Skip to comments.Written in the skies: why quantum mechanics might be wrong
Posted on 05/18/2008 10:40:38 PM PDT by neverdem
Observations of the cosmic microwave background might deal blow to theory.
The background patterns of space could help us focus on quantum problems.NASA / ESA / Hubble Heritage Team
The question of whether quantum mechanics is correct could soon be settled by observing the sky and there are already tantalizing hints that the theory could be wrong.
Antony Valentini, a physicist at Imperial College, London, wanted to devise a test that could separate quantum mechanics from one of its closest rivals a theory called bohmian mechanics. Despite being one of the most successful theories of physics, quantum mechanics creates several paradoxes that still make some physicists uncomfortable, says Valentini.
For instance, quantum theory uses probability to describe the properties of a particle. These properties obtain definitive values only when they are measured, which means that you cannot predict a particle's position or momentum, for instance, with certainty.
These premises troubled Albert Einstein. He believed that particles contain extra properties or 'hidden variables' that determine their behaviour completely. If only we knew what these hidden variables were, we could predict the fate of particles and the outcome of measurements with certainty. Bohmian mechanics is one of a suite of 'hidden variables' theories many now discredited formulated to tackle this problem.
Neck and neck
So far its been impossible to pick apart quantum mechanics from bohmian mechanics both predict the same outcomes for experiments with quantum particles in the lab.
But Valentini thinks that the stalemate could be broken by analysing the cosmic microwave background the relic radiation left behind after the Big Bang. The cosmic microwave background contains hot and cold temperature spots that were generated by quantum fluctuations in the early Universe and then amplified when the Universe expanded.
Using the principles of quantum mechanics, cosmologists have calculated how these spots should be distributed.
Its far too early to say that this is definite evidence of a breakdown in quantum mechanics but it is a possibility.
Imperial College, London
However, Valentinis calculations show that the hidden-variables theory might give a different answer. Any violation of quantum mechanics in the early Universe would have a knock-on effect that we could see today, says Valentini.
Almost all measurements of the cosmic microwave background seem to fit well with the predictions of quantum mechanics, says Valentini. But intriguingly, a distortion that fits one of Valentinis proposed signatures for a failure of quantum mechanics was recently detected by Amit Yadav and Ben Wandelt at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (see 'Deflating inflation?'). That result has yet to be confirmed by independent analyses, but it is tantalizing, Valentini adds.
Its far too early to say that this is definite evidence of a breakdown in quantum mechanics but it is a possibility, he says.
Hiranya Peiris, an expert on the cosmic microwave background at the University of Cambridge, UK, is impressed by the new work. This is a pretty cool new idea, she says. Nobody has ever thought of using the cosmic microwave background to look into really fundamental quantum questions cosmologists just assume that quantum mechanics is correct, she says.
But Peiris adds that Valentini must now come up with more detailed predictions about the types of distortion that will arise in the cosmic microwave background to convince cosmologists that they are really caused by a breakdown of quantum mechanics. He has thrown some really exciting ideas out there, but now he needs to do the nitty-gritty calculations, she says.
Vlatko Vedral, a quantum physicist at the University of Leeds, UK, agrees that the cosmic microwave background will be a useful way to test quantum mechanics. But he adds that even if quantum mechanics is shown to break down in the early Universe, that doesnt necessarily mean that the hidden-variables theory is correct.
References Valentini, A. preprint at http://arxiv.org/abs/0805.0163 (2008). Yadav, A. P. S. & Wandelt, B. D. Phys. Rev. Lett. 100, 181301 (2008).
I don’t have much of a clue about all this, but I loved Einstein’s criticism of quantum mechanics: “God does not play dice with the universe.”
Not only does God play dice, but... he sometimes throws them where they cannot be seen. - Stephen Hawking
"His beloved Son [Jesus Christ]...is the image of the invisible God...by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible...all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together."
“God does not play dice with the universe”
— Albert Einstein —
“Stop telling God what to do!”
— Niels Bohr —
Heisenberg was a fool.
As I understand quantum electrodynamics, the hidden-variables explanation has already been shown to be incorrect. A quantum physicist would know that, so I’m thinking that this article may just be nonsense - maybe somebody who really understands this can explain this to me.
Einstein said that it doesn’t make sense that God would play dice with the universe. However, quantum theory has been proven to be valid, despite the fact that it doesn’t make intuitive sense to us.
At the quantum level, given a set of exact starting conditions we can’t say what will happen next - but we do know that if the exact same starting conditions are repeated a large number of times the set of results can be predicted with great accuracy.
So, that’s the same as if God is throwing dice or flipping a coin to determine what happens next at the quantum level.
A fool and a liar. He was begged by his colleagues during his American tour in 1939 to not remain in Nazi Germany, but immigrate to the U.S. or any other Western democracy, just don't work for Hitler because it was discovered that year that atoms could split and a terrible bomb could theoretically be possible. But Heisenberg was another patriotic German still traumatized after WWI, and he stayed in his Fatherland while all his Jewish friends and colleagues were fired from German universities and had to seek employment -and safety - in other countries.
He and his team of German physicists attempted to make an atomic pile, but really got no where. Enrico Fermi, whose wife was Jewish and their two children were therefore half Jewish immigrated to the U.S. and Fermi created the first fission reactor underneath Stagg Stadium in Chicago in 1942. Heisenberg's team never got anywhere close to what Fermi's team accomplished that day in Chicago, but their arrogance was such that they never dreamed that atomic bombs could be created in the U.S.
After Germany surrendered in May, 1945, Heisenberg and the other leading German physicists were rounded up and sent to England to a very well bugged residence, and their conversations were all recorded. It was Heisenberg's opinion that Americans were very good at making things like cars, but they weren't up to making such as advanced things like A bombs. In fact, the German physicists were confident that they had a lot to teach the Allies about their research, and that could be a sort of a bargaining chip for them.
Their world crashed in around them when the news came that the U.S. had A bombed Japan twice. The German scientists tried to believe those weren't A bombs because it made them look so inferior. Finally Carl Friedrich von Weizecker (a German diplomat's son) began suggesting that they could have made A bombs for Germany but they were too moral to do so. Any transcript of the tape recordings made of the German physicists held in England show that the Germans - led by Heisenberg - just weren't up to it. But they had their alibi and they all stuck with it trying to cling to the moral high ground until their deaths.
Yeah, throws them faster than light speed so they travel in and out of parallel universes. Or, something like that.
Their world crashed in around them when the news came that the U.S. had A bombed Japan twice. The German scientists tried to believe those weren’t A bombs because it made them look so inferior.
If there's one thing I love, it's a bad pun.:D
It’s early yet, but if this thread holds to form, the physics folks in the Freeper family will be out in full force and I’ll again be reading posts I don’t understand after the second word. It’s very impressive when you guys do that. There are boatloads of knowledge floating around this place that are ready to dock and unload on any subject.
I just checked in on Schroedinger’s cat and he’s alive with excitement about these new theories but he’s dead certain they aren’t complete. “Could just be another scientist Hawking his Bohring pet theory” he told me politely.
I am so happy to read that Schroedy's cat's still kicking, because he was first written up in 1935. Let's call Guinness because that cat's 73 years old! :D
Another big dogma of science about to be replaced by another big dogma.
I guess they really don’t have a clue.
We'll let the Vatican do the calculations for the next Shuttle launch.
I just checked again. He’s dead!
Heisenberg wasn’t right or wrong until he opened his mouth.
“At the quantum level, given a set of exact starting conditions we cant say what will happen next - but we do know that if the exact same starting conditions are repeated a large number of times the set of results can be predicted with great accuracy.
So, thats the same as if God is throwing dice or flipping a coin to determine what happens next at the quantum level.”
The “dice” or “coin flip” analogy is probably correct, though most physicists do not think about it. The behavior of dice and coins is not random, but quite distinctly physically determined. The presumed “randomness” has entirely to do with our ignorance of what is going to happen.
A fool who was vastly smarter than you.
I dunno - that cat does look dead and alive.
Quantun mechanics! Hell, I can’t even find a decent mechanic for my Saturn!
You mean if we knew exactly what every atom in a die was going to do, we could predict the behavior of the die?
You seem to be stating that classical physics applies to very large systems without stating that such an outcome is predicted by quantum physics due to the very large number of independent random events.
I certainly hope that Valentini is able to come up with a convincing set of parameters to distinguish this (bohmian mechanics hypothesis) from quantum mechanics using the primeval radiation pattern.
Contrary to some folks who have already chimed in here,:
- I don’t think that Heisenberg was a fool, but instead that he was a brilliant man who was deprived of his best colleagues.
- I believe the Heisenberg uncertainty principle is extremely useful in describing the world as we observe it today - but as Einstein enhanced Newton, so sometime theory will enhance Einstein (which directly yields Heisenberg).
- I agree with Einstein, not Hawkins, that “God does not play dice”. It may not be in my lifetime before we figure that out, but this hypothesis may be a way it could.
- (as an aside, I also don’t believe “dark matter/ dark energy hypotheses, so I hope such an advance will show us the way out of that mess, too)
The microwave background might be a local phenomenon and have nothing to do with quantum mechanics. Also, the only reason quantum mechanics might be relevant to cosmology is the supposed inflationary phase, which answered a tricky problem but it is only a hypothesis as is all the rest. Relativity is inherently bogus as formulated and it is about time to do it right.
Oh yeah, like that explains something scientific, man.
A fool? Who is calling Heisenberg a fool? If there be fools they be those who quote Heisenberg to support their Cartesian worldview.
Classic historical post with details I had never heard before.
I have read that also. Ruled out.
Last I heard quantum theory has not been proven to be valid... it has simply not been proven to be invalid, there is a huge disparity in saying one proves the other.
What is true as I understand it is that what we observe when we expirament with the quantum is what the probabilities of the theory predict, we have never obsevered to date an outcome that was not predicted by the math.. However this does not mean the theory is fact or valid. It may mean that only we have not attempted to uet to obsever the case(s) that do not meet the probabilities predicted in the math.
Of course quantum theory also states that by simply observing we affect the outcome.
I admit I am no quantum physicist, but of what I understand about it, which admittedly isn’t much, I don’t color myself convinced that the theory is wholey correct.
The late Dr. David Bohm presented a new formulation of work he did in the the 1950s. He dropped the original work of the '50s because I believe Einstein didn't think very highly of his ideas. However with the advent of Bell's theorem calling into question Einsteins theory of locality (you know the spooky action at a distance), Bohm renewed his pursuit of his theory of Quantum mechanics. The dislike of Bohm's theory is due to the fact that not that much changes. He in effect moved the goal line by stating the random nature of quantum mechanics is not due to any underlying physical property implied by the theory, instead it's due to our lack of knowledge of the state of the system at the beginning of the experiment. That and the fact that dimensions run wild with even simple calculations of particle experiments.
I believe the proof against hidden variable was due to Von Neuman (?). But Bohm addresses this in his last book and his theory is not affected by the proof.
So what's cool about all this is that if Bohm's theory is correct then it changes Einsteins Theory of Relativity. In Relativity is the concept of locality, that everything is capped by the speed of light. So that an event that happens on one side of the solar system can be detected no sooner than it would take light to travel across and reach a detector (your eye). But if Bohm's theory holds special quantum mechanical events could be transmitted faster than light (I believe near instantaneous).
I apologize in advance for errors in history. It's been a while since I've read about this stuff. But I'm glad Bohm's theory is alive and kicking. Even if he was a Marxist.
Interesting. Bumping for later
Bohm’s hypothesis might be alive if Ives’ and Bridgman’s hypotheses are. Of course they are, but nobody cares for alternatives.
from some reading today, I learned that (probably vastly over-simplifying and being incorrect here) that Bell’s Theorum said that if we want hidden variables then we must also accept instantaneous communication across light year distances.
in other words, maybe hidden-variable explanations can still be valid, but the explanation must somehow take into account nonlocality.
one thing that freaks me out is the (I believe commonly accepted) concept of “advance waves” which are electromagnetic waves that travel backwards in time to exactly “balance out” every normal (goes forward in time) electromagnetic wave.
my head hurts.
If (as Lisa Randall [Goddess-Harvard Physics] has suggested, see her book Warped Passages)--there are extra hidden dimensions;
and those dimensions may be on the order of 10-33 cm, but possibly much larger;
and there may be 'branes' connecting portions of reality with additional dimensions which are closed to us;
How do these extra dimensions relate to the Big Bang and the Higgs boson? How would the other dimensions and the associated branes be affected by inflation?
Well over my current state of reading.
The questions themselves may be meaningless, or indicative of *profound* misunderstandings on my part.
The only Bridgeman's I know is an ice cream shoppe in Minneapolis.
Have a Guinness.
I am so happy to read that Schroedy’s cat’s still kicking, because he was first written up in 1935.
Actually he was alive hundreds of years earlier or maybe not.
Okay. Now I know you're trying to send me into a Google black hole. I wasted 5 years of part time study on this stuff only to figure out that I don't have enough background in Mathematics to really play with this stuff. So please save me the time and tell me when the layman's version comes out.
By the way since we have people interested in physics. Why is matter quantized but time is continuous? I've always wondered.
Maybe the universe is just a big simulation, and quantum uncertainty is just us running up against its minimum resolution :)
So, what exactly did the German pilot Hans Zinsser see on that night of October, 1944, as he flew his Heinkel bomber over the twilight skies of northern Germany? Something that, had he known it, would require the previous badly written Wagnerian libretto to be almost completely revised.
His affidavit is contained in a military intelligence report of August 19, 1945, roll number A1007, filmed in 1973 at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. Zinsser’s statement is found on the last page of the report:
47. A man named ZINSSER, a Flak rocket expert, mentioned what he noticed one day: In the beginning of Oct, 1944 I flew from Ludwigslust (south of Lubeck), about 12 to 15 km from an atomic bomb test station, when I noticed a strong, bright illumination of the whole atmosphere, lasting about 2 seconds.
48.The clearly visible pressure wave escaped the approaching and following cloud formed by the explosion. This wave had a diameter of about 1 km when it became visible and the color of the cloud changed frequently. It became dotted after a short period of darkness with all sorts of light spots, which were, in contrast to normal explosions, of a pale blue color.
49.After about 10 seconds the sharp outlines of the explosion cloud disappeared, then the cloud began to take on a lighter color against the sky covered with a gray overcast. The diameter of the still visible pressure wave was at least 9000 meters while remaining visible for at least 15 seconds.
50.Personal observations of the colors of the explosion cloud found an almost blue-violet shade. During this manifestation reddish-colored rims were to be seen, changing to a dirty-like shade in very rapid succession.
51.The combustion was lightly felt from my observation plane in the form of pulling and pushing.
52.About one hour later I started with an He-111 from the A/D at Ludwigslust and flew in an easterly direction. Shortly after the start I passed through the almost complete overcast (between 3000 and 4000 meter altitude). A cloud shaped like a mushroom with turbulent, billowing sections (at about 7000 meter altitude) stood, without any
24. “A/D” probably “aerodrome”.
seeming connections, over the spot where the explosion took place. Strong electrical disturbances and the impossibility to continue radio communication as by lightning, turned up.
53. Because of the P-38s operating in the area Wittenberg-Mersburg I had to turn to the north but observed a better visibility at the bottom of the cloud where the explosion occured (sic). Note: It does not seem very clear to me why these experiments took place in such crowded areas. 
In other words, a German pilot had observed the test of a weapon, having all the signatures of a nuclear bomb: electromagnetic pulse and resulting malfunction of his radio, mushroom cloud, continuing fire and combustion of nuclear material in the cloud and so on. And all this on territory clearly under German control, in October of 1944, fully eight months before the first American A-bomb test in New Mexico! Note the curious fact that Zinsser maintains that the test took place in a populated area.
There is yet another curiosity to be observed in Zinsser’s statement, one that his American interrogators either did not pursue, or, if they did pursue it, the results remain classified still: How did Zinsser know it was a test? The answer is obvious: Zinsser knew, because he was somehow involved, for clearly the Allies would not have control over a test site deep in Nazi Germany.
Earlier in the same report, there are clues that unravel the mystery:
14. When Germany was at this stage of the game, the war broke out in Europe. At first investigations on this disintegrating of [235U (sic) were somewhat neglected because a practical application seemed too far off. Later, however, this research continued, especially in finding methods of separating isotopes. Needless to say that the center of gravity of Germany’s war effort at that time lay in other tasks.
25. The entire documentation of this report is as follows: “Investigations, Research, Developments and Practical use of the German Atomic Bomb,” [A.P.I.U. (Ninth Air Force) 96/1945 APO 696, U.S. Army, 19 August 1945.” The report is classified secret. Note that the report begins in no uncertain terms: “the following information was obtained from four German scientists: a chemist, two physical chemists, and a rocket specialist. All four men contributed a short story as to what they knew of the atomic bomb development.” (Emphasis added). Note also the suggestive title of the report.
To localize a particle, you combine many waves of different frequencies so that the 'superposition' of the waves (wave packet) describes the position and/or velocity of the particle.
But there is a price.
Think Fourier transforms: the more precise you get concerning one attribute, the less you get about the corresponding attribute.
Time, on the other hand, is not subject to wave-particle duality.
true. the apparent random behavior of dice and coins can be explained totally by "hidden variables."
that is why physicists would simply expect "hidden variables" to also explain quantum behavior. the trouble is (thanks to Bell's theorem) any possible hidden-variable explanation would also have to somehow explain "instantaneous" communication across light-year distances.
Does anyone else remember the Bell's Theorum Blues? (I have no idea where I heard this, but I always remember it.) Let's all sing:
"Dr. Bell says we're connected,
I called him on the phone.
Dr. Bell says we're connected,
I called him on the phone.
Yeah, but if we're all connected...
Why do I feel so alone??"
The dice or coin flip analogy is probably correct, though most physicists do not think about it. The behavior of dice and coins is not random, but quite distinctly physically determined. The presumed randomness has entirely to do with our ignorance of what is going to happen.The entire set of probabilities is not random but the timing of any given event is random.
You know with a non-random certainty that you're going to see more poker hands with just a single pair than you are with a full house, but it IS completely random (if the cards are shuffled) whether or not YOU will get a full house on the next deal.
I've heard professional poker players say: "There's only one poker game, and it's going on all the time, and it never changes."
Meaning that all concepts such as "good streak" or "bad streak" or "getting bad cards today" are illusions and that every single deal has the exact same set of probabilities.
Time and energy, like position and momentum, are two sides of the same coin. The more you know about one, the less you know about the other. (through e=mc^2, matter and energy are mere manifestations of one another)
The uncertainty of T x the uncertainty of E is greater than or equal to Planck's Constant(h) over 2pi(2 x 3.14)
Am I a quantum physicist? No. But I did sleep at a Holiday Inn last night!
Did not Bell, who was a pretty accomplished mathematician as well as physicist, pretty much totally prove that there was no possible hidden variable theory that was compatible with the observations of QM?