Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Quantum Realism and Quantum Surrealism

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Quantum theory--now almost a century old--is the most powerful predictive tool that humans have ever possessed. Tested in thousands of subtle experiments by hundreds of Nobel-hungry physicists, quantum theory has always been right--its most recent success: the prediction of the existence and properties of the newly-discovered Higgs boson. However this predictive success comes at a high price--the lack of a good conceptual model of how the world actually works. Quantum theory is so strange that it resists any picture we might try to make about "what's really happening" in the world. Use this tool--give up models of reality.

I have described some of the history of the search for pictures of "the way the world really works" in my book Quantum Reality. Recently Marcus Araujo Santos working at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil has published a long review of recent attempts to construct "reasonable ontological models" that reproduce the quantum facts. His work Quantum Realism and Quantum Surrealism is highly technical but interspersed with witty and thoughtful discussions that systematically motivate the various definitions and proofs.

For any physicist seriously interested in quantum foundations, QRQS is a treasure trove--beginning with concise summaries of von Neumann's, Gleason's and Busch's theorems, nested strategies for proving the Kochen-Spechen theorem and then on to the meat of the essay, which provides fresh ways of excluding "non-contextual models of reality" through new restrictions called "Boolean Inequalities" after Irishman George Boole who formalized the laws of classical logic in the 19th century.

The central question Santos asks is "What is the core reason that quantum theory seems so weird? Exactly where lies the 'magic' that separates the quantum world from our classical way of thinking?"

Santos's chosen path to "quantum magic" is to clarify what we mean by "classical reality" by refining the definition of a property called "contextuality". Classical reality is non-contextual. By holding contextuality up to a strong light, and by deriving new means to test its presence in quantum reality, Santos and his colleagues hope to better illuminate the essential strangeness of the most powerful theory of the world we possess.

Few readers of this blog will be able to appreciate the high quality of exposition of Santos's work, but those with eyes to see will find QRQS a tremendously valuable resource that might well inspire their own quests for a fresh glimpse of the "extraordinary quantum magic" that underlies the ordinary world.

On a lighter note, Allan Lundell from the Chakralicious Camp at Burning Man 2012 sent me this short clip of Lisa Woffington reading Does She Do Vulcan Mind Meld on the First Date? from Harlot Nature.

Lisa Woffington at Burning Man 2012

Ref Quantum Tantra.

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