Monday, May 21, 2007

Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics or

The following snippet is from Dancing Wu Li Masters, pages 62-63, from which, though I may not understand all of it, I’m receiving mucho stimulation. This passage is about the beginning of our being cast out into darkness upon the waters in our little cockle shell brains and losing contact with the “real” world. It’s the next step into darkness after Freud said that our actions are actually driven by our subconscious minds rather than our conscious minds. Now all that docks us to the “real” world is a thin hawser of mathematics, and most of us don’t understand enough mathematics to guide us from one to two—or, maybe, four. The Xtians, the Moslems, and all like them, fear this water most mightily for it leads to relativity and situational ethics and all manner of reasonable things rather than the things of the unconscious about which they also know nothing even though it drives them most mightily. They haven’t even emerged from the shadows of the 19th Century, let alone the 20th, to enter the 21st Century with the rest of us. They’ve fallen so far behind that the dunce cap rests permanently upon their heads, and they sit in the corner, thumb sucking like starved infants. But, these finding also present us with the potentiality for their being a source of energy that some might call god, though this god would not be a little peckerhead called, Jesus. It would be a force that makes the whole universe dance like a drunken sailor. PS: Call the photo, "What's out there in the damn fog?"

In the autumn of 1927, physicists working with the new physics met in Brussels, Belgium, to ask themselves this question, among others. What they decided there became known as the Copenhagen 
Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. Other interpretations developed later, but the Copenhagen Interpretation marks the emergence of the new physics as a consistent way of viewing the world. 
It is still the most prevalent interpretation of the mathematical formalism of quantum mechanics. The upheaval in physics following the discovery of the inadequacies of Newtonian physics was all but complete. The question among the physicists at Brussels was not whether Newtonian mechanics could be adapted to subatomic phenomena (it was clear that it could not be), but rather, what was to replace it.

The Copenhagen Interpretation was the first consistent formulation of quantum mechanics. Einstein opposed it in 1927 and he argued against it until his death, although he, like all physicists, was forced to acknowledge its advantages in explaining subatomic phenomena.

The Copenhagen Interpretation says, in effect, that it does not matter what quantum mechanics is about! The important thing is that it works. This is one of the most important statements in the history of science. The Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics began a monumental reunion which was all but unnoticed at the time. The rational part of our psyche, typified by science, began to merge again with that other part of us which we had ignored since the 1700's, our irrational side.

The scientific idea of truth traditionally had been anchored in an absolute truth somewhere "out there"—that is, an absolute truth with an independent existence. The closer that we came in our approximations to the absolute truth, the truer our theories were said to be. Although we might never be able to perceive the absolute 
truth directly—or to open the watch, as Einstein put it—still we tried to construct theories such that for every facet of absolute truth, there was a corresponding element in our theories.

The Copenhagen Interpretation does away with this idea of a one-to-one correspondence between reality and theory. This is another way of saying what we have said before. Quantum mechanics discards the laws governing individual events and states directly the laws governing aggregations. It is very pragmatic.

The philosophy of pragmatism goes something like this. The mind is such that it deals only with ideas. It is not possible for the mind to relate to anything other than ideas. Therefore, it is not correct to think that the mind actually can ponder reality. All that the mind can ponder is its ideas about reality. (Whether or not that is the way reality actually is, is a metaphysical issue). Therefore, whether or not something is true is not a matter of how closely it corresponds to the absolute truth, but of how consistent it is with our experience.

The extraordinary importance of the Copenhagen Interpretation lies in the fact that for the first time, scientists attempting to formulate a consistent physics were forced by their own findings to acknowledge that a complete understanding of reality lies beyond the capabilities of rational thought [So far and to this point—perhaps a few more synaptical layers will change our blindness or increase it. Maybe the real concrete world is all there is, and all the sub-atomic stuff is just our imaginations working overtime. Maybe we'll learn that with a few more brain cells working.]. It was this that Einstein could not accept. “The most incomprehensible thing about the world," he wrote, "is that it is comprehensible." But the deed was done. The new physics was based not upon "absolute truth", but upon us.

No comments: