QR5.1.1 The Great Divide

About a hundred years ago, relativity and quantum theory replaced Newton’s 200-year-old paradigm with a world of malleable time, curved space and quantum waves. A century of research has confirmed both theories in their respective cosmic and sub-atomic domains yet they contradict, as relativity gives point infinities and quantum field tricks fail for gravity. As one physicist says:

Mankind has uncovered two extremely efficient theories: one that describes our universe’s structure (Einstein’s gravity: the theory of general relativity), and one that describes everything our universe contains (quantum field theory), and these two theories won’t talk to each other.(Galfard, 2016)

This schism lay at the heart of physics last century and nothing has changed since. It is as if the universe has two different rule books, one for the very small and another for the very large, with nothing in common. In a nutshell, the rules for the very large don’t work for the very small and the rules for the very small don’t work for the very large.

Two theories that contradict each other can’t both be right but quantum theory and relativity have been proved right innumerable times so rather than being wrong, both seem to be incomplete. If both are right, then each is only half the picture and something more fundamental is at play. Quantum realism suggests that these two theories contradict each other because each exposes the theoretical assumptions of the other but ignores its own:

1. Quantum theory: Assumes that quantum states evolve on a space and time background that is fixed (Smolin, 2006), but relativity assures us that it isn’t so.

2. Relativity theory: Assumes that foreground objects follow fixed trajectories, but quantum theory assures us that it isn’t so.

This leaves physics with two grand theories, one about how foreground entities act on a fixed space and time background and the other about how space and time changes affect fixed foreground entities, with no commonality at all.

Quantum theory can’t replace relativity because it assumes a background of fixed space and time and relativity can’t replace quantum theory because it assumes that particles follow a fixed path. The reconciliation now explored is that the quantum field changes both foreground objects and their space and time background, where the quantum field is defined as quantum processing on a quantum network. If the quantum field causes matter, space and time, it can explain relativity as well as quantum theory.