QR3.9.3 The Quantum Paradox

The quantum measurement problem arises from how quantum collapse and its effects occur. Quantum waves evolve in a deterministic fashion by Schrödinger’s equation but when measured they collapse to a point for reasons unknown. The problem is that physics has deduced the probability set of that collapse but has no idea what chooses from it. It is as if a choice from nowhere decides every microscopic measurement. This problem was raised early last century and no progress has been made on the matter since:

The history of the quantum measurement paradox is fascinating. There is still no general agreement on the matter even after eighty years of heated debate.” (Laughlin, 2005) p49.

The measurement problem, in a nutshell, is that it doesn’t conform with Aristotle’s view that:

… the world consists of a multitude of single things (substances), each of them characterized by intrinsic properties …(Audretsch, 2004) p274

Two thousand years later, this vision of a world of things that cause other things still dominates thought, so why not apply it to quantum theory?

… why not simply accept the reality of the wave function?(Zeh, 2004) p8

This didn’t happen because quantum theory:

“… paints a picture of the world that is less objectively real than we usually believe it to be.” (Walker, 2000) p72.

In other words, quantum theory contradicts physical realism. In addition, if one accepts that part of quantum theory is real, then one must accept that all of it is.

… if we are to take y [the quantum field] as providing a picture of reality, then we must take these jumps as physically real occurrences too…(Penrose, 1994) p331

Schrödinger tried to explain quantum theory in physical terms but failed, as have all who have tried the same since. What quantum theory describes isn’t physically possible: quantum states that disappear at will ignore physical permanence; entangled effects that occur instantly over any distance ignore the speed of light limit; and superposed states that co-exist in physical contradictions ignore physical limits. A quantum wave can spread across a galaxy then instantly collapse to a point but:

How can something real disappear instantaneously?(Barbour, 1999) p200

When Pauli and Born defined the quantum wave amplitude as a probability of physical existence, physics ceased to be about anything physical at all:

For the first time in physics, we have an equation that allows us to describe the behavior of objects in the universe with astounding accuracy, but for which one of the mathematical objects of the theory, the quantum field y, apparently does not correspond to any known physical quantity.(Oerter, 2006) p89

That quantum theory predicts physical reality gives thequantum paradox, that what isn’t real physically predicts what is, so can the unreal cause the real? As one theoretical physicist says:

Can something that affects real events … itself be unreal?(Zeh, 2004) p4.

For over a century, physics has faced this paradox like a deer in headlights, attracted by the quantum brilliance but afraid to abandon the orthodox stance of physical realism.

Figure 3.26. A paradox

Paradoxes only disappear when false assumptions are exposed. For example, Figure 3.26 has two square and three round prongs depending on where you look which is impossible. The answer isn’t a mystical “square-round duality” but to see that one line can’t bound both a square prong and a round one at the same time. Likewise, the quantum paradox arises from the false assumption of physical realism, so when Penrose asks:

How, indeed, can real objects be constituted from unreal components?(Penrose, 1994) p313

the honest answer is that they can’t. One might equally ask “How can a purely physical world have random events?” or “How can a complete physical universe begin?” A physics based on illogic builds paradox into its foundations but to do this is to institutionalize illogic and this isn’t science. The logical way forward is to abandon the physical realism of Aristotle and accept that quantum reality creates physical unreality, based on the facts of physics.