February 17, 2011

My FQXi Essay About the Quantum Measurement Problem is Now Available!

The Foundational Questions Institute (FQXi, the "X" is there perhaps to represent the unknown, or maybe extra effort to try and find out what this is all about) promotes independent research into the ultimate scientific "why" questions. One of the reasons we need FQXi is given below from their summary, from http://fqxi.org:


FQXi catalyzes, supports, and disseminates research on questions at the foundations of physics and cosmology, particularly new frontiers and innovative ideas integral to a deep understanding of reality, but unlikely to be supported by conventional funding sources.

The money quote as they say:  "... but unlikely to be supported by conventional funding sources." Such sources are not likely to be much help to those like me who are"amateurs" in practical terms, whatever their abilities. (I do note there are other helpful groups, like the Society for Amateur Scientists.) One of the ways FQXi supports quality inquiry that is open regardless of professional affiliation, is through their periodic essay contests. The current FQXi Essay Contest wants answers to the question: "Is Reality Digital or Analog?" My submission to this contest was just accepted. The title: Our Non-Deterministic Reality Is Neither Digital Nor Analog: Experimental Tests Can Show That Decoherence Fails to Resolve the Measurement Problem. The paper itself is IMHO too long and maybe hard to format into this space, but here's the abstract and a link to the article (pdf download):

Is reality best described in digital or analog terms? In proper context, we are asking: what type of math is best for that purpose? However, I argue that our universe is genuinely non-deterministic, as conventional notions of quantum mechanics imply. Since mathematics is by nature deterministic, reality is not fully describable by any true mathematical model. The best answer to the original question is then, “neither – reality transcends mathematics.” It is argued that some popular attempts to avoid the quantum measurement problem, such as the decoherence interpretation, are flawed. The logical case for DI is flawed by the circular argument at its core. More importantly: some experiments are described, which could falsify the DI. If successful, they would show that we can recover superpositions supposedly lost to decoherence. Hence our finding definitive experimental outcomes instead of superposed results is not due to the effects of decoherence. Those definite, exclusionary results show a genuinely indeterminate character of the universe.

The complete paper is available here.

Previous visitors to this blog will recognize that this paper deals with one of my controversial pet peeves: the idea that decoherence helps solve the quantum measurement problem. My previous post about the subject, Decoherence Interpretation Falsified?, generated lots of intense discussion. Please, hop on over to FQXi and tell me what you think.

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