Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

‘Cheap on assumptions but expensive on universes’

leave a comment »

Quantum physics, multiple universes, and solving the “scandal” of probability, in the Telegraph. Ignore the lead’s focus on time travel; the real meat is towards the end:

According to quantum mechanics, unobserved particles are described by “wave functions” representing a set of multiple “probable” states. When an observer makes a measurement, the particle then settles down into one of these multiple options.

But the many worlds idea offers an alternative view. Dr Deutsch showed mathematically that the bush-like branching structure created by the universe splitting into parallel versions of itself can explain the probabilistic nature of quantum outcomes. This work was attacked but it has now had rigorous confirmation by David Wallace and Simon Saunders, also at Oxford.

Dr Saunders, who presented the work with Wallace at the Many Worlds at 50 conference at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Canada, told New Scientist: “We’ve cleared up the obscurities and come up with a pretty clear verdict that Everett works. It’s a dramatic turnaround and it means that people now have to discuss Everett seriously.”

Dr Deutsch added that the work addresses a three-century-old problem with the idea of probability itself, described by one philosopher, Prof David Papineau, as a scandal. “We didn’t really know what probability means,” said Dr Deutsch.

There’s a convention that it’s rational to treat it for most purposes as if we knew it was going to happen even though we actually know it need not. But this does not capture the reality, not least the 0.1 per cent chance something will not happen.

“So,” said Dr Deutsch, “the problems of probability, which were until recently considered the principal objection to the otherwise extremely elegant theory of Everett (which removes every element of mysticism and double-talk that have crept into quantum theory over the decades) have now turned into its principal selling point.”

Quantum immortality, please.

Written by gerrycanavan

November 26, 2007 at 7:34 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: