Saturday Night Science: Einstein’s Unfinished Revolution

“Einstein's Unfinished Revolution” by Lee SmolinIn the closing years of the nineteenth century, one of those nagging little discrepancies vexing physicists was the behaviour of the photoelectric effect. Originally discovered in 1887, the phenomenon causes certain metals, when illuminated by light, to absorb the light and emit electrons. The perplexing point was that there was a minimum wavelength (colour of light) necessary for electron emission, and for longer wavelengths, no electrons would be emitted at all, regardless of the intensity of the beam of light. For example, a certain metal might emit electrons when illuminated by green, blue, violet, and ultraviolet light, with the intensity of electron emission proportional to the light intensity, but red or yellow light, regardless of how intense, would not result in a single electron being emitted.

This didn’t make any sense. According to Maxwell’s wave theory of light, which was almost universally accepted and had passed stringent experimental tests, the energy of light depended upon the amplitude of the wave (its intensity), not the wavelength (or, reciprocally, its frequency). And yet the photoelectric effect didn’t behave that way—it appeared that whatever was causing the electrons to be emitted depended on the wavelength of the light, and what’s more, there was a sharp cut-off below which no electrons would be emitted at all.

In 1905, in one of his “miracle year” papers, “On a Heuristic Viewpoint Concerning the Production and Transformation of Light”, Albert Einstein suggested a solution to the puzzle. He argued that light did not propagate as a wave at all, but rather in discrete particles, or “quanta”, later named “photons”, whose energy was proportional to the wavelength of the light. This neatly explained the behaviour of the photoelectric effect. Light with a wavelength longer than the cut-off point was transmitted by photons whose energy was too low to knock electrons out of metal they illuminated, while those above the threshold could liberate electrons. The intensity of the light was a measure of the number of photons in the beam, unrelated to the energy of the individual photons.

This paper became one of the cornerstones of the revolutionary theory of quantum mechanics, the complete working out of which occupied much of the twentieth century. Quantum mechanics underlies the standard model of particle physics, which is arguably the most thoroughly tested theory in the history of physics, with no experiment showing results which contradict its predictions since it was formulated in the 1970s. Quantum mechanics is necessary to explain the operation of the electronic and optoelectronic devices upon which our modern computing and communication infrastructure is built, and describes every aspect of physical chemistry.

But quantum mechanics is weird. Consider: if light consists of little particles, like bullets, then why when you shine a beam of light on a barrier with two slits do you get an interference pattern with bright and dark bands precisely as you get with, say, water waves? And if you send a single photon at a time and try to measure which slit it went through, you find it always went through one or the other, but then the interference pattern goes away. It seems like whether the photon behaves as a wave or a particle depends upon how you look at it. If you have an hour, here is grand master explainer Richard Feynman (who won his own Nobel Prize in 1965 for reconciling the quantum mechanical theory of light and the electron with Einstein’s special relativity) exploring how profoundly weird the double slit experiment is.

Fundamentally, quantum mechanics seems to violate the principle of realism, which the author defines as follows.

The belief that there is an objective physical world whose properties are independent of what human beings know or which experiments we choose to do. Realists also believe that there is no obstacle in principle to our obtaining complete knowledge of this world.

This has been part of the scientific worldview since antiquity and yet quantum mechanics, confirmed by innumerable experiments, appears to indicate we must abandon it. Quantum mechanics says that what you observe depends on what you choose to measure; that there is an absolute limit upon the precision with which you can measure pairs of properties (for example position and momentum) set by the uncertainty principle; that it isn’t possible to predict the outcome of experiments but only the probability among a variety of outcomes; and that particles which are widely separated in space and time but which have interacted in the past are entangled and display correlations which no classical mechanistic theory can explain—Einstein called the latter “spooky action at a distance”. Once again, all of these effects have been confirmed by precision experiments and are not fairy castles erected by theorists.

From the formulation of the modern quantum theory in the 1920s, often called the Copenhagen interpretation after the location of the institute where one of its architects, Neils Bohr, worked, a number of eminent physicists including Einstein and Louis de Broglie were deeply disturbed by its apparent jettisoning of the principle of realism in favour of what they considered a quasi-mystical view in which the act of “measurement” (whatever that means) caused a physical change (wave function collapse) in the state of a system. This seemed to imply that the photon, or electron, or anything else, did not have a physical position until it interacted with something else: until then it was just an immaterial wave function which filled all of space and (when squared) gave the probability of finding it at that location.

In 1927, de Broglie proposed a pilot wave theory as a realist alternative to the Copenhagen interpretation. In the pilot wave theory there is a real particle, which has a definite position and momentum at all times. It is guided in its motion by a pilot wave which fills all of space and is defined by the medium through which it propagates. We cannot predict the exact outcome of measuring the particle because we cannot have infinitely precise knowledge of its initial position and momentum, but in principle these quantities exist and are real. There is no “measurement problem” because we always detect the particle, not the pilot wave which guides it. In its original formulation, the pilot wave theory exactly reproduced the predictions of the Copenhagen formulation, and hence was not a competing theory but rather an alternative interpretation of the equations of quantum mechanics. Many physicists who preferred to “shut up and calculate” considered interpretations a pointless exercise in phil-oss-o-phy, but de Broglie and Einstein placed great value on retaining the principle of realism as a cornerstone of theoretical physics. Lee Smolin sketches an alternative reality in which “all the bright, ambitious students flocked to Paris in the 1930s to follow de Broglie, and wrote textbooks on pilot wave theory, while Bohr became a footnote, disparaged for the obscurity of his unnecessary philosophy”. But that wasn’t what happened: among those few physicists who pondered what the equations meant about how the world really works, the Copenhagen view remained dominant.

In the 1950s, independently, David Bohm invented a pilot wave theory which he developed into a complete theory of nonrelativistic quantum mechanics. To this day, a small community of “Bohmians” continue to explore the implications of his theory, working on extending it to be compatible with special relativity. From a philosophical standpoint the de Broglie-Bohm theory is unsatisfying in that it involves a pilot wave which guides a particle, but upon which the particle does not act. This is an “unmoved mover”, which all of our experience of physics argues does not exist. For example, Newton’s third law of motion holds that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and in Einstein’s general relativity, spacetime tells mass-energy how to move while mass-energy tells spacetime how to curve. It seems odd that the pilot wave could be immune from influence of the particle it guides. A few physicists, such as Jack Sarfatti, have proposed “post-quantum” extensions to Bohm’s theory in which there is back-reaction from the particle on the pilot wave, and argue that this phenomenon might be accessible to experimental tests which would distinguish post-quantum phenomena from the predictions of orthodox quantum mechanics. A few non-physicist crackpots have suggested these phenomena might even explain flying saucers.

Moving on from pilot wave theory, the author explores other attempts to create a realist interpretation of quantum mechanics: objective collapse of the wave function, as in the Penrose interpretation; the many worlds interpretation (which Smolin calls “magical realism”); and decoherence of the wavefunction due to interaction with the environment. He rejects all of them as unsatisfying, because they fail to address glaring lacunæ in quantum theory which are apparent from its very equations.

The twentieth century gave us two pillars of theoretical physics: quantum mechanics and general relativity—Einstein’s geometric theory of gravitation. Both have been tested to great precision, but they are fundamentally incompatible with one another. Quantum mechanics describes the very small: elementary particles, atoms, and molecules. General relativity describes the very large: stars, planets, galaxies, black holes, and the universe as a whole. In the middle, where we live our lives, neither much affects the things we observe, which is why their predictions seem counter-intuitive to us. But when you try to put the two theories together, to create a theory of quantum gravity, the pieces don’t fit. Quantum mechanics assumes there is a universal clock which ticks at the same rate everywhere in the universe. But general relativity tells us this isn’t so: a simple experiment shows that a clock runs slower when it’s in a gravitational field. Quantum mechanics says that it isn’t possible to determine the position of a particle without its interacting with another particle, but general relativity requires the knowledge of precise positions of particles to determine how spacetime curves and governs the trajectories of other particles. There are a multitude of more gnarly and technical problems in what Stephen Hawking called “consummating the fiery marriage between quantum mechanics and general relativity”. In particular, the equations of quantum mechanics are linear, which means you can add together two valid solutions and get another valid solution, while general relativity is nonlinear, where trying to disentangle the relationships of parts of the systems quickly goes pear-shaped and many of the mathematical tools physicists use to understand systems (in particular, perturbation theory) blow up in their faces.

Ultimately, Smolin argues, giving up realism means abandoning what science is all about: figuring out what is really going on. The incompatibility of quantum mechanics and general relativity provides clues that there may be a deeper theory to which both are approximations that work in certain domains (just as Newtonian mechanics is an approximation of special relativity which works when velocities are much less than the speed of light). Many people have tried and failed to “quantise general relativity”. Smolin suggests the problem is that quantum theory itself is incomplete: there is a deeper theory, a realistic one, to which our existing theory is only an approximation which works in the present universe where spacetime is nearly flat. He suggests that candidate theories must contain a number of fundamental principles. They must be background independent, like general relativity, and discard such concepts as fixed space and a universal clock, making both dynamic and defined based upon the components of a system. Everything must be relational: there is no absolute space or time; everything is defined in relation to something else. Everything must have a cause, and there must be a chain of causation for every event which traces back to its causes; these causes flow only in one direction. There is reciprocity: any object which acts upon another object is acted upon by that object. Finally, there is the “identity of indescernibles”: two objects which have exactly the same properties are the same object (this is a little tricky, but the idea is that if you cannot in some way distinguish two objects [for example, by their having different causes in their history], then they are the same object).

This argues that what we perceive, at the human scale and even in our particle physics experiments, as space and time are actually emergent properties of something deeper which was manifest in the early universe and in extreme conditions such as gravitational collapse to black holes, but hidden in the bland conditions which permit us to exist. Further, what we believe to be “laws” and “constants” may simply be precedents established by the universe as it tries to figure out how to handle novel circumstances. Just as complex systems like markets and evolution in ecosystems have rules that change based upon events within them, maybe the universe is “making it up as it goes along”, and in the early universe, far from today’s near-equilibrium, wild and crazy things happened which may explain some of the puzzling properties of the universe we observe today.

This needn’t forever remain in the realm of speculation. It is easy, for example, to synthesise a protein which has never existed before in the universe (it’s an example of a combinatorial explosion). You might try, for example, to crystallise this novel protein and see how difficult it is, then try again later and see if the universe has learned how to do it. To be extra careful, do it first on the International Space Station and then in a lab on the Earth. I suggested this almost twenty years ago as a test of Rupert Sheldrake’s theory of morphic resonance, but (although doubtless Smolin would shun me for associating his theory with that one), it might produce interesting results.

The book concludes with a very personal look at the challenges facing a working scientist who has concluded the paradigm accepted by the overwhelming majority of his or her peers is incomplete and cannot be remedied by incremental changes based upon the existing foundation. He notes:

There is no more reasonable bet than that our current knowledge is incomplete. In every era of the past our knowledge was incomplete; why should our period be any different? Certainly the puzzles we face are at least as formidable as any in the past. But almost nobody bets this way. This puzzles me.

Well, it doesn’t puzzle me. Ever since I learned classical economics, I’ve always learned to look at the incentives in a system. When you regard academia today, there is huge risk and little reward to get out a new notebook, look at the first blank page, and strike out in an entirely new direction. Maybe if you were a twenty-something patent examiner in a small city in Switzerland in 1905 with no academic career or reputation at risk you might go back to first principles and overturn space, time, and the wave theory of light all in one year, but today’s institutional structure makes it almost impossible for a young researcher (and revolutionary ideas usually come from the young) to strike out in a new direction. It is a blessing that we have deep thinkers such as Lee Smolin setting aside the easy path to retirement to ask these deep questions today.

Smolin, Lee. Einstein’s Unfinished Revolution. New York: Penguin Press, 2019. ISBN 978-1-59420-619-1.

Here is a lecture by the author at the Perimeter Institute about the topics discussed in the book. He concentrates mostly on the problems with quantum theory and not the speculative solutions discussed in the latter part of the book.

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Author: John Walker

Founder of Ratburger.org, Autodesk, Inc., and Marinchip Systems. Author of The Hacker's Diet. Creator of www.fourmilab.ch.

17 thoughts on “Saturday Night Science: Einstein’s Unfinished Revolution

  1. John Walker:
    Ultimately, Smolin argues, giving up realism means abandoning what science is all about: figuring out what is really going on.

    Smolin has gone a step too far in that he defines realism too narrowly. Not all properties that are ultimately observable need be present in the system at all times. If I had my druthers, they would be. But the tradeoff for meeting that stringent requirement is that one must give up causality: that causes precede effects in all (relativistic) reference frames. This is a big price to pay in exchange for endowing all microscopic systems at all times with properties such as spin and polarization even if we don’t observe them.

    Bell’s Theorem and EPR force us to make a choice: causality or properties; you don’t get both. This is the biggest news ever in epistemology. All the philosophers who have contemplated theories of knowledge over the centuries never imagined this. In a stroke, quantum mechanics has changed our view of reality in a way that philosophers could not. And the best part is that this change is firmly based in empirical observations of the world rather than in the sterile musings of thinkers sitting in their studies.

    When still in the academic environment, I was occasionally engaged in a discussion of the implications of quantum mechanics by the inhabitants of philosophy departments. Without fail they had at best a superficial, and frequently erroneous, understanding of the theory and its experimental support. Consequently, their inferences concerning the implications for their own fields were invariably wrong. The quality of work in metaphysics would be improved immeasurably if its practitioners would make the effort to learn some quantum mechanics. Think of this as my version of “learn to code” for philosophers.

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  2. drlorentz:
    But the tradeoff for meeting that stringent requirement is that one must give up causality: that causes precede effects in all (relativistic) reference frames. This is a big price to pay in exchange for endowing all microscopic systems at all times with properties such as spin and polarization even if we don’t observe them.

    As I understand Smolin’s thinking (as sketched only in the broadest-brush detail in chapter 15 of the book), he believes that it is possible to preserve strict causality by loosening the other requirement of Bell’s theorem: locality.  Smolin suggests that causal sets may provide a framework from which the apparent spacetime continuum we observe emerges from coarse-graining of a discrete network of events, all linked by a graph of causation.  He attempts to sum up this idea in the following passage, which doesn’t really do the job for me.

    Here is a one-sentence summary of this theory: the universe consists of nothing but views of itself, each from an event in its history, and the laws act to make these views as diverse as possible.

    From here the story unfolds very much like that of the real ensemble theory.  Similar views interact with each other, as a result of the mandate to evolve in the direction of ever more diversity.  This leads to the emergence of space and of locality in that space.  Nonlocality also emerges as interactions which are distant in the emergent space but nearby in the similarity of views.  Finally, as in the real ensemble formulation, quantum mechanics arises from these nonlocal interactions as an approximate description of the dynamics of views.

    In this, “view” is defined as “The view of an event is nothing but the information available to it from its causal past.”  (Namely, the links in the causal set leading from its causes to the event.)

    This seems a long way from anything one could express as a formal theory.

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  3. I’ve got a couple of quibbles with Smolin, or at least with the characterization of his views.

    John Walker:
    Both [quantum mechanics and general relativity] have been tested to great precision, but they are fundamentally incompatible with one another.

    They’re “incompatible” only in the sense that neither includes the other. They mostly cover non-overlapping domains. A more accurate description is that both theories are incomplete in that they fail in the domain in which both are needed simultaneously.

    This is a normal state of affairs in physics: theories that cover limited domains of reality lead to a crisis for phenomena for which both are needed. Newtonian mechanics and Maxwellian electrodynamics constitute a good example. Each was successful in dealing with a restricted set of phenomena but led to problems with phenomena such as electromagnetic mass and radiation reaction. Special relativity and quantum electrodynamics addressed these problems. The preceding theories were more incomplete than incompatible.

    John Walker:
    Quantum mechanics assumes there is a universal clock which ticks at the same rate everywhere in the universe. But general relativity tells us this isn’t so: a simple experiment shows that a clock runs slower when it’s in a gravitational field.

    Relativistic quantum mechanics (Dirac equation and quantum chromodynamics) includes time dilation. It’s not clear to me that clocks running at different rates is a problem since the standard model already incorporates this.

    John Walker:
    Smolin suggests the problem is that quantum theory itself is incomplete: there is a deeper theory, a realistic one, to which our existing theory is only an approximation which works in the present universe where spacetime is nearly flat. [emphasis added]

    It would be fair to say that there is general agreement with Smolin’s view, with the exception of the phase in bold. Everyone recognizes that quantum mechanics and general relativity are incomplete. It’s not clear that there will ever be a theory that meets Smolin’s stringent definition of a realistic theory. My prejudice is that there will not — that quantum mechanics has taught us something new about reality and that Smolin’s realism will never be attained.

    String theory is an attempt to bring the two parts together without giving Smolin his realism. It may not work out but it shows there could be a path to a comprehensive theory without Smolin realism.

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  4. John Walker:
    As I understand Smolin’s thinking (as sketched only in the broadest-brush detail in chapter 15 of the book), he believes that it is possible to preserve strict causality by loosening the other requirement of Bell’s theorem: locality.

    Smolin’s a smart guy and I’m sure he’s got a good point but it will take me a while to ponder his argument. My quick reaction is that causality and locality are inextricably linked in relativity.

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  5. John Walker: [quoting Smolin]
    There is no more reasonable bet than that our current knowledge is incomplete. In every era of the past our knowledge was incomplete; why should our period be any different? Certainly the puzzles we face are at least as formidable as any in the past. But almost nobody bets this way. This puzzles me.

    This strikes me as a straw man. No one is claiming our knowledge is complete. Quite the opposite: general relativity and quantum mechanics are widely acknowledged to be incomplete, which is why string theory is even a thing.

    John Walker:
    When you regard academia today, there is huge risk and little reward to get out a new notebook, look at the first blank page, and strike out in an entirely new direction.

    As I mentioned in our discussion yesterday (today for you), this has always been a problem, yet an obscure patent examiner and (more recently) Andrew Wiles both managed to do exactly that: get out an empty notebook and strike out in an entirely new direction.

    Specifically, science has had occasional revolutions while almost all scientists were engaged in “normal science” as described by Kuhn. Most of us aren’t creative enough to do otherwise. It’s less a matter of courage than ability.

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  6. drlorentz:
    They’re “incompatible” only in the sense that neither includes the other. They mostly cover non-overlapping domains. A more accurate description is that both theories are incomplete in that they fail in the domain in which both are needed simultaneously.

    This is a normal state of affairs in physics: theories that cover limited domains of reality lead to a crisis for phenomena for which both are needed.

    I don’t understand why any of this is a crisis.

    Descriptions of subatomic particle interactions can be very different from the descriptions of galactic interactions.   They don’t need to share the same math.

    What sorts of phenomena trigger a need for both explanatory descriptions to be reconciled?

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  7. MJBubba:

    drlorentz:
    They’re “incompatible” only in the sense that neither includes the other. They mostly cover non-overlapping domains. A more accurate description is that both theories are incomplete in that they fail in the domain in which both are needed simultaneously.

    This is a normal state of affairs in physics: theories that cover limited domains of reality lead to a crisis for phenomena for which both are needed.

    I don’t understand why any of this is a crisis.

    Descriptions of subatomic particle interactions can be very different from the descriptions of galactic interactions.   They don’t need to share the same math.

    What sorts of phenomena trigger a need for both explanatory descriptions to be reconciled?

    Gravitational collapse into a black hole and conditions in the early universe (a tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang) are regimes in which both general relativity and quantum mechanics are in play.  We’d like to have a theory which doesn’t divide by zero and produce absurd results in such circumstances, which we’re pretty confident actually occurred (and occur) in the universe we inhabit.

    What are the practical applications of this?  Probably nothing, but then special relativity had this little spin-off of nuclear energy and bombs.  What will a theory of quantum gravity enable?

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  8. Kudos to Smolin for popularizing these fundamental issues. I don’t know if he is up on recent progress in the Bohmian picture as up-dated by Roderic Sutherland who, in 2015,  gave a precise mathematical description of my 1996 idea of post-quantum “backactivity” of classical level particles on their quantum informational level pilot waves. I here give hyperlinks to some of the key papers that as far as I know provide Popper-falsifiable strategies for all the issues raised by Smolin. PS I don’t get excited by the “causal sets” approach that I predict will be a dead end. In fact, I know Smolin is really wrong because he does not seem to understand that all the spooky quantum entanglement surprises come back from the future in the form of Yakir Aharonov’s “weak value” advanced teleological “Destiny” waves.

    FROM THE APRIL 2010 ISSUE
    Back From the Future
     
    A series of quantum experiments shows that measurements performed in the future can influence the present. Does that mean the universe has a destiny—and the laws of physics pull us inexorably toward our prewritten fate?
    By Zeeya Merali|Thursday, August 26, 2010

    http://discovermagazine.com/2010/apr/01-back-from-the-future
    A Live Alternative to Quantum Spooks
    Huw PriceKen Wharton
    (Submitted on 22 Oct 2015 (v1), last revised 5 Nov 2015 (this version, v2))

    Quantum weirdness has been in the news recently, thanks to an ingenious new experiment by a team led by Roland Hanson, at the Delft University of Technology. Much of the coverage presents the experiment as good (even conclusive) news for spooky action-at-a-distance, and bad news for local realism. We point out that this interpretation ignores an alternative, namely that the quantum world is retrocausal. We conjecture that this loophole is missed because it is confused for superdeterminism on one side, or action-at-a-distance itself on the other. We explain why it is different from these options, and why it has clear advantages, in both cases.

    Comments:
    7 pages; minor revisions

    Subjects:
    Quantum Physics (quant-ph); History and Philosophy of Physics (physics.hist-ph); Popular Physics (physics.pop-ph)

    Cite as:
    arXiv:1510.06712 [quant-ph]

    (or arXiv:1510.06712v2 [quant-ph] for this version)

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  9. Specifically I think what Smolin writes here is wrong (better than “not even wrong” W. Pauli)

    Smolin suggests that causal sets may provide a framework from which the apparent spacetime continuum we observe emerges from coarse-graining of a discrete network of events, all linked by a graph of causation.  He attempts to sum up this idea in the following passage, which doesn’t really do the job for me.

    Here is a one-sentence summary of this theory: the universe consists of nothing but views of itself, each from an event in its history, and the laws act to make these views as diverse as possible.

    From here the story unfolds very much like that of the real ensemble theory.  Similar views interact with each other, as a result of the mandate to evolve in the direction of ever more diversity.  This leads to the emergence of space and of locality in that space.  Nonlocality also emerges as interactions which are distant in the emergent space but nearby in the similarity of views.  Finally, as in the real ensemble formulation, quantum mechanics arises from these nonlocal interactions as an approximate description of the dynamics of views.

    In this, “view” is defined as “The view of an event is nothing but the information available to it from its causal past.”  (Namely, the links in the causal set leading from its causes to the event.)”

    1. arXiv:1904.05157  [pdf

      quant-ph physics.hist-ph

      A spacetime ontology compatible with quantum mechanics

      Authors: Roderick Sutherland

      AbstractThe ontology proposed in this paper is aimed at demonstrating that it is possible to understand the counter-intuitive predictions of quantum mechanics while still retaining much of the framework underlying classical physics, the implication being that it is better to avoid wandering into unnecessarily speculative realms without the support of conclusive evidence. In particular, it is argued that it is possible to interpret quantum mechanics as simply describing an external world consisting of familiar physical entities (e.g., particles or fields) residing in classical 3-dimensional space (not configuration space) with Lorentz covariance maintained. △ Less

      Submitted 9 April, 2019; originally announced April 2019.

    2. arXiv:1706.02290  [pdf

      quant-ph

      doi10.1063/1.4982765 

      How Retrocausality Helps

      Authors: Roderick Sutherland

      AbstractIt has become increasingly apparent that a number of perplexing issues associated with the interpretation of quantum mechanics are more easily resolved once the notion of retrocausality is introduced. The aim here is to list and discuss various examples where a clear explanation has become available via this approach. In so doing, the intention is to highlight that this direction of research deserves more attention than it presently receives. △ Less

      Submitted 6 June, 2017; originally announced June 2017.

      Comments: AIP Conference Proceedings 2016

    3. arXiv:1509.07380  [pdf

      quant-ph

      Interpretation of the Klein-Gordon Probability Density

      Authors: Roderick Sutherland

      AbstractAn explanation is presented for how the expression for “probability density” provided by the Klein-Gordon equation can be understood within a particle interpretation of quantum mechanics. The fact that this expression is not positive definite is seen to be no impediment once a careful distinction is drawn between the outcomes of measurements and the positions of particles between measurements. The analysis indicates, however, that retrocausal influences must be involved. △ Less

      Submitted 6 October, 2015; v1 submitted 22 September, 2015; originally announced September 2015.

      Comments: 6 pages

    4. arXiv:1509.02442  [pdf

      quant-ph

      doi10.1007/s10701-016-0043-6 

      Lagrangian Description for Particle Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics — Entangled Many-Particle Case

      Authors: Roderick Sutherland

      AbstractA Lagrangian formulation is constructed for particle interpretations of quantum mechanics, a well-known example of such an interpretation being the Bohm model. The advantages of such a description are that the equations for particle motion, field evolution and conservation laws can all be deduced from a single Lagrangian density expression. The formalism presented is Lorentz invariant. This paper follows on from a previous one which was limited to the single-particle case. The present paper treats the more general case of many particles in an entangled state. It is found that describing more than one particle while maintaining a relativistic description requires the specification of final boundary conditions as well as the usual initial ones, with the experimenter’s controllable choice of the final conditions thereby exerting a backwards-in-time influence. This retrocausality then allows an important theoretical step forward to be made, namely that it becomes possible to dispense with the usual, many-dimensional description in configuration space and instead revert to a description in spacetime using separate, single-particle wavefunctions. △ Less

      Submitted 30 June, 2017; v1 submitted 4 September, 2015; originally announced September 2015.

      Comments: 37 pages

      Journal ref: Foundations of Physics, Vol.47, pp. 174-207 (2017)

    5. arXiv:1509.00001  [pdf

      physics.class-ph

      Energy-momentum tensor for a field and particle in interaction

      Authors: Roderick Sutherland

      AbstractA general expression is derived for the energy-momentum tensor associated with a field and a particle in mutual interaction, thereby providing a description of overall energy and momentum conservation for such a system. The method used has the advantage that the individual terms for the field and the particle are derived via a single, unified procedure, rather than separately.

      Submitted 3 October, 2015; v1 submitted 28 August, 2015; originally announced September 2015.

      Comments: 9 pages

    6. arXiv:1502.02058  [pdf

      gr-qc quant-ph

      Naive Quantum Gravity

      Authors: Roderick I. Sutherland

      AbstractA possible alternative route to a quantum theory of gravity is presented. The usual path is to quantize the gravitational field in order to introduce the statistical structure characteristic of quantum mechanics. The procedure followed here instead is to remove the statistical element of quantum theory by introducing final boundary conditions as well as initial. The relevant quantum formalism then becomes compatible with the non-statistical nature of general relativity and a viable theory can be constructed without difficulty. This approach also provides a simple method of avoiding the configuration space description of quantum mechanics and allows the formulation to be carried out entirely within the four dimensions of spacetime. These advantages are made possible by the inherent retrocausal nature of the final boundary conditions. △ Less

      Submitted 6 January, 2016; v1 submitted 6 February, 2015; originally announced February 2015.

    7. arXiv:1411.3762  [pdf

      quant-ph

      doi10.1007/s10701-015-9918-1 

      Lagrangian Formulation for Particle Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics: Single-Particle Case

      Authors: Roderick I. Sutherland

      AbstractA Lagrangian description is presented which can be used in conjunction with particle interpretations of quantum mechanics. A special example of such an interpretation is the well-known Bohm model. The Lagrangian density introduced here also contains a potential for guiding the particle. The advantages of this description are that the field equations and the particle equations of motion can both be deduced from a single Lagrangian density expression and that conservation of energy and momentum are assured. After being developed in a general form, this Lagrangian formulation is then applied to the special case of the Bohm model as an example. It is thereby demonstrated that such a Lagrangian description is compatible with the predictions of quantum mechanics. △ Less

      Submitted 27 August, 2015; v1 submitted 13 November, 2014; originally announced November 2014.

      Comments: 12 pages

    8. arXiv:quant-ph/0601095  [pdf

      quant-ph

      Causally Symmetric Bohm Model

      Authors: Rod Sutherland

      AbstractA version of Bohm’s model incorporating retrocausality is presented, the aim being to explain the nonlocality of Bell’s theorem while maintaining Lorentz invariance in the underlying ontology. The strengths and weaknesses of this alternative model are compared with those of the standard Bohm model.

      Submitted 19 October, 2007; v1 submitted 15 January, 2006; originally announced January 2006.

      Comments: 35 pages, 5 figures, new sections 12 and 13 added

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  10. arXiv:1807.09599  [pdf

    physics.gen-ph quant-ph

    Ontological Determinism, non-locality, quantum equilibrium and post-quantum mechanics

    Authors: Maurice PassmanPhilip V. FellmanJonathan Vos PostAvishai PassmanJack Sarfatti

    AbstractIn this paper, we extend our previous discussion on ontological determinism, non-locality and quantum mechanics to that of the Sarfatti post-quantum mechanics perspective. We examine the nature of quantum equilibrium and non-equilibrium and uncertainty following the Sarfatti description of this theoretical development, which serves to extend the statistical linear unitary quantum mechanics for closed systems to a locally-retrocausal, non-statistical, non-linear, non-unitary theory for open systems. We discuss how the Bohmian quantum potential has a dependence upon the position of its Bell beable and how Complexity mathematics describes the self-organizing feedback between the quantum potential and its beable allowing nonlocal communication. △ Less

    Submitted 23 July, 2018; originally announced July 2018.

    Comments: 9th International Conference on Complex Systems, Cambridge, MA July, 2018 8 pages

    1. Progress in post-quantum mechanics

      AIP Conference Proceedings 1841, 040003 (2017); https://doi.org/10.1063/1.4982779

      Jack Sarfatti1,a)
      View Affiliations


      METRICS

       

      ABSTRACT

      Newton’s mechanics in the 17th century increased the lethality of artillery. Thermodynamics in the 19th led to the steam-powered industrial revolution. Maxwell’s unification of electricity, magnetism and light gave us electrical power, the telegraph, radio and television.The discovery of quantum mechanics in the 20th century by Planck, Bohr, Einstein, Schrodinger, Heisenberg led to the creation of the atomic and hydrogen bombs as well as computer chips, the world-wide-web and Silicon Valley’s multibillion dollar corporations. The lesson is that breakthroughs in fundamental physics, both theoretical and experimental, have always led to profound technological wealth-creating industries and will continue to do so. There is now a new revolution brewing in quantum mechanics that can be divided into three periods. The first quantum revolution was from 1900 to about 1975. The second quantum information/computer revolution was from about 1975 to 2015. (The early part of this story is told by Kaiser in his book, How the Hippies Saved Physics, how a small group of Berkeley/San Francisco physicists triggered that second revolution.) The third quantum revolution is how an extension of quantum mechanics may lead to the understanding of consciousness as a natural physical phenomenon that can emerge in many materialsubstrates, not only in our carbon-based biochemistry. In particular, this new post-quantum mechanics may lead to naturally conscious artificial intelligence in nano-electronic machines, as well as perhaps extending human life spans to hundreds of years and more.
       

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  11. There is way, way too much we don’t understand, and my little brain in particular, does not understand, to weigh in.

    Fundamentally, I do not think that our brains are capable of understanding the universe, and it will be the next species that is able to understand it.

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  12. Haakon Dahl:
    It’s all electricity, boys.  qed QED.

    QED does not include either the strong force or gravitation. Original QED didn’t even include the weak force, though Weinberg and Salam snuck it in via electroweak symmetry breaking. For the strong force, you need QCD. One important difference between QED and QCD is that the the coupling constant for QCD is not small so, unlike QED, you can’t really do perturbation theory. That makes it much harder to get results from the theory. The only exception is the asymptotic-freedom regime. Now, if we could only get asymptotic freedom in the political world.

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  13. drlorentz:

    Haakon Dahl:
    It’s all electricity, boys.  qed QED.

    QED does not include either the strong force or gravitation. Original QED didn’t even include the weak force, though Weinberg and Salam snuck it in via electroweak symmetry breaking. For the strong force, you need QCD. One important difference between QED and QCD is that the the coupling constant for QCD is not small so, unlike QED, you can’t really do perturbation theory. That makes it much harder to get results from the theory. The only exception is the asymptotic-freedom regime. Now, if we could only get asymptotic freedom in the political world.

    Just farting in church.  JW used to get harangued by a nice enough fellow who nonetheless came unglued about Einstein and gravity/curvature, insisting in a really unpleasant way that we accept his nonsensical rants in favor the “electric universe” nonsense.  Oh, but the math all works.

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  14. Bryan G. Stephenssays:
    #12 2019-05-05 at 14:20 UTC  [Quote]

    There is way, way too much we don’t understand, and my little brain in particular, does not understand, to weigh in.

    Brilliant self awareness. 😉

    Fundamentally, I do not think that our brains are capable of understanding the universe, and it will be the next species that is able to understand it.

    Your brain no doubt. 😉 I am already the “next species.” 😉

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  15. drlorentzsays:
    #2 2019-05-04 at 20:59 UTC  [Quote]

    John Walker:Ultimately, Smolin argues, giving up realism means abandoning what science is all about: figuring out what is really going on.

    Smolin has gone a step too far in that he defines realism too narrowly. Not all properties that are ultimately observable need be present in the system at all times. If I had my druthers, they would be. But the tradeoff for meeting that stringent requirement is that one must give up causality: that causes precede effects in all (relativistic) reference frames. This is a big price to pay in exchange for endowing all microscopic systems at all times with properties such as spin and polarization even if we don’t observe them.

    No, it’s not too big a price to pay. If you carefully read the hyperlinks I provided you should understand why. It’s actually the most parsimonious explanation of quantum entanglement consistent with Einstein’s theory of relativity. (Huw Price, Rod Sutherland papers cited).

    Bell’s Theorem and EPR force us to make a choice: causality or properties; you don’t get both. This is the biggest news ever in epistemology. All the philosophers who have contemplated theories of knowledge over the centuries never imagined this. In a stroke, quantum mechanics has changed our view of reality in a way that philosophers could not. And the best part is that this change is firmly based in empirical observations of the world rather than in the sterile musings of thinkers sitting in their studies.

    “Causality” is not well defined by Smolin in the above quote. He means retarded causality in which effects at an event have causes confined by the event’s past light cone. What violation of Bell’s inequality really proves is additional advanced causes back from the future light cone of the event.

    When still in the academic environment, I was occasionally engaged in a discussion of the implications of quantum mechanics by the inhabitants of philosophy departments. Without fail they had at best a superficial, and frequently erroneous, understanding of the theory and its experimental support. Consequently, their inferences concerning the implications for their own fields were invariably wrong. The quality of work in metaphysics would be improved immeasurably if its practitioners would make the effort to learn some quantum mechanics. Think of this as my version of “learn to code” for philosophers.

    Agreed.

     

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