Interesting post by By Sascha Vongehr | May 30th 2011 11:28 PM
Salted banana peels taste bad. This implies that non-salted banana peels taste good, right? No? Why then does local realism being wrong imply that non-local reality is true? Such is widely opined to be the only sober solution because it conserves good old reality, the scientists’ fort that is to be defended against the onslaught of irrational magic.
However, reality with “spooky actions at a distance” is not so non-magical either – no surprise that many refuse to accept it. Nevertheless, the issue is known as “non-locality in quantum physics”, never as “non-reality in quantum physics”. This is precisely the point where we witness an old paradigm hindering progress.
Banana peel tastes horrible lest you are an elephant – adding salt is not the problem – on the contrary. One of them has to go, the “local salt” or the “real peel”. Which one are you ready to give up? How about keeping localism and instead accepting that realism is a god of the gaps in retreat? Don’t like it? Well, how about at least not being so cock sure about it for starters?
Modern science has disproved naïve realism: There is no locally realistic description of our world possible. We can approach this insight from different directions, for example by explaining that‘real stuff’ cannot provide an acceptable fundament ‘at the bottom’. However, anybody with some interest into science and philosophy should work through one of the rigorous proofs of ‘non-locality in quantum physics’ at least once. This issue is the most important piece of philosophically relevant physics mankind has discovered; there is no excuse to be ignorant or half-hearted about it.
The proof is one ad absurdum: One tentatively assumes that everything depends only on what is locally present in form of ‘real stuff’; that Bob’s random decisions done far away do not influence Alice’s random choice for example. A certain relation, namely Bell’s inequality, is then obviously valid, but the experimental observations clearly violate that relation.
A lay-person-accessible yet still watertight version of the established proof introduces what is actually observed in experiments with photons and then shows via contemplating tennis ballsthat it is impossible to account for what is observed inside a locally realistic framework.
Local realism cannot possibly describe the world as it reveals itself to us in the laboratory. Whatever ‘structural realism’ or ‘functional realism’ you may hold dear, whatever it is that you call “real”, it should not be based on a fundament that is locally real, where all the information necessary to determine the physical evolution right here is also present in the vicinity right here, while circumstances far away are real in the sense of determined, really being either one way or another, too.
One of them has to go, the here or the real. Which one are you ready to give up, or which one have you given up, and has it actually helped you to understand the core of quantum theory? No? Well maybe you gave up the wrong one! What about reconsidering instead of just obnoxiously pushing the myth that supposedly nobody understands quantum mechanics just because you do not?
Albert Einstein was a realist and believed that the only resolution of this non-locality issue could be that somehow Bob’s random choice immediately changes the hidden variables at Alice’s place or vice versa. This would imply faster than light interaction and so Einstein got his pants all in a knot about it. In 1947, Einstein wrote to Max Born that he could not believe that quantum physics is complete “because it cannot be reconciled with the idea that physics should represent a reality in time and space, free from spooky actions at a distance.”
Some find it obvious that we need to abandon localism but not realism, because somehow, realism is obviously the more sober, proper, scientific position that guards against crazy, obscure idealism. This clinging to realism blinds itself against the fact that a non-local reality is so spooky (read “spooky action at a distance”) that it is actually much less sober than keeping localism instead.
Localism is a very successful piece of physics, while realism is the god of the gaps in awkward retreat, desperately trying to argue that it is for some reason not just comfortable but also important. Scientists keep realism plainly because they are not even aware of that they do make a choice. Realism seems so utterly obvious, it does not occur to them that they do have a choice in the first place.
The advanced way to think about these issues is the way Hugh Everett for example started it. You may favor a description in terms of a local physics, however, what is “real” becomes relative. Relative to locally well described Alice, Bob’s decision and observation is strictly undetermined until she can observe it. Bob, the Bob that observed photon number 3729 at angle φ1 and saw it come out of exit “0”, is realized by Alice, but only by the one who measured her photon number 3729 at angle φ0 and by the one who measured at angle φ1 but saw her photon come out of exit “1”.
Many refuse Everett relativity because they confuse it with multiple worlds interpretations (MWI) and multiverses. These are not the same. In fact, MWI are at times monstrosities of desperate realism while Everett relativity is plainly a necessary improvement in terminology that is consistent with antirealism.
Is it not strange that scientists rather keep some mumbo-jumbo “realism” that nobody can define in any helpful way instead of keeping with something as clearly defined as localism? Does realism feel totally obvious to you? Well maybe that is the hint!
I am not going to tell you that you should refuse realism, plainly because “realism” is anything to anybody. It is worse than “god” in that respect. I can only promise you one thing: If you do not at least update your terminology by uploading Everett relativity, you cannot understand the core of quantum physics. You must either stay with the crack-pots on the no-idea-at-all level, or reside on the popular we-don’t-thus-nobody-can level.