"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever is left, no matter how improbable, must be the truth."
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,The Sign of the Four [Sherlock Holmes]
Eliminating the impossible. Let us review some of the quantum mechanical findings we have discussed to this point, and try to draw some conclusions about the underlying processes.
First, we have seen that quantum mechanics' description of matter and energy as having a "dual nature" which is at once wave-like and particle-like is deeply unsatisfying on both sides of the supposed duality.
- There is the lack of any medium;
- the lack of any wavelike motion of crests and troughs (even through a hypothetical but nonexistent medium); and
-the lack of any conceivable mechanism for converting a spreading wave into a pointlike particle and back again.
- Whether the "particle" will have any property at all depends in some fundamental way on whether we need to know the property. (Double slit particles appear with a location property only if and when we arrange to detect them.)
- One property can be modified or even completely erased by gaining knowledge of another property.
In reviewing what we know of the behavior of all things at the quantum level, it seems we
must conclude that it is impossible that any of this represents anything substantively physical, or
having any independent existence at all. The most widely accepted interpretation of quantum
mechanics (the Copenhagen interpretation) appears to rule out the possibility of a physical
universe. Consider the following attempts to summarize the world view implied by this scientific
"[A survey of quantum theory] will demonstrate that the common sense view of the world, in terms of objects that really exist 'out there' independently of our observations, totally collapses in the face of the quantum factor."
"An independent reality, in the ordinary physical sense, can neither be ascribed to the phenomena nor to the agencies of observation."
"If one wants to give an accurate description of the elementary particle, the only thing which can be written down as description is a probability function. But then one sees that not even the quality of being belongs to what is described.
"[T]he complete description of nature at the atomic level was given by probability functions that referred, not to underlying microscopic space-time realities, but rather to the macroscopic objects of sense experience. The theoretical structure did not extend down and anchor itself on fundamental microscopic space-time realities. Instead it turned back and anchored itself in the concrete sense realities that form the basis of social life. . . . This pragmatic description is to be contrasted with descriptions that attempt to peer 'behind the scenes' and tell us what is 'really happening.'"
"According to Bohr, the fuzzy and nebulous world of the atom only sharpens into concrete reality when an observation is made. In the absence of an observation, the atom is a ghost. It only materializes when you look for it. And you can decide what to look for. Look for its location and you get an atom at a place. Look for its motion and you get an atom with a speed. But you can't have both. The reality that the observation sharpens into focus cannot be separated from the observer and his choice of measurement strategy."
If you were wrapped in a computer simulation -- that is, if you were a character in a video
game -- how would you know it? Would you ever be able to deduce your true situation? What
clues might you look for if you were to add this to the catalog of possibilities.
|Id. at 107.|
| N. Bohr, The Philosophical Writings of Niels Bohr, p. 54, quoted in T. J. McFarlane, Quantum
Mechanics and Reality |
|W. Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy, Harper, New York, 1962, at 70.|
|H. Stapp, "S-Matrix Interpretation of Quantum Theory," Physical Review, D3, 1971, 1303 ff, quoted in G. Zukav,The Dancing Wu Li Masters, at 64.|
|P.C.W. Davies, God & the New Physics (Touchstone Books, Simon & Schuster, New York 1983) at 103.|
The Reality Programby Ross Rhodes
The Notebook of Philosophy & Physics