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Einstein's Unfinished Revolution: The…

Einstein's Unfinished Revolution: The Search for What Lies Beyond the… (edition 2019)

by Lee Smolin (Author)

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"Quantum physics is the golden child of modern science. It is the basis of our understanding of atoms, radiation, and so much else, from elementary particles and basic forces to the behavior of materials. But for a century it has also been the problem child of science: it has been plagued by intense disagreements between its inventors, strange paradoxes, and implications that seem like the stuff of fantasy. Whether it's Schrödinger's cat--a creature that is simultaneously dead and alive--or a belief that the world does not exist independently of our observations of it, quantum theory challenges our fundamental assumptions about reality. In Einstein's Unfinished Revolution, theoretical physicist Lee Smolin provocatively argues that the problems which have bedeviled quantum physics since its inception are unsolved and unsolvable, for the simple reason that the theory is incomplete. There is more to quantum physics, waiting to be discovered. Our task--if we are to have simple answers to our simple questions about the universe we live in--must be to go beyond quantum mechanics to a description of the world on an atomic scale that makes sense. In this vibrant and accessible book, Smolin takes us on a journey through the basics of quantum physics, introducing the stories of the experiments and figures that have transformed our understanding of the universe, before wrestling with the puzzles and conundrums that the quantum world presents. Along the way, he illuminates the existing theories that might solve these problems, guiding us towards a vision of the quantum that embraces common sense realism. If we are to have any hope of completing the revolution that Einstein began nearly a century ago, we must go beyond quantum mechanics to find a theory that will give us a complete description of nature. In Einstein's Unfinished Revolution, Lee Smolin brings us a step closer to resolving one of the greatest scientific controversies of our age."--From publisher description.… (more)
Title:Einstein's Unfinished Revolution: The Search for What Lies Beyond the Quantum
Authors:Lee Smolin (Author)
Info:Penguin Press (2019), Edition: 1st Edition, 352 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:science, physics, quantum theory, Albert Einstein

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Einstein's Unfinished Revolution: The Search for What Lies Beyond the Quantum by Lee Smolin



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“Nature does not satisfy the idea of locality [Smolin’s italics]. Two particles, indeed two objects in the world, situated far from each other, can share properties that cannot be attributed to properties separately enjoyed by either. […] it must [also] be true in any deeper theory that completes quantum mechanics.”

In “Einstein's Unfinished Revolution: The Search for What Lies Beyond the Quantum” by Lee Smolin.

“In the last few years the field of quantum foundations has undergone a lively ascension. After eight decades in the shadows it is finally possible to make a good career as a specialist in quantum foundations. That is all for the good; however, most of the progress (and most of the young people) has been on the anti-realist side of the field [the Copenhagen Interpretation].”

In “Einstein's Unfinished Revolution: The Search for What Lies Beyond the Quantum” by Lee Smolin.

“The idea of decoherence starts with the observation that a macroscopic system, such as a detector or an observer, is never isolated. Instead, it lives in constant interaction with its environment … This, roughly speaking, leads the detector to lose its delicate quantum properties and behave as if it were described by the laws of classical physics.”

In “Einstein's Unfinished Revolution: The Search for What Lies Beyond the Quantum” by Lee Smolin.

“It was [Bohr’s] moment and he seized it, announcing the birth not just of a new physics but of a new philosophy. The moment for radical anti-realism had come … Bohr called the new philosophy complementarity [italics in the original] … Neither particles nor waves are attributes of nature. They are no more that ideas in our minds, which we impose on the natural world.”

In “Einstein's Unfinished Revolution: The Search for What Lies Beyond the Quantum” by Lee Smolin.

Loved the way Smolin supports the entire edifice of his book by using just three simple rules and I quote:

“Rule 0: The basic dynamical equation of quantum gravity, which expresses the absence of a global or universal time. Also called the Wheeler-DeWitt equation.

Rule 1: The basic dynamical equation of quantum mechanics that describes how quantum states evolve with respect with time as measured by clocks outside the quantum system. Also called the Schrödinger equation. Rule 1 explains that given the quantum state of an isolated system at one time, there is a law that will predict the precise quantum state of that system at any other time. […] [This rule] implies that a cat is in a superposition of two distinct macroscopic states: living and dead.

Rule 2: The law that prescribes how a quantum state responds to a measurement, which is to collapse immediately into a state within which the measured quantity has a precise value, the value that the measurement produced. Rule 2 explains that the outcome of a measurement can only be predicted probabilistically. But afterward, the measurement changes the quantum state of the system being measured, by putting it in the state corresponding to the result of the measurement. This is called collapse of the wave function.”

Quantum mechanics in a nutshell! Neat ah?

So let's say I have a theory, that there is a pull from the sun going like the mass of the sun times the mass of the Earth divided by the distance squared. And suppose now some guy named Laplace says "Non, non, non! Eeet ees reeely zat zere is a FEEEELD in ze whole of ze space! And ze field is goING like 1/r^2, and eet ees made by eech unIT mass!" Then the resulting forces are exactly the same. So the theories of Newton and Laplace, even though they look different to the eye and the mind, and they are 'different philosophically', are not really different at all, they are different presentations of the same idea. The question 'which is true' is meaningless. Then, later, with General Relativity, there are gravitational waves, and you need a field picture. The philosophy of positivism was taken for granted in physics until the baby boom, which is why Smolin is attacking this stuff. It is an IDEALISTIC philosophy (essentially, not really, it really says 'idealism and materialism aren't different, the question of which is true is meaningless’). Now hopefully my review makes sense. Smolin used to do reasonably good work, but he always had crazy philosophy, as he is not a positivist. This is also why he can't make progress. Compare with Leonard Susskind, die-hard old positivist git of the same generation, who broke physics open again and again, like Einstein, and is still doing so at age 80.

Smolin’s basic idea is not new. He belongs to the anti-realists, i.e., he’s against the so-called Copenhagen Interpretation (“The Measurement Problem”). I’ve been reading lots of stuff about this but the end seems not to be in sight yet…Realists do not have to think that a particle went through two slits at the same time. That's a QM way of thinking. In Bohmian Mechanics, the particle actually only passes through one slit, but the wave guides it around so it doesn't take a straight path, and it can end in different places. Smolin accepts non-locality and entanglement. He also posits non-cyclic or irreversible causality (i.e., "Time's Arrow" where events have antecedents in past events and consequence - or not - as future events). By taking Time (just "time" henceforth) as primary (elemental) and spacetime as subsequent and emergent, Smolin (and some other "realists" it would seem) account for non-locality as an attribute of prior shared or similar "views" of their states (approximately equal to their similar antecedent event histories). I agree that physics seems to be at an impasse as stated by Sabine Hossenfelder. I said as much in my review of her book “Lost in Math”. That is why people like Lee Smolin are so important to the conversation, because they have new ideas that point to deeper physics instead of trying to reinvent the whole field. I do, however, have a different philosophical position than Sabine. She is clearly an instrumentalist; I am not. But I still respect her position and regard it worthy of consideration. I am not dogmatic in my own views and have no problem changing them when convinced to do so.

I don't think anyone is seriously claiming the universe is currently expanding faster than light. There are theories, demanded by the math, that the universe briefly expanded faster than light during the inflationary epoch, but the point Smolin makes is that early in the history of the universe when energy levels were high enough to combine the known forces of nature, our currently observed laws of physics did not exist. It is worth noting that there was no light during the inflationary epoch, as it occurred, according to theory, before the electroweak force dissociated from the others.

Another point: non-locality does not necessarily imply "faster than light information transmission/spooky action at a distance". It just means there is something deeper going on we haven't figured out yet. Could be Bohmian hidden variables, could be that we need to take the idea of the reality of potentia seriously, or there are a few other hypothesis out there like superdeterminism and the transactional interpretation. But the Bell inequalities seem to clearly demonstrate that something has to give, realism or locality, or someone needs to come up with a testable theory that supersedes the Bell theorems completely.

Einstein and Schrödinger never got it wrong. They warned everyone that all the existing interpretations of what is going on, are absurd, and that something exceedingly fundamental must be totally misunderstood. That was the origin of the "Shut up and calculate" school-of-thought: don't waste your careers trying to explain what is happening via any existing ideas, because someday, someone will finally identify the fundamental premises that are at fault, and then all your work will be for naught. That day has arrived. QM is rather like the leaning-tower of Pisa; a beautiful edifice, built upon a bad foundation (the Copenhagen Interpretation). All you have to do, to see the problem, is to estimate the probability that you will always be able to correctly "call", a dirty, blurry, edge-on coin. Bell's theorem, in effect, naively assumes that the estimated percentage of correct "calls", is 100%. If your estimate, under those circumstances (dirty, blurry and edge-on), differs from Bell's 100%, then, Houston, we've had a problem, and we have had it for a very long time. Physicists have been mislead by bad metaphors; like a loaded-dice (with a hidden variable, that alters the otherwise expected outcomes). But the real problem has nothing to do with hidden-variables. It has to do with the very nature of "information" and what it means for particles to be "identical"; they will no longer appear to be exactly identical, when measured, when they are covered with dirt and the pattern of dirt, differs from one coin to the next, including its supposedly "identical" entangled twin. In other words, physicists have, in effect, naively believed that nature can manufacture perfectly identical "coins" (AKA particles), with no "minting errors" whatsoever. The experiments do not support such fanciful, idealistic interpretations.

Smolin does not address QTT as a possible solution to QM’s conundrum (he prefers his own Causal Theory of Views). I’d have liked to read what he makes of it. What quantum trajectory theory (QTT) does is that through weak and continuous measuring of the system, the observer and the observer become a single-system NOW evolving according to the Schrodinger equation. The measurement process is now INCLUDED in the wave-function evolution so there will be no collapses (because those were caused by observers ALIEN to the system and its wave-function). QTT is essentially how to incorporate the measurement process and the observer in the observed’s wave-function. QTT is NOT about making QM deterministic (hidden-variable like) in the classical or realist way. It's just that we don't have to care about and face the collapse of the wave-function anymore because we are NOW part of the system and as long as only we are measuring the system, there won't be any collapses! How does it differ from the Copenhagen Interpretation with decoherence? Pilot wave already HAS a leg up on the other interpretations, my other criticisms notwithstanding: the other interpretations make no sense whatsoever. Randomness, if fundamental, breaks causality, which in turn breaks experimental integrity, thereby breaking science, thus invalidating the theory and its interpretations. I.e. if Copenhagen is true, then Copenhagen is false, and if Copenhagen is false, then Copenhagen is false, QED Copenhagen is false. Can anyone name a difference between a quantum field and an ether? Both seem to be a thing that fills space to me. The idea that "it's not a physical thing" that saves the speed of light from the quantum eraser is an absolute ad hoc cop-out. If it is non-physical, why does it have any causal impact on physical observations at all? In Copenhagen, isn't it the case that the wavefunction encompasses all the information of the system under study? If it is not, then, physical, what is? Adding a physical thing with no consequential information is just as unnecessary as adding an ether or angels to the theory. Its only purpose is to justify the interpretation in spite of the contradiction it causes in light of that experiment. Probably the most offensive aspect of Copenhagen, though, is its dependence on observation. Renaming the event as the "collapse of the wave function" doesn't make it any more credible, it just isolates the interpretation from reasoning by introducing a circular dependence on the nebulous physicality of said wave function. Philosophically, observer dependence is ad hoc at best. It relies on a (inarguably physical) difference between observer and system. If there is no such difference, the system ought to be itself composed of observers collapsing the internal state. This is an asymmetry that is unfalsifiable by design to insulate causality from my first complaint. It is the very definition of unfalsifiable and has no place in a discussion of science. It is a return to the caves of Plato and Descartes, a logical framework that abstracts reason from any and all hypotheses by brute force, a classic appeal to futility of knowledge that is the antithesis of science.

*Disclaimer: I am not arguing that pilot wave is correct, only that it suffers no more from unsound assumptions than Copenhagen. In addition, I do support the idea that Copenhagen is a scientifically defeatist paradigm to which any sensible alternative is practically superior. For a potential solution, I’d look into quantum non-equilibrium if you want some potential falsifiability. Other than that, I don't think Bohmian mechanics is really meant for typical calculations. It's a theoretical framework meant to explain why the behavior is the way it is, and potentially serve as a starting point for further modifications (this is the most important part). Remember that the renormalization of quantum electrodynamics, though successful in predictions, has serious philosophical problems. I think it's reasonable to suppose that there's a deeper theory and that QED is a first-order approximation that's worked well enough so far. I think Bohmian mechanics, once made relativistic, can serve as a starting point for finding a deeper theory. Perhaps this resulting theory might even be useful in merging QM with GR. We can only find out if we look into it.

Bottom-line: The 'realism' intrinsically inherent in QM is that it is a probabilistic crap shoot, and no material scientist alive can say otherwise. We cannot impose a theory of 'realism'' on the quantum level of existence when it is, by definition, probabilistic to say the best, even when entanglement is a predictable phenomenon, along with wave collapse. 'Realism' is a mode of thought intrinsic to humans at the macro level, when it has been incontrovertibly proven that this 'realism' does not exist at the quantum level. If anything cannot be more blatantly denied, it is this dual nature of the quantum, which was originally expressed by Bohr in the Copenhagen. So. . . .for 100 years now, as the GPS satellites roam about the stratosphere, and all the other numerous commodifications of QM are benefitting millions upon millions, the reactionary 'realists' (and that included even Albert Einstein) are still complaining that, they cannot put their fingers on something that will stop wiggling and stand still. WHAT. . . .Will they think of next????? (Smolin implies that the "many worlds interpretation" is crazy. How refreshing! ROTFL!) QM might turn out to be a special case of other more fundamental laws. Smolin is not alone in this thinking. Even I as an amateur cannot help but notice the remarkable stalling of advancement of QM and the apparent failure of string theory. String theory is completely unprovable by essence, which removes it from the realm of science altogether so that it becomes mathematical philosophy (Smolin was right about String Theory in “The Trouble with Physics"). Every physicist thinks QM is incomplete. Everyone except the ones who have developed a Theory of Everything which seems to work for everything…Incidentally, Schrödinger's cat is either dead, or alive, or still in a superposition. If it's dead, it has nothing to tell us. If it's alive, it is but a cat, and has nothing to tell us. If it's still in a superposition, it has one of two things to tell us, and we don't know which, but neither is very interesting. Schrödinger’s cat was always a cheeky sod! Were I a forester, I’d prefer Copenhagen because it’d require us to write more popular books about undead cats, requiring more paper, and so I’d get more work...as it is, I tend to side with the Realists (Einstein, Schrödinger, Penrose, etc.)

NB: Question: Is there an interpretation of the measurement problem in the double slit experiment in pilot wave theory? As in, what's the equivalent to Copenhagen's "collapse of the wave function"? If the pilot wave is considered a physical entity, why does measurement/decoherence suppress the interference pattern?

Answer: According to Bohmian Mechanics, each time a measurement is made, the wave function of the measuring device becomes entangled with the wave function of the measured particle. That mutual entanglement is what Copenhagen refers to as the "collapse" of the measured particle's wave function. (But note how Copenhagen excludes the measuring device, thus creating its notorious self-inflicted "measurement problem".) The Pilot Wave is NOT a "physical entity" manifested in 4D spacetime, it propagates non-locally in complex-valued Configuration Space (the domain where the quantum wave function is defined). If it manifested in 4D spacetime, the Pilot Wave would become a local phenomenon subject to relativistic propagation effects, contradicting the non-local nature of Bohmian Mechanics. Bohmian mechanics is not actually right for several reasons. It disagrees with quantum mechanics and with experiment! The reason is that, if knowing the position of the particle specifies where it will be forever, particle trajectories can never cross. But we know that, for instance, a particle could go through the right slit and end up on the left side of the screen. For more details, see Chen and Kleinert (2016). There are other problems with Bohmian mechanics as well, such as the fact that it does not (and in principle it cannot) incorporate relativity, or the clunkiness with which it handles simple concepts such as spin. But the fact that it's wrong in is present state should suffice to remove it from consideration as a possible underlying theory for quantum mechanics. It's not quite true pilot wave theory makes all the same predictions as the Copenhagen interpretation seeing how it lacks a relativistic formulation (equivalent to the Dirac equation). I haven't seen a pilot wave theory concerning quantum field theory either (although that's closely connected to the former). With that said I like the Bohmian interpretation and we can't rule out a future reformulation. Perhaps it even can end up making some different predictions for vacuum energy and better explain entanglement if done properly. Besides, I don't like the Copenhagen Interpretation: it's too woo-woo and encourages snake oil gurus like Deepak to try to sound more plausible than his ideas merit… Too bad Bohm slacked off there with the lack of relativity; too busy knocking around with Krishnamurti. I love Bohm, fierce nice man even taking into account his problematic theory…Copenhagen is the preferred interpretation for a reason. :) It is agnostic as to whatever's happening underneath. All attempts to remove this "agnosticism" and put quantum mechanics in a "realist" framework, be it pilot wave theory or the many worlds interpretation, have failed. ( )
  antao | Aug 13, 2019 |
Theoretical physicist Smolin wants to see a naive-realist formulation of quantum mechanics (QM) and quantum gravity. For QM alone, though, he finds deficiencies in such extant candidates as the pilot-wave (de Broglie / Bohm), spontaneous-collapse, and many-worlds interpretations. (He for some reason considers interpretations that take an epistemic view of wavefunctions to be nonstarters, even though advocates of some of those interpretations have argued convincingly that they are not anti-realist. Ironically, he reveals that he had a hand in the genesis of Carlo Rovelli's psi-epistemic relational interpretation, and he mentions Rovelli as a friend and consultant in the acknowledgements.) In the late chapters, he describes some advanced approaches being investigated by himself and others; e.g., in the _real ensemble formulation_, "systems with a great many copies in the universe behave according to [QM], because they are continually randomized by nonlocal interactions with their copies" (p 248). On a stylistic note, I have to say that Smolin's overuse of "which" instead of "that" as a restrictive relative pronoun is a pervasive distraction and annoyance.
  fpagan | Jul 13, 2019 |
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