Quantum Mechanics - Schools of interpretation

Quantum mechanics (QM) is a field with strong controversy on interpretation matters. It could be said that philosophy has found a new friend in QM. Never before did philosophy matter most in a scientific field. There are currently more than 14 different interpretation schools on the (at leat) weird/ paradoxical results of quantum experiments, including superspotition, non-locality and the wave function collapse.

I personally feel closer to the interpretation of Wigner according to whom the CONSCIOUS observer is the key for the collapse of the wave function. According to him, we are the ones who (literally) formulate “reality”.

In the double-slit experiment, the electrons do interfere with other particles (e.g. on the detectors used) or with various fields (e.g. the gravity field). However non of these interactions suffice for the electron’s wavefunction to collapse. We continue to get interference patterns until an observer… observes the experiment.

What is your opinion on that?
Do you think that a conscious observer is what really matters in the wavefunction collapse?

Your characterization of the electron seems wrong. Electrons register one at a time in one place on a screen, so it seems to be a very large leap to claim that it is a consciousness that collapses the electron to a single point rather than a screen.

Almost no current professionals in the field of QM believe in Consciousness-Causes-Collapse. That was a mistake that early practitioners made, and they don’t make it any more. Sadly, with the popularity of movies like ‘What the bleep do we know?’ and all the Quantum Mysticism going around, most lay people haven’t gotten the memo.

As the moderator of the science forum, in any thread that’s started about QM, I feel it’s my responsibility to put up this warning label:


What do you mean Flannel? I am not aware of any consensus between QM experts on the matter. If consciousness is not what causes the wave function to collapse, then what does?

There is “real QM” and there is “Quantum Physics”, “QP”.

Real QM is strictly mechanical (hence its name). In QM there are no theories concerning why anything is happening. In QM, you measure the results from a situation and find a mathematical means to calculate those results. That calculation becomes the only thing that you could call a “theory”. QM makes no effort to explain WHY. It is strictly based on experience, the “School of Shut Up and Calculate”.

QP is entirely another story. QP is all about speculating every sort of wild imagining in order to explain the observation. It is conducted by the Quantum Magi who seem to want to keep the world of sub-humans thinking that reality is entirely mental and magic, always using the inexplicable to explain the observation and giving the mind power over the matter, the “School of You Too Can Be God”.

the assumption that there is a collapse at all is one to question.

There is certainly a “collapse”.
They were (originally) talking about an equation that “collapses” because new information is placed into the equation. It is a common terminology in mathematics.

The Quantum Magi refer to equations and mathematics as THE ONLY reality. Thus they spread the word that “the wave function collapses” and conveniently neglected to mention that they were talking merely about an equation “function”, not a physical wave.

The collapsing wave is the result of gaining information and placing it into an equation. It has nothing at all to do with why the pattern appears, merely why you can calculate that it will.

Well all schools of interpretation are basically philosophical concerns in as much as which one is experimentally justified over others, not actually scientifically provable, Shut up and calculate AKA Copenhagen just happens to be what some people would call the most simple and to which every other philosophical concern so far has merely been reducible too, even deterministic interpretations, it has no actual proof as such; on the other hand quantum mechanics generally does, it makes testable conclusions, which are then proven in experiment; what is actually going on in the world of the weird is anyone’s guess, it’s not science per se though to argue if collapse happens or does not, it simply is immeasurable.

There are key concerns that cannot be explained experimentally.

  1. collapse and superposition, is there such a thing as existing in indeterminate states is the cat alive and dead at the same time or all they all determined which leads to:

  2. locality and non locality (although locality seems to be unable to meet experimental proofs) locality means there is some interaction at the source, non locality means there is no actual determined interaction at the source, which leads to all sorts of misunderstandings about ftl, which are in fact dubious conclusions at best. Does entanglement mean there is some spooky action at a distance, it seems not, measurement seems to place all the variables in slower than light frameworks, although some would beg to differ, wrongly of course.

  3. real or non real (essentially is there an underlying mathematical structure that would denote that there is something we can deduce rather than induce.) Well impossible to prove, since it runs across the measurement problem. Local and real however seem discounted by real world experiment, non local real are not but seem unable to distinguish themselves from non local non real interpretations.

It’s an interesting subject, but with what we know now all interpretations seem to be indistinguishable from each other, aside from the ones that can be discounted by experiments like Bell’s - Aspect. A clever once thought experiment which has been tested scientifically now, which has plugged many of the loopholes in entanglement issues. At the end of the day it seems the idea that QM is an experimentally valuable theory because it’s predictions and experiments produce real world advances and have been invaluable in materials science, and just about every sphere of physics. The final determination of worth in science is is it useful, does it advance technology, the answer is yes. Do we understand it fully, no, not even remotely.

So why am I saying that some interpretations are clearly false, well they disagree with the experimental values, and so cannot be considered as reasonable, if the experiments deny them by being non probabibilistic the idea that the quantum world is predictable is clearly wrong:

drchinese.com/David/Bell_The … y_Math.htm

Here’s an explanation of why. It says easy maths, but it’s still not easy to grasp, suffice to say if the results of an experiment fall within no acceptable experimental prediction then such an explanation is clearly not able to explain such results and becomes moot.

If you were asking a scientist they would have to honestly have to say, I don’t know. If you were asking a philosopher you would have to say, it is possible, but it is unknown. Interpretations are like flavours, everyone likes different ones, because to them subjectively they taste better, as to whether strawberry is better than chocolate is anyone’s guess… :slight_smile:

‘Copenhagen’ is not ‘shut up and calculate’. ‘Copenhagen’ makes many philosophical presuppositions that are outside of the calculations, or about the meaning of the calculations. ‘Shut up and calculate’ doesn’t have a different name other than ‘Shut up and calculate’. I’ve not seen any source other than you say they are the same, and I’ve seen many talk about them as clearly distinct.

“If I were forced to sum up in one sentence what the Copenhagen interpretation says to me, it would be ‘Shut up and calculate!’”

Richard P Feynman.

It also says in the wiki that Copenhagen is summarised by the term shut up and calculate. And it is of course no accident that those who used the phrase were in fact referring to the theory that would later be called Copenhagen. So yes I think since it was used to succinctly paraphrase everything Copenhagen says and means in a single phrase it is kinda the same thing or at least it is a soundbite meant to convey that interpretations content as a whole, in as much as it directs the person to concentrate on the experiment not what exists before one is done. Sure it is not called shut up and calculate theory, but Copenhagen, but your point is pretty pedantic.

Besides you read all that and the only thing you could come up with was that as a criticism?

A group of half deaf and half blind men sitting at a disco-heavy metal dance party discussing physics. The next day someone takes a poll of each member to see what they believe the others had agreed to. The resultant poll more resembled the heavy metal than the disco.

From the experience a new school of thought arose;
Just Shut Up and Calculate.

Feynman blatantly states in his famous book that “we simply don’t know”.

I don’t get it when people say shit like this. This isn’t the first time. I’m criticizing something you said. Is it not what you wanted to get criticized? I’m not criticizing it because it’s what you wanted. What makes you think you can direct someone else’s criticism? I thought that was incorrect, so yes, that’s the thing I came up with to criticize. What the hell is the problem with that?

If by ‘wiki’ you mean this page, then no, it doesn’t say that.
It says, in the section titled ALTERNATIVES, “Many physicists have subscribed to the instrumentalist interpretation of quantum mechanics, a position often equated with eschewing all interpretation. It is summarized by the sentence “Shut up and calculate!”.” In other words, it says ‘shut up and calculate’ is an alternative to Copenhagen.

Here’s what it says on another wikipedia page about QM Interpretations:
The Copenhagen interpretation was traditionally the most popular among physicists, next to a purely instrumentalist position that denies any need for explanation (a view expressed in David Mermin’s famous quote “shut up and calculate”, often misattributed to Richard Feynman.[1])

Again, presented as an alternative ‘next to’ copenhagen.

It doesn’t look like Feynman said that, anyway. That quote seems to come from David Mermin, as far as I can tell.
en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Richard_Fe … .281999.29
Go down a little bit and look at the yellow section on that page, Disputed.

And it’s not clear that that quote itself actually means ‘Copenhagen IS shut up and calculate’. In the context that the phrase was written, it looks like it could mean something more like ‘Interpretations like the Copenhagen Interpretation are so [unsatisfying/frustrating/confusing] that I’d rather not interpret at all, I’d rather shut up and calculate.’ But that’s just an interpretation of one guy’s interpretation of an interpretation of QM, so we don’t really need to argue about what he really meant.

If you’re curious about why this is what I criticized that, among all things, it’s because I’m not happy about how Copenhagen is consistently presented, by non-scientists who’ve read a little bit about QM, as this sort of unanimously accepted interpretation, or this unbiased interpretation, etc. You’re presenting it as a non-interpretation, as an interpretation that doesn’t make any assumptions.

Copenhagen is undoubtedly popular among the experts, I’m not denying that, but it’s by no means unanimous, not even close. And it’s definitely not without its assumptions. It’s not a non-interpretation like shut up and calculate.

Look I don’t care if you like Copenhagen or James does, but the original term used by Dirac or others was used to describe Copenhagen, how it developed after that is beside the point, it was a term that really made Copenhagen the for runner. I am not saying it is exactly the same, only that it was what was considered the interpretations fundamental core for many years.

I originally wrote David Mermin, since you are a mod you can check out how I originally posted and then edited, then I remembered it was accredited to both and Chose Feynman, I am not sure which did what the information seems biased. but the facts remain the same for many years Shut up and calculate was based on the idea that you need to stop concentrating on what is going on before you do your maths and experiment and that is and was most definitely Copenhagen. Hell James even used it to describe it. What it then became I don’t care, but it’s origin is certainly in its progenitors, just sit down and do maths, and don’t try to hard to work out how and why the maths works, when the experiment works based on it.

James it’s a philosophical interpretation which means it’s no more true than any other interpretation. Get over it, philosophy is not science. You trying to make it so will not make it so. Who cares what interpretation you favour, since none can be proven your magical dislike for one over another is nothing more than your like for cheese over chocolate. It’s flavour is a matter of taste, please stop whining. No scientist believes Copenhagen is true any more than any scientist believes any other interpretation is, they’re all just ideas, with no proof either way. It just so happens Copenhagen got their first, Feynman favoured it, so what, he has no more chance of being right than anyone does, it is the most popular therefore, and it’s veracity is likewise only founded on being their first, having a lot of people on its side, not being right. Science is not your enemy philosophy however when it comes to how things are and work is everyones. The damned interpretations are a failure all of them when it comes to science. No one knows, as you rightly say.

The only point is that what is being called the “Shut Up and Calculate” school refers to the intentional complete lack of interpreting, “Stop trying to figure out why and just use the calculations. It is MECHANICS, not physics.” It is NOT a “school of interpretation”.

Copenhagen is an entirely different story with all kinds of non-sense mostly about “if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist” and statistics, which is a perversion of a higher thought that they apparently had some access to prior.

Fair enough I think I explained what I meant there, I agree it wasn’t a perfect equation. Neither historically and given those who have used it is it a bad one. It was used as a phrase by the founders of Copenhagen in a time when there was not much agreement about it. I think that is clear enough.

Looks like I’m not the only person advising caution about this:

OK. But don’t we see one reality?
Do we see all possible states superposition?

This could easily turn into an argument about the various interpretations of quantum theory, and that’s one that I don’t want to have for numerous reasons. I’ll list a few:

  1. I barely know anything about QM
  2. You barely know anything about QM (don’t take this as an insult, please)
  3. James will likely try to get involved, and he has a history of totally misrepresenting QM (I know enough about QM to know that), and I’m just not interested in that kind of argument

You should look more into QM, do some legitimate studying of it. There are alternative explanations of our subjective experience of a single world, that don’t rely on collapse. They’re not necessarily true, but neither is ‘collapse’.

You’re going to learn very little reliable information about QM here, Skakos. From me, James, or anybody else that regularly posts here. You’re more liable to get misinformation (maybe even from me). Be careful what you believe about QM. Be double-triple-quadruple careful about anything you hear trying to connect QM to consciousness. Seriously.

Your best bet is to not believe anything about it until you’ve properly studied it, and not from shitty youtube videos like What The Bleep Do We Know, and not from poorly designed websites talking about the magical mysteries of QM.