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Harlan Swyers: on 10/8/12 at 12:07pm UTC, wrote Paul, Since we had a very good and long dialogue, I wanted to say thanks...

Harlan Swyers: on 10/8/12 at 12:04pm UTC, wrote To all commenters I wanted to say thank you for the comments, I apologize...

Dean Waters: on 10/5/12 at 17:52pm UTC, wrote Harlan, I did read your reply immediately, but I was probably interrupted...

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Yuri Danoyan: on 9/29/12 at 0:18am UTC, wrote Ludwig Wittgenstein answered: "The limits of my language mean the limits...

Hoang Hai: on 9/26/12 at 3:28am UTC, wrote Dear Harlan Swyers Unfortunately, can not agree with your essay: The...

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CATEGORY: Questioning the Foundations Essay Contest (2012) [back]
TOPIC: Against Objective Realism by Harlan Swyers [refresh]

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Author Harlan Swyers wrote on Aug. 31, 2012 @ 12:07 GMT
Essay Abstract

Despite its success, quantum mechanics still struggles to be fully accepted even within the physics community. Much of this is related to an attachment to a classical view of the world based on objectively real "billiard ball" particles as used by Boltzmann. It is argued that in order to make further progress in physics, classical objective reality must be replaced by quantum reality as the framework for understanding the universe.

Author Bio

Hal Swyers is a former officer in the United States Navy and graduate of the Naval Nuclear Power Program. He has a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Marquette University and will be completing a M.S. in Environmental Management from the University of Maryland University College in the fall. He has extensive programming and modeling and simulation experience and currently works as a Senior Operations Research Analyst.

Member Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Sep. 1, 2012 @ 01:32 GMT
Hal,

A very well-written essay. I agree with what you are saying, but I might differ a bit on the definition of "objective realism," although I think your arguments are perfectly watertight given the definition you use. For example, I would say that the quantum paradigm IS objective reality in the sense that any competent observer will observe the quantum-theoretic prediction, rather than the classical prediction, in experiments (such as the double-slit experiment). In this sense, the theory isn't observer-dependent.

Given your Coleman quote, I'd be interested to know your view of Feynman's sum-over-histories version of quantum theory. This seems to me the version most suited to quantum gravity; for instance, see my essay

On the Foundational Assumptions of Modern Physics

Take care,

Ben Dribus

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Author Harlan Swyers replied on Sep. 1, 2012 @ 14:29 GMT
Ben,

Thanks for the interest and the post! I am going to have to re-read your paper before I can any comments on it, but I will post them to your paper at the earlist opportunity.

As far as objective realism, we need to frame this question in terms of Einstein's apparent view on this subject, since this is at the center of EPR's paper (as highlighted in the first paragraphs of the...

view entire post

Author Harlan Swyers replied on Sep. 2, 2012 @ 03:38 GMT
One minor clarification, when I speak of waves extending throughout space, I am really discussing spatial dimensions as they are represented in some abstract space, like hilbert space, and not physical space. What we think of spacetime is really only where we build representations of what we observe.

Member Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 2, 2012 @ 07:35 GMT
Harlan,

Thanks for the detailed answers. I also responded to your remarks on my thread, without remembering at the time that you were the same person who wrote this essay.

I see that your definition and treatment of "objective reality" is based on aspects of the history of science that you are more familiar with than I am. I have a reasonably good physics education, but the history is something that tends to be neglected.

Regarding path integrals, I am not sure how general the duality you mention is. I tend to doubt the ultimate relevance of the continuum, as you know from reading my essay. I know how to derive an analogue of the canonical formulation very generally from the sum-over-histories approach, but I am not sure about the converse. Take care,

Ben

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Joe Fisher wrote on Sep. 1, 2012 @ 16:41 GMT
Dear Harlan Swyers,

I do beg your pardon. I know nothing about physics. In my essay Sequence Consequence, I have tried to convey what little I know of reality. I truly believe that one real appearing Universe can only be perpetually occurring in one real here for one real now while always fully captured in one real dimension once. Only one real 1 of anything can only exist once. I do not quite see how anyone could possibly gain a superior sense of reality than that of anybody else by dwelling unduly on seeming identical abstractions concerning the behavior of expensively created particles of matter.

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Author Harlan Swyers replied on Sep. 1, 2012 @ 18:18 GMT
Hi Joe, thanks for the post and the interest!

One thing I am certainly not is a multiple world interpretation (MWI) advocate, there is only one universe, but the point is that as one considers the universe in its entirety, and the relationships between observers, then what we begin to experience definite outcomes. This was the crux of what Mott and Coleman were getting at. Coleman goes so far as to say that our common experience is that we see a definite outcome to observations.

There is useful concept when thinking about these sorts of issues and that is the idea of mutual information as a measure of correlation between systems.

From wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_mutual_information

"In other words, if we assume the two variables x and y to be uncorrelated, mutual information is the discrepancy in uncertainty resulting from this (possibly erroneous) assumption."

I will discuss more as we go on, but in short, we have to think of what is we consider as "objectively real" as an emergent phenomena associated with the measure of mutual information.

Dean L. Waters wrote on Sep. 2, 2012 @ 05:16 GMT
Hal,

I really wish I could have used your essay as a reference in my own essay! There is something very 'natural' about quantum mechanics and Hilbert Spaces, but the 'ontological' view (to use an overly fancy, but appropriate phrase for ... what *really* is happening) can be scary to express when faced with an insistance that 'quantum behavior just doesn't *sound* real to me!'

There seems to be a lot 'going on behind the scenes' in our universe that is 'real' in the sense that it may be what holds things together, but the 'either classical reality exists' OR ' there is superluminal communication' seems mathematically and empirically a little too rigid.

Many of my thoughts about this ended up on the cutting room floor because I couldn't find a way to express those thoughts as elegantly as you have.

Well done!

Dean

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Author Harlan Swyers replied on Sep. 2, 2012 @ 13:06 GMT
Dean, thanks for the kind words!

Before getting started, I want to make sure I clarify that locality is a critical feature of quantum mechanics. On the face of it the choice expressed by Coleman of classical mechanics or non locality is directed at those who talk about quantum mechanics being non local in order to highlight that they are thinking about the problem wrong. It points out that...

view entire post

Dean L Waters replied on Oct. 5, 2012 @ 17:52 GMT
Harlan,

I did read your reply immediately, but I was probably interrupted by kids or other intrusions, and didn't realize until logging some final votes that I must not have clicked send on any response I had written.

I wanted to thank you for your detailed reply and clarification. I also reread your reply to Ben Dribus, and appreciate your historical perspective on such matters as very helpful. I understand now the distinction that you made that "it really is a nothing or everything choice between classical mechanics or quantum reality," and do feel that is an important distinction which often leads otherwise very logical and rational people to leap from strong mathematics to very sloppy ontological interpretations of the mathematics.

Good luck in the end game here and I hope to read more of your work in the future.

Dean

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Paul Reed wrote on Sep. 4, 2012 @ 15:52 GMT
Hal

I would agree with your start point that we have to dispense with the notion that the ‘basic constituent is a billiard ball’, but…

In attempting to identify what constitutes the ‘bottom line’ of physical reality, think on this. If one asserts that the elementary state is ‘something’ (be it different types and/or like a ‘billiard ball’ or whatever), then the question becomes: what constitutes physical reality as at any given point in time? Because that ‘something’ alters in its physical state (which might be manifest as spin, or some other changing attribute). Similarly, in respect of the notion of ‘wave’, the question is what physically constitutes this, and then the same conundrum applies? And furthermore, whatever exists (ie is fundamental), definitely does so. There is no form of ‘vagueness’ about it, physical existence cannot occur that way.

So the elementary physical state which constitutes physical reality cannot be the ‘things’ of themselves. It must relate to the physical state of the properties of the elementary ‘things’. The principle here being, as Joe says above, there can only be one physically existent state in any given sequence at a time.

Apologies for the non-technical language.

Paul

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Author Harlan Swyers replied on Sep. 5, 2012 @ 01:53 GMT
Hi Paul!

Thanks for the comment!

This gets into a very interesting discussion on what we mean by wave function. Definitions are sometimes fluid, which is why the particular definition of objective realism appeared in the essay. When we cross into physics we need something that can translate into definite concepts. What is interesting about the wave function is that in the traditional Copenhagen Interpretation, the wave function is understood to be the "state of knowledge" an observer has of the larger system. In quantum mechanics, states can be combined linearly, and any state can be decomposed into component basis states. This is understood as the principle of superposition.

I don't want to be ambiguous, I agree that at any instant there is only one observed state that an observer can be in, and there is only one state that has any *emergent* property that one would normally associate with what we see. In other words, I do not subscribe to the Many World Interpretation (MWI) that has become the favorite in popular shows on physics. However, a proper understanding of the theory tells us that any state can be decomposed into component basis states. This is general understood in terms of Fourier expansion of a given wave function.

Paul Reed replied on Sep. 5, 2012 @ 08:29 GMT
Hal

"This gets into a very interesting discussion on what we mean by wave function". Indeed it does, a question I have asked several times in the past year. But that is just a sub-set of a wider question, which is: whenever any concept is referred to, what is the corresponding physical reality?

"the wave function is understood to be the "state of knowledge" an observer has of the larger system". If this is so, then it is incorrect. What existed (ie was physical reality) as at any given point in time, did so. It also did so in a definite state. Physical existence does not occur with some form of indefiniteness. Any form of knowledge of that physically existent state is seperate, and probably inaccuate/incomplete for a whole range of practical reasons.

"any state can be decomposed into component basis states. This is understood as the principle of superposition". If a 'state' can be decomposed, then it is not a physically existent state, but a combination thereof. If anything is deemed to be physically existent, then it can only be in one physical form. That is, if alteration is involved then, by definition, what is being described involves more than one physically existent state. One needs to differentiate what occurs until one identifies what existed as at a point in time. Which is easy to say, but probably impossible to achieve.

"I agree that at any instant there is only one observed state that an observer can be in". It is not a case of the observer. It is a function of how physical reality occurs. Indeed, any form of sensing (observation being the most prominent) involves the receipt of physically existent phenomena which exist as a result of an interaction with what existed. Though I agree with your subsequent position.

Paul

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Anonymous replied on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 03:00 GMT
Thanks for your insight Paul!

If we first agree on the definition of concept I think we can get through some of these points. From wikipedia for concept:

"A concept is a general idea, or something conceived in the mind"

So I interpret your first question as: Whenever anything is conceived in the mind, what is the corresponding physical reality? This is very similar to...

view entire post

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Dean L Waters wrote on Sep. 7, 2012 @ 02:47 GMT
Hal,

Thank you for the clarification. If I understand clearly (and I am slightly sleep deprived, so confusion is eminently still possible), then 'classical mechanics' and 'objective reality' based on the viewpoint of a human observer both fail and that what we experience are emergent phenomena arising from local operations (what I might call inter-actions) on oscillators that do not have a...

view entire post

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Anonymous replied on Sep. 9, 2012 @ 19:47 GMT
Hi Dean, thanks!

I think the definitions of reality is fine by itself, if we pull up wikipedia for reality, the way the way its described is:

"reality is the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or might be imagined"

The key point is the issue of what we call objective. There are different definitions for the word objective and some of those...

view entire post

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Author Harlan Swyers replied on Sep. 9, 2012 @ 20:16 GMT
oops...Once again the above post is mine

Harlan

Hoang cao Hai wrote on Sep. 19, 2012 @ 14:34 GMT
Dear

Very interesting to see your essay.

Perhaps all of us are convinced that: the choice of yourself is right!That of course is reasonable.

So may be we should work together to let's the consider clearly defined for the basis foundations theoretical as the most challenging with intellectual of all of us.

Why we do not try to start with a real challenge is very close and are the focus of interest of the human science: it is a matter of mass and grain Higg boson of the standard model.

Knowledge and belief reasoning of you will to express an opinion on this matter:

You have think that: the Mass is the expression of the impact force to material - so no impact force, we do not feel the Higg boson - similar to the case of no weight outside the Earth's atmosphere.

Does there need to be a particle with mass for everything have volume? If so, then why the mass of everything change when moving from the Earth to the Moon? Higg boson is lighter by the Moon's gravity is weaker than of Earth?

The LHC particle accelerator used to "Smashed" until "Ejected" Higg boson, but why only when the "Smashed" can see it,and when off then not see it ?

Can be "locked" Higg particles? so when "released" if we do not force to it by any the Force, how to know that it is "out" or not?

You are should be boldly to give a definition of weight that you think is right for us to enjoy, or oppose my opinion.

Because in the process of research, the value of "failure" or "success" is the similar with science. The purpose of a correct theory be must is without any a wrong point ?

Glad to see from you comments soon,because still have too many of the same problems.

Regard !

Hải.Caohoàng of THE INCORRECT ASSUMPTIONS AND A CORRECT THEORY

August 23, 2012 - 11:51 GMT on this essay contest.

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Helmut Hansen wrote on Sep. 22, 2012 @ 10:07 GMT
Dear Hal,

I have read your paper with great interest. I think you are right. To understand the universe more deeply we have to abandon objective realism in favour of quantum reality.

One of the most strong theoretical foundation of objective realism is certainly special relativity which became inseparable part of quantum field theory.

I never believed in Einstein's position that quantum mechanics is an incomplete description of reality. Instead of that I was convinced that special relativity itself was somehow incomplete.

To identify this incompleteness of special relativity I applied quantum mechanical concepts, like the wave-particle-duality, to the axiomatic core of Einstein's theory.

Finally following idea came up: If light has two faces, a wave-like face and a particle-like face, it seems quite natural to assume, that the speed of light c has two faces as well.

If this concept of a »Dual Parametrization of c« is consciously applied to special relativity, we can easily recognize, that Einstein's theory is essentially incomplete, because only the wave-like face of c referenced by its second postulate is taken into account, whereas no reference to a particle-like face of c can be found.

This idea of a Dual Parametrization gives us - as conceived by me - the possibility to get a thorough understanding of quantum reality as you have called for at the end of your essay.

Good Luck for Your Paper

Kind Regards

Helmut

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Jonathan Kerr wrote on Sep. 22, 2012 @ 13:38 GMT
Hello Hal,

I enjoyed your essay, but I disagree. You say that "classical objective reality must be replaced by quantum reality as the framework for understanding the universe." I think that to assume either would be a major mistake.

What we have in front of us is an unsolved puzzle, or several. To me, by far the most common mistake in both physics and philosophy is to assume we have...

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Yuri Danoyan wrote on Sep. 22, 2012 @ 14:01 GMT
Objective realism is tautology.

Subjective realism is contradiction.

Man is doomed to always be in this framework.

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Paul Reed replied on Sep. 25, 2012 @ 08:29 GMT
Yuri

Man, or any sentient organism, is part of reality, it cannot be transcended. So the issue becomes what can constitute objective knowledge given this confine.

Paul

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Yuri Danoyan replied on Sep. 29, 2012 @ 00:18 GMT

"The limits of my language mean the limits of my world"

Tractatus logico-philosophicus, 5.6

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Hoang cao Hai wrote on Sep. 26, 2012 @ 03:28 GMT
Dear Harlan Swyers

Unfortunately, can not agree with your essay:

The Science is turning dreams into reality, rather than make the obvious becomes impracticable and dim as dreams.

Hope you do not therefore ignore the essay and my new theory.

Regard !

Hải.Caohoàng of THE INCORRECT ASSUMPTIONS AND A CORRECT THEORY

August 23, 2012 - 11:51 GMT on this essay contest.

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Sergey G Fedosin wrote on Oct. 4, 2012 @ 05:37 GMT
If you do not understand why your rating dropped down. As I found ratings in the contest are calculated in the next way. Suppose your rating is
$R_1$
and
$N_1$
was the quantity of people which gave you ratings. Then you have
$S_1=R_1 N_1$
of points. After it anyone give you
$dS$
of points so you have
$S_2=S_1+ dS$
of points and
$N_2=N_1+1$
is the common quantity of the people which gave you ratings. At the same time you will have
$S_2=R_2 N_2$
of points. From here, if you want to be R2 > R1 there must be:
$S_2/ N_2>S_1/ N_1$
or
$(S_1+ dS) / (N_1+1) >S_1/ N_1$
or
$dS >S_1/ N_1 =R_1$
In other words if you want to increase rating of anyone you must give him more points
$dS$
then the participant`s rating
$R_1$
was at the moment you rated him. From here it is seen that in the contest are special rules for ratings. And from here there are misunderstanding of some participants what is happened with their ratings. Moreover since community ratings are hided some participants do not sure how increase ratings of others and gives them maximum 10 points. But in the case the scale from 1 to 10 of points do not work, and some essays are overestimated and some essays are drop down. In my opinion it is a bad problem with this Contest rating process. I hope the FQXI community will change the rating process.

Sergey Fedosin

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Author Harlan Swyers wrote on Oct. 8, 2012 @ 12:04 GMT
To all commenters I wanted to say thank you for the comments, I apologize that I have not responded to every comment as other priorities took precedence. At any rate, physics should never be a popularity contest, but I do appreciate that time spent participating is important in the modern world of physics. Thanks again for the thoughtfulness of the comments, physics is a great adventure and this has been a worthwhile excursion!

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