Whatever Happened to Quantum Mechanics?

Houston, Texas (PressExposure) July 16, 2009 -- No one can deny that Quantum Mechanics is phenomenally successful, both in theory and practice. None of its predictions has ever failed. Its accuracy is unmatched. Its theories are behind at least a third of the American economy, including such products as the laser and the transistor. With all this good theory leading to all these good practical results, how is it that the implications of some of quantum's basic experiments are so completely off-the-wall? There is the experiment where an atom or other particle is put into what QM calls the "superposition state", where it exists simultaneously not only in two places, but also in two states, in its waveform and as a particle. How can something exist in two places at once? In such experiments the assertion is made that only observed properties of microscopic objects exist. As quantum cosmologist John Wheeler put it: "No microscopic property is a property until it is an observed property." Does this mean conscious observation? Does physical reality depend on man?

Then, there is the statement by Werner Heisenberg (the author of the epochal Principle of Indeterminacy): "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 or elementary particles themselves are not real; they form a world of potentialities or possibilities rather than of things or facts." But if the "phenomena in daily life" are real, and the atoms or elementary particles of which they consist are not real, at what point in the agglomeration of atoms does reality set in? Is reality a function of the number of atoms in an object? Finally, there is the statement that in some QM experiments, the results can be instantaneously transmitted to another location, no matter how far away: the other location might be in another galaxy. So much for the velocity of light being the absolute limit of speed of transmission of anything physical!

All these weird implications, for which no adequate explanations have been offered, are given the collective name of quantum enigma. Here is what the authors of a book of the same name, Professors Rosenblum and Kuttner, say about this: "The quantum enigma has challenged physicists for eight decades. Is it possible that crucial clues lie outside the expertise of physicists? Remarkably, the enigma can be presented full-blown without much physics background. Might someone unencumbered by years of training in the use of quantum theory have a new insight? After all, it was a child who pointed out that the emperor wore no clothes." This is a remarkable statement, after physics has been isolated from the general public for a hundred years because of the complexity and abstruseness of the mathematics involved. It brings back the possibility of understanding physics by the general public, which was last the case in the Newtonian age.

From what has been said, it is clear that concepts of reality are behind many of the problems encountered in the quantum enigma. Such philosophical concepts are only now intruding into physics, so that an outsider might indeed make a useful contribution, such as a recently published line of argument, based on a suggestion made by Alfred North Whitehead years ago, that physics should undertake a "philosophical criticism" of its own foundations. A simple, historical analysis showed that these foundation postulates all came from one man, Galileo Galilei, who defined the proper scientific method for physics. Reality concepts were central to his postulates. Only matter and motion could be the proper study of physics, because they were independent of man and, therefore, endowed with objective reality. Everything else perceived by man, specifically everything perceived through the senses of smell, touch, taste and hearing, was strictly barred from science because all such perceptions were hopelessly subjective.

Galileo's postulates influenced all subsequent thinkers right up to the present day. Unfortunately, Galileo ignored the fact that even matter and motion have to be observed, which involves the sense of sight and thus requires the presence of man, so that the whole process is just as subjective as all his other despised perceptions. Philosophically speaking, there can be no objective reality in the physical world of sense perception. Physics came to this same conclusion long before quantum mechanics had developed any enigmas. Thus, the first disconnect that must be tackled is the fact that most scientists, up to Einstein himself and even beyond, still "feel" the world as Galileo did. So does the general public. This view gives nature an independent reality and history, quite separate from us. It also makes matter the primary substance, from which everything else (like mankind) then evolved through purely natural, independent events. But if this is a mistake and our only reality is subjective, then natural objects are merely appearances with which we are intimately connected, not independent realities. John Wheeler put it this way: "Useful as it is under everyday circumstances to say that the world exists 'out there' independent of us, this view can no longer be upheld. There is a strange sense in which this is a 'participatory universe'." The consequences of this mistake are huge and not just for physics. The entire early period of our planet, before man's appearance on it, has to be rethought.

As this argument is developed in the publication mentioned, it becomes plain that objective reality must be reintroduced into physics, but not, as Galileo tried to do, by grafting it on to the physical world where it does not belong. The final conclusion of this argument is that a framework of both subjective and objective realities is required by modern physics to operate in. Physics already demands this expansion of its focus in the concept, for example, of a real but one-dimensional string particle, that is a particle that cannot be perceived in our world of ordinary sense perception but which must be real if it is to be thought of as the origin of matter. This same expanded framework of reference would also include bringing order to the apparent offenses against reason shown by quantum mechanics.

About Werner Thurau

Werner Thurau received a good technical education in England and developed an early fascination with physics, especially after that science breached the atomic frontier and started facing unprecedented new challenges in fields not usually considered as belonging to physics in the classical age of Newton. He began to see that the philosophical problem of reality became acute after early errors ascribed to Galileo and wrote a book called Galileo's Shadow, based on a line of argument first suggested by Alfred North Whitehead, that physics should undertake a "philosophical criticiscm" of its own foundations. His argument applies to many aspects of physics, including quantum mechanics. For more on this whole subject, please visit: [http://www.galileoshadow.com]

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Press Release Submitted On: July 15, 2009 at 6:05 pm
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