts to measure what is happening, “the different possibilities are not waves spilling over jetties and around barriers or piers, they are realities in different worlds” where “each world appears and disappears recombining back into one world each time a subatomic particle interacts with something.”
According to the Schrödinger Equation, there is a “linear superposition of different states, but actual measurements always find the physical system in a definite state”, but because the state of the observers is indefinite, the wavefunction spreads out into an ever larger superposition of parallel worlds. Any single observer can be likened to a multitude of observers witnessing different results, yet each observer never feels the superposition, only the single result that they have manifested, hence believing there is only one firm result in a static reality. This superposition of parallel worlds, hence parallel consciousness, is now giving rise to the idea that certain psychological disorders, such as schizophrenia, have their answers in the quantum realm of explanation.
The double-slit experiment appears to support the Many Worlds interpretation. When a wave of particles (prior to being measured) was forced through two slits in a wall (to be measured on an adjacent landing wall), the wave’s apparent “choice” between the two slits appeared to cause the wave to interfere with itself and narrow its probability to the entrance of a one slit at a time, where the quantity of particles hitting the adjacent landing wall were, unexpectedly, no greater in quantity than when the wave was forced through a single slit in the wall. The results were wrongly predicted to be additive, as the more slits, the more particles there are that should have transferred through the slits to be measured on the adjacent wall. This gave rise to the notion that if these probabilities can literally affect one another, then they must be manifest in some way and be more than mere probabilities. They are thought to be akin to parallel realities that exist simultaneously, while only one particle (outcome) within the wave would exist in any one world, explaining why the dual-wave only yields one particle from each point where the wave is measured. It appears that, if Quantum theory applies to all reality, “other worlds are as real as ours”, so admits Stephen Hawking.Unlike classical systems of thought, in quantum mechanics there is no naive way of identifying the true state of the world. As stated by Wolfe in Parallel Universes, if an electron were to follow the physics of Sir Isaac Newton and James Clerk Maxwell, “it would never be able to leave the atom, nor would it ever be able to emit radiation, as it does when a light bulb is turned on.” Contrary to classical interpretations of science, Quantum Mechanics has demonstrated that the non-existent affects the existent and vice versa, that particles don’t exist until you measure them, that they can be in more than one place at a time, that the very act of consciously interacting with them in fact changes their reality, and that they can affect one another when separated by great distances. All-in-all, Quantum Physics has turned science on its head and defied just about every immutable truth Classic Physics proclaimed, at least on the sub-atomic level. Perhaps it pays to pay attention to the details?