QR2.5.2 Grounded Physics

When Europeans first discovered China, they came as conquerors to a culture that made no sense in bible, king and country terms. Anthropologists eventually realized that new ideas like “keeping face” only really made sense in an entirely new context. The scientific name for the method used to acquire a new context is called  grounded theory. It aims to first observe with an open mind, then theorize. Anthropologists visit a new tribe, watch, listen and record, then form a theory to test next day, and do this iteratively until they understand their culture on its own terms. Letting the data speak first avoided colonial bias but seemed to reverse the usual predict-test method of science, until Kuhn suggested that science has two phases (Kuhn, 1970):

1. Paradigm growth: Theory predicts new data.

2. Paradigm shift: Data implies a new theory.

Figure 2.14 Paradigm shifts grow theories

In paradigm growth, theories grow based on data but in paradigm shift the data grows an entirely new theory. Paradigm growth is slow and steady as water wears away rock over years, but a paradigm shift is often sudden, like an earth-quake that changes the landscape in a short time. In the history of science, established theories dominate until an intellectual earthquake raises a new theoretical landscape from the data ground. Science as a way of connecting data to theory doesn’t always work from theory to data by a predict-test method but also works from data to theory by an observe-deduce method (Figure 2.14). This then is what physics has to do with the new “culture” of quantum reality.

The grounded theory of computing is called reverse engineering. It observes outputs to deduce processing causes that are tested by further interactions. So to reverse engineer physical reality to deduce quantum processing is an established method in science, well known in computer science. Physics has approached quantum theory like colonials in China, calling imaginary what doesn’t conform to its traditional beliefs. The physical realism culture handed down from Aristotle is as embedded in physics as King and Country was in colonial Britain. Physics needs a paradigm shift to see reality in a new way.

Next