Everyday Quantum Reality
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: Indiana University Press
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In what follows I argue that everyday experience enacts or parallels puzzling features of quantum physics. Quantum uncertainty, wave-particle duality, nonlocality, and so on, can be apprehended in mundane and familiar settings. As I have presented these ideas to others, some have wondered how seriously I take this argument. ...
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Many people contributed in an important way to this book. I thank an anonymous reviewer at Indiana University Press for offering encouragement and direction. Robert Sloan, Chandra Mevis, Nancy Lightfoot, and Elaine Durham Otto also helped me by overseeing its improvement and conversion into book form. Closer to home, I ...
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Most people have heard about quantum physics and its remarkable, well-nigh bizarre claims. One effect of these claims is to suggest that quantum reality is a world apart from everyday experience, that the two realities are discontinuous. In this book I dispute this outlook by showing that variations of quantum puzzles have long ...
1. Quantum Uncertainty
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Life is all about uncertainty. Upon awaking in the morning, we never quite know how the day will go, even when it is carefully planned. The next hour, the next minute, even the next second may bring surprise. Hence, to follow St. Paul, “we see through a darkly.”1 Faith and forethought only dimly illuminate the future. ...
2. Wave-Particle Duality
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Even if they know little about modern physics, most people have heard of wave-particle duality. What is more, they know it is a very puzzling concept, even if they may not know how to puzzle over it. But with a little direction and motivation, they could puzzle over a related issue—and one reaching back to the origins of Western ...
3. Two Everyday Analogues
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In chapter 1 we noted that quantum uncertainty can be understood in two ways. The first assumes that while nature is, at bottom, precisely detailed, we are limited in our capacity to fully grasp it. The second asserts that nature is intrinsically imprecise, at least with respect to properties like position and momentum. In either case, ab-...
4. The Double-Slit Experiment
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Light taxes our ingenuity by presenting itself in two seemingly mutually exclusive ways: particle and wave. We have already indicated what particles are like (at least as they were originally conceived). They are indivisible units and as such the fundamental building blocks of material reality, the place at which the subdivision of na-...
5. Double-Slit Analogues
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In the last chapter I proposed that the world is held together by a non-causal or pre-causal cement. How else, one might ask, to account for the quantum determination that various events or entities, all regarded as causally independent, organize themselves in patterns? The double-slit experiment is the stock example here: ...
6. Everyday Superposition
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In his modern physics lecture course, Paul Dirac, one of the architects of quantum mechanics, would break a piece of chalk while trying to explain the concept of superposition.1 That was the only way he could put the chalk in two distinct places—by breaking the original piece and moving the two halves away from each other. ...
7. The Witness of Music
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For some thinkers quantum entanglement implies that the universe is a unified whole. To an exquisite degree, so-called parts seem to hang together, even though no causal mechanism connects them. I say “so-called” because it is as if quantum entanglement dissolves parts into larger wholes, or at least dissolves the idea of self-existing ...
8 Everyday Relationality
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Typically we view the world as an aggregation of things, each thing having its own independent reality. Quantum mechanics, however, nudges us toward a more relational outlook. Reality seems to hang together in some pre-causal way, and this hanging-together includes us, notwithstanding our age-old inclination to believe we ...
9. Observer-Created Reality
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Before the twentieth century, some thinkers proposed that our ability to know the world is conditioned by our senses and mental apparatus (brain or mind). Immanuel Kant, for instance, insisted that the mind processes or organizes incoming sensory data so that the picture of reality that emerges mentally is, for all we know, very different ...
10. Wide-Open Reality
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Plato is famous for his belief that humankind would never realize its dream of perfect government until “philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy.”1 Knowing firsthand the delights of reason, philosophers, he felt, transcend the emotional vagaries that undermine rational ...
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Up until about 1935 scientists assumed that events impress themselves upon the world in spatiotemporal ways. Events, in other words, do not register or propagate instantaneously; they occur in space and time. Even so-called instantaneous events—a flash of lightning, say—is not instantaneous. It is just very swift, and swiftness makes ...
12. Quantum Play, Quantum Sorrow
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The thrust of this book has been to argue that quantum phenomena are all about us, and deeply informative of everyday experience. So deeply informative, in fact, that we simply stare past them until they are rediscovered at the extreme limits of our experience, where-upon they register as exotic and surprising counter-instances to the ...
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Page Count: 196
Illustrations: 8 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2010