Skip to comments.New Law of Physics Could Explain Quantum Mysteries
Posted on 08/18/2009 10:37:08 AM PDT by LibWhacker
The Invariant Set Postulate differentiates between reality and unreality, suggesting the existence of a state space, within which a smaller subset of state space (reality) is embedded.
(PhysOrg.com) -- Since the early days of quantum mechanics, scientists have been trying to understand the many strange implications of the theory: superpositions, wave-particle duality, and the observers role in measurements, to name a few. Now, a new proposed law of physics that describes the geometry of physical reality on the cosmological scale might help answer some of these questions. Plus, the new law could give some clues about the role of gravity in quantum physics, possibly pointing the way to a unified theory of physics.
Tim Palmer, a weather and climate researcher at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts in Reading, UK, has been interested in the idea of a new geometric framework for quantum theory for a long time. Palmers doctoral thesis was in general relativity theory at Oxford University in the late 1970s. His studies convinced him that a successful quantum theory of gravity requires some geometric generalization of quantum theory, but at the time he was unsure what specific form this generalization should take. Over the years, Palmers professional research moved away from this area of theoretical physics, and he is now one of the worlds experts on the predictability of climate, a subject which has considerable input from nonlinear dynamical systems theory. In a return to his original quest for a realistic geometric quantum theory, Palmer has applied geometric thinking inspired by such dynamical systems theory to propose the new law, called the Invariant Set Postulate, described in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society A.
As Palmer explained to PhysOrg.com, the Invariant Set Postulate is proposed as a new geometric framework for understanding the basic foundations of quantum physics. "Crucially, the framework allows a differentiation between states of physical reality and physical 'unreality,'" he said.
The theory suggests the existence of a state space (the set of all possible states of the universe), within which a smaller (fractal) subset of state space is embedded. This subset is dynamically invariant in the sense that states which belong on this subset will always belong to it, and have always belonged to it. States of physical reality are those, and only those, which belong to this invariant subset of state space; all other points in state space are considered unreal. Such points of unreality might correspond to states of the universe in which counterfactual measurements are performed in order to answer questions such as what would the spin of the electron have been, had my measuring apparatus been oriented this way, instead of that way? Because of the Invariant Set Postulate, such questions have no definite answer, consistent with the earlier and rather mysterious notion of complementarity introduced by Niels Bohr.
According to Palmer, quantum mechanics is not itself sufficiently complete to determine whether a point in state space lies on the invariant set, and indeed neither is any algorithmic extension to quantum theory. As Palmer explains, in quantum theory, states associated with these points of unreality can only be described by abstract mathematical expressions which have the algebraic form of probability but without any underlying sample space. It is this which gives quantum theory its rather abstract mathematical form.
As well as being able to provide an understanding of the notion of complementarity, the two-fold ontological nature of state space can also be used to explain one of the long-standing mysteries of quantum theory: superpositions. According to the Invariant Set Postulate, the reason that Schrodingers cat seems to be both alive and dead simultaneously is not because it is, in reality, in two states at once, but rather because quantum mechanics is ignorant of the intricate structure of the invariant set which determines the notion of reality. Whichever point (alive or dead) lies on the invariant set, that one is real. The notion of quantum coherence, which is reflected in the concept of superposition, is, rather, carried by the self-similar geometry of the invariant set.
With superposition seemingly resolved from the perspective of the Invariant Set Postulate, other aspects of quantum mechanics can also be explained. For instance, if states are not in superpositions, then making a measurement on the quantum system does not collapse the state of the system. By contrast, in Palmers framework, a measurement merely describes a specific quasi-stationary aspect of the geometry of the invariant set, which in turn also informs us humans about the invariant set.
The Invariant Set Postulate appears to reconcile Einsteins view that quantum mechanics is incomplete, with the Copenhagen interpretation that the observer plays a vital role in defining the very concept of reality. Hence, consistent with Einsteins view, quantum theory is incomplete since it is blind to the intricate structure of the invariant set. Yet consistent with the Copenhagen interpretation, the invariant set is in part characterized by the experiments that humans perform on it, which is to say that experimenters do indeed play a key role in defining states of physical reality.
Yet another quantum mechanical concept that the Invariant Set Postulate may resolve is wave-particle duality. In the two-slit experiment, a world where particles travel to areas of destructive interference simply does not lie on the invariant set, and therefore does not correspond to a state of physical reality.
Among the remaining mysteries of quantum mechanics that the Invariant Set Postulate might help explain is the role of gravity in quantum physics. As Palmer notes, gravity has sometimes been considered as an objective mechanism for the collapse of a superposed state. However, since the Invariant Set Postulate does not require superposed states, it does not require a collapse mechanism. Rather, Palmer suggests that gravity plays a key role in defining the state space geometry of the invariant set. This idea fits with Einsteins view that gravity is a manifestation of geometry. As such, Palmer suggests, unifying the concepts of non-Euclidean causal space-time geometry and the fractal atemporal geometry of state space could lead to the long-sought theory of quantum gravity. Such a theory would be very different from previous approaches, which attempt to quantize gravity within the framework of standard quantum theory.
Palmers paper is an exploratory analysis of this Invariant Set Postulate, and he now hopes to develop his ideas into a rigorous physical theory. Just as global space-time geometric methods transformed our understanding of classical gravitational physics in the 1960s, Palmer hopes that the introduction of global state space geometric methods could give scientists a deeper understanding of quantum gravitational physics. And, as suggested above, combining these two types of geometry might help lead to the long-sought unified theory of physics.
I am not sure how he would ever be able to prove this.
Yeah. So how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
My head hurts now....
The statists need a space where the laws of physics, and the laws of economics do not apply. Lets hope they all move there. I think it is near Berkley.
Proof is left as an exercise to the reader.
In a nutshell: everything that we know to exist and is currently true and measurable is in one invariable state, and everything that is immeasurable or affected by some outside force (think Heisenberg) is part of this “unreal” variable state.
I was just about to write all that stuff myself, but I went and made myself a sandwich instead.
This is also sort of in-line with the concept behind Heinlein's "Number of the Beast," as well as uncounted stoner discussions about the nature of the universe.
me not understand
Mine too. I understood just enough of that to lure me into trying to understand the rest. Now I've got a bad case of brain strain.
They’re just coming up with this new law now to shift the debate from Obamacare. The physicists are all pinko/commie/libs.
Thanks for the ping!
Going to need a bigger calculator.
That doesn’t make your head spin?
LOL that’s really the problem. I almost understand portions, but I can’t wrap my head around the big picture. :(
That’s my superposition and I’m sticking to it!
[blink] Ok. It took them that long to figure this out? I thought it was pretty obvious.
No, I’m not kidding. I’ve been waiting for quantum computers to get up to mediocre enough performance to actually implement this idea for solving NP-type problems: define a problem space, overlap all possible solution spaces, force the selection of valid states until all others inherently collapse to a single completely valid solution. Porting PROLOG to a quantum computer will yield extremely cool results.
I’m not a scientist, I’m a student of linguistics. The puffery and big words can be broken down into easier-to-comprehend concepts. I don’t claim to understand the methodology, but I can tell you with some level of assurance that his plan makes sense in some twisted, scientific way.
Hell yeah it makes my head spin, but try to understand Einstein’s Theory of Relativity of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle... it’s science, it’s cool, and it’s almost intended to be confusing... that’s why we let scientists do the work.
Seems to me the article suggests that both "states" DO exist, and that it is only our limited cognition that causes us to RECOGnize one as "real"--and way too casually dismiss the other as "unreal".
All he’s saying is that anyone who claims they understand this stuff is living in a state of unreality. ;-)
I got lost when I started algebra. But, I do love science, even when I don’t have a clue what they’re talking about! :)
Oh, and here’s some scary news...I taught physical science (9th grade) one year!
Take the cat paradox: contrary to many nonsensical interpretations, QM doesn't really require the cat to be in a superposition of live and dead states until an observer shows up. What it requires is the existence of an Hermitian operator, in this case a life operator, and the application of the life operator to the cat's state vector in order to do a measurement. Presumably, the cat herself has access to this operator (she knows if she is alive or dead.)
In this allegedly new formulation, the cat was always alive in the Invariant Set. Or... she was always dead in the Invariant Set. The application of the life operator then takes a measurement, which reveals her to be alive (or dead, as the case may be.). This is pretty much the same as Tipler's perspective, it is not new and it is not really particularly interesting. It still does NOT answer the question: "If I perform this experiment on 1000 identical cats with 1000 identical experimtental setups, why do 667 cats wind up dead and 333 of the cats wind up alive?"
The Invariant Set answer appears to be: because the 667 dead cats were part of actual reality, just as the 333 live cats were part of actual reality.
Just so. But why?
Doesn’t sound like he can.
The electron might be here. It might be over there.
QM can’t tell us for sure.
Neither can his theory.
But if I can dig one implication out of them (highly debatable by itself) it concerns the cat that Shroedinger never really was entirely happy he used for an illustration, and it is this: the cat is perfectly aware whether it is dead or alive, hence has collapsed the wave function from its point of view. It is only uncertain from the point of view of the observer. So any mathematical representation of this that is intended to consider whether it is in some invariate state space must account for both points of view and two different levels of uncertainty.
Somebody who actually does know this stuff - and I know perfectly well you're on FR - just tell me "Bill, yer fulla crap" and I'll shut up... ;-)
I can STILL feel the relief, baby!!!!!!
I think even if unmeasurable that something belongs to either reality or unreality portion. Observer always discovers the reality portion (which is static?)
Perhaps this will explain why fresh bread gets hard but crispy cereal gets soggy! Could it be that cereal is embedded in a smaller subset of state space (the cabinet)whereas the bread is on the counter?
So does he perform as a clown at science conferences?
The Mandelbrot Set is probably the most famous example of a fractal.
The experimental apparatus itself in the SCP is designed to collapse the cat into an eigenstate of the life operator. Once that measurement occurs, every observer -- including the first observer, the cat -- will agree that the cat is in the eigenstate. She is definitely alive, or definitely dead, and we all share that same reality.
This "new perspective" doesn't answer the basic question: sometimes the same experiment produces a live cat, and sometimes it produces a dead one. Substitute "Invariant Set" for "Because that's what happened," and you have all that I can see this theory provides (at least on the basis of what's written here.)
bookmark to read after work
Great article, thank you.
It’s not that the electron might be here or there, it’s that both locations make sense simultaneously, until the nature of the observation thereof chooses one over the other, making the other nonsensical and thus nonexistent.
Kinda like $1.00 in change could be 4 quarters or 10 dimes - both answers are correct, until something dictates the reality includes one dime or one quarter, which in turn dictates the reality of the rest of the coins accordingly.
QM tells us we’re asking the wrong questions.
His theory explains why the “probability” component of QM isn’t.
Sorta like how part of Algebra didn’t make any sense until someone came to grips with “square root of -1” - the answers are real numbers, but to reach them you have to go thru “imaginary numbers”. Likewise, to solve real-world physics you have to go thru the “imaginary space” of quantum mechanics.
Yes, the "reality" set is always static...until it changes and becomes the new reality.
However, in the "unreality" set...all "change" and all potential states exist. Since we are in the reality set, we can only see reality.
However, we can imagine unreality.
Sheesh. That's a boatload of conceptual thinking to digest over the next decade or so...
Beautifully stated! If the neat little box of reality begins to bulge and have hair-balls sticking out of it, just get a bigger box and stuff the whole thing into it. Works until it happens again...
You were correct!
He rejects superposition then says QM is incomplete. But offers no way to find out how to complete it, or if it can be supplanted.
We already knew that QM is talking about an infinite space/infinite dimensional model that has far more possibilities than the solutions that (might appear to) match the observables.
Some people call them eigenvalues. He calls them “invariant sets”.
You say potato...
I gathered that the reality portion was that which is static regardless of dimensionality or measurability (i.e. the atomic weight of X is Y). The unreality was that which is dynamic or incapable of accurate measure dependent upon the dimensionality or measurability.
...ok, now I’m confused.
Besides, this seems to be a rehash of the “hidden variable” theory.
I’d love to see this guy in the ring with J. S. Bell!!