Wednesday, July 02, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Many worlds pseudoscience, again

When Hugh Everett, a PhD student, wrote some bizarre papers about "alternative foundations" of quantum mechanics in the late 1950s, he was allowed to speak about it in Copenhagen etc. Niels Bohr et al. saw that there was no valid physics in the papers whatsoever. The chap only wanted to be a critic whatever it costs, regardless of the absence of any evidence, and Bohr knew it was too little. He discussed these things with the chap's adviser, John Wheeler, and everyone agreed that this guy shouldn't continue as a professional physicist simply because he didn't have enough talent and understanding for that.

In the following 55+ years, there has been no development that would strengthen the case for Mr Everett's musings. On the contrary, the experimental evidence and the modern crystallization of the quantum mechanical insights have made it increasingly clear that these musings were fundamentally wrong and proper quantum mechanics is the only viable theory to describe the relevant phenomena – which are really all processes in Nature.

However, what has changed is that the Academia has been literally flooded by mediocre, incompetent pseudo-intellectuals similar to Hugh Everett – usually much worse and more inadequate than Everett himself. Sean Carroll is a textbook example of this sign of the degradation of the contemporary Academia which is why he wrote another text defending the indefensible,

Why the Many-Worlds Formulation of Quantum Mechanics Is Probably Correct
Holy crap.

The illustration of choice used to summarize and promote this "interpretation" of quantum mechanics is this Wikipedia picture of Schrödinger's cat (a four-legged cat; Schrödinger would simultaneously maintain several two-legged ones, too).

What is this picture supposed to convey?

It suggests that there are two worlds (or two similar copies of our world), and not just one, after a cat is observed. In one of them, the cat is alive. In the other world, it is dead. This childish picture is supposed to solve some "problems" that the defenders of this picture believe to exist in quantum mechanics. There are no problems in quantum mechanics, of course.

At the same time, salesmen like Carroll offer you lots of incredible statements such as the statement that this "many worlds interpretation" directly follows from quantum mechanics, is directly justified by quantum mechanics (more justifiable in quantum mechanics than in classical physics), and unlike proper quantum mechanics, it doesn't introduce any new physical laws. All these statements are untrue. They are really the polar opposite of the truth.

First, many worlds surely don't follow from quantum mechanics.

Quantum mechanics is the universal framework of modern physics which is a natural science. As every natural science, physics predicts or explains the observations that are actually being made in one Universe. Deterministic physics (which may only work approximately in Nature) gives unambiguous predictions. Quantum physics (which is valid everywhere in the real world) predicts phenomena by quantifying the probabilities of different outcomes. Outcomes with probabilities close to 100% will probably happen, those close to 0% will probably not. The precise value of the probability may be extracted from the experiment if we repeat it many times (but using the knowledge of probabilities, one can make precise predictions even if we perform many inequivalent experiments!).

The calculation of the probabilities is the quantum mechanical output replacing the unambiguous classical predictions. If you can't say anything about the values of probabilities of some phenomena, then you have no scientific theory whatsoever!

This is the case of the many worlds "interpretation", too.

The many worlds "interpretation" is an artistic picture that simply has nothing to do with science. Note that the picture with the split film of the cat doesn't tell you that the cat will survive with the 73% probability or anything like that. It just tells you that there are two possibilities. It shows you the set of potential histories, not any nontrivial information about the actual history.

And even this information-free statement is really wrong or demagogic; and it can't be derived from the many worlds "interpretation", anyway.

It is wrong because there aren't just two possible outcomes. There are infinitely many outcomes. The cat also has a nonzero probability to morph into a small version of Elvis Presley and be hit by some air molecules that bring it or him to the Moon. The probability is small but it is nonzero. (I could invent more likely outcomes "in between", too.)

So the film should really be split into infinitely many strands at each spacetime point, including strands describing extremely unlikely histories. (In fact, we can't even say that the splitting would occur at each spacetime point because some observations are nonlocal in character. There exist no well-defined rules that would allow us to describe the "cardinality" of the tree at all.) The very fact that only two "reasonably likely" histories were cherry-picked is nothing else than demagogy. Such a qualitatively different treatment of "reasonably likely" and "very unlikely" outcomes is only possible if we first calculate the probabilities and then use different treatments according to their value (and this decision is always about being useful, not being true; fundamentally, Nature doesn't treat high and low probabilities qualitatively differently).

The many worlds "interpretation" doesn't allow us to calculate – or imprint – the generally different probabilities of different outcomes into the "strands" of the film. Even the fans of this religion admit it's the case but some of them say that they are "working on a fix" which is supposed to be enough. (A similarly "modest" fix makes Genesis compatible with all the detailed data about the cosmic microwave background, the DNA, and genetics.)

What they don't realize is that the inability of this theory or "interpretation" to calculate any probabilities isn't just a moderate vice or disadvantage. It is a complete, rigorous proof that this philosophy has nothing to do with the empirical data or science whatever and people who are defending it don't have the slightest clue what they are talking about. Everything that modern science predicts are probabilities or their functions. If your ideas don't predict any probabilities, they don't predict anything at all. They have nothing to do with science.

Moreover, there can't be any fix. There can't even exist a candidate theory that would "extract" the probabilities from something else. In proper quantum mechanics, probabilities are fundamental which means that they are pretty much directly predicted from the mathematical formalism. There is no useless "intermediate agent" that would extract probabilities from something else. There can't really be any. A theory is either exactly deterministic (plus admitting complete knowledge in principle) or it is not. If it is exactly deterministic, it is possible to produce unequivocal predictions out of the information about the initial state, at least in principle. That's the case of classical physics. In this setup, all predicted probabilities are either 0% or 100%. That's no good for the experiments backing quantum mechanics where almost all the probabilities are strictly between 0% and 100%.

Or the theory may fail to be strictly deterministic, or prohibit the observers from knowing the exact required information, even in principle. In that case, the probabilities may be in between 0% and 100%. But such continuous, a priori arbitrary probabilities may only be calculated from other probability-like continuous quantities that are present in the fundamental formalism of the theory such as the classical probability distributions on the phase space or the density matrix (which may be obtained from a state vector if the state is pure).

The very illustration with the split film of the cat as well as many explicit statements by the many worlds apologists make it absolutely clear that one of the key assumptions of the whole many worlds movement is that probabilities are not fundamental. But it's just mathematically impossible to derive a priori continuous numbers interpretable as probabilities from a formalism that rejects any fundamental quantities with a directly probability-like interpretation! Probabilities may only be calculated from other continuous numbers of a similar kind and all such continuous numbers are probability-like because probabilities are their functions! If there aren't any, your formalism just can't be capable of predicting probabilities.

Note that this simple argument – pure maths – really eliminates all attempts to replace quantum mechanics with some ideas where probabilities are not fundamental. This includes the Bohmian and other hidden-variable theories. The pilot wave theory needs to assume that the classical particle it envisions has a position in the initial state that is statistically distributed according to the wave function (renamed as guiding wave). Only the correct time evolution of the probabilistic distribution is guaranteed by the mechanical equation of motion including the effect of the guiding wave.

They don't have any mechanism explaining the right probabilistic distribution of their classical particle in the initial state. Of course, there can't be any. They prefer not to talk about this point at all even though this point really means that their claim that they have derived the "random generator" of quantum mechanics from something else is completely fraudulent. The same "random generator" must still exist somewhere to produce the classical particle in a position that is correctly distributed. It must be distributed according to the wave function which proves that if this condition is guaranteed, the wave function has a fundamentally probabilistic interpretation, anyway!

But let me return to the many worlds. Its defenders often say something like
the many worlds "interpretation" is just pure mechanics; it is not adding anything to it.
Carroll makes this statement about 5 times and it is a complete lie. It is really the opposite of the truth.

Proper quantum mechanics dictates the evolution of operators in the Heisenberg picture (or, equivalently, the direct Feynman path integral formula to calculate the probability amplitudes; or the evolution of the state vector in Schrödinger's picture – the latter picture is the most popular approach among the superficial and confused people). The complex probability amplitudes may be directly squared (in absolute values, using the right Born's rule etc.) to calculate the probabilities of various observations or outcomes or perceptions etc. Quantum mechanics works totally universally. It doesn't matter what object we want to observe and which aspect of it we measure. Quantum mechanics predicts the probabilities using the same universal formulae and the time evolution is always given by the same equations, too.

What about the many worlds "interpretation"? Just look at the marketing illustration at the top. Aside from Heisenberg's or Schrödinger's dynamical equations, there is a new process added on top of it – the splitting of the film, the splitting of the worlds to make them "many". When writing this promotion of "many worlds", Carroll must have forgotten about something, about the "many worlds", right?

Believe me that to produce a film that splits into two in the triangular junction is much harder than to produce an ordinary film with a single story of a cat. It's also harder to insert such a film with "junctions" into a film projector. The film projector sometimes jams, and so on. It doesn't work well. Try it if you don't believe me.

Now, to produce another copy of the Universe is even harder than to produce a plastic foil with junctions. It's even a bit harder to produce many copies or \(\exp(10^{120})\) copies you might need to describe the multiplicity of outcomes of every arrangement of processes that may occur within the patch of the visible Universe. But OK, you might rightfully say that it's not your job to produce copies of the Universe. Nature can do it easily.

Yes, Nature can do anything if the laws of physics say that it should happen. The problem is that one can't even define the rules when the hypothetical splitting should take place and how the two or three or \(N\) or \(\infty\) (also unknown) copies attached to the junction should differ from each other. And the problem isn't just that we don't know how often and finely the film should be "split" etc. We may easily see that whatever the rules are, they contradict some known facts about Nature. Why?

The really key feature of the quantum evolution is that it always allows parts of the state vector to interfere in the future and affect various other measurements in non-classical ways.

We know this even from the double slit experiment which, as Feynman observed, contains all the qualitative wisdom about quantum mechanics if you think about the experiment carefully enough. We can't assume that the particle goes either through slit A or slit B (with the strict, classical assumptions about the alternatives) if we don't observe it. The actual initial state implies nonzero probability amplitudes for both intermediate histories and their mutual interference affects the existence and location of the interference minima and maxima on the photographic screen!

We can never strictly say that some observable (like the "which slit" information about position) took a completely specific value in the classical sense. The eigenvector may always interfere with another one. Now, if you think about it for a second, this totally elementary and universal feature of quantum mechanics in general and of the double slit experiment in particular is nothing else than the statement that the worlds just never split in the classical sense!

The cat may be in the state \[

\ket\psi = 0.6 \ket {\text{alive}} + 0.8 i \ket{\text{dead}}.

\] I chose the probabilities non-uniform (36% and 64%, thanks to Pythagoras for these nice numbers) and I chose the amplitudes to be complex (with different phases) because I want to emphasize that the phases matter as much as the ratios of the absolute values! If you perform another measurement of an operator that doesn't commute with the binary operator having eigenvalues zero (dead) and one (alive), the relative phase will matter for the predictions as much as the ratio of the absolute values!

So the "dead cat" and the "alive cat" are two intermediate histories whose mutual interference may in principle affect the probabilities of later measurements just like the mutual interference of "slit A" and "slit B". Just like we can't assume that the particle in the double slit experiment picked one of the possible slits (and intermediate histories), we can't assume it about the cat.

The knowledge of the existence of interference of the state vector in quantum mechanics is the same thing as the knowledge that the world never fundamentally splits to two classical histories.

In other words, people who really think that the two worlds separately exist in the classical sense are misunderstanding the lesson 1 of of the undergraduate quantum mechanics lecture that begins with the double slit experiment. They're still not getting the point that the histories (basis vectors of the intermediate-time Hilbert space) can't be assumed to be "mutually exclusive" in the classical sense (what I mean is that you can't really assume that only one of the intermediate histories took place, and to calculate the weighted average of the probabilities from the two histories to get the probabilities of the final outcomes).

Now, classical physics and classical interpretations do follow from quantum mechanics as a good approximation for large objects including cats. The interference patterns you could create by reinterfering the "dead" and "alive" cat are so fine, chaotic, and unpredictable (especially because the microstate of the environment that the cat has interacted with can't be exactly followed and measured and one would need to know it very precisely) that in practice, one may use the classical interpretation for observables for which the classical interpretation is approximately OK and that tend to "classically xerox" the information about themselves by interacting with and by entangling many degrees of freedom of the environment. The interference patterns are too fine or average out in the real measurements. Equivalently, the aforementioned operators "not commuting" with the operator of the "livelihood of the cat" are extremely unnatural and hard to operationally measure. The classical reasoning is therefore OK.

But all these classical interpretations are just approximate. And clearly, if we are using them, we are not "interpreting" anything about quantum mechanics. We are only "interpreting" classical physics and all of our comments only become (approximately) valid if all the special features of quantum mechanics (re-interference...) become unmeasurable!

This conclusion is also equivalent to the reasons why another statement by Carroll, the statement that (using my words) "quantum mechanics directly opens the door for multiple universes while classical physics doesn't".

Again, this claim is untrue. Again, it's the polar opposite of the truth. The truth is exactly the other way around. Multiple universes that co-exist in the classical sense may be chosen as a way to visualize the classical probabilistic distribution but this way to visualize what's going on breaks down exactly when the quantum mechanical effects are still important.

(I didn't say "become important" because these words would indicate that classical physics is the normal and one needs to go very far, in an unnatural domain, for the quantum weirdness to emerge. The truth is exactly the opposite. Quantum laws are valid everywhere and they're completely normal and you have to go to special limits or corners if you want classical physics to become at least approximately usable!)

If you throw a classical die, you may imagine that there are six mutually different universes that were split off their parent universe, just like on the picture of the "film juncture". In one of them, you got "1", and so on. The subsequent evolution in each of these 6 universes is independent of the others. The "tree of films" is the tree of potential histories and the set of potential histories may be imagined to "really exist" somewhere in classical physics (at least discrete classical physics, to avoid subtleties with continuous trees and probability densities).

However, that's exactly what quantum mechanics doesn't allow because the right predictions of (probabilities of) future outcomes in a specific Universe – the only Universe or every Universe – are only obtained if you take the complex amplitudes in front of all the alternatives ("all the different universes") and their interference into account, according to the right formulae.

Again, the truth is the opposite than what these many worlds kibitzers are saying. In classical statistical physics, the probability distributions wouldn't be normally visualized as "really existing" in different copies of the world because the 19th century physicists knew that such an expansion of the idea about the "size of the world" would bring them nothing whatever scientifically. It wouldn't have increased their ability to explain or predict observations. But it was possible to imagine the branching tree of the classical histories and transitions between them.

Quantum mechanics made it impossible to visualize the alternatives in this way because the alternatives [possible intermediate-time features of the history of any experiment] are no longer mutually exclusive in the classical sense. So even the "potential" for many worlds in the classical sense is deleted by the basic features of quantum mechanics.

Sometimes, people or companies choose to cherry-pick some advantages of the products or ideas they are promoting. But what I find remarkable about the defense by individuals such as Sean Carroll is that their claims are downright lies from the beginning to the end. The truth isn't just "independent" from what they're saying. The truth about pretty much every isolated claim is demonstrably the opposite of what they say.

They constantly say that the gold is šit and šit is gold. They constantly say that their philosophy isn't adding anything to QM even though it's the whole point of this philosophy that it is trying to add some extra process – an undefined, undefinable, awkward, unphysical, and ultimately inevitably inconsistent process of splitting the "film". They constantly say that the proper quantum mechanics needs some extra laws to make the predictions even though it's demonstrably the case, according to the basic rules of quantum mechanics, that quantum mechanics extracts the predictions directly from the objects that depend on time through the known universal equations.

They repeatedly claim that their philosophy isn't introducing or depending on any qualitative boundary between the "microscopic quantum phenomena" and "macroscopic classical phenomena" while proper quantum mechanics is postulating such a boundary. The truth is exactly the opposite. Their splitting of the film is only viable if it is only applied to processes that are compatible with the classical interpretation, while the splitting is prohibited for intrinsically quantum observables (like the "which slit" information in the double slit experiment) which means that they need to introduce a qualitatively different treatment for the "two domains", otherwise they instantly get a wrong prediction for the double slit experiment and every other intrinsically quantum experiment. Proper quantum mechanics doesn't introduce any qualitative difference between the "domains". All phenomena are described by the same theory developed in Copenhagen etc. It's only classical physics that is "only valid" (approximately) in a realm behind the boundary. It is valid along with quantum mechanics over there (QM holds everywhere, classical physics only holds approximately in the limit) and the validity of classical physics is also needed for observers to make classical-like statements about their observations but it's just a limitation of classical-like statements about observations, not a limitation of the laws of quantum mechanics which always hold. An observer large enough to take decoherence in his brain for granted may choose the "Heisenberg cut" (the boundary, if interpreted using the words of the founders of quantum mechanics) anywhere in between his brain and the small objects whose interference may be measured, so the location of any would-be boundary is physically inconsequential. The theory really doesn't depend on any features like that and the only "invariant enough" refinement of this boundary, the place where decoherence starts to legitimize the classical interpretation of the probabilities (by erasing the potential for re-interference), is again fully derivable from the same universal laws of quantum mechanics.

("The Heisenberg cut" and the basic foundations of quantum mechanics also clearly, crisply, and cleverly answer the question "how many junctions in the MWI film there should be?" or "how finely the histories should be divided?". The answer is that it is only justified – but still not necessary – to imagine that the history of the world splits into several alternatives if you can and do actually measure a quantity. No measurement means no splitting. Whether one made a measurement or perceived an outcome is really a subjective question – think about Wigner's friend – which is why all questions about "how fine the MWI tree objectively is" are no good because they are based on the fundamentally wrong assumption that such questions may have objective answers. Observation is a subjective experience or act by an observer.)

They constantly say that their philosophy is a "friend" of the fundamental equations of quantum mechanics even though they have demonstrably no positive relation at all. All the equations of quantum mechanics are constraining the values of intrinsically probability-like basic entities (the state vector etc.) while the MWI advocates deny the existence of any concepts that must have a fundamentally probabilistic interpretation. So the claim that the philosophy is a "friend" with the equations of quantum mechanics is a much greater lie than the claim by a creationist who bought a T-shirt with the Standard Model Lagrangian and who says that "particle physics is on their side". In the creationist's case, the two "friends" are at least independent of each other. In Carroll's case, the "friends" are two directly contradicting ideas.

They constantly say that quantum mechanics made it more natural than classical physics to interpret probabilities through many worlds. The truth is that quantum mechanics eliminated the freedom to interpret probabilities in this way that existed in classical physics (classical physics allowed us to imagine that the "set of potential histories" is the set of "real histories" in an appropriately extended world). And so on, and so on. This whole MWI movement is completely irrational, dishonest, and just plain idiotic, and it has contaminated the Academia so thoroughly that there exists no Niels Bohr in 2014 who could just eliminate all these hacks.

I am disgusted by this šit. If you combine it with other equally misguided stuff, it is probably fair to say that this trash has taken over the majority of most of the official institutions that should study conceptual issues in physics or science. The situation outside the Academia is no better. Just look at the dozens of imbeciles at Carroll's blog – only a tiny fraction manages to mention that Carroll's writing is just wrong.

BTW even if the many worlds "interpretation" didn't suffer from the basic lethal conceptual diseases above, and it demonstrably does, there would still be pyramids of technical problems that the picture couldn't overcome. For example, Moshe Rozali wrote at Sean's blog:
Sean, I am happy to believe many-worlds if all that is at stake is the definition of the word “exist” , which is likely ambiguous in this context anyways. But I am uncomfortable with what seems to me a description too closely tied to single-particle QM. For example, most descriptions I see talk about a split between finite number of options following a measurement arbitrarily localized in space and time. Is there a way to tell the story of universes “splitting” for measurements of operators with a continuous spectrum, like most interesting operators in quantum field theory? Do we get continuous infinity of universes, and if so is there some regularized version and some sense of cut-off independence?

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reader Anon said...

Brilliant, Lubos. Expand this to 40,000 words and publish a book! Would be a very welcome correction to the usual pop-sci nonsense.

reader BobSykes said...

Since I enjoy your rants, I'll give you this link and hope to get another:

reader Luboš Motl said...

LOL, Bob, nice and tempting but No, thanks. It's the same misinterpretation of the droplets as QM.

Oops, David Eisenstadt asked me about the same thing elsewhere yesterday.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Thanks, Anon. 40,000 is a very short book, isn't it? ;-)

reader Cesar Laia said...

I would buy your book in a worry. Maybe it would not be a full win in the short term, but it could sparkle something interesting in the long term...

reader Steve said...

Lubos, I know how to make you use and accept the many-worlds interpretation!

Step 1: Instead of saying "einselected state" (Zurek's term when discussing decoherence theory), replace it with the word "world", which you should treat as a new technical term which is an exact synonym of "einselected state".

Step 2: There is no step 2. You're done! You are now using the correct, best version of the so-called "many-worlds interpretation".

Now, as a pedagogical matter, we can argue about the advantages and disadvantages of using the word "world" instead of "einselected state" (or other possible terminologies). Specifically, the word "world" already has a colloquial definition, and therefore it invokes some emotions and intuitions (unlike the term "einselected state"). Are the emotions and intuitions mostly helpful or mostly misleading? I bet you would say "mostly misleading" ... and I would agree! But that's just pedagogy. As a technical matter, we are surely entitled to treat "world" as a technical term which is a synonym of "einselected state", as long as we state that definition and rigorously stick to it.

You might be thinking: Trivially replacing the word "einselected state" with the word "world" is not the many-worlds interpretation! It's not even an "interpretation", and it's certainly not what most people describing many-worlds are talking about.

Perhaps that's true! However...

(1) The best descriptions of many-worlds really are along these lines if you look closely. Try re-reading Carroll's post but just replace the word "world" with "einselected state". I think you won't find it so objectionable.

(2) For both philosophical and practical reasons, you are better off endorsing and advocating the best possible version of a theory -- even if you have to invent that version yourself! -- rather than (or in addition to) excoriating the traditional or most common version of the theory. I think the best possible version of many-worlds is this one I'm describing, even though it is totally trivial if you already are familiar with decoherence theory.

reader John McVirgo said...

Lubos, have you see this Scientific American article on Everett and his Many Worlds interpretation:

The author claims:

"Many of the founders of quantum mechanics, notably Bohr, Werner Heisenberg and John von Neumann, agreed on an interpretation of quantum mechanics—known as the Copenhagen interpretation— to deal with the measurement problem. This model of reality postulates that the mechanics of the quantum world reduce to, and only find meaning in terms of, classically observable phenomena—not the reverse.

This approach privileges the external observer, placing that observer in a classical realm that is distinct from the quantum realm of the object observed. Though unable to explain the nature of the boundary between the quantum and classical realms, the Copenhagenists nonetheless used quantum mechanics with great technical success. Entire generations of physicists were taught that the equations of quantum mechanics work only in one part of reality, the microscopic, while ceasing to be relevant in another, the macroscopic. It is all that most physicists ever need."

reader Gordon said...

I read Sean's dumbed down version of MWT for us troglodytes and wondered how long it would take for you to respond :) --- not long, I see...
I guess his next step is to crank out yet another popular book about it to go with Max Tegmark's
(who has the advantage of being immensely likeable).

reader Uncle Al said...

The Many Worlds Hypothesis is a rainbow flag of diversity. Physics must have diversity! It must also have women, races, sexual orientations, other-ablements, religions, extended fully paid maternity leaves (all sexes), incurable pathologies, addictions, and sparkles.

Wealth, food, lodging, comfort, and intelligence must be redistributed. Physics must be purged of White males, Jews, and Asians, Six 2013 Nobel Laureates were Jewish. When will unfair exclusion of the deserving be ended at gunpoint! Cross a nabla, go to prison. Fair is fair.

reader kashyap vasavada said...

I left the following comment on Sean Carroll's blog before reading Lubos' blog.Since it is critical of Sean, it may be voted out (dimmed)!! As Lubos explains, MWI is bad physics. So it is much worse than not adding anything to QM! As I understand, there are mathematical difficulties in deriving Born rule from MWI. So situation is bad even if you forget about metaphysical aspects of it.
"Whether you bring in a conscious observer or replace him/her by a machine, the very idea of an experiment, which depends ultimately on an arbitrary human judgment (whether to do this experiment today or not) resulting in split universes, is metaphysical at best. It is amusing that this idea comes from Sean who does not believe in religion or metaphysics. Why not be honest and say like Feynman that we do not understand quantum mechanics? Period! This is nothing but a copout. It should not be called an explanation. I would rather believe in multiverse coming out of chaotic inflation than arbitrary number of universes brought out by human experimenters on an intrinsically probabilistic natural system."

reader Fred said...

out of curiosity i recently bought (i was in the us and had nothing else to read) read smolins book (sorry) and found it good until i got to the last section when it went downhill quickly for me. i was also sceptical of many of the claims made earlier thanks to lubos. i was wishing there had been a lubos book called "there is no problem with physics". i cannot see how it would be so much work. you must have at least 100,000 words of great blogposts on string theory, qm, relativity and even climate science. i would buy it 10 times to send it to friends and enemies.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Exactly. The choice of the history is really affecting the knowledge about observables describing things across the universe, as made clear by the EPR entanglement experiments.

So if one makes the measurement of one entangled photon in an EPR pair at t=0, one gets either x-polarization, or y-polarization. In many worlds interpretation, it means that at t=0, the world has to split.

We can ask about the first moment when the second particle appeared in two copies. The answer is of course t=0 and MWI implies that such answers have to be objective. It follows that the t coordinate and the associated reference frame is privileged which is in conflict with relativity.

Equivalently, if one maintains the agreement with relativity, the splitting has to occur "locally" in the worlds, and the information that splitting occurred can't propagate faster than light, which implies that the other particle in the pair will fail to be correlated if measured too quickly.

The argument is identical for all "realist" "interpretations" whatever the inner details are.

reader anon said...

In this case diversity = lies+hype+crap. Physics and Mathematics deal with the truth only.

reader Gene Day said...

N. David Mermin, like other solid-state physicists including myself, has spent countless hours living in the microscopic world where Planck’s constant is quite large. In this world it is impossible to adhere to the classical, deterministic view and the MWI “interpretation” is worse than useless. In order to actually make progress one has to accept QM (and the Copenhagen interpretation, if you like) and view classical physics as an artificial construct. It actually becomes a comfortable place to be and all the unease with QM slowly fades away. If humans were much smaller or Planck’s constant much larger these discussions would not take place.

I do admire Lubos for his tireless efforts to teach the truth; he is far better at it than I.

reader Uncle Al said...

Mathematics is not empirical; it is rigorous. Quantum gravitation, SUSY, dark matter are empirically indefensible. Any experiment designed to falsify a physics postulate cannot be correct - physics says so. Don't look. Who died then put Tommy Aquinas in charge?

reader lukelea said...

There may be many possible worlds but only one is realized.

reader Shannon said...

And we all know it is God who votes.

reader John B said...

Regarding Schrödinger's cat
The "Classical" view is that the Cat is both alive and dead (but this necessitates serious assumptions).
Granted that the cat is alive or dead (A v D) :: negating that ~(A v D) and through distribution we can only arrive at the conclusion that the cat is NOT alive and NOT dead (~A ^ ~D).
Without further understanding of what A and D are we cannot assume ~A = D and ~D = A.
So we are left with two non-events or two non-worlds.

reader NikFromNYC said...

The theoretical possibility that our Universe is a simulation doesn't seem to work either with an infinite number of worlds splitting off every moment, since the simulator would immediately run out of computing resources.

reader NikFromNYC said...

And yet as any chemist will keep harping on about, on the time scale of chemical reactions and solid state properties, the probability wave functions called orbitals are fully filled up with a flurry of electron motion so become real objects as far as any kid playing with an electron microscope or scanning probe microscope is concerned, and that kid will see the exact same blobs that come out of the quantum mechanic's equations, and see wave interference effects like ripples in electron density, and see complex geometric molecular orbitals exactly as calculated from the Schrodinger wave equation even though he hasn't a clue about those equations. That's as real and concrete as you can get. So where's the drama here? Here your child is directly solving your wave equations with a physical probe of them, is he not?

reader rsala said...


I think you may be a little too pessimistic about the impact you are having in turning the tide on the junk science writing that proliferates in the media. I was reading the following article in "The Register"

and thought it had a familiar "Motlian" ring to it. Sure enough near the end the author links to this blog post!

reader Svik said...

M.S. P.H.D. as usual.

reader Svik said...

According to the internet here in Canada you are dead. How do you do it. Are you living in the 2d comic book world?????

reader Gene Day said...

As Mark Twain famously said, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

reader tms said...

Have you heard his son’s band though?

reader Pavel said...

Isn't the many worlds interpretation invalidated just by validity of Faynman's path integrals? They explicitely say that the final state depends on all histories, i.e. all trees of the many world histories. So they cannot be independent.

reader Peter F. said...

To me the only 'rational-philosophical' attitude to "our stringy universe" (as Lumo puts it) is that it has its origin in the quantum core of What ultimately Is going on, and that our universe is the only one of _literally_ infinitely many different possible ones (so no use trying to count them);

Another science-aligned effectively philosophy terminating attitude of mine is: To use a QM-mathematical extrapolation for postulating the possibility of preposterous outcomes of this quantum core (no matter how small the implied probability), or to postulate an 'in principle probability' for the emergence of a pattern that fits any sort of fantasy - as it seems to me (I hope wrongly) you Lumo did - is IMHO to make some sort (a sort I'm not capable of defining) of fundamental mistake! %-/

reader Peter F. said...

Apropos which: I feel it is somewhat sad and disappointing if Einstein not only said but also really meant: "God doesn't throw dice".

Mind you, to me there are far more sad and disappointing aspects of what the dice is dishing out on this planet in this universe of ours, than that one. %-[

reader David said...

Hi Luboš,
You might be interested in this (also uses derivative).

reader David Brown said...

"... proper quantum mechanics is the only viable theory to describe the relevant phenomena ..."

How can QFT explain the space roar?

reader Cesar Laia said...

I like Eels a lot. I never knew about that. There is doc about his father:

reader reader said...

hi lubos
don't you want to write about recent killing in palestine and israel?

reader Luboš Motl said...

Hi, no, apologies, I don't follow it too closely. It's sad, the situation is tense, and there are people who are doing worse things than others but the casualties etc. are far less significant than e.g. in Ukraine or elsewhere.

reader Ron Maimon said...

Lubos, you should read Everett's thesis before commenting on the man's talent. It contains a deep information theoretic analysis of quantum mechanics, the first statement of the information theoretic uncertainty principle, in addition to the first statement of the principle of decoherence.

The essence of Many-Worlds is what is now called "decoherence", that quantum mechanics, for large systems, is decohered, and reduces to independently evolving paths which, while you can't say they are exclusive, might as well be. That's the only point, it's a point that has become too well accepted for you to see the original source.

The original source is Everett, and you are maligning a classic physicist with an influential classic paper, and an influential thesis. You should read the paper and the thesis before criticizing, because if you only read secondary sources, you won't get it.

The first rip-off of Everett was by Wigner, in his "Wigner's Friend". The rip-offs continue through into the late 1980s. It's about time you give Everett a break.

reader Ron Maimon said...

The observer in Many-worlds is modelled as a comptuer, and the relevant "ein-selected states" are defined by referencing the internal memory state of the computer. This is simply an "external" view of the Copenhagen interpretation, modelling the observer as classical data superimposed upon a purely quantum evolution, and the same things that happen in Copenhangen interpretation happen in many-worlds, with the exact same dependence on the "subjective classical data" as you put it.

The equivalence of many-worlds to Copenhagen is not obvious unless you read Everett in the original. He is simply redoing Copenhagen without the idea that the classical realm is separate and irreducible, only using the positivist idea that the information in the computers is irreducible (because it defines the sensations of the observers).

The result is a recasting of Copenhagen which removes the metaphysical quandaries, and stops you from constant head-banging about what the heck Bohr and co are talking about. They are talking about many-worlds, more or less, with less sophistication, less awareness of the precise mechanism of decoherence, and more philosophical jibber-jabber.

reader Ralph Ellis said...

Interesting article. But you missed the most important bit - what does this predict for the future??


reader Luboš Motl said...

Hi Ralph, a good question. And an even better answer is here:

reader sherrie said...

This is far from a conservative viewpoint.

It is US imperialism, the wealthy finance/industrial billionaires. both conservative and liberal. republican and democrat who are behind AGW, It is the capitalist ruling class that has engineered this fake AGW paradigm in order to create a new multi billion dollar finance derivative market and as another indirect tax on working people. That the "left" has signed onto AGW shows clearly that the "left' is as much pro business as the right. I use a Marxist-Leninist analysis and apply it to everything and this is the conclusion I have come up with. Only a socialist revolution will put an end to this nonsense, sadly there are some disciplined communists who actually by the AGW mass line.

reader Luboš Motl said...

You were instantly blacklisted for 1) openly defending Marxism and even Leninism, 2) contaminating a scientific thread with this off-topic garbage.

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