Closer To Truth: Some Things About Quantum Physics

There is an ongoing PBS TV series (also several books and also a website) called “Closer To Truth”. It is hosted by neuroscientist Robert Lawrence Kuhn. He’s featured in one-on-one interviews and panel discussions with the cream of the cream of today’s cosmologists, physicists, philosophers, theologians, psychologists, etc. on all of the Big Questions surrounding a trilogy of broad topics – Cosmos; Consciousness; God. The trilogy collectively dealt with reality, space and time, mind and consciousness, aliens, theology and on and on and on. Here are a few of my comments on one of the general topics covered: Quantum Physics.

Why is the Quantum So Strange?

One of the main reasons, IMHO, that the realm of the quantum is so very strange is that the particles that make up the realm of the micro tend to exhibit awareness and exhibit a limited degree or range of free will! That’s nuts! But, consider just one example (out of many I could give). That example is radioactive decay. Now the standard scenario given in the textbooks is that some atomic nuclei are unstable and thus are radioactive. They tend to ‘want’ to achieve stability, and thus go poof and emit various bits and pieces which results in what is left over as something that is stable. Now unstable nuclei go poof entirely at random. Take two identical radioactive atoms sitting side by side – one might go poof in a matter of seconds while the other, that identical other, might not go poof for many days, weeks or even millennia. The next aspect is that unstable nuclei go poof for absolutely no reason at all. Causality does not apply in radioactive decay (that’s also nuts, IMHO but I digress). The upshot of all of this randomness and lack of causality is that unstable nuclei go poof in such a structured or organised way as to decay in a precise mathematical manner which we measure and term the half-life of that particular kind of unstable nuclei. Now, I ask you, if you were to take a random number generator to determine the time lag between one unstable nuclei going poof and the next; if you were to take another random number generator to determine how many unstable nuclei were to go poof after that time lag, do you think you would come up with, if you graphed the results, a precise mathematical relationship – a half-life relationship? The odds are highly against such a scenario. Since the half-life relationship is well established, something is screwy somewhere with either the randomness or the causality. Now I suspect that the unstable nuclei has an awareness and a limited range of free will options and that it can of that own free will ‘decide’ when to go poof in conjunction with all of the other unstable nuclei in order to maintain or to arrive at that half-life relationship. That’s also nuts. Perhaps the ultimate solution lies in the Simulated (Virtual Reality) Universe scenario where it’s all been so programmed to produce the results that we see and thus randomness does not operate and causality does via that programming.

Why is the Quantum so Mysterious?

One of the main reasons we find quantum physics strange or mysterious is because quantum physics tends to be expressed or described in terms of probability. In our day-to-day macro world, certainty tends to be the norm. The cat is either alive or it is dead. However, the interesting thing I note in any description of quantum phenomena, is that things are uncertain and thus only probable to an observer, or if someone is trying to measure something. The observer is the key element. Quantum physics is described in probabilities by an observer. Now, probability is of course just a form of mathematics and mathematics is an invention or an abstract concept that exists within the mind. Probability is not a thing but a concept and it has no external reality. You measure or observe things and then mentally assign probability to what you observe or measure. They are called ‘error bars’ if nothing else. There are limits to how accurately you can observe or measure things, and that’s because the very act of observing or measuring affects what it is you are observing or measuring. So far, so good. But I noted above that the observer is the key element to defining quantum physics as a probabilistic physics. Now what happens if you remove the observer (and the mental concept of probability) from the picture? There was a time post Big Bang when there was no life, no mind, no observer. Could you still say the realm of the micro was probabilistic if there were no observers around to assign probabilities? Humans may not know exactly where that damn electron is, but Mother Nature does! In fact, more likely as not, the electron ‘knows’ as well, but that’s another topic.

Quantum Physics of Consciousness

There are micro happenings that are just too small to have any significant impact in the macro realm. A baseball that hits the outfield wall out in Yankee Stadium isn’t going to destroy the ballpark. Photons of light have energy but if you go out into the sunlight you are rather unlikely to be knocked flat on your back. You may have a wave-function but nobody is likely to see you in two places, or see you both dead and alive, at the same time. If the Earth went down a Black Hole, the Black Hole would consider the Earth just another minor cosmic snack. If one person runs in the opposite direction to the Earth’s spin, the world still goes on turning as it should. And so it is with consciousness. The chemistry, the chemicals, the physiological structures that ultimately control consciousness are too much in the macro realm for quantum effects to have much, if any, effect.

Many Worlds of Quantum Theory 1

If I understand this Many Worlds interpretation of quantum physics, every time one (and one does not necessarily mean something biological) comes to a fork in the road, or an intersection of three or more options, then whenever the one turns right, another one turns left and yet another one goes straight ahead, each one exercising an option in a brand new universe. In other words, every possible option that ever theoretically was, or could have been, has actually gotten its moment in the sun. Now given the number of decisional forks in the road, either/or options, even a multitude of options faced every nanosecond by all the bits and pieces in the universe, from electrons through to human beings and everything in-between, untold trillions upon trillions of new universes need to be brought into existence as each and every one of those nanoseconds comes, unfolds and goes. That’s the only way to ensure all possible options throughout the entire unfolding universe are catered for equally without fear or favour. Anything that theoretically can happen, will happen. This might be taking the concept of equality a bit too far. Okay, one can assume an infinite cosmos which can store all of these trillions upon trillions of new universes that are created every nanosecond. However, there’s more than space available at stake here. If I turn right at Oak Street, a new universe will now pop into existence where I turned left at Oak Street, and presumably yet another universe comes into being because I turned around and didn’t turn left or right, and maybe yet another universe arises where I just stand there totally uncertain what course of action I should take, and so on. The basic question is where does all of this additional matter and energy that’s required to construct these additional trillions of universes each nanosecond come from? And how can a new universe come into existence already fully and maturely formed? Something’s screwy somewhere!

Many Worlds of Quantum Theory 2

There is a variation on the theme of Many Worlds. Instead of universes budding off by the trillions whenever forks in the road are encountered, perhaps umpteen trillions of universes, as close to infinity as makes no odds, existed from the get go; from square one. There would be enough universes such that all possibilities, however unlikely as long as they are theoretically possible, get realized. Anything that can happen will happen. Now in many of those universes, I turn left at Oak Street. In many others I turn right. In others I just turn around, and in still others I stand there and hem and haw undecided. In some of those universes where I turn left I’m wearing a blue suit. In other universes where I turn left I’m garbed in bluejeans. Maybe I wear a hat in some scenarios; maybe I don’t. Of course in most of these universes I wasn’t ever even conceived and so I don’t exist in those. The essential point is that rather than having a typical Many Worlds branching structure, universes that bud off as time goes by, these trillions (upon trillions upon trillions) of universes are more akin to bubbles in a bottle of soft drink than branches. They, all those bubble universes, all started off as, and exist as fully formed and cheek-by-jowl universes and have done so since, well, in the beginning.

Why is Quantum Gravity So Significant?

The idea of quantum gravity is significant if, and only if, the laws, principles and relationships of physics is a self-consistent physics. If physics is self-consistent then it must of necessity be possible to unify the macro (classical physics) with the micro (quantum physics). The fact that this unification has not been even shown to be theoretically possible after many, many decades of effort, should begin to ring alarm bells. Now, let’s think the unthinkable. Let’s go outside of the unification box. What if the macro and the micro are not compatible. What if all of physics is in fact not self-consistent? Does that mean there must be two realities? No, it could mean that there are two separate and apart sets of software that run the cosmos. Just like your computer is one reality, it still takes many separate and apart sets of software to make it strut its stuff. The term software and the analogy with a PC gives the game away. If we live in a Simulated (Virtual Reality) Universe there is no requirement for macro physics and micro physics to have and to hold together as one self-consistent unit. There are indeed two separate and apart sets of software that rule the cosmic roost. The quest for quantum gravity, otherwise known as the quest for a Theory of Everything (TOE), could be as futile as seeking that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

What is the Theory of Everything?

The Theory of Everything (TOE) is the theoretical unification between quantum physics and classical physics (or relativity) to form a theory of quantum gravity. Alas, thousands of the finest minds in physics over many, many decades now haven’t come up with a TOE, often considered the Holy Grail of physics. It can’t be that hard if indeed there is just one physics. However, I predict there never will be a TOE because there are actually two separate and apart sets of software running the cosmos, just like there are separate and apart software programs running on your PC. And that’s the clue. We do indeed exist in a Simulated (Virtual Reality) Universe and quantum (micro) physics is one software program, and relativity or classical (macro) physics is another software program. They cannot be merged. So, no TOE is possible.