2021-09-05 16:54:47 UTC
According to some physicists there is no
reality beyond what is revealed by an experiment, an observation.
And then there is the ''many-worlds'' interpretion of
quantum theory, where each outcome of an experiment
exists, somewhere in a multiverse. In some universes
the Schrödinger's cat is alive, in others the cat is dead.
With cats living in superposition of being dead and alive,
it has been difficult to find firm ground to stand on and
move forward from. Indeed, when the science sounds like fiction,
it has been difficult to move on from the science, - and explore and
play with reality in say science fiction. Surely, there must be
some firm ground somewhere in order for us to move forward?
In his new book ''Helgoland'' physicist Carlo Rovelli tell us
that he will try to make sense of the quantum revolution for us.
Indeed, badly needed. But clearly dire straits to move into...
So, what does quantum theory really tell us? That we live
in a Multiverse, where the quantum wave-function splits on observation,
and takes us to just another part of the multiverse? Or
is the wave-function really a pilot-wave that guides atomic particles,
and makes them reveal their true hidden-variables?
Or should we ''just all shut up and calculate'' instead of thinking
too much about it?
Maybe the wave function is something as simple
as calculating tool hat gives us the probabilility that an electron
is somewhere, instead of somewhere else. And the whole dead-cat live-cat
is just madness dreamed up by physicists to confuse us all?
In the simple version, we just just don't know before we measure,
and there is nothing particular weird about that.
Still, it is true that in quantum experiments, like in the double-slit
experiment, photons can be in two paths, but if you look, only on one.
So, ''should we just shut up and calculate''?
Well, according to Rovelli, science is not just about making predictions,
it also something that gives us framework for thinking
Which sounds true, just having a great calculator (quantum theory)
without really understanding anything isn't much fun.
Rovelli's way out is to tell us that nothing has any properties
at all until it interacts with something else.
In his description of quantum theory the focus is that
we no longer see the physical world as a collection of objects, but
rather as a net of relations. When something does not interact with
something else, it has no physical properties.
In that sense a property of something,
is a bridge to something else.
In the end there are only facts relative to something else. Facts are
relative to one observer, but perhaps not to another observer.
(Rather unconvincingly) Rovelli then tell us this doen't lead
to total fragmentation of points of view by saying there
are still certain rules of the Universe, grammar, that allow us to
be able to observe the same things.
In need of framework. Rovelli lead us to Ernst Mach, and his ideas
that knowledge should be based only on what is observable, facts, which
gives us knowledge, which should then be expressed in the
the simplest and most economical abstract way.
We learn to organize the facts, better and better, each time we
interact with the world.
As an aside, Rovelli tell us that, politically, this way of looking
at the world didn't go down well
with Lenin. Lenin apparently thought such a line of reasoning would
reduce reality to the content of the mind, a solipsisic world
where there is only sensations. Instead Lenin preferred a material
world, where there are objects, concrete and knowable. The world should
exist beyond our minds. Real, out there.
In Machs thinking we should not teach the world how it ought to be,
but we should instead listen to it, in order to figure out how it really is.
And echo of this is found in one of the many Bohr - Einstein
debates, where Einstein tell us that ''God does not play dice''. And
Bohr responds by saying ''Stop telling God what to do''. I.e. natue has
more imagination that we humans have, we should listen, and not make up
idealistic ideas about what ''it'' really is.
All, in all, leading us to a sort of ''non-framework'' as a famework?
In Rovellis thinking, it is the history and experience we have with
the world that give our thoughts ''intentionality'', meaning.
We are not just living in our own solipsisic world, where
we there is no right or wrong. Indeed, evolution would not have
allowed us to be here, if we didn't care about the outside world.
Still, what we can only see out there what we expect, corrected by what
we can grasp. Relevant new input is what contradicts our expectations.
But according to Rovelli the framework is that we observe and make
experiments, and take it from there. Logically. Rovelli tell us that
quantum theory can't help us understand the mind - and then - like most
physicists - he then goes on to tell us that the quantum still has
something to teach us about the mind... well, well...
Instead of thinking of mass and motion, we should, according
to Rovelli, think of relations. Even in a fine grain of salt.
And that would then presumably make it easier for us to see minds coming
Well, well, perhaps. Still, that line of reasoning that should take us
(easily) from theories about the very small to theories about the mind,
are of course big ''leaps of faith'' which is
sort of amusing coming from Rovelli, when he has just explained to us
that ''non-frameworks'' are better tools moving forward.
Instead he goes on to tell us that ''pan-psychism'' is absurd.
To him it is like saying that a bicycle is made of atoms,
and therefore each atom must be a proto-cyclist.
Funny, and totally absurd, no-one has ever said that.
In e.g. Integrated Information Theory it makes sense to say that
a little integration gives ''a little' experience, where much
integration gives more.
Not saying IIT is true or proven, but the idea that relations
is the right path towards minds is no improvement over saying that it
is integrated information. Yes, sure, but how?
Indeed, we are all desperately trying to come up with
a framework that will help us to understand.
Noone likes to "shut up and calculate''. And yes, sure, Schrodingers
wave function can go from being a probability calculator to a multiverse
theory in the process.
For Rovelli truths lies in the idea that everything
exists solely in the way it affects something else.
Just as relations make up the ''I'', in society, culture etc.
Which all sounds true, but we would actually like to know
how space-time emerges from ''deeper'' layers, currently beyond what we
can understand, just as we like to know how ''relations'' between
''grains of sand'' make minds. Just saying that it is better
way forward than othrr proposals isn't really all that helpful.
Indeed, there is a lot more to know out there.
And a lot more to speculate about, and write about.
Good ideas badly needed, now, more than ever.
And, even if we don't have much of a stepping stone to begin the quest
from, but well, there is something. The basic ''observation''.
Perhaps some new ideas will show up here in the
21st century... perhaps.
More to ponder:
by Carlo Rovelli.