Structural realism, a way to be a scientific realist?

In the scientific realism vs instrumentalism debate, realism is the position that the elements of a scientific theory represent reality. So when general relativity talks about space warping, space really is warping. Instrumentalism, or anti-realism, is the stance that scientific theories are just prediction mechanisms, with no guarantee that they represent reality. Under instrumentalism, general … Continue reading Structural realism, a way to be a scientific realist?

The nature of splitting worlds in the Everett interpretation

Schrodinger's cat in many worlds

This post is about an aspect of the Everett many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. I've given brief primers of the interpretation in earlier posts (see here or here), in case you need one. Sean Carroll, as he does periodically, did an AMA on his podcast. He got a number of questions on the Everett interpretation, … Continue reading The nature of splitting worlds in the Everett interpretation

Scientific theories and prescriptive vs descriptive instrumentalism

Those of you who've known me a while may remember that I dislike accepting philosophical labels. For example, although the labels "materialist" or "physicalist" are more or less accurate descriptions of what I think, they often seem to imply an ideological rigidity I'm not comfortable with. My attitude toward these labels somewhat resonates with Neil … Continue reading Scientific theories and prescriptive vs descriptive instrumentalism

Mea culpa on quantum decoherence

Lately, I've been trying to gain a better understanding of quantum decoherence. This is the process of a quantum system in superposition interacting with the environment and, as a result, appearing to lose its quantum nature, notably by having interference between the elements of its superposition become undetectable. Decoherence is often used synonymously with the … Continue reading Mea culpa on quantum decoherence

The nature of quantum nonlocality

Quantum physics has been on my mind again lately, somewhat triggered by a recent conversation with Wyrd Smythe on his blog. I've always known quantum nonlocality has nuances, but stuff I read this week revealed some wrinkles I wasn't aware of. (Well, I was aware of them, but wasn't aware they pertained to nonlocality.) A … Continue reading The nature of quantum nonlocality

Thoughts about quantum computing and the wave function

Qubit bloch sphere

The main difference between a quantum computer and a classical one is the qubit. Qubits are like classical bits, in that they hold binary values of either 1 or 0, on or off, true or false, etc. However, qubits, being quantum objects, can be in a superposition of both states at once. The physical manifestation … Continue reading Thoughts about quantum computing and the wave function

The spectrum of science to fantasy

Black swans

A question long argued in the philosophy of science is the demarcation problem.  How to we distinguish science from non-science?  Karl Popper famously proposed falsifiability as a criteria.  To be science, a theory must make predictions that could turn out to be wrong.  It must be falsifiable.  Theories that are amorphous or flexible enough to … Continue reading The spectrum of science to fantasy

The measurement problem, Copenhagen, pilot-wave, and many worlds

With quantum physics, we have a situation where a quantum object, such as a photon, electron, atom or similar scale entity, acts like a wave, spreading out in a superposition, until we look at it (by measuring it in some manner), then it behaves like a particle.  This is known as the measurement problem. Now, … Continue reading The measurement problem, Copenhagen, pilot-wave, and many worlds