ever-spawning copies of the universe


QUANTUM MECHANICS (hereinafter QM) is famously odd. As Peter Byrne notes in this book: ‘A century has passed since Max Planck and Albert Einstein discovered the quantum world. The basic quantum paradoxes — uncertainty, non-locality, and the measurement problem — are either unsolved or remain highly contentious.’ The measurement problem is especially knotty. Down in the subatomic realm, each of the particles that constitute matter is smeared out over a volume of space in a manner described mathematically by a “wave function.” When an observer interacts with this wave function by taking a measurement, the wave function suddenly manifests as a particle with a position and speed to which numbers can be assigned. It ceases to be a quantum-mechanical phenomenon and becomes a “classical” one. This seems to give the observer’s consciousness a privileged position in our description of the world. As well as making physicists deeply uncomfortable, this state of affairs raises difficult philosophical problems. Does QM describe all of reality? Including the observer?

more from John Derbyshire at The Fortnightly Review here.