Sunday, February 18, 2018

Quantum mechanics is thinking outside the classical box

Several folks have sent me a text about interpretations of quantum mechanics, Thinking Outside the Quantum Box, that was recently posted by Bernardo Kastrup at a Scientific American's weblog.

Lots of people whose skulls are confined in a spherical bubble are imagining that they're creative geniuses who are thinking outside the box. But the reality is inside out. One needs to perform the spherical inversion to see it. They're narrow-minded, intellectually limited losers confined into a bubble while the proper solutions require the realm outside the bubble.

It's mostly another moronic, anti-quantum article. The claim that quantum mechanics contradicts our intuition is repeated thrice (so that readers with the IQ below 70 don't miss it). Again, like in almost all other moronic articles of this kind, we're told that physicists have invented dozens of "interpretations" and are obliged to look for a theory that is not quantum:
...So physicists scramble to interpret quantum theory in a way that makes room for a mind-independent reality. A popular way to do this entails postulating imagined, empirically unverifiable, theoretical entities defined as observer-independent...
It may be "popular" to replace quantum mechanics (whose application depends on the choice of an observer) with a theory whose entities are "observer-independent". It is indeed popular, especially among idiots and senile men. But it is not physically possible and no genuine physicists are working on such things. Only "philosophers", crackpots, and decidedly former physicists are affiliated with this totally misguided movement.

Quantum mechanics (with its need to pick an observer to apply it) is unavoidable. There is no viable competing theory, whether or not this basic fact is know to those who think it should be "popular" to believe that classical physics keeps on ruling.

Kastrup repeats some empty words from Carlo Rovelli about "relational quantum mechanics". It says that everything that we can say in quantum mechanics are statements about the "relationships" between the chosen observer and the rest of the world. Now, this is a sequence of words which has some unavoidable ambiguity. You may try to clarify what Rovelli exactly wants to say. His poetic books can't make this point any more precise.

When you analyze it rationally, he either repeats exactly the same thing that was amazingly discovered by Heisenberg, Bohr, and pals in the early 20th century; or he is adding to the nonsensical propositions by other chronic "interpreters". It doesn't matter much which of these groups an Italian-French author of cheesy quasi-scientific popular books belongs to. What's more important important is that there currently exists no viable alternative, no new idea that would deserve an intelligent physicist's time as a replacement or refinement of the universal postulates of quantum mechanics that were written down more than 90 years ago.

Rovelli and lots of others are inventing new "brands" that are supposed to be valuable as new foundations of quantum mechanics. But "relational quantum mechanics", "QBism", "participatory realism" etc. are just words and the added value of the "beef" of these 1,400 interpretations is exactly as worthless as the beef of the 1,400 cryptocurrencies. Well, a difference is that the original foundations of quantum mechanics, as discovered by the Copenhagen school, are a precious foundation of modern science while the original Bitcoin is as worthless as its 1,399 clones.

The Scientific American article generally conveys the correct spirit that "something that looks like solipsism and dependence on the minds" is considered in quantum mechanics and probably has to be considered – while the devil is in the details surrounding the role of the "minds" in quantum mechanics. People err on both sides. Some people think that quantum mechanics is a justification for all kinds of religious, superstitions, spiritual, and parapsychological beliefs. Others think that quantum mechanics isn't allowed to change anything about the classical foundations of science.

Both groups are wrong, of course. Quantum mechanics did change and has to change fundamental philosophical assumptions underlying the laws of physics (and indeed, it redefined physics from a naive model of objective reality to a method to calculate probabilities that statements about observables by pre-chosen observers are correct); but this replacement of the engine of classical physics by the new engine of quantum mechanics hasn't enabled any of the usual supernatural miracles that were considered before the age of quantum mechanics.

Kastrup's article mentions some words, e.g. pro-perceptions quote by Andrei Linde, that are going in the right direction but they were not supposed to be a "revolutionary (or new) interpretation of quantum mechanics". But as a whole, Kastrup's article didn't – and couldn't – tell you anything new about foundations of quantum mechanics because nothing new exists.

Finally, I want to spend a few words with the title of the SciAm text, as promised in my title.

Kastrup tells you that physicists are "confined in a (quantum) box" while the interpreters are "brave creative souls that are thinking outside this box". You can see the unwarranted self-confidence in this statement. The correct statement is exactly the opposite, of course. Quantum mechanics is the ultimate example of the thinking outside the box – and everyone who is dissatisfied with it and tries to find observer-independent "interpretations" is a mentally mediocre would-be thinker who is confined to the classical box and who just isn't good enough intellectually to be able to go outside the box.

This statement of mine is unquestionably accurate, according to the very definitions of thinking outside the box. Thinking outside the box means to be able to get rid of hidden assumptions that don't really have to be true and that weren't formulated or proven as a part of the problem (e.g. the problem to find the fundamental laws of physics).

Why is it called "thinking outside the box"?

Because this whole phrase generalizes a particular problem. Draw 3 by 3 dots in a grid. Now the task is to draw 4 straight lines which are connected to each other (the endpoint of N-th line is the starting point of the (N+1)st one) so that you intersect all these 9 dots. Now, if the line segments stay inside the 3 by 3 square, you may convince yourself that there's no solution. But you may realize that there's no reason why the line segments should stay inside the 3 by 3 box. They may be longer. And once they're allowed to be longer, you may find the solution pictured above.

(There are other "creative" solutions, e.g. ones using thick lines, ones compactifying the paper on a cylinder to make some coordinates periodic, and others.)

Again, let's look what has actually happened. The typical people who solve the "4 lines through 3 by 3 dots" problem are confined by the assumption that the line segments have to be short, inside the 3 by 3 square immediately surrounding the 9 dots, but no such condition has actually been phrased. And that's why they have to fail. People who think outside the box are capable of looking for the solution in a broader set of candidate solutions – primarily because they have the creativity or fantasy to envision a broader set of candidate solutions in the first place. And that's why they find a solution, using the longer line segments.

It's exactly analogous with quantum mechanics. People were trying to explain atoms etc. using the basic framework of classical physics – where an observer-independent "model" exactly matching the conjectured "objective reality" exists and has properties that are the same according to all honest observers. But no such condition has ever been told us by Nature – because there's no scientific evidence in favor of this assumption – and that's why we aren't allowed to make this assumption.

Werner Heisenberg was the creative genius who was the first one to be able to realize that this unjustified assumption – assumption of observer-independent reality i.e. classical physics – was being made. He was able to look for solutions – better candidate laws of physics – within a greater realm of ideas. Statements about objects were suddenly found to be observer-dependent and observables were linked to linear operators on a complex Hilbert space. And within this broader set of ideas, one can find the laws of physics that solve the problem – laws of physics that are logically consistent and compatible with the empirical evidence, too.

But if one stays inside the box, there is simply no solution, just like in the case of the 3 by 3 grid with 4 lines.

Werner Heisenberg was capable of discovering the new, larger realm of ideas and possible theories of physics, one that invalidates the previous, automatically, silently, and mindlessly embraced assumption \(\hbar=0\) – where \(\hbar\) is the reduced Planck's constant that measures how much the laws of physics deviate from the assumptions of classical physics. And within his broader set of potential theories, he could quickly find the right theory of the atom etc. The framework of quantum mechanics works for our "theory of nearly everything" (TONE, the Standard Model) as well as our unique candidate for a TOE, string/M-theory.

Like Columbus, he had to find the realm that no one else before him had any clue about. Now, more than 90 later, everything that his discovery has led to is available but lots of people are unable to even understand that to describe the phenomena in the world, especially the microscopic world, one needs to think outside the \(\hbar=0\) box. In the real world, the dependence of the applied laws of physics on the observers, the quantity \(\hbar\), is simply not zero and cannot be zero.

And these people who are unable to even understand what Heisenberg had to discover have the chutzpah to claim that it's them who are thinking "outside the box". They are not. When compared to Christopher Columbus, they are the people who aren't even capable of taking the flight over the Atlantic Ocean. They are just intellectually worthless laymen and losers. Just imagine how stupid you have to be to be unable to even sit on your aß in that damn Boeing (perhaps like this insufferable boy between Berlin and New York) – and that's exactly analogous to the stupidity of the "interpreters". The arrogance with which they present themselves as good thinkers is totally indefensible.

And that's the memo.

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