A radical quantum hypothesis casts doubt on objective reality; does it reveal life is but a dream?
(ScientificAmerican) The venerable Scientific American hosts this essay by John Horgan, Director Center for Science Writings at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in which Horgan explains a radical quantum hypothesis that he believes casts doubts on objective reality. IQT-News summarizes here:
Horgan explains that “making sense of dreams” is not wholly dissimilar from making sense of “reality.”
Your experience of the world is unique to you. So is your interpretation of it. No wonder we often disagree vehemently, violently, on what has happened and what it means.
Science offers our best hope for achieving consensus about what happens. Scientists accumulate bits of evidence and try to assemble these fragments into a coherent story.
As philosopher Michael Strevens points out in The Knowledge Machine, science resolves disputes by means of repeated observations and experiments. Strevens calls scientists’ commitment to empirical data the “iron rule of explanation.” Ideally, the iron rule produces durable, objectively true accounts of the world.
Unfortunately, quantum mechanics defies common sense. For more than a century, physicists have tried to interpret the theory, to turn it into a coherent story, in vain.
Many physicists ignore the puzzles posed by quantum mechanics. They take a practical, utilitarian attitude toward the theory, summed up by the admonition, “Shut up and calculate!” That is, forget about those quantum paradoxes and keep working on that quantum computer, which might make you rich!
Others keep probing the theory.
A newish interpretation of quantum mechanics called QBism (pronounced “Cubism,” like the art movement) makes subjective experience the bedrock of knowledge and reality itself. David Mermin, a prominent theorist, says QBism can dispel the “confusion at the foundations of quantum mechanics.” You just have to accept that all knowledge begins with “individual personal experience.”
According to QBism, each of us constructs a set of beliefs about the world, based on our interactions with it.
QBism’s core message, science writer Amanda Gefter says, is that the idea of “a single objective reality is an illusion.” A dream, you might say.
Physicists have more in common than most would like to admit with artists, who try to turn the chaos of things into a meaningful narrative.