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Monday, 12 May 2014

Exciting Quantum Question



Got a great question from someone in the comments - it was on some of the work I've done in the area of Quantum Mechanics.  It's a great question, so I wanted to go into some detail on it, and I'll leave it to you to check out.  Do forgive a starving philosopher the shameless plug at the start, the commenter really did ask about subscribing, I promise, hand on heart - but they're other question was also extremely cool, so I'll hope you'll soldier through.

Here's the question:

In One Song you wrote "What we're really looking at is occurrence, and everything that exists, occurs at the same time. That is what it means to exist. To occur. And to occur at the only time. Now." 
How does that gel with Einstein's notion of time dilation as a result of relativity? If you travel fast enough away from and then back to Earth, while 5 years may have passed for you, 100 years have passed on Earth.
Doesn't this indicate that there is more than one "now"? How can everything happen at the same time if you only age 5 years whereas everyone on Earth ages 100 years?
I can't get my head around this in any case so I'm wondering what you make of it. I noticed you said comments for subscribers only, I'd like to subscribe, how much is it?

It's £25 a month.  For that, you basically get to comment with impunity and be guaranteed a response.  I'll answer as much as I can and in as much detail as I can, time permitting.

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I do want to address the issue you raise though, because it's a brilliant question.  The exact same thing occurred to me.

As I see it the bigger issue is this - that in physics there has never been a successful fusion of Quantum Mechanics and Relativity.  Quantum Gravity stalled, and String Theory took it's place, but String Theory is a godawful mess philosophically - it's very hard to see it as anything other than a kind of 'retreat into complexity'.

What I mean by that is that if you just keep adding complexity and complexity, you can make anything fit anything.  The whole point (and revolutionary power) of Einstein's relativity is that it brings extreme simplicity to a massive multitude of often seemingly conflicting data.

Here's the thing.  All attempts to stitch the two together, to create a united physics, have been purely mathematical.  The ideas about what all these numbers could actually mean are wholly secondary.

A lot of this comes down to the fact that it's almost impossible to comprehend, in a clear and simply way, what is happening on the Quantum level.  Relativity is a bit weird, but you can picture it - not so with QM.  The various interpretations are pretty wacky - Copenhagen is the best, but only because its flaws are really obvious (such as the Schrodinger's Cat idea).

More than anything else this new perspective does seem to open a doorway to fitting the ideas together.

The idea of time is right at the centre of relativity, and one of the most interesting things about this new idea regarding QM is that, totally separate from anything else, it also centres around the idea of time.

This puts them both in contact with each other philosophically.  So when we're talking about things like the speed being distance over time, that 'time' element of the equation could be where the QM equations either fit or can be derived.

I am not a mathematician, and a mathematician would be necessary.  I've taken it to a few physicists - I'll be honest, I find it quite difficult to find one who seems able to get their head around the core simplicity of what I'm trying to say.

Basically, the new interpretation, what I call the 'Edinburgh Interpretation' is based on a very strange idea of time itself.  It's like a kind of cresting wave of probability collapsing into being, as opposed to a 'straight line' with past and future.

From this new way of understanding time relativity looks very strange - but it does raise some very interesting questions, which could potentially be the subject of exploratory experiment.

It might well be impossible to get a relativity time-dilation effect acting inside a Quantum experiment - or vice versa - but it would definitely shed a lot more light on the link between the two.

The holy grail in all this would be a chance to unite QM and Relativity into a new physics, but that's way beyond my ability.  I'm out on a limb enough as it is with all this stuff - to go further I'd need some serious, dedicated collaboration from a physicist who not only specialised in these areas, but was a deeply daring and curious individual who wouldn't mind taking a few serious intellectual risks, and looking at things in some very weird new ways.

For now, the book I'm writing is about the personal/social/revolutionary aspects of the insights into suffering and freedom that are, and will always be, my core interest.  Once that's done though, I'll probably come right back to this, give explaining it to some physicists another go because the idea seems very interesting indeed, a lot of potential, and a very strong new way to comprehend Quantum Mechanics that make new sense of it in a way that might, potentially, lead to a new connection with relativity.

In a totally, totally speculative way, the most interesting line of inquiry I would first follow in connecting them is this -

The passage of time in the Edinburgh Interpretation of QM is much like a kind of fluid.  The now is that fluid, and it flows, like fluid, into being. The 'probability profile' of the future seems to behave much like the physical terrain of a rock or other surface - if you pour liquid onto it, it flows through the path of least resistance.  The 'Now' flows through the probability path of least resistance.

The moment of being is the moment of total coherence between probabilities - whenever you get a probability that meshes perfectly with 'the now', that probability 'occurs' and the now flows into it.

There's only really one 'rule' to it, which is that reality can never contradict itself - but this is sacrosanct and is never violated, much like the principle of light speed in relativity.

Now, to mix the two - time dilation in relativity and what I suppose you could call 'flow coherence' in the Edinburgh Interpretation - is a tricky thing, but not impossible.  It could be that you would - from a kind of 'God's eye perspective' get two 'nows' - inasmuch as because of relativity's time dilation two different situations would be flowing at different speeds.

However.  Once one 'interacts' with the other, they 'resolve' themselves in the only way they can - total coherence between the two.  Which is to say that, like a fluid, they just kind of merge together into one pool.  Like if you get two water droplets that touch, they just flop together creating a single water droplet.  Like that, but with being itself.

That is pretty far out on a limb.  Without (I hope) being too brash about it, that to me doesn't sound anything like as convoluted or far-fetched as the ideas coming out of string theory, and is something that - in principle at least, might - potentially - be amenable to experiment.

As with so much of this I wouldn't really feel safe going too much further on it, but I feel there's enough here that it's definitely something worth looking at - a good solid potential theory that might perhaps be used to unite physics' two noble houses.

That's all for the future though, but again - great question, and I hope this goes some way to answering it.

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