Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Pet Peeve Of FLG

Has FLG ever mentioned his pet peeve about Schrödinger’s cat?

Look, the cat is either dead or alive.  Just because it hasn't been observed doesn't mean that the cat is in some limbo between the two.

FLG also has a problem with the whole tree falling in a forest with nobody around to hear it question.  Look, the tree fell.  Ergo, it caused sound waves.  Therefore, it made a sound regardless of whether somebody was around.

FLG finds the idea that for something to have occurred it must be observed by a human, which is what both are getting at in the normal interpretations, to be completely asinine, and hubristic about the importance of human beings generally.


Andrew Stevens said...

Schrodinger devised his thought experiment to illustrate the absurdity of the Copenhagen Interpretation. I completely agree with Schrodinger and you that the Copenhagen Interpretation is absurd. It's really a paradigm logical positivist interpretation.

I've long favored the de Broglie-Bohm Interpretation, though the relatively recent criticism that it is simply the Everett Many Worlds Interpretation in disguise has given me some pause. I'd much rather subscribe to Everett than Copenhagen though. Anything but Copenhagen.

Withywindle said...

What do most physicists now believe?

Andrew Stevens said...

It's hard to say. In theory, I think the majority are still followers of Copenhagen. In practice, I've almost never met one who is willing to defend Copenhagen any more.

I think the dominant position is a shrug and "Who cares?" The instrumentalist position has completely taken over science. If it doesn't affect the equations (and it doesn't), then none of them really care what the actual truth is. My realist position (that a scientific theory should accurately describe reality, not simply predict phenomena) is in a laughably small minority.

I always try to argue that the primary advantage of giving up Copenhagen is that we cease teaching people nonsense, but this doesn't receive much traction with physicists who have been happily teaching nonsense for decades.

Withywindle said...

Did Feynman have an opinion?

Andrew Stevens said...

Feynman was an extremist instrumentalist. He couldn't have cared less. He actually seemed to quite revel in the fact that the Copenhagen Interpretation made no sense and that no physicist was even trying to make sense of quantum mechanics. Here's a decent article on the subject.

Andrew Stevens said...

I do want to clarify that the man who wrote the article is a crank, which doesn't make him wrong on every subject and I think he's correct here.

Withywindle said...

OK ... I was going to say that the tone was uncharitable polemic; hence, knowing nothing of the subject, the tone alone made me skeptical.

I would have said that predictive power is enormously impressive--after all, we lack it in the studies of humanity. Isn't predictive power, even if based on an affirmation not merely of unknowns but of unknowability, an indication of some truth value?

Andrew Stevens said...

Copenhagen, Bohmian mechanics, and Many Worlds all make the same predictions, so predictive power is not a basis for choosing between them.

It's important to point out that nobody objects to the epistemological limitations of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. Telling us that if we want to determine a particle's position, we must by necessity make its momentum uncertain to us is fine. However, Heisenberg went on to assert that this was not just an epistemological limitation, but a metaphysical one, i.e. the particle really no longer has a certain momentum.

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