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Quantum physics and reality

quantum-physics-and-reality


In this article, I invite you to dive into the strange rea­li­ty of the infi­ni­te­ly small. I have cho­sen to present quan­tum theo­ry from the point of view of the French phi­lo­so­pher of science Michel Bitbol. There are three rea­sons for this.

First of all, I find that Michel Bitbol’s approach gives mea­ning to a theo­ry full of para­doxes and in search of cohe­rence. For this rea­son, and second­ly, it creates a bridge with Nassim Haramein’s theo­ry (see the articles on The uni­fied field theo­ry). Thirdly, this approach takes on its full mea­ning when it is impos­sible for me to present the quan­tum theo­ry from Nassim Haramein’s point of view ! Indeed, he thinks that the cur­rent quan­tum theo­ry is irre­le­vant since sub­ato­mic par­ticles are not pro­per­ly consi­de­red.

According to him, the intel­li­gence of a new theo­ry can only emerge with the rea­li­za­tion that eve­ry­thing is conti­nuous­ly inter­ac­ting. And this is where Michel Bitbol’s approach is inter­es­ting. Because it shows that loo­king at phe­no­me­na from a rela­tio­nal pers­pec­tive sheds new light on the sup­po­sed quan­tum para­doxes. Let’s explore this toge­ther !

                

What is quantum theory ?

wave-function-psy

The fol­lo­wing infor­ma­tion come from a pre­sen­ta­tion that Michel Bitbol gave at the Mind and Life Institute in January 2013. First of all, he reminds us that « quan­tum theo­ry is only a mathe­ma­ti­cal tool for pre­dic­ting mea­su­re­ment results with some pro­ba­bi­li­ties » [1]. For this pre­dic­tion, two things are neces­sa­ry :

  • the ini­tial wave func­tion Ψ (psi), which cal­cu­lates the pro­ba­bi­li­ty of a mea­su­re­ment at time 0,
  • and an evo­lu­tion equa­tion of the func­tion Ψ –  the Schrödinger’s equa­tion – which allows to cal­cu­late this pro­ba­bi­li­ty at a later time.

This is what quan­tum theo­ry is, no more, no less : an effi­cient tool to represent an ampli­tude of pro­ba­bi­li­ties.

Now, the ques­tion is : what does this theo­ry tell us about rea­li­ty ? In fact, the world­view that goes with quan­tum theo­ry depends on the inter­pre­ta­tion of what the func­tion Ψ repre­sents.  

                

The reality is out there

When we look at the his­to­ry of quan­tum phy­sics, three types of ans­wers appear. The first says that Ψ des­cribes rea­li­ty. As Ψ is a wave func­tion, it fol­lows that rea­li­ty must be wave-like in nature. That was Erwin Schrodinger’s point of view. The second says that Ψ is not sup­po­sed to represent rea­li­ty. It is just a mathe­ma­ti­cal tool used to cal­cu­late the pro­ba­bi­li­ty of the pre­sence of par­ticles. And the third is a mixed concept, where Ψ does not ful­ly represent rea­li­ty. Then the par­ticles are accom­pa­nied by a wave that guides their way through the world. This was David Bohm’s point of view.

Michel Bitbol pro­poses a fourth ans­wer :

              

« Perhaps quan­tum theo­ry has revea­led to us that nature has no intrin­sic nature, per­haps this is THE true reve­la­tion of quan­tum mecha­nics. This is not a reve­la­tion about the nature of nature, but it is a reve­la­tion about the fact that per­haps nature has no intrin­sic nature. It’s a pos­si­bi­li­ty. » [2]

              

Thus, Michel Bitbol invites us to consi­der par­ticles not as if they had an intrin­sic exis­tence, but as if their exis­tence only depen­ded of their rela­tion­ship.

              

Phenomena appear dependently

As much as clas­si­cal phy­sics can work by assu­ming that bodies have a rea­li­ty and intrin­sic pro­per­ties – such as mass – this is not the case in quan­tum phy­sics. In fact, when it was deve­lo­ped at the begin­ning of the 20th cen­tu­ry, phy­si­cists natu­ral­ly tried to apply to it this way of thin­king.  But it is still a real chal­lenge today. Why ? Because par­ticles in quan­tum phy­sics have only pro­per­ties rela­ted to an act of obser­va­tion. Intrinsic pro­per­ties are repla­ced by rela­tio­nal cha­rac­te­ris­tics.

This is why Michel Bitbol think the grea­test tea­ching of quan­tum phy­sics is that things only exist in a depen­den­cy rela­tion­ship. In other words : phe­no­me­na appear depen­dent­ly. This rever­sal of pers­pec­tive is also appli­cable to cos­mo­lo­gi­cal objects. And it is very close to the Buddhist tea­chings, as Dalai Lama said in this pre­sen­ta­tion : « spea­king of inde­pendent exis­tence is mea­nin­gless. » [3].

In order to illus­trate this concept of infor­ma­tion rela­tion­ship, I pro­pose that we look at the expe­rience of Schrödinger’s cat.

                   

A simple explanation of Schrödinger’s cat experience

                

« If there is one thing to remem­ber [about quan­tum mecha­nics], it’s that the rea­li­ty of things is in inter­ac­tions, not in objects. » [4]

               

schrodinger-s-cat

The cat expe­riment is a thought expe­riment [5] conduc­ted by the Austrian phy­si­cist, phi­lo­so­pher and scien­ti­fic theo­rist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935. This vir­tual expe­riment  consists of enclo­sing a cat in a box contai­ning a device that kills the ani­mal as soon as it detects the disin­te­gra­tion of a radio­ac­tive mate­rial. This disin­te­gra­tion has a pro­ba­bi­li­ty of 1/2 of occur­ring and, from the out­side, it is not pos­sible to know if it takes place or not.

As unex­pec­ted as it may be, this expe­rience is quite easi­ly trans­po­sable to mine (read My sto­ry), through the fol­lo­wing cor­res­pon­dence :

  • The cat : me
  • The box : my apart­ment, inside which I would have been alone
  • The radio­ac­tive mate­rial : an aneu­rysm whose exis­tence would have been known

Note that as this aneu­rysm is loca­ted inside my skull, and not on the out­side as the mate­rial is in rela­tion to the cat, it creates an addi­tio­nal level of infor­ma­tion (like a frac­tal).  However, this doesn’t pena­lize the unders­tan­ding of the thought expe­rience.

  • 1/2 pro­ba­bi­li­ty of mate­rial disin­te­gra­tion : a 1‑in‑2 « chance » that the aneu­rysm will break
  • The detec­tion device : a hemor­rhage that would have been fatal
  • The out­side wit­ness : someone who would have known the pre­vious infor­ma­tion, without any way of kno­wing if the break-up would have hap­pe­ned or not.

                    

When quantum physics catches up with us

aneurysmThese data can be inter­pre­ted from two points of view. From the clas­si­cal point of view, there are only two pos­si­bi­li­ties :ruptured-aneurysm either the aneu­rysm breaks or it doesn’t. But from the point of view of quan­tum phy­sics, the fact that the wit­ness has no visi­bi­li­ty of what is going on inside my apart­ment – and a for­tio­ri inside my skull – creates a new concept cal­led super­po­si­tion.

It is a kind of new pos­si­bi­li­ty in which the aneu­rysm is consi­de­red in its two pos­sible states : to be rup­tu­red and not to be rup­tu­red. In other words, in this state of super­po­si­tion, the aneu­rysm is half rup­tu­red and half intact.

In the cat expe­riment, the radio­ac­tive mate­rial is half disin­te­gra­ted and half not disin­te­gra­ted. According to quan­tum super­po­si­tion theo­ry, if we fol­low the whole chain of events, we come to the strange conclu­sion that the cat must be half dead and half alive. Which from our point of view is total­ly absurd. Indeed, we just have to open the box to remove the ambi­gui­ty : the cat is either dead or alive.

Morality : we can­not accept for a cat the state of super­po­si­tion that we could accept for an atom. And for my part, accep­tance is even less obvious with regard to my own per­son than it is with regard to the cat ! Because I didn’t have an expe­rience of thought but a real expe­rience!!

                    

When the information relationship explains everything

However, if we conti­nue our rea­so­ning, we can see a contra­dic­tion bet­ween these two asser­tions :

  •  « before we open the box, the cat is half alive and half dead »
  •  « once we open the box, the cat is either alive or dead »

quantum-superposition

But if we think in terms of infor­ma­tion ins­tead of « state », the contra­dic­tion no lon­ger holds.  In fact, as Michel Bitbol points out, « the quan­tum state » does not express any­thing about the cat. Rather, it expresses a state of infor­ma­tion that comes from the rela­tion­ship bet­ween the cat and us. We sim­ply have more infor­ma­tion once we open the box. So, no contra­dic­tion, just the rela­tion­ship bet­ween the cat and us that chan­ged the moment we ope­ned the box, saw inside, and acces­sed a higher level of infor­ma­tion.

                    

The alternative route of information

Let’s resume the com­pa­ri­son bet­ween my expe­rience and that of the cat. In my case, there were two ele­ments that com­pli­ca­ted access to infor­ma­tion about my health :

  • the lack of know­ledge of the pre­sence of the aneu­rysm,
  • and conse­quent­ly the lack of know­ledge of the « aneu­rysm / brea­king / hemor­rhage » device, which was locked inside my skull.

However, des­pite this higher level of com­plexi­ty, I had two advan­tages over the cat, so to speak. First, the fact that Madeleine did not need to « open the box » to access the « aneu­rysm break-up » infor­ma­tion. And second­ly, the fact that this addi­tio­nal infor­ma­tion allo­wed her to inter­vene so that the blee­ding could be control­led.

These two advan­tages show on the one hand that direct access to infor­ma­tion is pos­sible – with still a bit of prac­tice ! – and does not depend on the frac­tal level of infor­ma­tion under consi­de­ra­tion. And on the other hand, they under­line Michel Bitbol’s words. For it was the infor­ma­tion rela­tion­ship that was esta­bli­shed bet­ween Madeleine and me at that time that was cru­cial.

                 


Key points

  • Understanding quan­tum phy­sics means thin­king about the exis­tence of par­ticles not in terms of their pro­per­ties but in terms of their inter­ac­tions.

  • The quan­tum state expresses a state of infor­ma­tion that relates to the rela­tion­ship bet­ween us and what we observe.

               

You can conti­nue your explo­ra­tion of quan­tum phy­sics by rea­ding the articles about wave/particle dua­li­ty and quan­tum inde­ter­mi­nism and entan­gle­ment. Spoiler : they can also be explai­ned sim­ply if approa­ched from a rela­tion­ship pers­pec­tive !

                 

                 

                 


 

Notes and references
    

[1] BITBOL Michel. (January 18, 2013). La méca­nique quan­tique : une théo­rie sans vue sur le monde ?  In : Fleurs du dhar­ma, Mind and Life XXVI : Esprit, cer­veau et matière, p.5, free trans­la­tion
[2] Ibid., free trans­la­tion
[3] HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA. (January 18, 2013). Dissiper les pro­prié­tés intrin­sèques et l’existence intrin­sèque, In : Fleurs du dhar­ma, Mind and Life XXVI – Esprit, cer­veau et matière, p.11, free trans­la­tion
[4] HENRY Marc. (January-February 2011), Interview with Marc Henry, In : Nexus n°72, p.57, free trans­la­tion
Marc Henry is an engi­neer, asso­ciate resear­cher at the CNRS, direc­tor of the solid state mole­cu­lar che­mis­try labo­ra­to­ry and pro­fes­sor of inor­ga­nic che­mis­try at the University of Strasbourg (France).
[5] A thought expe­riment consists of sol­ving a pro­blem using only the ima­gi­na­tion. This is not a demons­tra­tion, rather an illus­tra­tion.

                 




 

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