Absurdities in Modern Physics: A Solution
by Paul Marmet
1-1 The Copenhagen Interpretation.Return to: List of Papers on the Web
1 - Promulgation of Absurdities
The set of articles considered as forming the best description of the Copenhagen interpretation differs, depending on the author studying the subject. Many different versions of the Copenhagen interpretation can be identified. Consequently, its definition leaves plenty of room for readers' own opinions. In this book, we use what appears to be the most frequently accepted version.
"Despite an extensive literature that refers to, discusses, and criticizes the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, nowhere does there seem to be any concise statement that defines the full Copenhagen interpretation."
The word because is used about fifty times in this book. This is not surprising since the book is related to science. The aim of science is to explain phenomena and predict new observations. Practicing scientific research means to find out why an effect has been produced. It would be ridiculous and absurd to answer that there is no reason or no cause leading to the observed results - that results simply happen like that. It would certainly be more rational to answer that we do not know.
If I give you a description of the laws of nature without telling you the reasons for which I am choosing a given description instead of another, I expect you will find that lack of explanation quite unsatisfactory. Scientists are so used to looking for the cause of an observed specific result that most are not even conscious of looking for it. It is a natural intelligent reaction to look for causes. Although that discussion seems evident to most of us, since there cannot be any effect without cause, this is not obvious to all physicists as we will show.
For many centuries, common sense and observations led to the conclusion that the same causes lead to the same effects. If the same causes do not lead to the same effects, how can we practice science?
Kant [1.3] wrote:
It is this very lack of causality that has made Heisenberg, Feynman and others use the word "absurdity". As the result of the Copenhagen interpretation, Heisenberg [1.4] himself, astonished by the apparent lack of causality concluded:
"Causality is the basis of all scientific work. Causality is the condition that renders science possible."
Of course, it is the interpretation given to the observations that make nature appear incompatible with causality. According to the Copenhagen interpretation, there is no cause to a phenomenon. Consequently, since quantum mechanics is not causal, it is useless to look for causes. One might well ask why so many physicists look for causes when they use and support a model that is not causal! A fully causal interpretation of modern physics is given in Chapters 6, 7 and 8 of this book.
"I repeated to myself again and again the question: Can nature possibly be as absurd as it seemed to us in these atomic experiments?"
In order to be coherent, physicists today should no longer try to find the cause of a physical phenomenon. According to Heisenberg's statement, there is no cause, it is simple magic. Greenberger [1.6] uses the same expression and states simply, "Quantum Mechanics is Magic".
"The law of causality is no longer applied in quantum theory."
Even worse, Mermin states that the results of those absurd interpretations are enjoyable. He [1.8] writes:
"The theory of quantum electrodynamics describes Nature as absurd from the point of view of common sense. And it agrees fully with experiments. So I hope you can accept Nature as she is - absurd."
Should we not conclude, from the last two statements that absurdity is enjoyable? We can enjoy magic for entertainment but I disagree that research funds in science should be used for doing magic.
"The EPR experiment is as close to magic as any physical phenomenon I know of, and magic should be enjoyed."
Physicists are also told that there is no basic problem left in physics. Before the publication of this book, when I tried to publish a section of this work (parts of Chapters 6 and 7) about the difficulties of the Copenhagen interpretation in Canadian Journal of Physics, the referee rejected the manuscript claiming that,
"I think it is safe to say that no one understands quantum mechanics."
Referees of other scientific journals regularly make the same error. Most physicists are completely unaware of the absurdities of the Copenhagen interpretation. The claim is that it has been definitively proved that we already know everything that can be known in quantum mechanics. In that regard, Popper [1.10] mentions:
"The arguments presented against quantum mechanics were settled more than sixty years ago".
"The Copenhagen interpretation - or, more precisely, the view of the status of quantum mechanics which Bohr and Heisenberg defended - was, quite simply, that quantum mechanics was the last, the final, the never-to-be-surpassed revolution in physics. [...] These were claimed to show that physics has reached the end of the road."
It is defeatism to believe that we will never find a rational answer. Many defeatist scientists claim that it is useless to waste time finding new interpretations. The non-rational model is believed to be the final answer. This attitude has been realized clearly by Murray Gell-Mann [1.11]who wrote:
"this epistemological claim I regarded, and still regard, as outrageous."
Scientists question Nature. Therefore, they must have a modest attitude towards science. Scientists must feel that they can learn something and not dictate their will to Nature. Over-confidence leads to a reduction of vigilance. For example, not long ago, around the time of launching the Hubble telescope in space, there was unbelievable self confidence. In the New York Times Magazine[1.12]we read:
"Niels Bohr brainwashed the whole generation of theorists into thinking that the job [that is an adequate presentation of quantum mechanics] was done 50 years ago."
In the same article, Giacconi says:
"John Bahcall expects that the telescope will not fail to do its part. If we are disappointed, he says, it's not the telescope's fault or our fault. It will be because of a lack of imagination on the part of God."
Let us recall that the main mirror is badly defective and the telescope is in jeopardy with three defective gyroscopes.
"It's not how big the universe is that's impressive. It's the power of human reason. We can sit here with our little one kilogram of brain and figure out what this universe is all about."
1-3 Role of
Much too frequently in physics we read that results obtained in quantum mechanics are correct since they have been proved mathematically. One should know that: Realism can never be proved mathematically; Realism is irrelevant in mathematics. Nothing in mathematics exists independently of our mind.
Mathematics is an extraordinary powerful tool to determine or prove relationships. When dealing with quantum systems, mathematics is used to establish internal correlations within a quantum system. Heisenberg [1.13] states:
Heisenberg himself shows correctly that mathematics ensures that there are no internal contradictions. However, the Copenhagen interpretation (or any other interpretation) deals with relations that are external to mathematical relations.
"The mathematical image of the system ensures that contradictions cannot occur in the system."
He [1.14]also described clearly:
"titanic struggle between Einstein and Bohr."
The last parenthesis is from Popper.
"Bohr's shift of the problem from completeness to soundness (=freedom from contradiction)."
One of the most important and disastrous consequences of the Copenhagen interpretation is observed in the case of the dualist wave-particle interpretation of light. The difficulty of explaining the behavior of light has a very long history in physics. It has led to an interpretation in which one uses the property of a particle when needed, and the property of a wave when needed. Different versions of that approach have led to the dual interpretation of light. Light (or photons) behaves simultaneously as a wave and as a particle. All sorts of confusing words are used to say that. That consequence leads to a naive belief that a photon might be a particle and a wave at the same time.
This hypothesis is extremely convenient because adding the properties of waves to those of particles is feasible mathematically. The only thing to do is to consider a wave solution to the equation when needed and also a solution compatible with a particle when needed. Of course, this is not a problem as long as we consider that it is an internal property of the mathematical formalism. However, if one claims that this is an external relationship described by the duality of waves-particles, that interpretation is absurd.
The complete demonstration of absurdity of duality does not only reside in the argument of causality and in the internal versus external relationship considered in this Chapter. The strongest argument of absurdity of dualism follows from the argument on realism that will be discussed in Chapter 4.
The dualistic model is just as absurd as the Copenhagen interpretation because, in both models, no physical reality can exist before detection. In the Copenhagen interpretation, things are created by the observer's knowledge. There is an incompatible difference between:
a) combining mathematically two sets of properties in an equation, and:
b) saying that, in reality, light is simultaneously made out of a wave and of a particle.
Condition a) is possible. We will see in Chapter 4 that condition b), that is the model of light made out of a wave and of a particle, is totally irreconcilable.
This is exactly what is explained by Messiah [1.15]when he writes:
Let us insist on Messiah's words, "irreconcilable aspects".
"Microscopic objects have a very general property: they appear under two apparently irreconcilable aspects, the wave aspect on the one hand, exhibiting the superposition property characteristic of waves, and the corpuscular aspect on the other hand, namely localized grains of energy and momentum."
When the model of duality was proposed, the fact that the two models were irreconcilable was realized but not solved, as admitted by Heisenberg. He writes [1.17]:
"But in the meantime we should have learned at least two lessons. The first is, that the particle and the wave analogies are weak and moreover mutually inconsistent."
The word hidden, used by Heisenberg, is an excellent description of the facts. This shows that the internal mathematical description is feasible but this internal relationship is used to hide the absurdities of the external descriptions. That description is incompatible with the realism of Nature.
"The paradoxes of the dualism between wave picture and particle picture were not solved; they were hidden somehow in the mathematical scheme."
This shows that modern physics has even gone beyond a state of confusion, it has reached the stage of incurable irrationality.
"Both the Copenhagen and the dualist interpretations of physical theories arise from a confusion between theoretical and experimental concepts, [...] This confusion may not be deplored by the Copenhagen philosopher, for whom everything is incurably irrational at bottom."
1-5 Early Historical
Origin of Non-Realism
Looking for causes that can be responsible for the effects observed implies logically that a cause exists independently of the observer. Therefore, physical causality implies realism. The description of realism will be considered in detail in chapter 4. However, we will consider here the historical origin of realism and non-realism.
The history of realism did not begin only with Bohr around 1920. Realism was clearly understood about twenty-four centuries ago. The most striking example of realism and causality is a masterpiece written by Plato. It is the Allegory of the Cave conceived by Socrates and written by his famous pupil. This description is so important that we reproduce it here in Appendix I. It is quite extraordinary how Socrates can teach an important lesson of realism to many modern scientists. It is certainly worth reading how Socrates was able to distinguish shadows from realities while modern physicists, using the Copenhagen interpretation show that they cannot make the same distinction. There is a clear analogy between the ghost like shadows of puppets described by the dwellers of the den related by Plato, and the ghost like matter coming into existence through the collapse of a wave function, as described by the Copenhagen interpretation.
Realism, defined as the result that matter has its own existence independent of the observer, was challenged well before Niels Bohr and Heisenberg. It was first challenged by Descartes. He wrote:
But he went on to explain that a table does not think, therefore, a table does not exist. Descartes believed that a table does not have its own independent existence. For him, a table could not really exist without an observer.
"I think, therefore I exist."
In other words, Berkeley finds it strange that some humans believe that things could have an existence independent of what is perceived. Berkeley [1.20]also writes:
"It is indeed an opinion strangely prevailing amongst men, that houses, mountains, rivers, and in word all sensible objects have an existence natural or real, distinct from their being perceived by the understanding."
"Some truths there are so near and obvious to the mind, that a man need only open his eyes to see them. Such I take this important one to be, to wit, that all the choir of heaven and furniture of the earth, in a word all those bodies which compose the mighty frame of the world have not any subsistence without a mind, that their being is to be perceived or known."
At this point, I wish to ask rational readers not to be too upset by these absurdities. We must realize that it is the consequence of the weakness of the human mind.
"Esse est percipi" meaning "Existence is perception."
The positivism of Descartes is pushed to an extreme degree by Berkeley, Hume and others, forming a new thinking called Modern Philosophy. Similar arguments are given by Kant, Hagel and many others.
We must notice that this modern philosophy is astonishingly identical to modern physics as suggested by the Copenhagen interpretation of Bohr, Heisenberg and Pauli. In modern physics, matter is not considered to have its own independent existence before it is detected, just as in the case of modern philosophy of Descartes and Berkeley. For Heisenberg and for Bohr, just as for Descartes and Berkeley, Existence is nothing more than perception. (Esse est percipi.)
There is a striking proof of the direct influence of Berkeley's philosophy on the Copenhagen interpretation. That proof is in Heisenberg's book. Heisenberg writes clearly that he agrees with Berkeley's philosophy. Let us recall Heisenberg's [1.21]statement in his own words:
We might believe that this statement must have been written by a philosopher in Berkeley's time. It was really written by Heisenberg [1.21]. Heisenberg shows clearly that modern physics did not innovate when it was suggested that matter had no existence before detection. Heisenberg admits that he just carried Berkeley's idea of modern philosophy to modern physics.
"The next step was taken by Berkeley. If actually all our knowledge is derived from perception, there is no meaning in the statement that the things really exist; because if the perception is given it cannot possibly make any difference whether the things exist or do not exist. Therefore, to be perceived is identical with existence."
Berkeley and Heisenberg did not greatly use their powers of inference when they shared that opinion. Of course, if all our knowledge was simply derived from the perception of an object by one single individual, it would not make sense claiming that things do exist independently of the observer. However, it could be tested, whether things exist independently of any observer. The thing could be perceived by independent observers and lead to compatible independent reports (by all observers). Berkeley and Heisenberg considered only the knowledge acquired from the perception by one single observer. They did not realize that the independent existence of things can be shown from the coherent reports of independent observers located anywhere and at any time. That last condition of the compatibility of independent observations in space and in time, gives a crucial extra knowledge that has been neglected by Berkeley and Heisenberg. That extra information provides the necessary knowledge in favor of independent existence. This point is discussed in section 4-4.
"If actually all our knowledge is derived from perception, there is no meaning in the statement that the things really exist."
1-7 Discredit of Philosophy
"It was he [Heisenberg] who led a generation of physicists to accept the absurd view that one can learn from quantum mechanics."
Philosophy is not only regarded as useless, but also as a nuisance in modern physics. For example, the scientific journal Galilean Electrodynamics (Experience, Reason and Simplicity, Above Authority) [1.25]is extraordinarily open to new ideas except for philosophical considerations. The editorial policy for the acceptance of articles states clearly:
"Modern instrumentalists are, of course, unaware that they are philosophizing. Accordingly, they are unaware of even the possibility that their fashionable philosophy may in fact be uncritical, irrational, and objectionable - as I am convinced it is."
It is surprising that a journal particularly interested in Reason would exclude philosophical considerations. The exclusion of such articles is not usually specified by the editor of scientific journals but, in practice, the result is the same in most journals. Philosophical considerations are looked on with suspicion in most scientific journals.
"All papers are expected to be in the realm of physics, mathematics, [...] Philosophical considerations will generally not be accepted"
1-8 QM implies infinite velocities
"Deciding to ignore philosophy and choosing ignorance is a philosophy. However, it is irrational".
That problem of infinite velocities will be discussed below in chapter 5.
"In his Dialectica article Einstein advances a very modest and simple argument against the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory. First he formulates clearly the principle of locality, as it is now called, that is, the principle of the excluded action at a distance, referring to it as the principle of action at vanishing distances, or the 'Prinzip der Nahewirkung'. He then notes that the principles of quantum mechanics, at least in the Copenhagen interpretation, are incompatible with this principle of locality, and that if quantum mechanics is true as interpreted by Bohr there must be action at a distance."
One can argue that philosophy is not much respected by physicists, because of the absurd statements written by some modern philosophers like Berkeley. Those statements do not give much confidence in the usefulness of philosophy. But, why did Heisenberg and Bohr adopt the same philosophy?
It must also be realized that many philosophers, admiring the apparent success of scientific achievement, have decided to study physics and its interpretation of nature. When some philosophers read about the Copenhagen interpretation, they make the sad discovery about all the absurdities taught in science. Philosophers discover that the teaching of absurdities is just as common in physics as in philosophy. Those philosophers rightfully feel that they are back in the dark ages of humanity.
Finally, let us give a citation by Lovelock [1.28]about the freedom of expression in research. He wrote:
There is not much hope for new scientists to try writing new papers to rationalize physics unless they accept to end their career. Some centuries ago, they burned Bruno and imprisoned Galileo. Even in our century, a dissident of the Copenhagen interpretation is rejected and called a crank.
"To cap it all, in recent years, the "purity" of science has been ever more closely guarded by a self-imposed inquisition called the peer review. [...] Like the inquisition of the medieval church, it has teeth and can wreck a career by refusing funds for research or by censoring publications."
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