What would it mean to apply quantum theory, without restriction and without involving any notion of measurement and state reduction, to the whole universe? What would realism about the quantum state then imply? This book brings together an illustrious team of philosophers and physicists to debate these questions. The contributors broadly agree on the need, or aspiration, for a realist theory that unites micro- and macro-worlds. But they disagree on what this implies. Some argue that if unitary quantum evolution has (...) unrestricted application, and if the quantum state is taken to be something physically real, then this universe emerges from the quantum state as one of countless others, constantly branching in time, all of which are real. The result, they argue, is many worlds quantum theory, also known as the Everett interpretation of quantum mechanics. No other realist interpretation of unitary quantum theory has ever been found. Others argue in reply that this picture of many worlds is in no sense inherent to quantum theory, or fails to make physical sense, or is scientifically inadequate. The stuff of these worlds, what they are made of, is never adequately explained, nor are the worlds precisely defined; ordinary ideas about time and identity over time are compromised; no satisfactory role or substitute for probability can be found in many worlds theories; they can't explain experimental data; anyway, there are attractive realist alternatives to many worlds. Twenty original essays, accompanied by commentaries and discussions, examine these claims and counterclaims in depth. They consider questions of ontology - the existence of worlds; probability - whether and how probability can be related to the branching structure of the quantum state; alternatives to many worlds - whether there are one-world realist interpretations of quantum theory that leave quantum dynamics unchanged; and open questions even given many worlds, including the multiverse concept as it has arisen elsewhere in modern cosmology. A comprehensive introduction lays out the main arguments of the book, which provides a state-of-the-art guide to many worlds quantum theory and its problems. (shrink)
Following a proposal of Vaidman The Stanford encyclopaedia of philosophy, 2014) The probable and the improbable: understanding probability in physics, essays in memory of Itamar Pitowsky, 2011), Sebens and Carroll , have argued that in Everettian quantum theory, observers are uncertain, before they complete their observation, about which Everettian branch they are on. They argue further that this solves the problem of making sense of probabilities within Everettian quantum theory, even though the theory itself is deterministic. We note some problems (...) with these arguments. (shrink)
I sketch a line of thought about consciousness and physics that gives some motivation for the hypothesis that conscious observers deviate—perhaps only very subtly and slightly—from quantum dynamics. Although it is hard to know just how much credence to give this line of thought, it does add motivation for a stronger and more comprehensive programme of quantum experiments involving quantum observers.
I propose a new class of interpretations, real world interpretations, of the quantum theory of closed systems. These interpretations postulate a preferred factorization of Hilbert space and preferred projective measurements on one factor. They give a mathematical characterisation of the different possible worlds arising in an evolving closed quantum system, in which each possible world corresponds to a (generally mixed) evolving quantum state. In a realistic model, the states corresponding to different worlds should be expected to tend towards orthogonality as (...) different possible quasiclassical structures emerge or as measurement-like interactions produce different classical outcomes. However, as the worlds have a precise mathematical definition, real world interpretations need no definition of quasiclassicality, measurement, or other concepts whose imprecision is problematic in other interpretational approaches. It is natural to postulate that precisely one world is chosen randomly, using the natural probability distribution, as the world realised in Nature, and that this world’s mathematical characterisation is a complete description of reality. (shrink)
There has been an upsurge of interest lately in developing Wigner’s hypothesis that conscious observation causes collapse by exploring dynamical collapse models in which some purportedly quantifiable aspect of consciousness resist superposition. Kremnizer–Ranchin, Chalmers–McQueen and Okon–Sebastián have explored the idea that collapse may be associated with a numerical measure of consciousness. More recently, Chalmers–McQueen have argued that any single measure is inadequate because it will allow superpositions of distinct states of equal consciousness measure to persist. They suggest a satisfactory model (...) needs to associate collapse with a set of measures quantifying aspects of consciousness, such as the “Q-shapes” defined by Tononi et al. in their “integrated information theory” of consciousness. I argue here that Chalmers–McQueen’s argument against associating a single measure with collapse requires a precise symmetry between brain states associated with different experiences and thus does not apply to the only case where we have strong intuitions, namely human observers. In defence of Chalmers–McQueen’s stance, it might be argued that idealized artificial information processing networks could display such symmetries. However, I argue that the most natural form of any theory that postulates a map from network states to mind states is one that assigns identical mind states to isomorphic network states. This suggests that, if such a map exists, no familiar components of mind states, such as viewing different colours, or experiencing pleasure or pain, are likely to be related by symmetries. (shrink)
A hodological law causes the evolution of the universe to tend to follow particular types of path. I give simple illustrations in toy models and discuss how Kolmogorov complexity characterises the extent to which hodological laws explain, rather than merely describe, data.
A quantum measurement-like event can produce any of a number of macroscopically distinct results, with corresponding macroscopically distinct gravitational fields, from the same initial state. Hence the probabilistically evolving large-scale structure of space-time is not precisely or even always approximately described by the deterministic Einstein equations.Since the standard treatment of gravitational wave propagation assumes the validity of the Einstein equations, it is questionable whether we should expect all its predictions to be empirically verified. In particular, one might expect the stochasticity (...) of amplified quantum indeterminacy to cause coherent gravitational wave signals to decay faster than standard predictions suggest. This need not imply that the radiated energy flux from gravitational wave sources differs from standard theoretical predictions. An underappreciated bonus of gravitational wave astronomy is that either detecting or failing to detect predicted gravitational wave signals would constrain the form of the semi-classical theory of gravity that we presently lack. (shrink)