19 December 2007

A fine catalog of Quantum METAphysics

Quantum Reality: Beyond the New Physics
Nick Herbert
Anchor Books, 1987

A catalog of quantum worldviews. Herbert discusses the various interpretations of how quantum mechanics describes reality. In other words, what does it mean about the underlying reality of the world to say that electrons (and all other subatomic "building blocks") are both/neither waves and/nor particles? Herbert presents eight different, yet overlapping, interpretations of quantum mechanics. The ones that I remember most clearly are the Copenhagen interpretation (i.e., that there is no underlying reality), the multiple worlds interpretation, the consciousness-only interpretation. Needless to say, all of the interpretations were, in one way or another, counter-intuitive and weird.

Another point that Herbert drives home is that, however we understand reality in light of quantum physics, it is definitely non-local (everything is everywhere and everywhen) as demonstrated conclusively by Bell's theorem.

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