There is no one reality. Each of us lives in a separate universe. That's not speaking metaphorically. This is the hypothesis of the stark nature of reality suggested by recent developments in quantum physics. Reality in a dynamic universe is non-objective. Consciousness is the only reality.
The purpose of this short book is to suggest a model for quantum superposition of realities, the better to visualize how these quantum effects "leak out" into the macroworld and indeed define it.
This first postulate simply asks us to assume that every possible arrangement of matter and energy consistent with the laws of quantum physics exists. This postulate asks us to assume, among other things, that a universe exists "right now" somewhere that differs from our own only in that one electron on one remote planet of one distant star in, say, the Andromeda Galaxy is in a less excited energy state. Another universe exists that differs from the present universe only in that one photon, of all the photons in the room where this book is being read, is positioned exactly one Ångström unit to the left. Another universe exists in which the earth has two natural moons. Another universe exists in which there is no planet earth. Another exists in which Elizabeth Taylor has brown eyes. Another exists in which George Washington has a wart on his nose.
If a universe can be imagined, it exists. The late Sir James Jeans, the great British astronomer, was among the first scientists to recognize the universe as a creature of imagination. He wrote in 1932:
To-day there is a wide measure of agreement, which on the physical side of science approaches almost to unanimity, that the stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears as an accidental intruder into the realm of matter; we are beginning to suspect that we ought rather to hail it as the creator and governor of the realm of matter - not of course our individual minds, but the mind in which the atoms out of which our individual minds have grown exist as thoughts.
This new knowledge compels us to revise our hasty first impression that we had stumbled into a universe which either did not concern itself with life or was actively hostile to life.1
Indeed, every conceivable arrangement of matter and energy, however improbable, is postulated to exist as a separate universe.
These universes are, however, static––not dynamic. Dynamic concepts of energy and of motion and of time and of change with time have not yet been introduced into this discussion. While every conceivable arrangement of quarks, gluons, subatomic particles, atoms, molecules, photons and energy that could possibly be imagined is assumed to exist, this first postulate asks us only to assume that each such arrangement exists in a frozen state for all eternity. Each of these imagined universes is eternally like an ice palace or like a still frame in a reel of motion picture footage. The frame exists forever simply because it is capable of being imagined, and because nature abhors a vacuum.
This suggestion is not entirely strange to quantum cosmology. Hugh Everett first postulated "parallel universes" in 1957. David Deutsch, a research fellow at the Department of Astrophysics, Oxford, and a professor at the University of Texas, tells us:
I think it's safe to say that there is a very large, probably infinite, number of these universes. Many of them are very different from ours, but some of them differ only in some minute detail like the position of a book on a table, and are identical in every other respect.2
Davies and Brown tell us:
If the many-universes theory were correct, however, the seemingly contrived organization of the cosmos would be no mystery. We could safely assume that all possible arrangements of matter and energy are represented somewhere among the infinite ensemble of universes. Only in a minute proportion of the total would things be arranged so precisely that living organisms, hence observers, arise. Consequently, it is only that very atypical fraction that ever get observed. In short, our universe is remarkable because we have selected it by our own existence!3
Notice, however, that while Everett, DeWitt, Deutsch and others postulate an infinity of universes, each of their postulated universes is dynamic, moving, changing. Bryce DeWitt of the University of Texas tells us that under this theory "every quantum transition taking place on every star, in every galaxy, in every remote corner of the universe is splitting our local world into myriads of copies of itself. Here is schizophrenia with a vengeance!"
There can be no doubt that these pioneers envision multiple worlds that are dynamic, moving and changing.
P. C. W. Davies and J. R. Brown speak of the imaginary experiment involving Schrödinger's cat, so named for the physicist Erwin Schrödinger who first conjured up the idea in 1935. In this thought experiment a cat is placed in a box. A quantum event determines whether this imaginary cat is poisoned or not. Perhaps a Geiger counter is arranged to count the number of particles encountered in a defined time period, and if the count is odd, a hammer is tripped and a glass vial's deadly contents are inflicted on the cat. If the count is even, the cat is allowed to live. However the situation may be arranged, it is arranged so that a quantum event determines the cat's fate.
Quantum physics tells us that upon the happening of the event the cat goes into two superimposed states, one of being half alive and the other of being half dead. Only when the human experimenter arrives later to look into the box does objective reality "collapse" in upon the events. And then that reality instantly collapses back retroactively to the time of the fateful event. Speaking of this, Davies and Brown tell us:
According to Everett the transition occurs because the universe splits into two copies, one containing a live cat and the other a dead cat. Both universes contain one copy of the experimenter too, each of whom thinks he is unique. In general, if a quantum system is in a superposition of, say, n quantum states, then, on measurement, the universe will split into n copies. In most cases, n is infinite. Hence we must accept that there are actually an infinity of 'parallel worlds' co-existing alongside the one we see at any instant. Moreover, there are an infinity of individuals, more or less identical with each of us, inhabiting these worlds. It is a bizarre thought.4
In Everett's view, because each of these worlds is dynamic, the live cat goes on living in the one world, while in the other world someone presumably takes the carcass out of the box and buries it.
David Deutsch tells us that Everett's universes all are "changing in content."5
The present postulate differs from their thinking in that here each of the postulated universes is absolutely static, frozen, unchanging.
1Sir James Jeans, The Mysterious Universe (New Revised ed.), New York: The Macmillan Company, 1932; Cambridge: The University Press, 1932), p. 186.
2David Deutsch in The Ghost in the Atom, ed. P. C. W. Davies and J. R. Brown (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 85.
3P. C. W. Davies and J. R. Brown, ed., The Ghost in the Atom (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 38.
4Ibid., at 35-36. (Emphasis added.)
5David Deutsch in The Ghost in the Atom, ed. P. C. W. Davies and J. R. Brown (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 86.
Copyright © 2012 by M. R. Franks - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED