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Juan Ramón González Álvarez: on 2/28/18 at 20:11pm UTC, wrote Universe is a whole entity and we describe it as consisting of isolated...

Luca Valeri: on 2/27/18 at 10:28am UTC, wrote Here is a reply of mine on a comment William C. McHarris made in his blog...

Gordon Watson: on 2/24/18 at 2:07am UTC, wrote Luca, as mentioned above: here's some background on my theory; Gordon. ...

Peter Jackson: on 2/23/18 at 19:20pm UTC, wrote Luca, Thanks for your note on mine. Just to confirm I returned with your...

Gordon Watson: on 2/22/18 at 21:24pm UTC, wrote Luca, from my essay-thread, in reply to your helpful comments: Gordon. ...

Luca Valeri: on 2/22/18 at 13:28pm UTC, wrote Hi Kamal Thanks for reading my essay. Just to clarify: The EPR reality...

Anonymous: on 2/22/18 at 12:14pm UTC, wrote Dear Luca Valeri Zimmermann. I have read your Essay wherein you briefly...

Steven Andresen: on 2/22/18 at 6:39am UTC, wrote Dear Luca If you are looking for another essay to read and rate in the...


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FQXi FORUM
August 25, 2019

CATEGORY: FQXi Essay Contest - Spring, 2017 [back]
TOPIC: The quantum sheep - In defence of a positivist view on physics by Luca Valeri [refresh]
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Author Luca Valeri wrote on Feb. 2, 2018 @ 18:47 GMT
Essay Abstract

As a realist I imagine the world consisting of fundamental things with properties, that are independent of whether they are observed or not. In this essay I try to defend a positivist view, where properties only exist relative to an observer. The observer must not be a human being. I will explore a toy model, where a sheep is in a box and I want to find out what color the sheep has by giving the sheep different flowers to eat. The flowers play the role of an elementary measurement device. I will ask the question: How must the laws look like in order to make such measurement successful? The laws in our model shall be constrained by symmetries. Under such constrains not all properties are observable as we will see. I also discuss the quantum case, where one can either measure the relative color or the relative frequencies of changing colors. The objectivity of such a relative measurement is questioned by Wigner's friend type of measurements. I solve this problem by introducing a physical postulate, that the interaction cannot be switched off. In this case the measurement can only be successful, when the environment is in a special state, where it does not get entangled with sheep-flower system. This means that the possibility of defining physical concepts depends on the environment and finally on the state of the universe. In course of time the cosmological condition change and thus the conditions under which physical concepts can be defined. The idea that physical concepts can change means that, what is fundamental changes with time. I will show that despite of the second law of thermodynamics, the number of possible concepts grow over time and speculate how this is connected to the possibility of free will.

Author Bio

Master in physics. Interested since ever in fundational questions of physics.

Download Essay PDF File

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Juan Ramón González Álvarez wrote on Feb. 7, 2018 @ 20:08 GMT
"In this essay I try to defend a positivist view, where properties only exist relative to an observer." I disagree because this would imply that the universe as a whole does not have properties.

"The laws of in Newtonian mechanics are invariant under space translation. The position changes under this transformation. So absolute positions are not observable (=do not exist?) if the world is...

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Author Luca Valeri replied on Feb. 8, 2018 @ 00:06 GMT
Hi Juan

Thanks for your comments and for carefully reading my essay. I'm really glad and thankful for that. So I have the chance to clarify things.

You say: "...this would imply that the universe as a whole does not have properties."

Not necessarily. The question here is a bit, what concepts do we use, to describe the universe. Usually we do it by imaging the universe...

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Juan Ramón González Álvarez replied on Feb. 28, 2018 @ 20:11 GMT
Universe is a whole entity and we describe it as consisting of isolated systems only is special situations. An electron can be FAPP be considered an isolated system at both initial and final states of CERN experiments. An electron cannot be considered an isolated system in quantum chemistry of molecules.

Absolute positions X are positions of objects. To get their values we compare the position of the object with a reference during measurement. Then we express the position of the object as X = a Xref.

Measurements are unrelated to human observers. It isn't needed that we read out some numbers or marks from a measurement apparatus. E.g. a machine can 'read' concentrations of a pollutant on air and activate an alarm when concentration exceeds certain limits. What we need is the measurement apparatus to work as a classical system just to provide concrete readings of properties: as Bohr and others emphasized, the measurement apparatus cannot be described by the Schrödinger equation.

Entanglement doesn't introduce an exchange of information between the two systems. No information is being passed from one system to other. Entanglement means there is no more two systems, but only one: a composite system.

The problem is not on the non-unitarity, but the dynamics of the open subsystem is no longer autonomous: it depends on the state of the total composite system.

Force-free systems aren't a requirement to describe physical properties of a system. Distances and velocities are defined for both isolated and non-isolated systems. The Hamiltonian equation dx/dt = (@H/@p) is valid independently if the system is subject to forces or not. In fact it has to be obligatory valid for non-isolated systems, because the pair of equations dx/dt = (@H/@p) and dp/dt = -(@H/@x) have to coexist to define the dynamical evolution in phase space.

Mass is well-defined in non Lorentz-invariant models.

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Georgina Woodward wrote on Feb. 11, 2018 @ 03:18 GMT
Hi Lucas,

as I see it analogies and thought experiments can be used to try to understand,and convey to others, what is happening or might be happening; by providing easily visualized or conceptualized substitutes. Rather than being helpful I find your sheep and flowers add to the confusion.

Already the colour that the sheep can be seen to be is a sensory product. It is not a property...

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Author Luca Valeri replied on Feb. 11, 2018 @ 14:49 GMT
Dear Georgina,

I appreciate your critical feedback. And it might be true, that I overcomplicated things. I chose the simple and totally fictional model, that what a sheep is eating depends on its color, because that allowed to me to ask, what would change in our knowledge about the color, if the interactions changes. It is a petty, that this prevented you to discuss the interesting consequences of my interpretation:

1. relative to the observational setting, the phases are not observable. (the density matrix is reduced).

2. This reduction of the density matrix is not subjective but objective.

3. The object measurement system must be separable from the environment in order to give a successful measurement in contrast to the decoherence interpretation.

4. The EPR reality criteria has to be given up

5. The fundamental concepts and thus the laws depend on the measurement setting

I do not play the 'devils advocate'. I really belief some sort of positivism has to be accepted. But this is not without problem. I belief that how we usually think about reality is a realistic one. I suspect from several posts of yours, that you endorse some kind of disturbance view on quantum mechanics. But that view is still a realistic one. I try to explore, how we could imagine the world be giving up some of our realistic prejudice, without becoming totally solipsistic.

I did not wanted to enter the discussion what qualias are. Certainly the color white has two meanings. As subjective impression and as objective property of the sheep. I discuss only the second one. Maybe you find the time to reread the essay to discuss the more interesting points, that the essay aimed at.

Best Regards,

Luca

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Georgina Woodward replied on Feb. 11, 2018 @ 23:01 GMT
Hi Luca, sorry for misspelling your name earlier.

here's a question: "The number of white or black flowers eaten by the sheep per time unit tells us, how many black or white sheep are in the box. Suppose at beginning there where only white sheep. With time passing the sheep change color randomly" luca. But it was earlier established that white sheep prefer white flowers. Isn't it going to happen that the sheep will eat all of the white flowers, reinforcing their white colour. Leaving black flowers. So then out of necessity eventually the black will be eaten -giving fluctuation of wool shade back and forth between white and black not random change?

Your experiment could be done with red factor canaries. Red factor canaries fed red factor food are red. However, red factor canaries that are fed ordinary canary food become yellow. So there can be two different populations yellow red factor and red red factor. They could be trained using positive or negative reinforcement to prefer one or the other kind of food. If the food is also treated to make the kinds distinguishable. The colour change isn't quick but would take time for the birds to molt and grow new feathers. The appearance of the bird informs of its diet but is also due to its diet.

Kind regards Georgina

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Author Luca Valeri replied on Feb. 12, 2018 @ 00:18 GMT
Hi Georgina,

Again you are missing the point here. White sheep do not change their color in reality. Nor do they prefer black sheep to make families. Ehrenfest's Urn model is just a model, that shows, that if you are in a low entropy state, with great probability you will end up in a mixed state. This is the second law of thermodynamics. The point I want to make, is that if you introduce an intermediate level, the conceptual richness increases. New structures emerges, that have not been possible in the low entropy state.

Now if the fundamental concepts depend on the possibility of being observed. If the microstructure depends on the macrostructures: could it be that the laws change depending on the conceptual capacity to describe these microstructures?

Luca

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Anonymous wrote on Feb. 11, 2018 @ 22:53 GMT
Hi Lucas,

The differentiation of realist and positivist is fundamental as per the Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy.

To tried to get a background on realism and positivism. I did a Google search on realism and positivism. Oh my God! It when on and on, and I was not really capable of understanding a lot of it. I did however scan your essay. Here are my thoughts:

1. You know a lot more of QM than I do.

2. Is the moon there when you are not looking?

Realist: Yes

Positivist: No

Neo Positivist: Maybe

Niels Bohr: It depends

Albert Einstein: How can you even ask such a question!

Quantum Mechanic: Objective states do not exist prior to an act of measurement.

Mad Max: Realism, Positivism, Gravitism... who cares! it is just more information.

Sheep: Baaaa

Flowers: ?

Thanks for your essay. It made me think and opened a world I did not know existed.

Don Limuti

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Author Luca Valeri replied on Feb. 12, 2018 @ 00:23 GMT
Hi Don,

Thanks, you found the way to my essay.

What does moon mean, if it would not be observable at all? Would you still claim it exists?

Luca

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Georgina Woodward wrote on Feb. 11, 2018 @ 23:13 GMT
Don,

the question is not specific enough. It could refer to the independently existing material object. Or the sensory product.

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Georgina Woodward replied on Feb. 12, 2018 @ 04:24 GMT
Luca, even if not observable a prediction could be made of the moon's material existence from observed tidal forces. It does not need to be seen to have gravitational effect on the oceans.

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Author Luca Valeri wrote on Feb. 12, 2018 @ 06:12 GMT
If it has gravitational effects on the oceans it is observable. But here lies the core of the realism positivism debate. If only coarse grained effects are operational accessible, does the moon have other hidden properties?

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Georgina Woodward replied on Feb. 12, 2018 @ 18:33 GMT
I think the question of does the moon have other hidden properties is a bit like does the tree that falls when no one is listening make a sound? It is a question of whether independent qualities of something or some happening are being considered, beables, or attributes or associated facts gleaned from the realtionship of the observer with sources of information, including effects on the environment, measurables.

Are there vibrations from meteor impacts on the moon surface? I'd say yes and that could be detected with sensors on the surface. Impact craters tell us there are impacts, so the vibration of the impacts is a realistic assumption that can be made into measurables with the appropriate equipment and mission to place it on the surface. I'd say other physics is happening to the beables on the moon, such as due to solar radiation, that could also be investigated with apparatus allowing collection of measurables.

Like hide and seek, whether something is hidden depends on whether you are looking for it, firstly. As the word hidden is associated with seeking. Secondly do we have the capability to conceptualize its existence, and initiate seeking? There are differences between potential knowns, 'hidden' yet find-able, or potentially find-able with development of the technology, or the desire to seek, not find-able because it is unknown and unconsidered, so there is no search and not find-able because it isn't there to be found. Like the realist presumed hidden cause of a result, when that result is only actualized by the measurement process.

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Satyavarapu Naga Parameswara Gupta wrote on Feb. 14, 2018 @ 01:01 GMT
Hi Prof Luca Valeri

wonderful OP...."As a realist I imagine the world consisting of fundamental things with properties, that are independent of whether they are observed or not. In this essay I try to defend a positivist view, where properties only exist relative to an observer. The observer must not be a human being. I will explore a toy model, where a sheep is in a box and I want to find...

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Author Luca Valeri replied on Feb. 14, 2018 @ 02:08 GMT
Hi snp,

I won't read your essay, because you did not read mine but just post in every blog the same comment with a citation of the abstract. Seems your are not interested in a discussion.

Also I don't belief you will ever read this reply.

Luca

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Peter Jackson wrote on Feb. 17, 2018 @ 20:35 GMT
Luca,

Interesting, fundamental and nicely written. But who let the sheep out of the box and into the field!?

I confess at times, (and as it's getting late and I've been on the Bollinger), counting your sheep I often lost touch, as Georgina seemed to. I think I finally grasped it all. I still think Bohr's and the positive formulation flawed. I agree NO retro causality, but I then prefer Bells choice to the Lamb (or mutton?); A different starter, then classical beables with scattered fermions, finished with an Eton mess.

You didn't claim you understood my essay so I'll explain. We know polarizers change polarization. So yes, ONE quality is retained, which is 'which pole? N/S (A,B) but the observer dictates the rest, including by field angle rotation (as Zielingers work confirms). Pairs then have Maxwell's 'curl' AND (orthogonally) linear momenta, changing inversely by cos latitude, so by rotational velocity (right the way through)! imparted from the field fermions by absorption /emission. A,B can then 'flip' polarity. Now follow that carefully through, including the 3 rotational axes and two orthogonal measurement angles then CosLat again at the photomultiplier. You'll find all Beables and no non-locality needed to reproduce the interpretational mess at the end.

I use logic & geometry not algebra or maths (despite top score of the Wigner essays!) so the ontological mechanism does need a formulation check. You seem good at that. Any chance of help? Declan Traill's short essay gives the computer code & Cos^2 plot.

So do properties ONLY exist relatively to observers? I suggest Yes & No. All do but many not determinable as changed by observation.

Nice description, argument and writing generally. Well done. Expect a score boost. I hope you have time to study mine in more detail and discuss.

Very best

Peter

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Author Luca Valeri replied on Feb. 18, 2018 @ 22:14 GMT
Dear Peter,

Thanks for reading and replying. I certainly will read again more carefully your essay, as I also want to apply my interpretation to EPR.

As you ask: "So do properties ONLY exist relatively to observers?" Well I don't know.

The great simplicity of the known fundamental laws suggests that nature is fundamentally simple, mathematical.

As religious person and as a atheist I find that not satisfying. So I came to belief that the math is brought in by the relation of things, by their interactions. By simple operations of putting one ruler after the other and counting how many I need to come from one point to another.

In my essay I discuss what the consequences could be if properties are defined by such simple operations and under what condition such operations can successfully define these properties. I find that the consequences of such a thinking could be quiet fantastic. Without trying a bit to hard to find the underlying reality, that explains these quantum phenomena by introducing any ad hoc mechanism that does the job.

You'll hear soon from me.

Luca

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Jeffrey Michael Schmitz wrote on Feb. 18, 2018 @ 00:48 GMT
Luca,

This is a well-written essay that would be a nice chapter in an intro to quantum book. The “fundamental “ for this essay seems to be quantum mechanics. Only problem with this essay is a style and editing choice, I feel the theme of this essay is buried. “The rules of quantum mechanics are the rules of the universe and now I will show you an example of why that is possible.” Or similar statement would be a nice place to start and end this essay. The wonderful thing about fundamental is that it is what it is and a statement like I suggested is as good as any.

Hope you do well,

Jeff Schmitz

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Author Luca Valeri replied on Feb. 18, 2018 @ 22:27 GMT
Dear Jeff,

Thanks for the "well written". To write in English is very hard for me.

For the editing choice you're certainly right. The essay is surely very dense and touches to many topics.

Now after reading also some other essays I found that I expect the reader (that does not know me) to trust me to much and to follow me in my thoughts. That is to much to expect.

Also I trust the reader to make the right connections to debates in the history of science or in the discussions of quantum mechanics. Next time I surely will guide the reader much more and not let him alone in the jungle of connections.

Best regards,

Luca

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Author Luca Valeri wrote on Feb. 21, 2018 @ 08:33 GMT
I want to make some things clear in my essay, that apparently have not been clear enough.

The sheep that has only the properties white or black stands for a particle having the properties up or down. Or having the property of being somewhere in space. The use of the sheep is just to be able to imagine something as real as possible. The sheep has not even the properties of being in space. And I even don't know how to put the sheep in a box, if it has no properties of being in space. But this is exactly the situation we have in experiencing the outside world. We only know things from this world through interaction with the outside world.

The measurement system is modelled as a field of flowers over the colors. It is meant to be a mathematical field over the colors, as the electro magnetic potentials are fields over space and time. That the words 'field of flowers' has a real meaning is just a nice - although confusing - coincidence.

In the essay I explore, what can be known about the properties of the sheep, given the laws of interaction. And postulate in positivist faction (and I would say in accordance to the Copenhagen view), that only properties relative to the measurement system are real. I also explore, what could be the epistemological consequences of such a view.

However: Contrary to Copenhagen the measurement system is treated as quantum system.

Contrary to many worlds and Rovelli's relational view, this relative view is objective.

Objectivity is achieved not as in the decoherence view by losing the phase information in the environment, but on the contrary, by postulating that the measurement/definition of the properties is only well defined if it the object measurement system is separable from the environment and hence the evolution on that subsystem is unitary.

These are the main ideas concerning the measurement problem in my essay. I hope these explanations facilitates the reading.

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Gordon Watson wrote on Feb. 22, 2018 @ 00:07 GMT
Dear Luca,

Thankfully I was drawn to your essay by the comments that you made to others. However, I found your deep essay to be heavy-going with the sheep; possibly because I believe that quantum-analogies do not help. Thus, as a true local realist, I prefer to deal with the quantum settings themselves. Hence my essay: More realistic fundamentals: quantum theory from one...

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Gordon Watson replied on Feb. 22, 2018 @ 21:24 GMT
Luca, from my essay-thread, in reply to your helpful comments: Gordon. ....

Hi Luca, and many thanks! [nb: below, the superscript-function does not work with ±. I use "bold" to identify the start of my comments; not for emphasis.]

I agree: "The disturbance interpretation is very appealing, since it maintains our realistic view of beables."

I acknowledge that...

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Gordon Watson replied on Feb. 24, 2018 @ 02:07 GMT
Luca, as mentioned above: here's some background on my theory; Gordon.

Background to Wholistic Mechanics (WM)

Whereas QM emerged from the UV-catastrophe ca1905, WM emerges from the locality-catastrophe typified by John Bell's dilemma ca1965: ie, seriously ambivalent about AAD, Bell adamantly rejected locality. He later surmised that maybe he and his followers were being rather...

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Steven Andresen wrote on Feb. 22, 2018 @ 06:39 GMT
Dear Luca

If you are looking for another essay to read and rate in the final days of the contest, will you consider mine please? I read all essays from those who comment on my page, and if I cant rate an essay highly, then I don’t rate them at all. Infact I haven’t issued a rating lower that ten. So you have nothing to lose by having me read your essay, and everything to...

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Anonymous wrote on Feb. 22, 2018 @ 12:14 GMT
Dear Luca Valeri Zimmermann.

I have read your Essay wherein you briefly mention EPR. Einstein was right when he did not agree with the EPR experiment conclusions and had said, “spooky action at a distance” cannot occur and that, “God does not play dice”. Please read Linear Polarization http://vixra.org/pdf/1303.0174v5.pdf

QM claims that an electron can be both spin-up and spin-down at the same time. In my conceptual physics Essay on Electron Spin, I have proved that this is not true. Please read: https://fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/3145

Kamal Rajpal

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Author Luca Valeri wrote on Feb. 22, 2018 @ 13:28 GMT
Hi Kamal

Thanks for reading my essay.

Just to clarify: The EPR reality criteria does not hold in the interpretation of quantum mechanics I gave in my essay.

And I really don’t know, what it means, when someone claims, that the spin of an electron is up and down at the same time. In my essay I give the following interpretation for a spin in x-direction, which can be written as superposition of up and down in z-direction.

If one measures the z-direction of the spin, it can be found with 50% chance as up and 50% as down. If is found as up for instance I claim it really was up. We just did not know before. That is the meaning of the superposition.

If one measures the x direction of the spin he gets with certainty the spin in x direction. And the spin really was in the x direction, when measured! When not measured it was not. The spin property is only defined (and real) relative to the measurement settings.

The problem with this interpretation is, that different observers could claim to have different realities. This results in a loss of the objectivity and lead to many worlds, QBis or Rovellis relaional QM.

I claim in my essay to have solved this objectivity problem, while I still hold that the reality of the spin property is only given relative to the measuring setting.

Luca

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Peter Jackson wrote on Feb. 23, 2018 @ 19:20 GMT
Luca,

Thanks for your note on mine. Just to confirm I returned with your score as promised. Hope you and the sheep get in.

Peter

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Author Luca Valeri wrote on Feb. 27, 2018 @ 10:28 GMT
Here is a reply of mine on a comment William C. McHarris made in his blog and I would like to share in my blog.

Dear Bill,

Thanks for your comment on my essay. So far you are the only one commenting on my paragraph on free will. I really like that part of my essay, although it is very speculative. What I tried to do is to find a conceptual framework that makes it possible to think...

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