Sean Carroll’s Something Deeply Hidden

Cover of Something Deeply HiddenI’m just about finished reading Sean Carroll’s Something Deeply Hidden.  I was going to wait to post this until I’d completely finished, but all I’ve got left is the appendix, I perceive that I’ve gotten through the main points, and discussion on the previous post is veering in this direction.

As widely reported, Carroll is an advocate for the Everettian interpretation of quantum mechanics, generally known as the Many Worlds Interpretation (MWI).  I gave a primer on this back in December.  Nothing in Carroll’s book invalidated that description, so if you need the basics, check it out.

Carroll’s broad point is the MWI, in terms of the mathematical postulates, is the most austere interpretation.  Its central premise is that we should ask what happens if quantum systems evolve solely based on the Schrodinger equation.  Doing so leads to a deterministic theory that explain our observations and preserves realism and locality, which makes it broadly compatible with special and general relativity.

The basic idea is that the wave function never collapses, it just becomes entangled with the waves of other quantum systems.  We see this in experiments, where particles that interact don’t experience collapse, but merely become entangled.  And physicists have been able to isolate ever larger molecules and keep them in states of quantum superposition.

The Copenhagen interpretation posits that eventually interaction with macroscopic objects causes the wave function to collapse.  But what exactly is a macroscopic object?  At what point between large molecules and measuring devices do we cross the boundary that causes wave function collapse?

The Everettian view is, never.  The superposition of the initial quantum system never collapses, it continues spreading.  We perceive it to have collapsed, but that’s only because it’s spread to us, and we’ve become the version of us looking at one particular outcome, with other versions in other branches of the wave function looking at the other outcomes.

One thing I was hoping to get from Carroll was a description of how the MWI avoids the issues with Bell’s theorem.  That theorem notes that if all the states of entangled quantum particles are set when they become entangled, the statistics of various outcomes will be constrained in a way that they won’t be if the states aren’t set until they’re measured.

Numerous experiments have verified that the statistics match the values not being set until the measurement.  This is an issue for Copenhagen and other interpretations because under them, in order for the entangled relationships to hold, the measurement results have to be communicated to the other particle in some sort of faster than light communication, violating locality, Einstein’s spooky action at a distance.  (But as I noted in the previous post, not in any way that’s actually useful.)

The main thing Carroll says about this is what I’ve seen from other sources.  Bell’s theorem assumes a definite outcome to the measurement.  But since in MWI there are no definite outcomes, every outcome is realized, the theorem doesn’t apply.

(Maybe under MWI, the statistics aren’t constrained in any one branch of the wave function because the outcomes are spread over all the branches, but that’s my speculation.)

Another question I hoped to see an answer to is how much branching a quantum interaction causes and at what resolution?  For a binary result, like the direction of spin, the answer should be two.  But the location of a particle is spread out in a wave, and elementary particles are points in space.  How many branches does that wave result in?  Carroll admits that we don’t know.  We just don’t know how granular the universe is.  He notes that Everett himself considered it plausible that the number might be infinite, which I can’t see as a strength of the theory.

Another question is whether the branching happens all at once, an entire universe instantly created, or gradually from the interaction outward.  My primer post and description above inherently assumes that the answer is gradual.  But Carroll states that it can be accounted for both ways.  It’s hard for me to see how creating an entire universe billions of light years wide, all at once, preserves locality, so I’m not sure how this can be true, except perhaps in an instrumental manner.  But an appeal to instrumentalism here seems wrong since the whole point of the MWI is to find the reality behind the observations.

Carroll also briefly considers the question a lot of people wonder about, if reality is branching like this, where are all these branches located?  Carroll’s reply is that the branches aren’t “located” anywhere.  They’re all right here, just not in a way that they can interact with each other.  While I think I understand this point, it’s undoubtedly one that a lot of people struggle with, and I don’t think Carroll addresses it sufficiently.

Another question is the conservation of energy.  Where does the energy for all these different branches come from?  Carroll’s answer is that the original energy of the universe is constantly being spread out among the branches, albeit not evenly, but according the amplitude of each outcome in the wave function.

But here is where the infinite branching point above becomes more problematic.  If the energy is being diluted throughout the branches, and there are an infinite number of those branches, does that mean the energy started out as infinite?  These two answers don’t seem to fit together.

One point Carroll does make clear, our personal decisions do not cause branching.  The branching is caused by quantum events.  Of course, in some of those branches, we might make different decisions, so the effect might be that there are universes with us making varying decisions, but it isn’t guaranteed.  Indeed, I tend to think that most branches will look identical at the macroscopic level, with the differences only being at the microscopic quantum level.

Carroll also discusses what you need to do with Everettian physics if you don’t want the other branches, the many worlds.  You have to add something to the formalism to accomplish this.  He looks at the deBroglie-Bohm pilot-wave theory, which although older than the MWI, could be seen as Everettian physics plus a particle that reifies one of the branches as the real one.  He also looks at GRW, an interesting premise that maybe quantum systems simply spontaneously and randomly collapse, but since they do so very rarely, we usually only see the collapse in association with large macroscopic systems.

The main thing to understand is that each of these additions come with a cost.  With pilot-wave, it’s explicit non-locality.  With GRW, it’s a largely ad-hoc premise whose only purpose is to ban the other worlds.  He discusses other alternatives with similar issues.

Carroll doesn’t address it, but a common move in the physics community is to accept Everettian physics itself, but simply say that the other worlds aren’t there.   This is known as the unreal version of the interpretation.  My issue with this move, aside from the absence of any explanation for why only one of the branches is the real one, is that it reminds me of the Tychonic System.

In the decades between when Copernicus proposed the sun centered model of the solar system and Galileo was able to produce empirical observations that supported it, Tycho Brahe proposed a compromise model, where a lot of the planets orbited the sun, but the sun continued to orbit the Earth.  It was an attempt to get the benefits of the elegant mathematics of the Copernican model, while preserving the “philosophical benefits” of the Earth centered Ptolemaic system.  Today it’s obvious that this was a misguided attempt to save appearances, but it wasn’t obvious in the late 16th century.

Along similar lines, Chad Orzel recommends that we not consider the other worlds as real, but merely as metaphors, accounting devices.  This is also reminiscent of one of the most common moves during the 16th century, to say that Copernicus’ crazy claim that the Earth moves shouldn’t be taken literally.  It should be regarded merely as a mathematical convenience.  Max Planck made a similar move when he first introduced quanta into his calculations.   The claim is, not to worry, it’s not like this crazy thing is real; it’s just an accounting gimmick.

I don’t know whether the MWI is reality or not.  As I’ve noted many times, I think it’s a candidate for reality.  But if you find the mathematics of the Everettian view elegant, and want the benefit of that elegance, then I think you should either accept the consequences (many worlds) or find a good reason to reject those consequences.  (A theory of quantum gravity might eventually provide a reason, but that’s speculation.)

Toward the end of the book Carroll gets into stuff involving the possible emergence of spacetime from quantum mechanics, which I found difficult to follow.  He does point out it’s difficult to work with quantum mechanics in terms of cosmology without, at least implicitly, working under the MWI.

Finally, in the epilogue, he reveals the the title comes from something Einstein wrote describing his wonder as a child that something about the workings of a compass implied, “something deeply hidden.”

All in all, I found the book a good discussion on these topics.  That said, Carroll isn’t really striving for even handedness here.  He’s a partisan for a particular view, and it shows.

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157 Responses to Sean Carroll’s Something Deeply Hidden

  1. Wyrd Smythe says:

    Thanks for reading it so I don’t have to!

    It doesn’t sound like Carroll provided much resolution to the key objections: Energy conservation; the question of what and how many branches; co-existence of branches; or Bell’s theorem.

    Does he provide any way we might test the validity of MWI over other interpretations?

    I see wave-function collapse and Alice-and-Bob experiments of Bell’s theorem as essentially trying to solve the same problem. Both require an instant change not subject to SR. Given that we apparently do see this non-locality in A-and-B experiments, does this suggest something is really happening (ala Bell) when the wave-function collapses?

    One theory connects gravity with quantum w-f collapse in suggesting that it’s when a system is big enough to have enough gravity (and we’re not talking much bigness here) that’s when collapse happens. If there’s any validity to it, it seems more than ever a theory of quantum gravity is key.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “It doesn’t sound like Carroll provided much resolution to the key objections”

      Yeah, I was a bit disappointed. On co-existence, he definitely sees them as all existing. He does discuss toward the end something about entropy perhaps limiting the number of branches, but we’re not talking one, but something like 10^122 (as opposed to the 2^10^122 of Hilbert space), so not a tiny number.

      “Does he provide any way we might test the validity of MWI over other interpretations?”

      None. The only physicist I know who’s even raised the possibility is Brain Greene. He said it might be possible someday to test interference between the branches, but that it would be extremely difficult. I read somewhere that it would be like testing the effects of Jupiter’s gravity on a satellite in orbit of the Earth. The inability to test is why I can’t see making this anything more than a candidate for reality.

      That said, as I noted in the Copernicus comparison, between 1543 and 1609, no one really knew how to test the heliocentrism vs geocentrism models. It was basically a metaphysical dispute until the telescope. Astronomers of the period could only pick the one that made more logical sense to them. But a lot of them had a hard time conceiving of the Earth as moving.

      “If there’s any validity to it, it seems more than ever a theory of quantum gravity is key.”

      Could be. The issue with keeping the wave function collapse is that it seems unavoidably non-local. Which plane of simultaneity does the measurement outcome go across? Or is that even a coherent question?

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      • Wyrd Smythe says:

        “The issue with keeping the wave function collapse is that it seems unavoidably non-local. Which plane of simultaneity does the measurement outcome go across?”

        Perhaps, as with our recent discussion about black holes, the only frame that matters is the frame of the particles themselves. Entangled particles would necessarily start in the same frame, although they’d been in separate frames as they moved apart from each other.

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        • Right. But if one them isn’t measured until they’re in different frames, it seems like the problem is still there.

          Googling coughs up this paper: https://arxiv.org/abs/1811.00378

          Demonstrations of quantum entanglement which confirm the violation of Bell’s inequality indicate that under certain conditions action at a distance is possible. This consequence seems to contradict the relativistic principle of causality, which asserts that an effect never precedes its cause, in any reference frame. By analyzing a numerical example of Bell’s experiment with entangled pairs of photons, we show how observers in two inertial reference frames can disagree about the causality relation between two events. One observer claims that event 1 is the cause of event 2, while the other claims that event 1 is the result of event 2. The solution we suggest to the paradox is that in entangled systems, one can find pairs of “entangled events” which have symmetrical causality relations. Each of the events can serve as a cause or as an effect, depending on the frame of reference in which they are observed.

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          • Wyrd Smythe says:

            Could be. As it stands now, we don’t have a good way to test it. Both Alice and Bob, if they’re on Earth, are essentially in the same frame. I’ll check out that paper…

            Liked by 1 person

          • Wyrd Smythe says:

            Okay, I read the paper, it does have a fairly decent description of Bell’s theorem and how it’s tested, but I’m not sure what to think about the proposed solution.

            It posits a version involving polarized photons in which Detector A is one nanosecond closer to the photon source than Detector B. The detection, at A, through a polarizer, collapses the wave-function (Event 1) and means one nanosecond later Detector B’s result is determined (Event 2). Thus, there appears a (faster than light) casual relationship from Event 1 to Event 2.

            But a passing frame, moving in the right way, sees an apparent reversal of that causality due to how SR changes simultaneity between the frames.

            The problem is the FTL “transmission” of “information” from Event 1 to Event 2. Normally, all frames must agree on causal relationships. But this depends on causality being local. Wave-function collapse isn’t local, as clearly demonstrated in these experiments.

            The solution offered is:

            Usually, when there is a causal relationship between two remote events, they are physically different. That’s why the effect cannot precede its cause in any reference frame. […]

            However, in Bell-like experiments, like the one described in Section 4, there is no physical difference between the two events: they are totally symmetrical. Each of them can serve as a cause or as an effect, depending on the frame of reference in which they are observed.

            Okay,… hmmm… [shrug]

            The question, then, is whether there is some form of the experiment in which the events are not symmetrical.

            It really does make me wonder about the virtual reality idea. One aspect of that being that “the system” doesn’t render anything until it needs to.

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          • Thanks for reading it! That matches my impression from the abstract.

            My reaction is, if causation is reversible like that, then is it really causation? It implies we’re applying the word to a correlation. But of course, Bell’s theorem tells us that it can’t merely be correlation, at least not in any scenario where there are definite outcomes to the measurement.

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          • Wyrd Smythe says:

            Can it be, at the quantum level, there is something between causation and correlation?

            I know what you mean — factoring in SR seems to demand there must be a definite state, but Bell’s Inequality has been proven false for quantum entanglement. Could there be hidden variables that don’t act linearly?

            It’s… what’s the word… damned spooky!

            Wave-function “collapse” seems to get around SR by not being, in any way, useful for communicating anything. I dunno, maybe that paper is on to something in suggesting that identical cause-effects are equally not subject to causality.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. paultorek says:

    “But Carroll states that it can be accounted for both ways. It’s hard for me to see how creating an entire universe billions of light years wide, all at once, preserves locality, so I’m not sure how this can be true, except perhaps in an instrumental manner.”

    I definitely prefer the “accounting” that wears its locality on its sleeve, but here’s a potential defense of what you’re calling instrumental. To wit, the idea of multiple universes is itself a convenient way of talking, not a maximally specific description. After all, branches aren’t totally orthogonal (except maybe in infinite Hilbert space) and “universes” still have a tiny chance to interfere; it’s just that the chance is so small that it’s convenient to treat the states as separate universes.

    “If the energy is being diluted throughout the branches, and there are an infinite number of those branches, does that mean the energy started out as infinite?”

    I’m not a mathematician, but couldn’t infinitesimals handle that? Consider the real number line: the measure of any single point relative to the whole line is zero, and yet, real numbers seem workable.

    “One point Carroll does make clear, our personal decisions do not cause branching. The branching is caused by quantum events.”

    I find that way of talking misleading at best – it’s like saying the car running into you didn’t break your leg, it was particular atoms that did. No, the car did break your leg, in the very same event where particular atoms did so; these are two descriptions of the same event, and you can’t drive a wedge between them. Carroll has the resources in his “poetic naturalism” for a better, more consistent language for macro-micro relations, but he drops the ball. It’s the same problem with his discussion of “top down causation” in The Big Picture.

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    • I agree that the separate universes are just a useful concept, a way to describe separate branches that, for all intents and purposes, are causally separated from each other. But I also think that terminology causes a lot of confusion. A lot of people think the MWI is positing the creation of entirely separate spacetimes on every quantum event. Carroll’s leaning into that terminology, I think, exacerbates that confusion.

      “I’m not a mathematician, but couldn’t infinitesimals handle that?”

      I don’t know. I’m definitely not a mathematician either. I just have this feeling that when infinity starts getting thrown around, we’re seeing cracks in the model.

      “I find that way of talking misleading at best – it’s like saying the car running into you didn’t break your leg, it was particular atoms that did.”

      A lot here depends on whether you think our decisions in any way hinge on individual quantum events. I think Carroll is just going with mainstream neuroscience that decisions can be modeled entirely in classical terms. If that’s right, the overwhelming majority of branches won’t correlate with human decisions. (Unless you explicitly make your decision based on a quantum outcome.)

      But that’s not to say there aren’t branches where you did make a different decision, where an individual quantum outcome, despite its low probability, did alter the decision. But describing that as being caused by the decision would be misleading. It’s more accurate to say that the different decision was just along for the ride.

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      • paultorek says:

        “It’s more accurate to say that the different decision was just along for the ride.”

        Gotta push back on that one. You could equally well say that the quantum outcome is just along for the ride. Or better yet, say neither of those things, and stop trying to drive a wedge between heavily overlapping sub-factors of the universal wavefunction. Thou art physics. The person and their decisions *are* the operations of their parts arranged person-wise.

        I agree in expecting that the vast majority of decisions are effectively classical. But if there are quantum-branching decisions, then the original person decided to do both of the decohered-state actions in question. After the decision, we might want to associate the our-universe person only with the one made in our branch, even if we know it was a quantum-branching decision. Especially if the decision significantly shapes their life path going forward.

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    • Wyrd Smythe says:

      “…and yet, real numbers seem workable.”

      For some value of “workable” — even Newtonian mechanics demonstrates some oddities. John Baez has a really good series that gets into the problems with the continuum.

      I’ve always really loved the Kronecker quote: “God made the integers, all else is the work of man.”

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  3. I find it ALL deeply hidden. I assume I am right in saying that currently most if not all of these views are based upon speculation and mathematics? I remember initially being most impressed by David Deutsch and his explanation of the double slit experiment and then discovering there were explanations for it other than the MWI. Essential to keep speculating of course but we do not appear to be anywhere close to empiracle evidence of any particular interpretation?

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s true. Some old interpretations have been ruled out along the way, but the major ones are all compatible with empirical observations. Currently, the only way to choose among them is to figure our which one seems most logically plausible to you. In truth, it comes down to which type of absurdity is least objectionable: non-realism, indeterminism, non-locality, or proliferating versions of everyone and everything.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Mike you’ve neglected to mention to Anthony the QM interpretation that Einstein and I hold, but no worries. It’s that the human simply doesn’t grasp what’s going on here, though whatever’s happening should all be causal in the end. And here I mean causal without theorizing the creation of bazillions of extra “universes” each moment, as Sean Carroll seems to for some reason not consider utterly ridiculous.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Eric,
          I did mention it, or at least allude to it with, “Some old interpretations have been ruled out along the way”. Einstein didn’t really have an explicit interpretation, just an aspiration for one that preserved locality. He believed that QM was incomplete, and that eventually there would be hidden variables discovered that would provide a theory that met that aspiration. That was largely the point of the EPR paper in 1935.

          The problem was that he held this belief before John Stuart Bell worked out a way to actually test the EPR proposition with his theorem. Once experiments were performed that validated that theorem, Einstein’s position in the EPR paper was proven wrong. Einstein was a good scientist. He would have abandoned his belief in the face of contradictory evidence.

          It’s worth noting that the MWI actually does preserve locality (and determinism), but it does so by getting around a major assumption of Bell’s theorem, that a measurement produces only one outcome.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Mike,
            I wasn’t quite referring to EPR there, but rather my hero’s proclivity to not decide that something’s understood when it’s clearly not. When I was in school in the 90s I remember people in physics talking about the existence of “natural uncertainty”. This phrase offended me as a true dichotomy. I wanted to believe that of all people, these would reject standard human notions of magic. But at least there was Einstein.

            It has not yet been ruled out that the human doesn’t grasp what’s going on here. That was actually the QM interpretation that I meant was missing from your provided list. In fact my interpretation seems quite obviously true. I consider Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle to be a wonderful example of epistemology, though I get worried when people start confusing it with ontology. But regarding this “many worlds” business… so here we theorize countless “universes” in order to account for our inability to grasp what’s going on? This seems just as arrogant as deciding that our measurements mandate a void in causality itself!

            I see that Sabine Hossenfelder has recommended this book as well, and mind you that she’s called MWI nothing short of “non-science”. So once again my speculation here is that Sean Carroll happens to be an amazingly charismatic story teller. Of course he’s also quite bright as well as believes what he says. This clearly adds to his game. But given all that it seems to me that skeptics ought to try to balance things out by viewing the positions of such people with extra suspicion.

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          • Wyrd Smythe says:

            “I consider Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle to be a wonderful example of epistemology, though I get worried when people start confusing it with ontology.”

            Sorry, Eric, but the HUP is physical fact. Like it or not, the universe really is fuzzy.

            I’ve run into college physics teachers who believe the HUP is, as you say, a limit on our ability to know the “true facts,” and that’s a popular common belief, but it’s wrong. It’s been very well established by experiment that certain pairs of information (momentum and position being the canonical ones) cannot be both known with precision.

            Understanding the math or physics behind this helps make that clear. A very good example involves the frequency and time of a musical tone (or any frequency of wave):

            To truly know the frequency, you need multiple cycles of the wave. But this spreads the duration out in time, so you lose the knowledge of when the tone occurred. But you know its frequency very accurately.

            Or you can restrict the wave to smaller and smaller time intervals, thus knowing with great precision when it occurs. But the smaller the segment of the wave you consider, the less you know about its frequency. There’s no way around this. You get one or the other.

            At the extremes, to truly know the frequency, you need infinite duration (consider how the Taylor series for sine waves works), which means you have zero idea when it occurs. Alternately, you can look at the smallest possible duration, giving you perfect precision in time, but this loses all information about frequency.

            Given that quantum physics is a field theory, this is exactly why momentum and position cannot, under any circumstance, be both known with precision.

            Like

          • Wyrd,
            I’m not saying that the human can ever know the momentum and position of anything with perfect certainty. I’m saying that I believe causality doesn’t fail in the end. Many interpret QM in the opposite way, or essentially that “God plays dice”. It’s fine with me if you and others believe that nature functions beyond causal dynamics, though here you also forfeit your naturalism. (Note that it’s highly effective to refer to natural dynamics in terms of causal dynamics, though not otherwise.)

            As I recall Sabine used to talk a bit carelessly here as well, that is until I had a go at some of her patrons on the topic. I haven’t noticed her to stray since!

            Why is it that respected physicists would go to the insane lengths that Sean Carroll does to preserve determinism? Apparently in order to save themselves from the plight of supernaturalism. To me however this cure seems even worse than the disease. I don’t mind “God plays die-rs” (that is as long as they’re willing to admit their supernaturalism). They might even be correct! But I do mind slicksters which theorize bazillions of new “universes” each moment in order to conform with human data. On this end physics seems quite susceptible to the same crap that we see in our soft sciences.

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          • Wyrd Smythe says:

            “I’m not saying that the human can ever know the momentum and position of anything with perfect certainty.”

            Did you not say you get “worried” that people think the HUP is an ontological reality?

            “Many interpret QM in the opposite way, or essentially that ‘God plays dice’.”

            Quantum probability is not related to the HUP. And, as far as we know, Einstein was wrong; God does play dice with the universe. The polarization of a photon, or the spin of a particle, or when a particular unstable atom decays, is, indeed, random.

            “As I recall Sabine used to talk a bit carelessly here as well, that is until I had a go at some of her patrons on the topic.”

            You actually believe you schooled Sabine Hossenfelder? Yikes.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Steve Morris says:

            Eric, as a young physics undergraduate I was once resolutely in your camp. The world couldn’t be non-deterministic. Someone must have overlooked something. But the facts of the double slit experiment are brutal. They take no prisoners. The universe is not deterministic, and we have to suck it up.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Look guys, I do appreciate your experience on this matter, though must still object. What else in science (that is beyond your proposal that reality is ultimately “fuzzy”), is known with perfect certainty? Nothing. Not one thing. It’s all provisional. It’s all work in progress. There is only one thing that I can ever know about what’s ultimately Real, and it’s that I myself exist in some capacity. That’s hardly science however since I can never Prove to you that I exist, nor you me. Everything that I perceive could just be an illusion, that is except that I perceive at all. That’s the one thing which I can’t dispute.

            So even though some will forfeit their naturalism regarding QM, and others will dabble in this Sean Carroll nonsense, and so on, I’ll simply view HUP as a marvelous bit of epistemology that’s not a full explanation, just like all else that exists in science. I perceive this to be the responsible interpretation.

            Yes Wyrd, it is my perception that Sabine also used to speak irresponsibly about these matters, but changed her tune given some of my own commentary over there. Maybe when I have some time I’ll look that up to check if my memory about this seems accurate…

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          • Wyrd Smythe says:

            “I’ll simply view HUP as a marvelous bit of epistemology that’s not a full explanation, just like all else that exists in science. I perceive this to be the responsible interpretation.”

            You’re ignoring both the math and the experimental results confirming that math. Go back and read what I wrote about frequency versus time. They are mathematically mutually exclusive.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Lee Roetcisoender says:

            I personally enjoy reading these lively exchanges. Steve Morris said: “But the facts of the double slit experiment are brutal. They take no prisoners.” I am in full agreement with this analysis, unfortunately the conclusions drawn from the double-slit experiment, conclusions which form a circle of mutual definition and agreement within the scientific community are FALSE.

            In agreement with Eric:
            1. The HUP is a epistemological statement not an ontological one. Just because human beings cannot figure out this shit doesn’t make the universe non-deterministic, it just means human beings are not smart enough to figure this shit out. Our psychological paradigm is one of control, the universe does not conform to us, we conform to it. Quoting Neil deGrasse Tyson: “The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.”
            2. Our physical sciences brought us the creature comforts we all enjoy today. Nevertheless, our physical sciences are hamstrung by the same genetic defect which befell the influence and power of religion.

            In closing: observations are made and conclusions are reached. The only thing we have access to is information, credulity and biases underwrite the dynamics by which a consensus is reached within any given community. So, what does any thing mean outside a circle of mutual definition and agreement? The correct answer is “I don’t know”, and there is no way to ever find out.

            Liked by 1 person

          • In the end, all we have are models that make more or less accurate predictions. The problems with interpretations of quantum mechanics, is that the testable predictions are the ones they all share. It’s the untestable ones that they diverge on. It’s tempting to dismiss the whole endeavor as hopeless metaphysics, but as John Bell reminded us, what is metaphysics today may be testable science tomorrow.

            Until then, all we can do is apply the best logic we can, and try not to let our emotional biases influence our conclusions.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Okay, here’s what I’ve dug up on any potential influence that I might have had upon Sabine Hossenfelder this past spring…

            The back story is that I learned of her in December 2016 when professor Massimo Pigliucci (who I’ve followed blogging for years) mentioned a wonderful lecture that she gave at a Munich physics conference where notable philosophers like himself were invited to hopefully help straighten some things out in her field. When I emailed her she rewarded me with a very nice response at Massimo’s site. Since that time however I’ve mainly admired her from afar, that is until April of this year when I began commenting over at her blog.

            Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised by my themes over there, or that science is in need of founding principles of metaphysics, epistemology, and axiology from which to build. I consider her position that theoretical physics has gotten “Lost in Math”, as a mere symptom of the failure that I note, and present my second principle of epistemology to potentially help fix this issue in physics. Of course I’ve also discussed the need for epistemological rather than ontological interpretations of quantum mechanics.

            So given a month of such commentary (and largely through the vetting of Dr. A.M. Castaldo), the record shows that Sabine wrote a post entitled “Quantum mechanics is wrong”.

            http://backreaction.blogspot.com/2019/05/quantum-mechanics-is-wrong-there-ive.html?m=0

            It’s theme is that QM should not be considered any more True than any other effective theory in science. (Of course she didn’t quite state that non-causal function may be equated with supernatural function, though she also didn’t object to my own such assertions.)

            In the past I’ve noticed her to sometimes slip into standard “God plays dice” interpretations of QM, though not since. Her (alleged) change of heart may not have been on my account — correlation does not mandate causation. But given the circumstances, to me this does seem likely.

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          • Wyrd Smythe says:

            I think you’ve misunderstood what she’s saying in that post. Consider what she says in her final paragraph:

            So, yes, quantum mechanics is technically wrong. It’s only an approximation to the more complete framework of quantum field theory.

            This is very well known. Many things aren’t included in QFT (dark matter, dark energy, what happened to all the antimatter, etc). In particular, we can’t yet reconcile QFT with GR. None of this is new.

            Dude: I’ve seen you misunderstand me time and again. I’ve watched you misunderstand Mike time and again. You seem to be misunderstanding Hossenfelder here. Perhaps you should take a step back and assess.

            Like

          • Wyrd,
            In discussions like this it’s quite standard to want to “beat” rather than “understand” an interlocutor. I notice a good deal of that sort of thing over at Sabine’s — two people just flailing away. It gets back to our primal competitive spirit. And though victory may indeed result from such an approach, it can also leave a person vulnerable to a much less bright and/or educated interlocutor — that is if that person keeps things simple.

            I am known to hold extreme positions, and yet apparently I’ve been able to keep them simple enough for effective defense. It’s true that I cannot compete with your brain power or education, though underestimating others should always be avoided. The best strategy to use I think, is the one generally employed by the proprietor of this site. I call it “the Gandhi approach”. (Furthermore he seems to have a good bit of brain power and education as well!)

            Regardless of how much modern physics you grasp and I do not, the entire subject remains under the domain of “epistemology” rather than “ontology”. To nevertheless consider ontology however, if a void in causality does exist in the end, then this will mandate what may effectively be referred to as “magical” function. This would be where “God plays dice”. Who am I to know different? That may indeed be how things are.

            I understand why physicists who hold such an ontology tend to get upset when someone like me says such a thing. Though it may seem disrespectful, I don’t mean to be. In fact I consider it failure in the field of philosophy which causes scientists to not always grasp things like this. That’s the very thing that I’d like to help fix.

            Like

          • Wyrd Smythe says:

            Several points:

            All the scientists I know, as well as most of the science-minded, fully understand that our ontologies are provisional. When data converges on an apparent fact, we do tend to treat it as a fact. Future facts may always invalidate it.

            For many of us, debate (A) sharpens the mind and (B) takes our ideas out for a test spin to see how well they fare. One of my favorite lines by a long-lost internet friend was, “All ideas should have to fight for survival in the marketplace of ideas.” I believe that with all my heart. I live that!

            Yes, Mike is a much nicer person than I am. I lack his patience (and I’m a raging misanthrope, to boot). 😀

            One of your big asks is that people understand you (and I think they do — they just don’t agree with you). But what I wonder is how much effort you put into understanding them. My observation, FWIW, is that you tend to be somewhat impervious to critical input.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Stephen Wysong says:

            Re: “My observation, FWIW, is that you tend to be somewhat impervious to critical input.”

            IMO, It’s important to be mindful in conversations with Eric that he’s not really convinced that any of us exist. … 😉

            Like

          • Wyrd,
            Was Gandhi nice? Well I guess maybe so, though that wasn’t my point. My point was that I consider him to have been one of the greatest political minds that our world has ever known. Few seem to appreciate the genius of his methods and thus harness such power for themselves. I consider perceptions of “niceness” to merely be a side effect of his methods.

            If it’s your perception that I do not take the criticisms of others seriously, then I’ve most certainly been failing in this regard. Gandhi would not approve! I’ll need to do better.

            As I’ve told you before, I’d like others to gain a working level rather than just lecture level grasp of my ideas. But in order to do so one must try to use rough lecture based conceptions of my ideas against practical associated questions. This is learning by doing rather than just watching. When people ask me questions they essentially stand by and observe as I employ my ideas to answer their questions. To truly learn how my ideas work however, one would need to take a shot at doing so for themselves. It’s like a physics student exploring what a new idea both does and does not mean as they attempt to answer associated questions. For this a very different mindset is required.

            In June I decided to email Dr. Peter Marten, who self published “On the Mechanisms of Consciousness” in 2017. I read it in December of that year given certain similarities with my own positions. After reading it I decided that there were probably too many divergences between our positions to have productive discussions. But somewhat given revelations from your “Giant File Room” post this past May, I changed my mind. Fortunately he was interested in having discussions with me as well.

            The plan was to initially go through my ideas, which we did, though I noticed several of his ideas would creep into his analysis of mine, which is of course understandable. But to potentially demonstrate that we needed to leave our own models behind while we were attempting to grasp the models of the other, we put this on hold to go the other way. So I re-read his book and then attempted to tell him the nature of his model, as well as tried to work out how he’d answer various practical questions. According to him this went well, so my own ideas were brought back into the mix for comparison and contrast. It turns out that we didn’t get too far with that however given his work related time constraints. In any case his main focus is to work out bugs in the software which he believes or hopes will some day be effective to call “conscious”.

            More recently I’ve been attempting to grasp the ideas of James of Seattle. We had an 8 comment run that seemed productive to me, though a bit too short. Let me know if I didn’t seem earnest there. https://selfawarepatterns.com/2019/02/03/why-faster-than-light-travel-is-inevitably-also-time-travel/#comment-33308

            Regardless my point is that I have lately acknowledged that I do need to understand others better before I can expect them to earnestly seek to grasp my own ideas, as these examples suggest. Unfortunately other obstacles seem to exist as well. For example Mike loves neuroscience, though I have nothing to entertain him with in that regard. Then like Peter he believes that “affect” exists by means of “programming” alone. Though not fatal to my ideas in itself, in the end this does seem quite wrong to me. Until someone like Peter succeeds with code which seems to function like an entity motivated by phenomenal experience, I’ll doubt it could be that simple.

            So even if I do fix what’s been irking you about me, it may still be difficult to find people who would go beyond what they naturally want to believe to gain a working level understanding of my ideas. And without a working level grasp of my ideas it should be far more difficult effectively criticize my ideas. I need the assessments of people who’ve developed a working level grasp.

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  4. Steve Morris says:

    It strikes me that this way of thinking is downplaying the role of particles and their interactions. The only true reality in the MWI is the wavefunction and the spacetime in which it exists. The “many worlds” are like ghosts in a mathematical universe.

    If Copernicus downgraded the status of the Earth, and Darwin downgraded the centrality of humans, then Everett seems to do the same for matter and the forces that govern it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. James Cross says:

    You should feel like a victim of false advertising if you buy into MWI and then are told the other worlds aren’t real.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Steve Morris says:

    If I remember my quantum mechanics lectures reliably, the Schrodinger equation, being time-dependent, causes any quantum system to continually evolve into a superposition of states. Therefore talking about “splitting” the universe into “copies” seems to be a misguided notion. It is a metaphor that misleads as much as it informs. Or am I wrong? (I am genuinely trying to get my head around the MWI approach.)

    Like

  7. Steve Morris says:

    I would really like to get to the bottom of this business 🙂 My big problem has always been the splitting of the worlds – what causes the splitting, when does it happen, how is this communicated non-locally across the entire universe, what about conservation of energy, – and so many more questions. I know that other people share many of these problems. But is it the case that the splitting never actually happens and that all the superposition states always existed from the creation of the universe? This would make much more sense to me. Then what happens is that the divergence of the different states is something that occurs gradually and steadily as time moves forward. Is this what MWI states? Heck, what does it say? Does anyone know?

    Like

    • I think you’re right that talk of splitting universes causes a lot of confusion. Not enough attention is given to the fact that that is a way of thinking about the spreading superpositions, the branches of which are very unlikely to ever interfere with each other. Without that stipulation, it sounds like MWI is talking about whole new spacetimes being instantly created whole cloth.

      The interpretation that makes sense to me is that the different states occur gradually and steadily. Straight Everettian physics is that there is one overall wave function for the universe, which is constantly evolving according to the Schrodinger equation. This happens through local interactions. No non-locality should be required.

      It would mean that the universe is an unbelievably strange place, but I think quantum mechanics pushed us across that boundary long ago.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Wyrd Smythe says:

      “My big problem has always been the splitting of the worlds – what causes the splitting, when does it happen, how is this communicated non-locally across the entire universe, what about conservation of energy, – and so many more questions.”

      These questions are exactly why I’m so suspect when it comes to MWI. Mike’s review of a book by one of its big proponents suggests these questions remain unanswered. (Making me all the more suspicious this is valid.)

      Consider a window. Photons (by the zillions) hitting that window at an angle have some probably of going through or being reflected. That’s a quantum event. Does that create zillions of splits? If not, why not?

      Consider a lamp in a room. Photons from that lamp have some probability of hitting any surface in that room. Does that slit universes?

      It’s all well and good to talk about single particle experiments, but thinking about that on the large scale seems to make MWI a pretty big ask in my book.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Just a quick point about the photons. The question is whether the photons are in superpositions, and whether the superposition is being “measured” by the interaction. In the case of the electron, the spin is in a superposition, and the spin is being measured, thus causing the entanglement. The charge of the electron, for example, is not (to my knowledge) in a superposition, so that an interaction based on the charge would not lead to entanglement, and splitting.

        *
        [I think]

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        • Wyrd Smythe says:

          “The question is whether the photons are in superpositions”

          Yes. With Bell’s Inequality experiments, it’s usually the photon polarization that is superposed. Sending a photon through a polarizing filter “measures” that and “collapses” it such that it will always pass through an identically oriented filter.

          [There’s a fascinating way to watch this quantum behavior in action if you have three polarizing filters. Orient a second filter 90°, and this will block all the light, because having a 100% probability of going through a 0° filter means a 0% chance of going through a 90° filter. But if you insert the third filter between them, oriented at 45°, suddenly (a surprising amount of) light passes through, because the probability of passing through that filter is cos(θ)^2 = cos(45)^2 = 0.50. And now there is a 100% chance of passing through another 45° filter and therefore a 0.50 chance of passing through a filter oriented 45° to that (as the second filter at 90° to the first one is). Note: With two filters oriented orthogonally, the probability is cos(90)^2 = 0.00. With two filters oriented identically, it’s cos(0)^2 = 1.00. Actually seeing it is kind of mind-blowing. It’s that cosine business that messes with Bell’s Inequality. “Hidden variables” would have linear probabilities.]

          “In the case of the electron, the spin is in a superposition, and the spin is being measured”

          Also yes.

          Note that photons, electrons, and some surprisingly large molecules, can experience the superposition of passing through two slits and interfering. Photons can also be in a superposition of passing through, or not, a half-silver mirror. Many experiments use this. (The probability is different with a sheet of glass — dependent on the angle of incidence, I believe — but it’s a similar deal.)

          “The charge of the electron, for example, is not (to my knowledge) in a superposition,”

          Yes, again. All electrons are identical in having the same mass and charge (and some other quantum properties).

          Note that electrons (all fermions) are spin 1/2 particles. What’s measured is whether spin along some given axis is one way or the other. So long as that spin hasn’t been determined, there’s always a 50/50 chance on whatever axis you pick.

          Like

  8. Lee Roetcisoender says:

    The wave-function collapse is the most misunderstood phenomenon in all of quantum physics, and as a result of being misunderstood, wave-function collapse is the most misrepresented. There are many others, but wave-function collapse tops the list. But in the end, the continued speculations make good stories which generate additional income for those in prestigious positions of the academic and scientific institutions. Make no mistake, there is nothing wrong with trying to make an extra buck. Nevertheless, it would be my recommendation that the publication community create a separate genre for these kind of works so the public can discriminate between serious metaphysical works and the unfounded, grandiose story telling of a priveliged few.

    Like

    • By what standard would the publishers sort work into one category or the other? By their own credulity and biases? Or if they created an advisory committee to be the judges, who should be on that committee?

      Like

      • Lee Roetcisoender says:

        “By their own credulity and biases?”

        You nailed that one Mike, because credulity and biases are the only criteria by which a consensus is reached within any community.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. J.S. Pailly says:

    So I came across an idea a while back that I think is really cool. Perhaps the many worlds interpretation could help explain dark matter. What we call dark matter might simply be regular matter in other branches of reality, with the gravitational force from all those other branches of reality bleeding through into our own universe. Of course like many ideas that I think are really cool, this idea is probably wrong.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Steve Morris says:

      I like the sound of that idea too.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Something like that idea has occurred to me too, although it seems like it would imply that the number of branches are more limited than generally thought. Dark matter might be more compatible with a related interpretation I once read about (and shared) called the Many Interacting Worlds interpretations.

      Adam Becker, in his book, noted that some physicists think the continuously growing branches might be cosmic inflation, or at least a different manifestation of it than existed in the early universe.

      Liked by 1 person

      • J.S. Pailly says:

        Many Interacting Worlds might be the thing I’m thinking of! I don’t remember where I first came across the idea (it very well might have been right here on your blog) but the idea has really stuck with me. As I said, it would be really cool—if it were true.

        Like

        • Just dug up the old post: https://selfawarepatterns.com/2014/11/02/new-interpretation-of-quantum-physics-many-interacting-worlds/

          Looking again at the abstract in the linked paper, it actually seems to be the opposite of the Everettian view giving waves primacy, instead starting from classical physics and deriving quantum physics from the interaction between worlds.

          We investigate whether quantum theory can be understood as the continuum limit of a mechanical theory, in which there is a huge, but finite, number of classical “worlds,” and quantum effects arise solely from a universal interaction between these worlds, without reference to any wave function. Here, a “world” means an entire universe with well-defined properties, determined by the classical configuration of its particles and fields. In our approach, each world evolves deterministically, probabilities arise due to ignorance as to which world a given observer occupies, and we argue that in the limit of infinitely many worlds the wave function can be recovered (as a secondary object) from the motion of these worlds. We introduce a simple model of such a “many interacting worlds” approach and show that it can reproduce some generic quantum phenomena—such as Ehrenfest’s theorem, wave packet spreading, barrier tunneling, and zero-point energy—as a direct consequence of mutual repulsion between worlds. Finally, we perform numerical simulations using our approach. We demonstrate, first, that it can be used to calculate quantum ground states, and second, that it is capable of reproducing, at least qualitatively, the double-slit interference phenomenon.

          Liked by 1 person

  10. Lee Roetcisoender says:

    I posted this under the wrong essay, so I’ll try it again:

    Essentially, what Sean Carroll has done is postulate that wave-function is the “thing-in-itself”. This is in direct contrast to the Copenhagen interpretation which postulates that matter has both wave-like and particle-like properties. Unfortunately, neither one of those interpretations has anything to do with the true nature of reality. The entire “wave-function” is a bogus intellectual construction which was derived from observing the interference patterns created by the infamous two-slit experiment.

    Quantum physics has never been my area of expertise, But upon examining much of the evidence surrounding the two-slit experiment, there is another explanation for those interference patterns that nobody has even entertained. Furthermore, my understanding of the cause of those interference patterns correspond precisely with my theories. It’s all so fascinating…

    Like

  11. I’m still only part way thru the book (I read slow), but I think Carroll does an excellent job at explaining the basic ideas of quantum mechanics to a non-to-semi mathematical audience.

    That said, I’m not buying the multi-worlds idea either. I think I lean toward the Qbist idea that the Schrodinger equation isn’t so much a description of reality as it is a description of how real things interact. The wave equation simply provides probabilities that something which can make a measurement will in fact make such measurement at a given time and place. Entanglement is not some magical thing that happens between two things. It’s just a new set of probabilities taking into account a previous interaction. And when one of the entangled things is measured, nothing happens to the other one. It’s just that the thing measuring the first one has a new set of probilities regarding the second.

    I expect Carroll may address the Qbist take somewhere in there and I just haven’t gotten there yet, but it will take some convincing.

    *

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    • I agree he does an excellent job early in the book. But as it progresses, I found myself periodically getting lost. He sometimes has a tendency to quickly pile on concepts. And in the later parts of the book, I wondered if he had any layperson beta readers.

      He does address Qbism. I was hoping it would make more sense to me when he did, but I came away still not really getting it. It sounds to me too much like rationalizing the situation and attempting to just feel better about it.

      Like

  12. BeingQuest says:

    “I don’t know whether the MWI is reality or not. As I’ve noted many times, I think it’s a candidate for reality. But if you find the mathematics of the Everettian view elegant, and want the benefit of that elegance, then I think you should either accept the consequences (many worlds) or find a good reason to reject those consequences. (A theory of quantum gravity might eventually provide a reason, but that’s speculation.)”

    I can read only this in your whole work here:

    I can’t even begin to pursue the many elaborations of these thoughts are subject to, but like most or all of what I have read of our Posts, I find it convenient to pass over all the Jargon and seek the last Paragraphs of your demonstration (or whatever it is) to find what Conclusions are in your mind. Mostly it turns-out as a Quandary, which you sometimes contradict, and other times may confuse.

    Like

    • I’m not sure what you’re saying here, but if you drop down to the last paragraph of my posts, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re confusing. They’re not meant to stand alone.

      I will note that when a post argues a particular point, that point is usually expressed in the title.

      Like

  13. Stephen Wysong says:

    Many interesting comments so far. Hopefully I can provide a few clarifications of interest. First, MWI is not “Everettian physics” but is Everettian philosophy of physics, as are all of the interpretations of QM. From Stuckey’s (et al.) beyond the Dynamical Universe (BDU), in addition to the Copenhagen:

    Philosophy of physics has produced myriad interpretations of QM, e.g., Many Worlds, de Broglie-Bohm, the Two-State Vector Formalism, the Transactional Interpretation, Relational Quantum Mechanics, the Ithaca Interpretation, information theoretic accounts, etc. Decades of research in philosophy of physics has not pared the field of contenders but, quite the opposite, the interpretations of QM have proliferated. As things currently stand, taken together, both QM and quantum field theory (QFT) are highly predictive and successful, yet there is no consensus as to what they are telling us about the nature of reality.

    As is likely with most of the commenters here, I haven’t examined any but the Copenhagen and MWI variants, mostly because life is short. 😉

    Mike, you commented that “Einstein was a good scientist. He would have abandoned his belief in the face of contradictory evidence.” But, in fact, he didn’t abandon it and retained his belief in a deterministic universe to the end. In his hospital bed just prior to his death, he was still struggling with the mathematics for the elusive unified theory he’d been seeking for decades. Oddly enough, although he accepted Minkowski’s spacetime block universe (1907) of the Special Theory of Relativity (1905) as foundational for his General Theory of Relativity, and came to understand that it implied what he called the “eternity of life,” Einstein never realized that the block universe has potent explanatory power for physics, particularly in the realization that all QM interpretations mistakenly view QM events as dynamical. That’s exactly what causes all the interpretative confusion, as explained by Vesselin Petkov, whom I’ve quoted on some previous post, but repeat here (italics mine):

    “Despite Feynman’s desperate appeal to regard Nature as absurd the history of science teaches us that all apparent paradoxes are caused by some implicit assumptions. A consistent conceptual analysis of only one of those quantum mechanical paradoxes—say, the famous double-slit experiment, discussed by Feynman—almost immediately identifies an implicit assumption—we have been taking for granted that quantum objects exist continuously in time although there has been nothing either in the experimental evidence or in the theory that compels us to do so. Just imagine—a fundamental continuity (continuous existence in time) at the heart of quantum physics. And no wonder that such an implicit assumption leads to a paradox—an electron, for example, which is always registered as a pointlike entity and which exists continuously in time, is a classical particle (i.e. a world-line in spacetime) that cannot go simultaneously through both slits in the double-slit experiment to form an interference pattern.

    However, if we abandon the implicit assumption and replace it explicitly with its alternative—discontinuous existence in time—the paradox disappears. Then an electron is, in the ordinary three-dimensional language, an ensemble of constituents which appear-disappear ∼ 1020 times per second (the Compton frequency). Such a quantum object can pass simultaneously through all slits at its disposal.

    In Minkowski’s four-dimensional language (trying to extract more from his treasure), an electron is not a worldline but a ‘disintegrated’ worldline whose worldpoints are scattered all over the spacetime region where the electron wavefunction is different from zero. Such a model of the quantum object and quantum phenomena in general provides a surprising insight into the physical meaning of probabilistic phenomena in spacetime—an electron is a probabilistic distribution of worldpoints which is forever given in spacetime.

    Had Minkowski lived longer he might have described such a spacetime picture by the mystical expression ‘predetermined probabilistic phenomena.’ And, I guess, Einstein would be also satisfied—God would not play dice since a probabilistic distribution in spacetime exists eternally there.”

    That quote is from Petkov’s Minkowski Institute book Space and Time—Minkowski’s Papers on Relativity, page 18. Concurring with Petkov, Stuckey (in BDU) writes about the relevance to MWI:

    The only non-instrumentalist interpretation to preserve locality and independence, the Many-Worlds interpretation, forces us to accept that ‘measurements’ have no unique outcomes. This is quite a blow to the dynamical perspective where, if only indeterministically, the past state of a system plus a dynamical law gives rise to a unique outcome.”

    Like

    • Stephen, is there an easy way to explain how temporally discontinuous particles would generate interference in a two slit experiment?

      *

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    • an electron, for example, which is always registered as a pointlike entity and which exists continuously in time, is a classical particle (i.e. a world-line in spacetime) that cannot go simultaneously through both slits in the double-slit experiment to form an interference pattern.

      Just because something is always registered as a point like entity doesn’t mean that the thing is, in fact, a point like entity. Consider this thought experiement.

      You’re in a dark room. You suspect that somewhere approximately 1.5 yards in front of you there is a yardstick A suspended from a string. You have another yardstick B in your hand. Your only way to interact with stick A is by swinging stick B around. Suppose you have really good acoustic machinery listening to the room, or maybe you’re a bat.

      You swing the stick B and make contact with stick A. With your acoustic capabilities you know the exact point in space where the sticks made contact.

      Question: did the stick function collapse to a point in that moment? Was the stick always a point but with a stick-like probability function until there was an actual measurement?

      MWI says everything’s a wave, and is always a wave.

      *
      [“The rose is a rose,
      And was always a rose.
      But now the theory goes
      That the apple’s a rose,
      And the pear is, and so’s
      The plum, I suppose.
      The dear only knows
      What will next prove a rose.
      You, of course, are a rose
      But were always a rose.”

      Frost]

      Like

    • Stephen,
      I can see the philosophy thing. Ultimately, once we move beyond propositions that are currently falsifiable, it’s a matter of judgment whether we’re talking about science or philosophy. But as I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this thread, today’s metaphysics might be tomorrow’s testable science.

      On Einstein, he was definitely a hold out on the Copenhagen interpretation. But in his time, the possibility of hidden variables with definite outcomes hadn’t yet been ruled out. John Bell wouldn’t publish his theorem until nine years after he died, with the first confirming experiment in 1972. There’s no way to know for sure of course, but based on his history, if Einstein had still been alive in the 1970s, I feel comfortable he would have recognized his position in the EPR paper was no longer viable.

      I think I asked this the last time you quoted Petkov, but what determines where in spacetime the particle exists or doesn’t exist? It seems like the answer last time was along the lines that it is where it is. Is there anything a bit more systematic?

      Like

      • Stephen Wysong says:

        Mike, I don’t see how any of the metaphysical Interpretations of QM could graduate to testable science because they’re not testable in principle. With MWI, for instance, you wrote that “… the branches aren’t ‘located’ anywhere. They’re all right here, just not in a way that they can interact with each other.” At least with the theorized Dark Matter there’s supposedly gravitational effects that might assist with detection, but with the Many-Worlds branches there’s zilch. Well, maybe some nada … 😉

        Having just finished reading a third Einstein biography, I can’t imagine him ever abandoning his heartfelt belief that our universe can be understood because it’s determinate, even if he were alive today, but I suspect he’d be tousled-head-over-heels delighted with Stuckey’s and Petkov’s block universe explanations.

        The answer to your question “… what determines where in spacetime the particle exists or doesn’t exist?” is more-or-less as you recall, that “it is where it is” business. My original response was:

        … as Petkov explains, the electron exists as ‘… a ‘disintegrated’ worldline whose worldpoints are scattered all over the spacetime region where the electron wavefunction is different from zero.’ The spacetime locations of the individual worldpoints may be discovered through measurement, but are not in any sense ‘narrowed.’ Those worldpoints are permanent features of spacetime, where everything that we consider ‘past’ and ‘future’ exists all-at-once. Spacetime doesn’t change and nothing in spacetime ever ‘happens’ or has happened. Classical mechanics is not a ‘scale-up’ of a dynamically conceived quantum reality but is, rather, a description of the regularities in the dynamic-view which is, once again, an artifact of consciousness.

        BTW, the worldpoint and worldline terminology was introduced by Minkowski in his “Space and Time” lecture in 1908.

        Like

        • Brian Greene, in one of his books, did discuss the possibility of testing the MWI. It is possible for different branches to interfere with each other in an infinitesimal fashion. Detecting this minute interference would be extremely difficult, but it’s not impossible in principle. Not that anyone will likely be able to do this for a long time.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Steve Morris says:

          Stephen, your comments here have helped to shift me towards acceptance of the Everett interpretation. I liked everything you said until you used the word “consciousness”. What does consciousness have to do with anything?

          Like

      • Stephen Wysong says:

        As a complete off-topic aside Mike I wanted to let you know that “Good” condition used hardcover copies of Lakoff and Johnson’s Philosophy In The Flesh: The Embodied Mind And Its Challenge To Western Thought can be purchased at amazon starting at about $12. I’ve mentioned the book several times and it’s very important in understanding the thorough influence of embodiment in all of our (mostly unconscious) thinking. Just a heads-up.

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    • Stephen Wysong says:

      James and Wyrd, please read, if you haven’t already, the thorough explanation provided by Stuckey, et al., the chapter “Relational Blockworld and Quantum Mechanics” from Stuckey’s Beyond the Dynamical Universe, still available at:

      https://drive.google.com/open?id=1ngNeZgzwnRgtME4ROpNsQTBJRCDHk6Vw

      Just off the top o’ me head, I can’t provide an answer to your question about interference and I don’t have the time right now to research and reply intelligibly. However, these quotes from Chapter 4 may be useful:

      The Many-Worlds interpretation is a no-collapse account which says that, for example, when a z-spin measurement is performed on a QM state that is not a z-spin eigenstate (it is in a superposition of spin states according to axiom (c) above), it results in both possible results, spin-up and spin-down, each existing on its own branch of the universal wave function of the universe, which has indenumerably infinite branches and forever evolves deterministically in configuration space. There was no pre-existing definite property of the QM system that determined a unique outcome of the measurement because there was no unique outcome. The Many-Worlds interpretation says only the universal wave function is real; since it is fundamental it tends to remain undefined. The wave function lives in configuration space so there is a debate about whether one should accept that there are several extra spatial dimensions or if there is a way to avoid this ontological commitment.

      Configuration space, or “Hilbert space” is a mathematical space and does not actually exist like a baseball exists, so the wave function doesn’t exist either.

      The Hamiltonian formalism for QM is the Schrodinger equation … which is a differential equation in the wave function ψ(x,t). Once you have an outcome, both the configuration xO, that is, specific spatial locations of the experimental outcomes, and time tO of the outcomes are fixed, so the wave function ψ(x,t) of configuration space becomes a probability amplitude ψ(x0,t0 ) in spacetime, that is, a probability amplitude for a specific outcome in spacetime. In other words, the time evolution of the wave function in configuration space before it becomes a probability amplitude in spacetime is governed by the Schrodinger equation. When there are different ways to instantiate a particular measurement outcome, such as {source ➙ slit 1 ➙ detection event} or {source ➙ slit 2 ➙ detection event} in the twin-slit experiment, the probability amplitudes for each of the options are added (“superposed”) before squaring to produce the probability.

      Probably not at all helpful, but notice the “Hamiltonian formalism” and “time evolution,” the implicit and unfounded assumption of continuous existence in time at the heart of quantum physics that Petkov referred to.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Stephen Wysong says:

    Once again, I recommend David Wallace’s The Emergent Multiverse, perhaps a better resource than Carroll’s for its thoroughgoing exposition of MWI. One of the issues treated at length by Wallace is “Probability in a Branching Universe” which is a fascinating examination of probability in its own right, irrespective of QM interpretations. An introductory sample:

    In physics, probability basically enters in one of two ways. Sometimes—as in classical statistical mechanics—it represents our ignorance of the microstate of the system. … Other times, probability represents the fact that the system is not deterministic. … represent[ing] indeterministic (‘stochastic’) microdynamics.

    Equally interesting is that, in more familiar situations, we speak of the probability of ‘heads’ turning up in 100,000 coin tosses. But note that no such experiment can actually be performed, notably because the coin deforms on a molecular level with each toss, so that the coin just prior to the 100,000th toss is not the same as the coin before the first toss. Fascinating.

    Like

  15. Wyrd Smythe says:

    Sabine Hossenfelder made an interesting video:

    I agree with some of her commenters — I’d like to see a debate between Hossenfelder and Carroll. 😀

    Like

    • Thanks. I saw it, and I’ve gone over her argument multiple times, but don’t understand her specific point. I haven’t check the blog thread recently, but it didn’t look like I was alone.

      Like

      • Wyrd Smythe says:

        AIUI, she’s saying that wave-function collapse under Copenhagen-style views is the same thing as splitting into MW and neither have a real explanation. Detecting the photon under w-f collapse instantly changes your knowledge from 50% to 100% — and so does finding yourself in a branch where you detected the photon.

        In both cases, before detection, there are probabilities for various outcomes, and those all necessarily add up to 100%. After detection, one outcome has 100% happened. (Both also have the question of what constitutes detection.)

        Like

        • I got those points. And I know they’re observationally the same. That’s true for all viable interpretations.

          But the MWI version has a chain of logic that explains what we’re seeing. Copenhagen just adds the ad-hoc postulate of the collapse. I don’t understand the assertion that they’re the same. The probability change may be the same, but in one case it’s explained, while in the other it’s just asserted.

          Or am I missing something glaringly obvious?

          Like

          • Wyrd Smythe says:

            If I understand her, it has to do with the role of the detector. I believe the text of her blog post is the narration from the video, so it probably won’t help if the video didn’t, but in one of the comments she says:

            I am asking why is the forward evolution of what is a detector at t_0 no longer a detector at t_1>t_0. The answer to this is that, by assumption, the forward-evolved detector is not what many worlds fans want to call a detector. So you need an additional assumption and this assumption is virtually equivalent to the measurement postulate in Copenhagen. I use virtually to mean “up to interpretation”.

            Overall, her complaint is that there’s no math for the the collapse under Copenhagen, and (if I understand) also none in MWI.

            Like

          • Thanks. I saw other similar comments along those lines. From what I understand, the issue is that it’s utterly impractical to calculate the evolution of the detector using the Schrodinger equation. But my issue is, by that standard, can we assume chemistry is built on particle physics? Sean Carroll once pointed out that no one can calculate the periodic table using the standard model, even though in principle it should be possible.

            I agree with Peter Shor’s and other similar comments in the thread. We have to look at the quality of the assumptions.

            Liked by 1 person

        • Lee Roetcisoender says:

          Sabine is correct. The Copenhagen interpretation falls prey to the same problem as does MWI. Neither interpretation is correct. Sabine is exceptionally sharp, nevertheless, she is a trained physicist and a hopeless materialist, a psychology which by its own nature leads to tunnel vision.

          One can trace the error in both the Copenhagen interpretation and the MWI to the wave function. The wave function itself is an erroneous assumption based upon the infamous double-slit experiment. According to Richard Feynman, the observed interference pattern of the double-slit experiment is “the only mystery in quantum mechanics”. It is this “mystery” which the entire intellectual construct of the famous wave function is predicated. Any hypothesis predicated upon a mystery is a recipe for absurdity. So in agreement with Mike, progress is dependent upon the quality of the assumptions, and the assumption that a particle is interfering with itself when it passes through the slits is an erroneous assumption.

          Like

          • As I understand it, many variants of Copenhagen regard the wave function as epistemic rather than real, although the MWI certainly does see it as real. The difficulty always comes back to, if the particle isn’t interfering with itself, what explains the interference pattern when one particle at a time is sent through?

            Liked by 1 person

          • Lee Roetcisoender says:

            “… if the particle isn’t interfering with itself, what explains the interference pattern when one particle at a time is sent through?”

            You have some highly intelligent people who post comments on your site Mike. Some of them have degrees in physics. I would almost be willing to place a bet that if everyone collaborated on the question above, someone should be able to come up with a reasonable, scientifically verifiable explanation for the interference pattern other than the unquestioned prevailing model.

            Like

          • Stephen Wysong says:

            Well, I’m not a physicist, but Dr. Vesselin Petkov of The Minkowski Institute certainly is. Here’s his contribution (that I’ve posted previously) from his book Space and Time – Minkowski’s Papers on Relativity

            Despite Feynman’s desperate appeal to regard Nature as absurd the history of science teaches us that all apparent paradoxes are caused by some implicit assumptions. A consistent conceptual analysis of only one of those quantum mechanical paradoxes—say, the famous double-slit experiment, discussed by Feynman—almost immediately identifies an implicit assumption—we have been taking for granted that quantum objects exist continuously in time although there has been nothing either in the experimental evidence or in the theory that compels us to do so. Just imagine—a fundamental continuity (continuous existence in time) at the heart of quantum physics. And no wonder that such an implicit assumption leads to a paradox—an electron, for example, which is always registered as a pointlike entity and which exists continuously in time, is a classical particle (i.e. a world-line in spacetime) that cannot go simultaneously through both slits in the double-slit experiment to form an interference pattern.

            However, if we abandon the implicit assumption and replace it explicitly with its alternative—discontinuous existence in time—the paradox disappears. Then an electron is, in the ordinary three-dimensional language, an ensemble of constituents which appear-disappear 1020∼ times per second (the Compton frequency). Such a quantum object can pass simultaneously through all slits at its disposal.

            In Minkowski’s four-dimensional language (trying to extract more from his treasure), an electron is not a worldline but a ‘disintegrated’ worldline whose worldpoints are scattered all over the spacetime region where the electron wavefunction is different from zero. Such a model of the quantum object and quantum phenomena in general provides a surprising insight into the physical meaning of probabilistic phenomena in spacetime—an electron is a probabilistic distribution of worldpoints which is forever given in spacetime.

            Had Minkowski lived longer he might have described such a spacetime picture by the mystical expression ‘predetermined probabilistic phenomena.’ And, I guess, Einstein would be also satisfied—God would not play dice since a probabilistic distribution in spacetime exists eternally there.”

            There—problem solved. Next? 😉

            Like

          • “Then an electron is, in the ordinary three-dimensional language, an ensemble of constituents which appear-disappear 1020∼ times per second (the Compton frequency).”

            My question remains, what determines when and where those constituents are? I can’t see, “that’s just where they are in a block universe,” as a real explanation.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Steve Morris says:

            Stephen, I don’t pretend to understand what you are talking about, but the Compton frequency of an electron is 10 to the power of 20 hertz, so I guess you mean it appears and disappears (?) 10 to the power of 20 times each second.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Lee Roetcisoender says:

            “Then an electron is, in the ordinary three-dimensional language, an ensemble of constituents which appear-disappear 1020∼ times per second (the Compton frequency). Such a quantum object can pass simultaneously through all slits at its disposal.”

            Nice contribution Stephen. Unfortunately, Minkowski’s explanation merely restates the same prevailing model only in a different framework. In laymen’s terms, the particle is still interfering with itself…

            Like

          • Stephen Wysong says:

            Mike, the implicit and unquestioned assumption, as Petkov states, is that quantum objects are dynamic (classical) entities existing continuously through time. That’s how we view macro objects so the assumption is understandable but may be causing all the difficulties in understanding. After all, quantum objects are “close to the metal” and may even be the metal—particle physicists may be looking at how the universe is actually constructed. Making the hidden assumption explicit and considering the consequences of discarding it seems to me a significant idea that merits consideration.

            “That’s just where they are” refers to the worldpoint (x, y, z, t) of a detected particle. In the block universe, every event “just is” and every worldline’s worldpoints “just are where they are” in the same sense. The block universe exists in that configuration.

            Steve, it doesn’t “appear and disappear” but, rather, its ‘disintegrated’ worldline is discontinuous: exists at worldpoint (x, y, z, t), nonexistent at (x1, y1, z1, t1), exists at worldpoint (x2, y2, z2, t2) and etc.

            And, yes, Lee, in layman’s terms the particle is still interfering with itself, of course taking it for granted that the particle is a classical dynamic object but, as Petkov would say of the ‘disintegrated’ worldline particle, “Such a quantum object can pass simultaneously through all slits at its disposal.”

            Of course, only a very few physicists, including Dr. W. M. Stuckey, take what he calls the Relational Blockworld (RBW) seriously and recognize its significant explanatory value for physics. I believe the RBW perspective is sufficiently compelling that all of us interested in physics should try to become more informed about it.

            Like

          • Lee Roetcisoender says:

            Stephen,
            I hope you can appreciate the underlying implications of a particle interfering with itself as predicate and the necessity of exotic explanations which have to be constructed to account for the phenomenon. The block universe is just one example of an exotic explanation, others include the Copenhagen interpretation and MWI. All of these models are predicated upon a false assumption which naturally morphs into false premise for quantum theory.

            Like

          • Stephen Wysong says:

            However, Lee, there is no Block Universe Interpretation as you suggest. There are the CI, the MWI and umpteen additional interpretations of QM which are not physics but are, rather, metaphysics. The various Interpretations are metaphysical hypotheses and not verifiable in any way.

            From Stuckey’s (et al.) Beyond the Dynamical Universe (BDU), in addition to the Copenhagen:

            Philosophy of physics has produced myriad interpretations of QM, e.g., Many Worlds, de Broglie-Bohm, the Two-State Vector Formalism, the Transactional Interpretation, Relational Quantum Mechanics, the Ithaca Interpretation, information theoretic accounts, etc. Decades of research in philosophy of physics has not pared the field of contenders but, quite the opposite, the interpretations of QM have proliferated. As things currently stand, taken together, both QM and quantum field theory (QFT) are highly predictive and successful, yet there is no consensus as to what they are telling us about the nature of reality.

            No one has ever used the terminology “The Block Universe Interpretation.” That ours is a block universe is a consequence of the Relativity of Simultaneity (RoS), i.e., it’s a direct implication of the RoS. If p ➔ q is the model of an implication (if p is true then q is true) then relativity physics says if RoS then BU. Since RoS is known to be true, the BU is a necessary consequence.

            Like

          • Stephen Wysong says:

            BTW, note that if a particle is detected at worldpoint (x, y, z, t), when it is again detected at (x2, y2, z2, t2), the particle at worldpoint (x, y, z, t) still exists at those spacetime coordinates.

            Like

          • Stephen Wysong says:

            If you haven’t yet, Lee, check out chapter 4, “Relational Blockworld and Quantum Mechanics” from Stuckey’s Beyond the Dynamical Universe, still available at:

            https://drive.google.com/open?id=1ngNeZgzwnRgtME4ROpNsQTBJRCDHk6Vw

            Let a physicist explain. I’m just a regular guy.

            Like

          • Stephen Wysong says:

            Or try:

            “Deflating Quantum Mysteries via the Relational Blockworld” by Stuckey, Silberstein and Cifone at:

            https://www.researchgate.net/publication/2194953_Deflating_Quantum_Mysteries_via_the_Relational_Blockworld

            Like

          • Lee Roetcisoender says:

            Stephen,
            I can appreciate your exuberant faith in the Block Universe and your intrinsic need to proselyte. Nevertheless, I’m a metaphysician, not someone who relies upon a priesthood to reveal the mysteries of reality. Therefore, I trust a physicist as much as I trust a Catholic priest, a Christian evangelist, a Muslim Imam, a Buddhist monk, or a politician.

            Like

          • Stephen Wysong says:

            Lee, I had thought a ‘meta-physician’ was a surgeon who only operated on other surgeons, but I’ve revisited the definition after your claim to be one. I’ve discovered that:

            In modern philosophical terminology, metaphysics refers to the studies of what cannot be reached through objective studies of material reality.”

            Hence ‘non-objective’ studies of material reality? Meaty philosophical stuff, that!

            The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy begins their “Metaphysics” article with the rather discouraging remark that: “It is not easy to say what metaphysics is.” And after reviewing several of your recent comments on Mike’s blog, I’m pretty sure that few of us, including yourself, can say what ‘it’ is … I certainly cannot.

            FWIW, ‘proselyte’ is a noun meaning “a person who has converted from one opinion, religion, or party to another,” so perhaps you were thinking of yourself. I’m inclined to believe that you intended ‘proselytize’ which means “to induce someone to convert to one’s faith.” Note, too, that ‘faith’ is “belief in a proposition without evidence” and doesn’t apply to the accepted knowledge in Physics.

            Your attraction to Psychology, one of those “bodies of knowledge in search of a discipline,” along with your denigration of evidence-based Physics as being “a priesthood” reveals that all of your own opinions are faith-based. In light of which, your closing statement should be modified to read:

            “I trust a metaphysician as much as I trust a Catholic priest, a Christian evangelist, a Muslim Imam, a Buddhist monk, or a politician.”

            No thanks necessary, Lee, but you’re welcome!

            Wikipedia energetically contributes to the description of metaphysics:

            Topics of metaphysical investigation include existence, objects and their properties, space and time, cause and effect, and possibility.”

            So, Lee, as the official Metaphysician in Residence on Mike’s blog, I must inquire about your metaphysical investigation of the Philosophy of Time. Please explain your conclusions … and Thanks in Advance!

            I’m severely pressed for that very ‘stuff’ (time, that is) so my additional comments regarding your most unusual comment will be forthcoming.

            Like

          • Stephen Wysong says:

            For Steve Morris … the PDF text I copied from may have been 10^20 or similar and it copied over as 1020 and, yes, I read it as being discontinuous at that frequency but I’ll see if I can find more information.

            Like

          • Stephen Wysong says:

            For Steve Morris … I revisited the PDF text and, yes, it says ~ 10^20.

            An abridged free version of Space and Time – Minkowski’s Papers on Relativity is available at:

            https://www.minkowskiinstitute.org/mip/MinkowskiFreemiumMIP2012.pdf

            Liked by 1 person

  16. Lee Roetcisoender says:

    You will just have to wait your turn Stephen, i’m not going to let you highjack my original post. So here it is again:

    Mike said: “… if the particle isn’t interfering with itself, what explains the interference pattern when one particle at a time is sent through?”

    You have some highly intelligent people who post comments on your site Mike. Some of them have degrees in physics. I would almost be willing to place a bet that if everyone collaborated on the question above, someone should be able to come up with a reasonable, scientifically verifiable explanation for the interference pattern other than the unquestioned prevailing model.

    Like

    • Stephen Wysong says:

      Just don’t forget that, although I’m last in line on that thread, I’m first in line in this one … 😉

      Are you expecting to be able to recognize when the discussion by the “highly intelligent” is concluded? What if none of us is highly intelligent? Would you identify the less than highly intelligent for us?

      Thanks

      P.S. Philosophy of Time …

      Like

      • Lee Roetcisoender says:

        Stephen,
        Since your question is simple and straightforward, I’ll deal with it now.

        Time is a human invention, just like the Clovis point is a human invention. And as a human invention, the Clovis point is a tool. Likewise, the invention of time is also a tool. As a tool, the Clovis point is used to kill large mammals. Similarly, as a tool, time is a unit by which we measure the duration of change.

        Like

        • Stephen Wysong says:

          I quite agree, Lee. Time is an invention—an idea—a measure of ‘duration’, as you say, the duration of change. Duration is defined as “the length of time something continues” and I suspect you’d agree that lengths of duration are measured by clocks.

          I imagine if we were discussing ‘space’ rather than ‘time’ you might say that ‘length’ as extension is likewise an invention—an idea—by which we measure distance and I suspect you’d agree that length is measured by rulers. We could define ‘space’ as length in three dimensions which we can name height, width and length. So far, by the way, these definitions of time and space precisely agree with the definitions used in physics.

          It seems obvious that the inventions/ideas of space correspond to the 3-dimensional world which has an objective existence—after all, the 3-dimensional world is where our 3-dimensional selves and large 3-dimensional mammalian foodstuffs live.

          But we should be explicit that your conception of time as an idea does not correspond to an objective time (i.e., existing in the world) that flows and lapses and brings non-existent events into existence. However, the 3-dimensional objective world seems to endure (allowing us to have this ongoing discussion of metaphysics) and we measure its duration using clocks. So far, by the way, these understandings of time and space as ‘lengths’ precisely agree with the definitions used in relativity physics. Time differs from space in that lengths in time are not spatial but are temporal, which is related to the different ways we measure them—clocks vs. rulers.

          That being the case, if time measures the duration of change, as you say, it seems necessary to discuss ‘change’ and the means by which we perceive it, leaving us back in the early days of Greek philosophy about 25 centuries ago, with Parmenides proposing “all of existence” as an unchanging One followed by Heraclitus proposing it as an unending and continuously changing flow.

          So, Lee, I pass the ball back to you to explain how we perceive this ‘change’ you speak of, knowing only that you believe it has duration.

          Like

          • Lee Roetcisoender says:

            Don’t misunderstand my assessment of time Stephen. As a tool, time measures a duration of change. Change itself is a continuum, that is all we can know. Our own existence within that continuum of change is a duration of change which is discrete, and even within that determinate discreteness, change is continually taking place. All discrete systems are nothing but a condition, and that condition is a possibility of another condition.

            The greater question is the one that is often overlooked: Why the phenomenal first person “objective” experience of consciousness. It’s clearly another condition, but what is that condition exactly; and furthermore, what is next possibility in this continuum of change?

            Like

          • Stephen Wysong says:

            Metaphysics:

            Our own existence within that continuum of change is a duration of change which is discrete, and even within that determinate discreteness, change is continually taking place. All discrete systems are nothing but a condition, and that condition is a possibility of another condition.”

            In as amiable and understanding a way as I can muster, I must point out that that’s ‘Woo’, Lee!

            … consciousness … [is] clearly another condition, but what is that condition exactly; and furthermore, what is [the] next possibility in this continuum of change?

            Another Woo, Lee! Simple arithmetic means that Woo+Woo = WooWoo.

            My question was, “… how [do] we perceive this ‘change’ you speak of, knowing only that you believe it has duration?

            Your answer is, “Change itself is a continuum, that is all we can know.”

            Lee, you seem to have run away from trying to develop a shared understanding, or perhaps you just bought another ticket on the Woo-woo train. I had hopes for rational discussion, but your responses in general scream out that you’re carrying a grudge or trying to extract revenge for some imagined intellectual slight. But I find your expressions to be illogical, evidence-free, largely incomprehensible and, overall, meaningless—metaphysics at its worst.

            Like

          • Lee Roetcisoender says:

            “Lee, you seem to have run away from trying to develop a shared understanding, or perhaps you just bought another ticket on the Woo-woo train. I had hopes for rational discussion, but your responses in general scream out that you’re carrying a grudge or trying to extract revenge for some imagined intellectual slight. But I find your expressions to be illogical, evidence-free, largely incomprehensible and, overall, meaningless—metaphysics at its worst.”

            Stephen,
            Projection is a serious mental disorder, you know that right?? You need to get some help dude. I wish you the best of luck…

            Projection. Projection is a psychological defense mechanism in which individuals attribute characteristics they find unacceptable in themselves to another person.*
            _____
            http://www.goodtherapy.org

            Like

        • BeingQuest says:

          I’ll think you’ll find that Philosophy and Science have a lot (NOT) in common, particularly if one is disposed to favor either against the other in their constellation of ideas, how they may broach the same Subject from cross-disciplinary lines, and speak in ways that may offend say, and Empiricist or Positivist? Would it not seem to the E or P that their interlocular did not take proper distance from their Subject, but embroiled themselves in all manner of proto-scientific dialogue? No, sir. I do believe you will find that the Philosopher and the Scientist have actually NOTHING in common, and to which the one may commend the other a Fine Day on their further adventures. Fair Well?

          Like

          • Lee Roetcisoender says:

            BeingQuest,
            You’ve never met a real philosopher in your entire life, so how would you know. As with most individuals, the only thing you’ve ever encountered are philosophologists. And on that note: Philosophology and Science have nothing in common.

            Like

          • BeingQuest says:

            You’re playing the Clown and Joker now. Be off with you, as promised.

            Like

  17. Lee Roetcisoender says:

    How can one not appreciate the candor of Sabine Hossenfelder. Here’s a quote from her Blog:
    Sabine Hossenfelder 11:22 AM, October 09, 2019

    “Pu,
    I entirely understand that there are and will always be people who cannot comprehend even the simplest statements that I make. I was pointing out that I am entirely aware of the futility of the attempt to talk reason to people. We’ll all fucking die from our own fucking dumbness and you can see it right here, in the comments on this blog.”

    Too bad she spent all of that money to become a physicist, she’d make a mighty fine metaphysician… Indeed.

    Like

    • Sounds like things are getting heated over there. Usually discussions at that stage are no longer productive.

      Like

    • Stephen Wysong says:

      Lee, Physics is a science, a rule-based discipline with a defined and successful methodology, a strict reliance on evidence whose conclusions are subject to falsification via the mechanism of experimental reproduction. As a human activity, Physics has been fantastically successful, allowing us, among other amazements, to insert comments into Mike’s blog instantly over great and widely separated distances. Without Physics, we might still be killing your large mammals with your Clovis points.

      But, for all its unquestionable value, Physics is a human activity and, as a process, it’s subject to human frailties as much any other human activity. That’s why re-evaluation of evidence, application of new evidence and repeatability of experiments are so important. You won’t find any of that in metaphysics which, as I pointed out, is an evidence-free and, therefore, faith-based human activity.

      David Hume in the 18th century wrote:

      If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school of metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, ‘Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number?’ No. ‘Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence?’ No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.

      In the 1930s, A.J. Ayer and Rudolf Carnap … argued that “… metaphysical statements are neither true nor false but meaningless since, according to their verifiability theory of meaning, a statement is meaningful only if there can be empirical evidence for or against it.”

      As to the history of metaphysics, Wikipedia continues:

      Common parlance also uses the word ‘metaphysics’ for a different referent from that of the present article, namely for beliefs in arbitrary non-physical or magical entities. For example, ‘Metaphysical healing’ to refer to healing by means of remedies that are magical rather than scientific. This usage stemmed from the various historical schools of speculative metaphysics which operated by postulating all manner of physical, mental and spiritual entities as bases for particular metaphysical systems.”

      More from Wikipedia, in contemporary terms:

      The analytic view is of metaphysics as studying phenomenal human concepts rather than making claims about the noumenal world, so its style often blurs into philosophy of language and introspective psychology.”

      To the extent that anyone engages in metaphysics rather than Physics, they’re not doing science—they’re doing Woo-woo: Woo-meisters on the Woo-woo train, as Linda phrased it.

      Like

      • Lee Roetcisoender says:

        Your bigotry is superlative and your analysis is flawed Stephen: Scientists and physicists alike make their living on the backs of the philosophers and metaphysicians who went before them. Without philosophy and metaphysics there would be no physics or science. Physics is a science, and science is a process, not a dogma.

        Like

        • BeingQuest says:

          Correction, sir, if you will: “Scientists make their living on the backs of philosophers who went before them.” Simplify.

          Like

        • Stephen Wysong says:

          So I’m ‘projecting’? And ‘bigoted’ too? I must respond on your level Lee:

          I know you are, but what am I?

          Was your Psychology doctorate issued by those goodtherapy folks?

          Yet another eye-catching statement, your: “Physics is a science, and science is a process, not a dogma.” You apparently are unaware that you are directly contradicting your very recent characterization of physics practitioners as “a priesthood”—a dogmatic group unworthy of your trust. Your conceptions warp and twist in the wind, even as we watch. However I do appreciate your agreement with my previous remark, “Physics is a human activity and, as a process …” but I suspect that agreement means that you’re projecting.

          In my estimation, your credibility as a self-anointed ‘metaphysician’ has dwindled to zero. Surely you recall that I asked for your thoughts on the Philosophy of Time, a truly metaphysical topic with a long philosophical history. Your reply descended into gibberish after three sentences (one of them irrelevant) and then you bolted for the door on the brink of having to explain time as an idea used to measure how long change lasts. Perhaps you were dismayed at your dawning realization that, by your own definition, changes in the world are completely subjective.

          Once again, you disparage philosophers as ‘philosophologists’, as you recently and rudely did directly to Eric Schwitzgebel on his blog, “The Splintered Mind.” Dr. Eric, as we know, is a fine fellow on the Philosophy faculty at the University of California Riverside. Some background definition, for those unaware: ‘Philosophology’ was coined by Robert Pirsig of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance fame, who wrote:

          You can imagine the ridiculousness of an art historian taking his students to museums, having them write a thesis on some historical or technical aspect of what they see there, and after a few years of this giving them degrees that say they are accomplished artists. They’ve never held a brush or a mallet and chisel in their hands. All they know is art history.

          Yet, ridiculous as it sounds, this is exactly what happens in the philosophology that calls itself philosophy. Students aren’t expected to philosophize. Their instructors would hardly know what to say if they did. They’d probably compare the student’s writing to Mill or Kant or somebody like that, find the student’s work grossly inferior, and tell him to abandon it.

          Nice touch, Lee, and very considerate of you to inform Schwitzgebel of your contempt for him and his occupation. Should you consider getting some help, I recommend the folks at goodtherapy.org.

          So, Lee, what kind of course did you flunk—Philosophy or Science? My guess is Philosophy, as we suspect with Pirsig.

          I’m unable to repress a rousing BWAHAHA! … 😉

          Like

          • Lee Roetcisoender says:

            The late Richard Rorty once said: That without a vocabulary the captures how the world really is or a core human nature, there isn’t even a possibility of locating a metaphysical foundation for truth. As a philosopher and metaphysician, I have crafted a vocabulary for both. The core human nature is one of addiction. Here is the architecture: The solipsistic self-model is the addict, the addiction is the discrete binary system of rationality and the substance of abuse is power.

            Taking the liberty to paraphrase Sabine Hossenfelder’s own analysis: Trying to reason with an addict is like wrestling with a pig in the mud. It doesn’t take long before one realizes that the pig actually likes it.

            In closing, a couple of quotes from Robert Pirsig:
            “To speak of certain government and establishment institutions as “the system” is to speak correctly, since these organizations are founded upon the same structural conceptual relationships as a motorcycle… The Church of Reason, like all institutions of the System, is based not on individual strength but upon individual weakness.” Robert Pirsing was the last philosopher and metaphysician to hit the world stage. Like any true philosopher, Pirsig was ostracized by the Church of Reason because he was a heretic. Likewise, I am proud to carry on the tradition and call myself a heretic as well.

            Peace

            Like

  18. Pingback: The problems with post-empirical science | SelfAwarePatterns

  19. FWIW, I see Carlo Rovelli just updated the article in the SEP (https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qm-relational/) on his theory: Relational Quantum Mechanics. Super short version: wave function is a tool, not reality, so, epistemic, not ontological. A “measurement” is simply an interaction between system1 and system2, and has consequences on the future of those systems relative to each other, but says nothing about how either will interact with system3.

    This is where my money is, but possibly only because it maps to my own framework quite easily.

    *
    [also, my money is on Rovelli for working out the Information Theoretic math of consciousness]

    Like

    • I first heard about the RQM from Seth Cottrell, of Ask a Mathematician / Ask a Physicist fame. He described it as like MWI, but agnostic on the existence of the other branches. My issue comes back to what I said in the post, if you like the mathematics, then you need to have a good reason for rejecting the other worlds. You could add an explicit particle, as the pilot-wave interpretation does, but then you have non-locality.

      But I’m not sure about the “just an interaction” business. Here I think Sabine’s criticism of MWI is actually relevant in a way it wasn’t for the actual MWI. It seems like the interaction just becomes a new postulate.

      I’m not familiar with Rovelli’s views on consciousness, but I tend to cringe when physicists talk about it. They have a tendency to see it as a physics problem, ignoring all the chemistry, biology, and neuroscience in between.

      Like

      • [The following is based on my shallow understanding of RQM]

        if you like the mathematics, then you need to have a good reason for rejecting the other worlds.

        Your statement here assumes that the Schr. Equation is describing the world as it is, as opposed to describing what you can know about it. RQM, and Qbism, says it’s the latter. If RQM is right, then “superposition” does not mean that a system is in two states at once. In fact, RQM says nothing is “in a state”. Instead, RQM says certain things will happen with a given probability when there is an interaction. RQM says a superposition is just the case of two systems having interacted in the past relative to a third system, and the equation provides the probabilities of what will happen when that third system interacts with the combined system. You don’t need to add anything else.

        And I don’t think Rovelli has any views on consciousness yet. He does have views on how interactions can have “meaning” (aka teleonomic purpose) and he provides a mathematical/physical description of how that works in his FXQI essay “Meaning and Intentionality = Information + Evolution” (https://fqxi.org/data/essay-contest-files/Rovelli_Meaning.pdf). So he has taken the first two steps in the path, and I believe the latter is his current research topic with regard to the FXQI. I’m simply speculating that he will take the next steps, those being the mathematical/physical description of representation, conceptualization, and generalization.

        *

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        • “Your statement here assumes that the Schr. Equation is describing the world as it is, as opposed to describing what you can know about it.”

          Actually, I reject the dichotomy. All we ever have are models, including our model of where the fridge is in our house. The “world as it is” is just another model. Some of the models make more accurate predictions than others. Of course, the difficulty is that with quantum mechanics, all of the interpretations predict the same observations. They do make unique predictions, but not in any we can test, at least currently.

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          • I reject your rejection. 🙂

            The models you mention, I will argue, are models of interactions with things, not of the things themselves. You can have concepts of the things in themselves, but those aren’t the models. And the thing is, for models of interactions, the thing in itself is functional, i.e., multiply realizable. Your model of the refrigerator is about how it will look, what it will sound like when you open the door, how it will be cold inside. All of these things are multiply realizable. You can be fooled about them.

            RQM is the model, whereas multi-worlds is one possible realization of that model. Angels might be another possible realization. Wave collapse is yet another. Simple interaction between systems is another, and presumably the simplest.

            *

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          • James,
            My main criticism matches Wyrd’s point about completeness. What I’m hearing (or reading) is a model that leaves a lot unstated. It’s free to do that of course, but I’m not sure what it is offering then over other interpretations.

            As for things in themselves, what is a thing above and beyond the interactions of its components?

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          • Wyrd Smythe says:

            (Assuming one is a realist) I think there is a difference whether our models are based on physical reality or not. A model based on reality isn’t likely to be falsified, whereas a model based on imagination can be. Ideally, we’d want our models to be based on reality.

            We’d also want them to be complete, and that seems the bigger issue when it comes to QM. It may (or may not) be based on actual reality, but even if it is, it’s still as full of holes as Swiss cheese. It’s almost pointless to worry about the ontology of such an incomplete model.

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          • Stephen Wysong says:

            All we ever have are models, including our model of where the fridge is in our house. The ‘world as it is’ is just another model.

            Mike, are you (again) suggesting that you adhere to a pure Platonic idealism that holds we cannot know anything of the objective world? It seems like that’s the case and I believe you’ve made this assertion previously.

            Surely you realize that It means you’re not a realist, which raises a lot of questions about your positions on a number of issues, consciousness among them. And if “the ‘world as it is’ is just another model,” what does that say about the status of those ‘accurate’ predictions you mention. Aren’t they then predictions that apply only to the model? What have you done with objective reality—do we then have only a “model of ontology”?

            “… the difficulty is that with quantum mechanics, all of the interpretations predict the same observations.”

            QM Interpretations, as physicists will confirm, are philosophy of physics, not physics. Although the interpretations must be consistent with observations, they do not predict quantum observations and they are certainly not QM. None of the interpretations are testable, even in principle. You again qualify that as a situation that may change—can you provide even a single credible proposal for testing one of the many interpretations? Perhaps you’re thinking of the proposal that MWI could be confirmed with the observation of universes “bumping into each other”, as if anyone has even the foggiest notion of what that means.

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          • Stephen,
            I’m not a Platonist or idealist. But the fact remains, all we ever have are our models. The assertion that there is an objective reality out there is, when you get down to it, is just another model. One that I think is predictive and simpler than the alternatives, but it’s still a model our brain constructs.

            On testing MWI, Brian Greene floated the possibility of detecting interference between the different branches of the wave function. (I think it was in ‘The Hidden Reality’.) It sounds like you’re conflating that with the proposed test for bubble universes. All I can do is repeat the point that what is metaphysics today may be science in the future.

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          • My main criticism matches Wyrd’s point about completeness. What I’m hearing (or reading) is a model that leaves a lot unstated.

            I’m confused. Can you be specific? What is unstated that you think shouldn’t be?

            *

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          • Maybe I’m misunderstanding, but my impression of incompleteness comes from what you said above.
            “A “measurement” is simply an interaction between system1 and system2, and has consequences on the future of those systems relative to each other, but says nothing about how either will interact with system3.” (emphasis added)
            …and the Wikipedia comparison table on interpretations: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interpretations_of_quantum_mechanics#Comparison which states that RQM is agnostic on what happens with the other branches.

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          • Re: the Wikipedia theory comparison table, I must admit that I don’t completely understand what the “Unique history” column refers to, but you say that the table “states that RQM is agnostic on what happens with the other branches”, and this leads me to ask “what other branches?”. Assuming branches are actual physical things, I think RQM is agnostic on whether there are branches. There could be branches, but there don’t have to be branches. RQM says that suggesting there are branches that then hang around (multiple worlds) or else go away (collapse) is speculating there is an extra thing, and if there is no motivation for speculating that extra thing, why do it? Now speculation of the extra thing for its own sake is fine, but it’s only useful if it leads to some way to test for it. Otherwise the extra thing may as well be angels.

            but I’m not sure what it is offering then over other interpretations.

            What RQM is offering (to me) is 1. the perspective that the “wave function” is best viewed as a tool for predicting outcomes as opposed to an ontological statement about what is out there, and 2. that the wave function applies to all physical systems as opposed to one microscopic system and one macroscopic (or conscious) system.

            As for things in themselves, what is a thing above and beyond the interactions of its components?

            RQM says “nothing, i.e., the thing in itself is nothing but the interactions of its components, and those components are likewise. Interactions are all there is, all the way down. Welcome to process philosophy.

            *
            [dont forget, when I say “RQM says …”, translate that to “my naive understanding of RQM says …”]

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          • That Wikipedia table has a lot of issues, but I think “Unique History” just refers to whether the interpretation assumes that only one outcome of the measurement is reality.

            I understand and appreciate what you’re saying about the naive understanding. In truth, I need to do some reading on it myself. I’ll note that it does seem like an improvement over Copenhagen, in that there’s no longer a distinction between the classical and quantum world. It explains why experiments are able to feature ever larger molecules held in superposition. My impression is that this narrows the measurement problem, but it doesn’t solve it.

            Hopefully I’ll get a chance to read the SEP on it soon. (I’ve tried a couple of times since this came up, but the last few days have been pretty rough, so it hasn’t happened.)

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          • Ok, I finally read through the SEP, or at least through most of the sections. As noted above, I do see it as an improvement over Copenhagen. On the other hand, I still find it unsatisfying as a final theory. From the SEP article, 3.1 Realism and Relationality:

            Quantum mechanics gives probabilities for quantum events to happen, not a story representing how they happen. This core aspect of quantum theory is not resolved in RQM: it is taken as a fact of the world.

            The “fact of the world” appears to be that values only come into existence when there is an interaction. I didn’t see where this is derived from anything. It appears to simply be a postulate. So, more complete than Copenhagen, but still incomplete. (Not that any of the interpretations are entirely complete.)

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          • Stephen Wysong says:

            The assertion that there is an objective reality out there is, when you get down to it, is just another model. One that I think is predictive ….”

            Mike, have you looked up the philosophical definition of ‘idealism’? Try Wikipedia’s, for one:

            In philosophy, idealism is the group of metaphysical philosophies which assert that reality, or reality as humans can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial.

            Just like what you said! You’ll find several other philosophical definitions that concur with that one. You are an Idealist Mike. Becoming a realist requires you to commit to the assumption of the mind-independent existence of a knowable external world. Don’t you believe that our executing even a single scientific experiment demonstrates the existence of the world it’s executed in?

            And you ignored my pertinent question about your ‘prediction’ remarks, to wit:

            And if ‘the “world as it is” is just another model,’ what does that say about the status of those ‘accurate’ predictions you mention? Aren’t they then predictions that apply only to the model?

            Your idealist predictions must only apply to your model, since that’s all you can know, even though that doesn’t make any sense, let alone have any utility. How do you determine the accuracy of predictions about a model from within the model, independent of anything else? You can only say, “My model predicts ‘x’ and there’s an ‘x’ right there in my model—an ‘x’ that’s been caused by my model.”

            Of course our stories/models are our only mental currency about the external world—reality, as it’s called. But I find the assumption of a mind-independent reality to be not only useful but emotionally and philosophically satisfying—your “only models” universe seems a mental and metaphysical cul-de-sac, a bloated solipsism.

            Regarding testing MWI, you seem to want philosophy of physics to be physics itself, a notion I don’t understand. Yes, my “universes bumping into other universes” may be a misattribution from another cosmology domain, but who knows where MWI’s universes are anyway? The point I was trying to make is that none of the Interpretations propose any credible experiment that might be executed to confirm the factuality of the Interpretation. It matters not whether the proposed method relies on technologies not currently available—it must still be articulable.

            Your “… what is metaphysics today may be science in the future” is a science-fictional claim. Einstein’s Relativity at the time it was proposed was not metaphysics and was not seen as metaphysics and, even though years would pass before experimental confirmations began to arrive, those yet-to-be-performed experiments could be, and were, defined.

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  20. I still find [RQM] unsatisfying as a final theory.

    Mike, if you’re not going to be satisfied until we get a final theory, I’ve got bad news for you. There’s good reason to believe there cannot be a (proven) final theory. That’s just process philosophy, the neumenon, and now RQM.

    The “fact of the world” appears to be that values only come into existence when there is an interaction. I didn’t see where this is derived from anything. It appears to simply be a postulate.

    It’s not so much a postulate as a philosophical conclusion. I’m assuming when discussing a “value” you consider things like mass, velocity, location, i.e., things that can be measured. The point of RQM is that these things are not things that exist, and they do not come into existence. It makes no sense to simply say system X has a mass of N. The mass of a system, by itself, is not defined. The only time that mass is defined is in regards to an interaction with another system.

    RQM says this applies to any interaction whatsoever, so, anything that can be measured. (pretty sure)

    *

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    • “Final theory” was a poor choice of phrase. I should have said “complete theory.” Of course, any theory is subject to revision or falsification on new data.

      I don’t really have an issue with values being relative. My issue is in saying they don’t exist until the interaction. The examples you list may vary depending on the frame it’s related to, but the values are there whether nor not any interaction ever occurs.

      Again, this is no worse than Copenhagen, so it’s not unique to RQM.

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      • I suppose that “complete” is a bit better than “final” Mike, though I personally would go with “effective theory”.

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      • With all due respect, I suggest it is not so much your issue as your intuition of object permanence. This intuition is useful if your prey has just gone behind a tree, allowing you to get closer while not being seen. It’s less useful when considering things like self-interference and quantum tunneling.

        When you say the values are there before the interaction, do you mean all of them? Every possible mass of the electron is “there” before it interacts?

        How about we say that what is there is the electron, and it has a particular mass-like way of interacting with things.

        *

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        • Well, as I just noted to Eric, all viable interpretations successfully predict observations, so until someone can figure out a way to uniquely test any of them, we’re left with logic and intuition (and mathematics for the sufficiently versed) to figure out which one we prefer. All of them have absurd consequences. It’s just a matter of which price we want to pay.

          The SEP article acknowledges that RQM’s price to pay is “the weakening of realism”. It sounds like you’re comfortable with that price. Others are more comfortable with the proliferating reality of MWI, others with the non-locality of pilot-wave. Personally, they all make me uneasy. I’m prepared to accept any of them, but I need more evidence. Until then, I’m agnostic.

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      • Apparently you’ve gone over my head Mike — I don’t get the pun. Maybe that’s also why I don’t grasp what’s wrong with the “effective” term in this context? It seems to me that some answers tend to be more “effective” than others do, and given that they seem more consistent with specific observations, (in contrast with consistent with any observations at all). Complete answers may exist in mathematics, though none regarding Reality itself are ever Complete that I know of. “Useful” is a similar term that I’d use to address the validity of a human made theory regarding what’s behind our observations.

        Of course Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle is useful epistemically, though suggests supernaturalism when interpreted ontologically. The paradox here is that supernaturalism renders science obsolete. Thus epistemic interpretations of HUP are fine with me, that is until somewhat more effective reductions are discovered.

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        • Eric, the possible pun referred to the subject James and I were discussing: relational quantum mechanics.

          “and given that they seem more consistent with specific observations, (in contrast with consistent with any observations at all)”

          If you can find observations that are not consistent with one or more interpretations of quantum physics, I’m sure a lot of physicists would love to know about them.

          On complete vs useful, I think in the end, any term is going to be open to misinterpretation by someone (often intentionally so). RQM makes moves that leave me unsatisfied, but I’m not really satisfied by any of the interpretations.

          Liked by 1 person

      • (Darn, scratch that last one.).
        Mike,

        If you can find observations that are not consistent with one or more interpretations of quantum physics, I’m sure a lot of physicists would love to know about them.

        I do actually have one, though on the contrary, I’ve found it to generally enrage physicists. It’s that ontological interpretations of Heisenberg’s wonderful principle, also put physicists into a “supernaturalist” category. There’s one physicist who not only wasn’t enraged by my proposal however, but seems to have altered her perspective on the matter. I’m of course referring to Sabine Hossenfelder. To the extent that causality fails, science itself grows obsolete. After about a month of my own such commentary over there, the record shows that she wrote the following post: http://backreaction.blogspot.com/2019/05/quantum-mechanics-is-wrong-there-ive.html?m=0

        It’s true that she didn’t formally credit me for her new stance, or even admit that she had a new stance. In the real world “somebodies” don’t do that sort of thing for “nobodies” without good reason to. It was enough for me that I could thank her for this in the comments. Einstein, I think, would have been proud of each of us.

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        • Eric,
          On physicists and supernaturalism, that’s more of an opinion. I was actually asking about empirical data, which is what I thought your remark further up was in reference to.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Wyrd Smythe says:

          “It’s that ontological interpretations of Heisenberg’s wonderful principle, also put physicists into a ‘supernaturalist’ category.”

          How so?

          Liked by 1 person

          • Well I’m not saying that there is some kind of ultimate truth to the distinction that I’m making here Wyrd. I’m merely saying that I consider it useful to define natural function on the basis of causal dynamics of this world, with supernatural function the opposite. If someone were able to do things which violate the physics of our world (whatever that is), then I’d consider it useful to call this person “supernatural”. Conversely for natural function it’s instead physical causes which give rise to associated effects. So if anything were to happen in our world that was not caused to happen exactly as it does happen, then I’d also call this a “supernatural” event.

            I interpret HUP epistemically because I suspect that all effects do occur by means of physical causes in the end. If not however, as in ontological interpretations of HUP, or “God plays dice”, reality would thus function supernaturally in this regard, that is given the definition that I consider most useful.

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          • Wyrd Smythe says:

            You didn’t answer my question, you just reasserted your view that an ontological interpretation of the HUP is “supernatural.”

            Why? What makes the HUP not based on the “causal dynamics of this world”?

            Liked by 1 person

          • Wyrd,
            It seems to me that I was very careful to not state that there are true and false definitions for the “supernatural” term, and that HUP applies to this classification. I simply did not say this. What I did say was that I find it useful to correlate the term with the concept of causality. Just as a person who can do magical things will function beyond the causal dynamics of our realm, I think it’s useful to say that an event which is not caused to happen will also function “magically” in this regard. (Of course from an ontological interpretation of HUP, there are things which occur which are not caused, or determined, to occur in that exact as they do.)

            Several physicists have gotten upset with me about my assessment of their QM interpretations, and I think because they like to consider themselves “naturalists”. Though I get the issue here, it simply is what it is. The best that one might do to counter my claim, I think, is argue that it’s not useful to call voids in causality “magic”. If so then can you think of any other ontological voids in causality that aren’t useful to refer to as “magical”?

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          • Wyrd Smythe says:

            ” Of course from an ontological interpretation of HUP, there are things which occur which are not caused, or determined, to occur in that exact as they do.”

            What I’m asking is: What is there about the HUP (as ontological) you think isn’t causal or determined?

            Liked by 1 person

          • Okay Wyrd, the thing which isn’t ultimately causal or determined under this interpretation, would be “an event”.

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          • Wyrd Smythe says:

            What “event” — why isn’t it causal? And how does the HUP figure in?

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          • Wyrd,
            So apparently you’re now asking me to explain quantum mechanics to you. But why would you do that when we both know that you grasp this stuff many times better than I do? I’d think so that you can wait for me to make inevitable mistakes and then work them back to potentially discredit my presented position, (or that ontological interpretations of Heisenburg’s uncertainty principle may effectively be said to concern “supernatural” dynamics). So the question now is, shall I or shall I not agree to enter such a “trap”? Oh why not!

            As I understand it, matter at all scales may be said to function with both wave like and particle like properties. The issue here is that the more exactly that we determine the state of something in a particle or wave based sense (eg: position), the more confounding that determinations will be in a complementary sense at that moment (and momentum complements position). Apparently HUP predicts the uncertainty associated with our observations extremely well, such as through the double split experiment.

            Some physicists interpret this variability in final outcome to mean that in the end, nothing causes stuff to function exactly the way that it ends up functioning, or fundamental uncertainty. Furthermore, they may be right! But as I’ve been discussing, here it’s also effective to say that they forfeit their naturalism in this regard, or believe in magic.

            Now that I’ve provided a bare account of HUP for your assessment, there’s also the matter of two other questions that you’ve asked. “Events” would be everything which occurs in reality. Then as for this proposed void in causality, that’s associated with the ontological interpretation of HUP that some physicists believe in, or the position that things aren’t caused to function exactly as they do function. Of course that position is not mine — I instead go epistemological here, or an interpretation which doesn’t contradict naturalism.

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          • Wyrd Smythe says:

            “So apparently you’re now asking me to explain quantum mechanics to you.”

            No, not at all. As you mentioned, I’m familiar with the material. 😉

            I’m asking why you say an ontological HUP isn’t causal.

            I’m curious because the mainstream view is that the HUP is ontological — it’s an aspect of reality — and that physics is causally determined. As the Wiki article puts it:

            Thus, the uncertainty principle actually states a fundamental property of quantum systems and is not a statement about the observational success of current technology.

            So how does the HUP demonstrate a lack or violation of causality?

            When you say:

            “Some physicists interpret this variability in final outcome to mean that in the end, nothing causes stuff to function exactly the way that it ends up functioning, or fundamental uncertainty.”

            What do you mean by “nothing causes stuff to function exactly the way that it ends up functioning”? You have a similar phrase in the last paragraph:

            “Then as for this proposed void in causality, that’s associated with the ontological interpretation of HUP that some physicists believe in, or the position that things aren’t caused to function exactly as they do function.”

            What do you mean by “things aren’t caused to function exactly as they do function”?

            Can you make up a specific ‘for instance’ as an example to illustrate what you mean? What kind of “event” would be non-causal due to the HUP?

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          • Wyrd Smythe says:

            You might find this video instructive (the guy who does these is really good; I highly recommend the channel)…

            Liked by 1 person

  21. Let’s take it this way Wyrd. If causality never fails, then everything which ever has happened, was fully determined to occur exactly as it did occur, and given the structure of Reality that came first. Furthermore everything that will happen in the future also would not deviate from a fixed course given what came first. This is an ontologically naturalistic position, and indeed my own. So I take HUP (and all humanly fabricated theory, actually) in an epistemic manner, or as a potentially useful heuristic from which to help us makes sense of what we perceive.

    Physicists in general are square with me here as I understand it, that is until we get to HUP. Here many instead seem to relinquish their epistemic modesty and make the ontological claim that given the experimental success of this principle, future Reality itself is not fully determined by means of causal dynamics. This is where I claim that they relinquish their naturalism in this regard. Observe that it makes no difference who’s ultimately right and wrong about this. I could be a wrong naturalist here while they’d be right supernaturalists. So now for your specific questions:

    Ontological HUP isn’t causal… because from this interpretation the future does not follow a path which is fixed by means of the structure of Reality.

    I agree with you that it’s mainstream that HUP is ontological, and secondly that physics is causal. As in this case however, mainstream views needn’t be consistent with each other.

    That Wikipedia quote that you provided essentially reinforces the idea that physicists in general consider HUP in an ontological way. Here it is again: “Thus, the uncertainty principle actually states a fundamental property of quantum systems and is not a statement about the observational success of current technology.” Right, it’s interpreted ontologically. It’s the only position in science which is interpreted this way rather than merely epistemic that I know of. Do you know of any others? As I’ve mentioned, Sabine Hossenfelder used to go this way as well, though her recent “Quantum Mechanics is Wrong” post suggests that she’s had a change of heart to now be more on my side in this regard.

    Regarding a specific “for instance”, if a given particle has only a probable rather than fixed path in the end, as ontological HUP interpretations maintain, then this would display a void in causality.

    I found the video that you provided interesting, and even if a bit over my head. Regardless of how much this guy is relating various human perceptions (like turn signal alignment) with QM, this shouldn’t have any bearing upon what I’ve presented here. It doesn’t matter if ontological interpretations of HUP happen to be Right in the end. What matters is that the future itself is not determined to occur exactly as it does occur in them. Again, what other theory in physics is interpreted ontologically rather that epistemologically?

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    • Wyrd Smythe says:

      “Again, what other theory in physics is interpreted ontologically rather that epistemologically?”

      This seems a crucial point. (Because my answer is: Nearly all of them.)

      All theories are models of something. The model is epistemological, but the something is ontological. The theory reflects our current understanding, so the theory itself (any theory; all theories) is epistemological. In this sense, the HUP is epistemological.

      But a physics theory is about some aspect of the physical world, and therefore a physics theory has an ontological content. For one example, F=MA is an ontological statement about the force required to move objects. Both SR and GR are ontological statements about the nature of spacetime. The HUP is a theory about the nature of reality, so in this sense it is ontological.

      There’s a second level of ontological and epistemological when it comes to HUP.

      There is a common misperception the HUP is entirely epistemological in that it’s a statement about our ability to know both a particle’s position and momentum with total precision. But it is actually a statement about the nature of reality — it’s an ontological statement (like most physics theories).

      Bottom line: The HUP is epistemological like all theories (we might learn new facts that invalidate it), but it is an ontological statement about the nature of reality.

      FWIW: Because it’s a theory about the fundamental nature of reality, it’s actually present in the background of many other physics theories. There is a fundamental uncertainty to values at the quantum level.

      “If causality never fails, then everything which ever has happened, was fully determined to occur exactly as it did occur,…”

      Yes, and many people believe exactly that.

      But I’m still not clear on the link you see between the HUP and causality. I asked for an example, and you gave me: “[I]f a given particle has only a probable rather than fixed path in the end, as ontological HUP interpretations maintain, then this would display a void in causality.”

      That’s not very specific. I meant some “Alice and Bob” type experiment or analogy to illustrate your view in action.

      But let me ask this: Why does the path matter causally? Some source causes a “particle” to be emitted and something later absorbs that emitted particle — something is caused to happen. How is there any “void” in causality? The “particle” doesn’t mysteriously vanish or suddenly appear from nothing.

      Quantum measurement randomness and/or the HUP (which is a separate source of reality fuzz) might cause the future to be undetermined, but where do you see a causality problem?

      My other question is: If the HUP really is ontological — really is a statement about the nature of reality — then isn’t it by definition naturalistic? Maybe fuzzy at the edges is the natural state of things.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Wyrd Smythe says:

      Consider your car’s engine. There are small tolerances in the sizes and fits of all the parts. There is some uncertainty compared to the ideal dimensions shown on the blueprint.

      Yet the engine works according to casual principles just fine. Those tolerances just slightly fuzz the values of the calculated ideal operation. But pumps pump, pistons push, sparks ignite, fuel burns, gears turn; causes still cause effects even if the precision is a little fuzzy.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Wyrd,
    Apparently we’re agreed that all models are by definition epistemological. This will be the case even when they seek to describe what’s real, or ontological dynamics. (For a brief moment I was worried that you thought our models were more than “models”.)

    In truth I suppose that I should not say that HUP is the one exclusive model in physics which is interpreted ontologically. All HUP technically says is that nothing can be measured with perfect certainty in two complementary ways (like position and momentum). Tacked on to this by many physicists is a further interpretation of “…because reality harbors ontological indeterminacy”. If reality is ontologically undetermined, then my position is that it functions beyond causality in this regard, or magically.

    Yes I’ve refrained from providing a specific scenario here, and because it could be more messy than I’m comfortable with. But in truth what I’m talking about is merely a product of logic, or language based reasoning. I’ve considered trying to present this through a hypothetical “simple universe”, though that could also quickly get messy with further questions. So let’s try logic alone.

    If something is caused to happen, there will of course be nothing magical about it actually happening, and given this causal reason for it to happen. Conversely if something happens which was not caused to happen, then this may effectively be referred to as “magic”. So if there are no planes in the sky, and yet one nevertheless crashes out of the sky on someone, then this should be a magical event — a void in causality.

    To now extend this logic to the topic at hand, if anything ever happens in our realm which lacks causal reason for it to happen (such as an electron which might have gone one way, but instead goes another given an ultimately undetermined path), then this will display “magic”, or a void in causal dynamics. Here reason fails just as certainly as a plane that falls from a planeless sky. And since many physicists account for HUP in this way, they’re effectively proposing a magical explanation. So that’s the link I see between HUP and causality.

    The path of a particle does matter, because particles which are in different places cause different things in a given system. (And as I understand it, particles do disappear and appear from time to time as well given quantum funkiness). Regardless of all that however, if anything ever happens ontologically which is not caused to happen, this will (by my own definition) be a “causality problem”, or “magic”.

    One could of course define “natural” as whatever happens, though I don’t think that would be very useful in the end. Note that it would always be true, and even if gods were actually in control of everything. To me “causality” seems like a far more useful definition.

    On car parts’ tolerances, yeah that’s how they work. We not only get play there, but require it given that we can only build things to some level of precision.

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    • Wyrd Smythe says:

      “I suppose that I should not say that HUP is the one exclusive model in physics which is interpreted ontologically.”

      Correct. Physics models almost always have an ontological content.

      “All HUP technically says is that nothing can be measured with perfect certainty in two complementary ways (like position and momentum).”

      It amounts to that, but be careful to recognize that the reason for it is ontological. Perfect certainty doesn’t exist in such value pairs. It can’t be measured because it doesn’t exist.

      “Tacked on to this by many physicists is a further interpretation of ‘…because reality harbors ontological indeterminacy’.”

      But this isn’t a “further interpretation” nor is it “tacked on” — it’s what the HUP actually says. There is no other (correct) view of the HUP.

      “If reality is ontologically undetermined, then my position is that it functions beyond causality in this regard, or magically.”

      I think using the word “undetermined” might be a problem because it’s easy to conflate with the sense of undetermined” we use when speaking of causality. The word used by the theory is “uncertain” and it doesn’t have to do with causality.

      Just because a process is a little fuzzy — a little random — that doesn’t mean it isn’t causal. That’s an important distinction to make!

      “…(such as an electron which might have gone one way, but instead goes another given an ultimately undetermined path)…”

      The HUP doesn’t cause electrons to suddenly go one way when they might have gone another. The forces that act on the electron are fully causal. No one has ever observed any “void” in causality.

      Perhaps you don’t recognize how small the effects of the HUP actually are. We’re talking Planck-level (the actual constant is h-bar, which is even smaller).

      As you say (bolding mine):

      “The path of a particle does matter, because particles which are in different places cause different things in a given system.”

      But the point is they cause things!

      Just because there is some randomness in things doesn’t mean causality is violated. It just means we can’t predict what happens with perfect precision.

      Like

    • Wyrd Smythe says:

      Let me ask a different question: Do you accept that matter/energy really do have wave-like properties (as quantum mechanics suggests and which experiments seem to confirm)?

      If so, you must also accept the HUP as ontological reality, because it’s a statement about a fundamental mathematical property of wave-like systems.

      It is a perceived truth about our quantum reality.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. One of the issues here Wyrd, is that you and I seem to use the “ontological” term in different ways. With it I tend to talk about what’s ultimately real. Though I’m sure that you use it this way as well, you also seem to refer to models which merely reference what’s ultimately real. So yes from your definition theories in general are ontological because the purpose of them is to describe reality. Of course that says nothing about the validity of what a given model actually states about reality itself. For example the content of F=MA is widely known to be a useful approximation which does not accurately depict our observations at greater extremities. Thus this statement is not considered True, and even though it does at least reference what’s Real. So to me it seems best to not give F=MA the “Ontological” title (which I’ll capitalize to help signify the sense of the term that I favor). Actually I wouldn’t classify any humanly fabricated theory this way.

    Note that if an electron does not have a perfectly determined path in the end, then it displays “a void in causality” or “magic” as I’m defining these terms. Why? Because here we’re talking about Ontological divergences in the function of matter. Either something is caused to happen exactly as it does happen, or by definition something “beyond causality” will be at work as well, or “magic”. Thus the best you might do here is argue that my definitions for these terms are less than useful.

    Position and momentum can’t be measured simultaneously, because they don’t exist simultaneously? That sounds reasonable to me given the wave and particle nature of matter/energy. Still the “wave” and “particle” ideas should be hopelessly epistemic in the end, or human constructs rather than Truth. I’m good with this duality in an epistemic capacity, but can’t go Ontological here as well.

    Just because a process is a little fuzzy — a little random — that doesn’t mean it isn’t causal. That’s an important distinction to make!

    It seems to me that if you’re going to make an argument from magnitude, then you’ll also need to define the scale where true randomness would finally be termed non-causal or magic. Dice rolling? Conversely I classify all fundamental randomness as “magic”.

    It is a perceived truth about our quantum reality.

    We’re definitely agreed about the perception!

    Like

    • Wyrd Smythe says:

      “Actually I wouldn’t classify any humanly fabricated theory [as ontological].”

      Wow. That’s … a high bar.

      Looking at it like that means you can’t distinguish between theories with ontological content (nearly all physics theories) and theories that are purely epistemological. String Theory, for example, may have no connection with reality — it may turn out to be a purely mathematical domain (it sort of looks that way currently).

      So… If, under your definitions, all theories are epistemic and none are ontological, then is the HUP still “special” somehow in your eyes? (Such that you’ve singled it out for discussion here.)

      Also, I’d like an answer to the question I asked: Do you accept the wave-like nature of reality? (The most recent experiments demonstrate the wave-like nature of giant molecules with 2000 atoms!)

      “Conversely I classify all fundamental randomness as “magic”.”

      Is quantum mechanics magic to you?

      Because wave-function collapse is the one truly random thing in creation. Everything else seems to work deterministically.

      “Thus the best you might do here is argue that my definitions for these terms are less than useful.”

      Or I can ask for a specific example where you think there is a “void” in causality.

      Because the path something takes between point A and point B doesn’t matter when what happens at point A causes something at point B.

      If you see a “void” in causality, please give me a specific example of exactly what “void” you see. Show me an effect without a cause.

      (BTW: In any case, the HUP has very little to do with the path a “particle” takes from point A to point B. That we don’t know its path is due to the pronounced wave-like nature of “particles.” It’s what allows a “particle” to go through two slits at once and interfere with itself.)

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Wow. That’s … a high bar.

    Yes, I use a very high bar regarding “what really exists”. But actually I am able to provide one example of what I consider ontologically true. Here goes… I exist.

    Should you exist in the same manner that I’m perfectly certain I do, then you could say the same about yourself. This would be the one ontological element of reality that you could ever know regarding what ultimately exists. All else shall be more and less validated belief.

    On HUP potentially being “special”, earlier I did mention that it seemed to be the only theory in physics that some take in a fully ontological capacity. (I should now add “beyond their own existence”.) I did take this back however since HUP itself isn’t quite the issue. All it formally states is that perfect measurements can’t be made. The “…because things function randomly in the end” is a further explanation that may or may not be true, or the very thing which we’re discussing.

    On the particle and wave nature of matter, yes I do consider this to be the case, that is in an epistemic sense rather than ontologically. Ideas like “particle” and “wave” should merely be useful human constructs.

    Quantum mechanics is a very successful theory regarding the nature of reality, though theories cannot be “magic” in themselves. Reality would function magically however, as I define the term, if it harbors fundamental randomness.

    As for a specific example of a void in causality, try this. An electron is shot at a double slit. It goes through one or the other or both slits in a way that confounds our determination of both its position and momentum at that moment, and given displayed particle and wave characteristics. If the uncertainty displayed to us is ontological (under my stringent definition for the term), then this reflects a void in causality, or “magic” — effect beyond cause in the sense that something wasn’t mandated to happen exactly as it does end up happening. Here God plays dice.

    In order to avoid such an outcome apparently Sean Carroll theorizes that every potential divergence is indeed realized without any associated uncertainty, though in their own split off universes (or some such ridiculousness). It’s interesting to me that this sort of speculation is given so much credence in the field today, and yet the humble “We’re not really sure what’s going on here, magical or not” remains so troubling. I do suspect that Sabine is fine with this sort of position however.

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    • Wyrd Smythe says:

      “Here goes… I exist.”

      Apparently you really are a solipsist. The problem is that it renders the world meaningless. If you consider solipsism a valid argument, there’s not much point in continuing the discussion.

      “On the particle and wave nature of matter, yes I do consider this to be the case, that is in an epistemic sense rather than ontologically.”

      If you don’t believe the world is real, I suppose it doesn’t matter, but I get the feeling you double don’t believe in the reality of the wave-like nature of energy/matter, and such a belief renders this discussion rather moot.

      “Reality would function magically however, as I define the term, if it harbors fundamental randomness.”

      There is fundamental randomness in wave-function collapse, but apparently you deny the reality of quantum mechanics. What about that all experiments confirm it? Or do you just hand-wave it all away with solipsism?

      “If the uncertainty displayed to us is ontological…”

      How can it be if you claim solipsism? What would be your criteria for saying it was real?

      “In order to avoid such an outcome apparently Sean Carroll theorizes that every potential divergence is indeed realized without any associated uncertainty,”

      The splitting of worlds in MWI has nothing to do with the HUP.

      The HUP is a fundamental theory about reality. That theory (along with the theory of gravity and all other physical theories) works the same in all the many worlds.

      Between the solipsist argument, and that you don’t seem to really understand the HUP, I think this bus may have reached my stop. You said that video I linked was a bit over your head. I wish you would take that to heart and recognize your knowledge is a bit shallow here. (But if you really are a solipsist, there’s no point. You can just believe what you wanna believe.)

      Like

      • Oh come on Wyrd, you’ll not find a single point in my discussions with you (or with anyone) where I’ve implied that I think I’m all that exists! Indeed, such metaphysical solipsism would be the antithesis of my perspective, or a full ontology. What kind of narcissist is convinced that nothing exists but it? While I do have the confidence to acknowledge with perfect certainty that to me I do exist, regarding all else I can only have belief with more and less conviction.

        I realize that you’re not happy that I’m able to effectively associate the notion of fundamental uncertainty with the standard conception of magic. You’re not the first there, and I suspect won’t be the last.

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        • Wyrd Smythe says:

          “…regarding all else I can only have belief with more and less conviction.”

          Obviously. My questions concerned your convictions.

          “I realize that you’re not happy that I’m able to effectively associate the notion of fundamental uncertainty with the standard conception of magic.”

          My happiness is irrelevant. You may call it “effective” but it makes no sense to me. I’ve been trying to understand what you’re talking about, but I give up. If you think the HUP is supernatural, then I guess to you it is.

          Like

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