Quantum mechanics is riddled with differing points of view, and in those different points of view contradictions ensue at best. The physicists can’t seem to agree on what is what in this field. This has to do with the nature of quantum theories resting in a domain outside of human intuition and understanding, a world in which reasoning useful in our day-to-day lives is not only not helpful, but it serves to lead us astray from an attempt at grasping the quantum reality that is exists underpinning our human reality. It’s totally counter-intuitive at this level of magnification. In fact, the point is that we don’t have enough scientific magnification: our results are fuzzy at best, incomprehensible at worst.
There are numerous points of view, and many ways to approach the current quantum state of affairs. Highlighting a few luminary perspectives, collected mainly from Aeon Magazine, we can attempt to comprehend the variety.
Elise Curll details “entangled time” in You thought quantum mechanics was weird: check out entangled time, a point of view suggesting that time too doesn’t escape the all-encompassing vacuum of quantum reality. When explaining the theory of quantum nonlocality – the concept roughly defined as the ability for two particles to form a relation between one another, with or without prior contact, is further built upon by the idea that time too does not escape from the grip of quantum mechanics. Hitherto we have assumed time to be exempt from all such interferences, but now as reported by University of Jerusalem in 2013, it is not exempt.
Vlatko Vedral attempts to bridge the chasm in Across the wide gulf: how to get life out of quantum physics, expressing a theory about the reality of life being intimately entangled with the entanglements of quantum mechanics. This view emphasizes the growing pressure from below by the physicists on integrating a coherent method of reality upwards into the more surface-dwelling, more-visible matters of biology, such as the fact that birds may use a certain kind of quantum effect to orchestrate their movements north and south every year.
Adrian Kent underscores the uncertain underpinnings in the field today in Our quantum problem. This long article goes in depth, exploring the shaky ground on which the entire field rests. Many divided opinions are expressed among divided minds.
Margaret Wertheim goes into detail concerning the many clashing viewpoints in string theory in Radical dimensions, explaining how general relativity paints a picture of a four dimensional universe; string theory paints a picture of one with 10 or 11, the latter of the two being one referred to as M-Theory. There are others detailing 24 and 26 dimensions. What does this amount to? Possibly more division at the quantum level, since String field theory could be the foundation of quantum mechanics, as reported by Robert Perkins from University of Southern California.
Carl Sagan once tried to explain dimensions by drawing an analogy. He first gives us the idea of a two dimensional world we’ll call “flatland.” It’s a world in which the idea of a third dimension is eschewed, so those who inhabit the two dimensional realm have no concept of up or down only left and right, for example. He goes from there, extrapolating up through the third dimension, having those beings encounter people in the second dimension, scaring them with the incomprehensibility of the dimensional intersection, up to the fourth dimension, asking his viewers to abstract their minds around a fourth dimensional representation in the third dimension, by using a cube-shaped object. The two are connected diagonally, the second is suspended within the first. That object is called a tesseract: it’s a superimposition, in a way, of the fourth dimension, in our third dimension, he explains. Another analogy I enjoy is trying to bend one’s mind around the bent bottle referred to as a klein bottle, and it too can be a way of abstracting up (well not quite up) into the fourth dimension; the direction is impossible to understand given our dimensional positioning. These are as close a personification of the otherworldliness of the fourth dimension we can envisage, while remaining trapped in the third dimension. The shape of the strange bottle resembles something somewhat looping back in on itself in an inverting way, similarly a tesseract is angularly impossible to envisage from the perspective of one in the third.
How do quantum particles, quantum dimensions, and string theory intersect? These are all incomprehensible concepts in which futility at conceptualization comes as a result of our three-dimensionally-trapped minds. We make attempts to fire an arrow into the dark clouds of wonder so imbued in many a physicist. We strive to bend intuition to break open the imagined locks of reality, whereupon we cannot reach. To crack the code, so to speak, to… peer into the window of God through empirical instrumentation. To know thyself: to transcend what it means to be human? After all, the higgs boson has been referred to as the “God particle.”
Although it certainly is fun to speculate about (and to write about) the fundamental nature of the universe, and what lies beyond, yet very much inside of it, I am very hesitant to say we will find a conclusive answer to these fundamental scientific questions. Perhaps there is no answer: there may only be a quest for an answer. Alan Watts, a 20th century philosopher, believed simply that the act of exploration only yields more to explore! In other words, it’s like trying to find bottom of an endlessly deep ocean. (This analogy he employed in the discovery of smaller and smaller particles like the higgs boson, and beyond. Is it not a human concept that reality has a quantifiable bottom?) Or, speculating on the beginning and ending of time itself. We can split and split and split and keep finding more and more. Such questions, from a certain philosophical perspective, have no answers, and as such, they are not questions. Are they inventions of our mind? A question is only a true question if an answer can be provided. Ludwig Wittgenstein, a famous 20th century philosopher remarked in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 6.5 “When the answer cannot be put into words, neither can the question be put into words. The riddle does not exist. If a question can be framed at all, it is also possible to answer it.”
We enjoy the search; we enjoy the excitement of new findings. It’s the spice of science: the zeal of newfound discovery. I can’t wait to see what is discovered next, for eons to come.
Given these rifts in the field of quantum mechanics, the field may be in its infancy, as Adrian Kent remarked in Our quantum problem “The best present ideas for addressing the quantum reality problem are at least as crude and problematic as Bohr’s model of the atom.” If we assume this is the case, we have a lot of new exciting discoveries awaiting us. The next ten years should be interesting.