Saturday, January 4, 2014

for the real deal on what we really know about quantum physics, go to New Zelaand

Some friends who study the mind want to do more to account for quantum mechanics. Since one of them happens to be in New Zealand, I sent them an email today... which may be easier to understand than a lot of other stuff on that topic:


Good morning, Yeshua and Robert!

A few days ago, I mentioned how Howard Carmichael, now at Auckland University, is one of the world's leading quantum physicists. Yesterday, I had a chance to get deep into the next to last chapter of his two volume set, Statistical Methods in Quantum Optics -- and I can say a bit more about how and why he is unique and important.

But where to begin?

Even in philosophy -- every decent philosopher who studies quantum physics knows about the classic important little book by J.S. Bell, called The Speakable and Unspeakable in Quantum Mechanics. That book is the primary source which a whole lot of secondary speculation and philosophizing comes from.  It is not light reading like a newspaper, and many lighter books basically try to explain what Bell's book actually says. But Bell's book is much, much easier to understand than Carmichael's.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that Bell's book is a primary source of information about "Bell's Theorem experiments," the most decisive experiments ever done to "prove that quantum mechanics is right, that the universe really is weird, and that classical physics (including Einstein) was wrong." As it happens, the most important Bell's Theorem which he describes in his book was actually proven in a paper by Clauser, Horne, Shimony and Holt (CHSH) -- and, since Holt was a classmate of mine at Harvard, I rely on sources which are more primary than Bell's book. About a month ago, I posted a paper at on "lumped parameter modeling" which reviews the Bell's Theorem experiment in some detail, using RELATIVELY simple math.

Bells book is famous for making the argument: "Now that we have done this experiment, we know that the true laws of physics could be realistic (there exists an objective reality!) or local (no action at a distance), BUT NOT BOTH.  The only possible way to build a theory of physics which fits experiment, and describes the evolution of objective reality, is to build a NONLOCAL theory, a theory which allows action at a distance."

Many people became very excited about this, and it helped create a boom of interest in "Bohmian" physics, one way to try to develop a nonlocal theory. The devotees would not want to give up.. but it essentially did not work, because the only way to make it work was to assume a parallel universe or multiverse theory, which people like Everett and Wheeler and David Deutch of Oxford already did.

Personally, I suspect that the true cosmos DOES have more than the 3+1 dimensions of space and time that we see every day in the physics lab... but studying 3+1 dimensions is like studying the mouse brain; it is a key step on the way to understanding more, and we can't achieve that step if we let ourselves be distracted by fantasies like .. superstrings... whatever.

What Carmichael really shows in his chapter 17 is a nonlocal but realistic model
in 3+1 dimensions that actually works, in the realm of quantum optics, the area where quantum theory is best known and tested in a solid empirical way -- yet with deep mathematics used to come to grips with empirical reality.

But it's also not easy to read. Carmichael has been pushing his mind to the utmost of what it can handle, and moved away from the soporific culture of lemmings which degrades a lot of the basic science in the rest of the world.  I can empathize with that; on one level, I am fully immersed into connection with the "noosphere" of the earth, the collective thinking... but I also can and do pull away from it at times, to try to get a higher perspective. Clearly he has done some of the same.

But as I said... though in a way different from what I might have expected before reading that chapter..  I still see a step beyond. Transitions can be local, and the physics can be totally local, if one gets past the implicitly forward time-marching he imposes on his models of discrete quantum transitions. One also does not need the usual zero point energy, either, to explain things like Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Lasers (VCSELS), a very important piece of our database of knowledge about physics; the future can take over the job he now assigns to that energy. 

Robert may wonder: where did the solitons go? I don't see light as made up of solitons.
Again, it's a step=at-a-time mouse brain kind of story. The solitons are as crucial as ever --
to a later chapter of the story, getting deeper into fermions (which do have a kind of quantizing effect on light).

Best regards,


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