Reality is in the eye of the beholder

Joshua Roebke at Seed writes about Anton Zeilinger’s new experiments set up to test philosophical questions of locality vs. realism in quantum mechanics.  In other words, do we create what we observe through the act of our observations?

The reason we see our world as we do is because of what we use to observe it. The human body is a just barely adequate measuring device. Quantum mechanics does not always wash itself out, but to observe its effects for larger and larger objects we would need more and more accurate measurement devices. We just do not have the sensitivity to observe the quantum effects around us. In essence we do create the classical world we perceive, and as Brukner said, “There could be other classical worlds completely
different from ours.”

Zeilinger and his group have only just begun to consider the grand implications of all their work for reality and our world. Like others in their field, they had focused on entanglement and decoherence to construct our future information technology, such as quantum computers, and not for understanding reality. But the group’s work on these kinds of applications pushed up against quantum mechanics’ foundations. To repeat a famous dictum, “All information is physical.” How we get information from our world depends on how it is encoded. Quantum mechanics encodes information, and how we obtain this through measurement is how we study and construct our world.

It’s a great article, with a concise background history of quantum mechanics.

posted 6/6/08 at 11:26am to Science! · 0 replies · permalink