Quantum mechanics, which describes the behavior of subatomic particles, seems to challenge common sense. Waves behave like particles; particles behave like waves. You can tell where a particle is, but not how fast it is moving--or vice versa. An electron faced with two tiny holes will travel through both at the same time, rather than one or the other. And then there is the enigma of creation ex nihilo, in which small particles appear with their so-called antiparticles, only to disappear (...) the next instant in a tiny puff of energy. Since its inception, physicists and philosophers have struggled to work out the meaning of quantum mechanics. Some, like Niels Bohr, have responded to quantum mechanics' mysteries by replacing notions of position and velocity with probabilities. Others, like Einstein and Penrose, have disagreed and think that the entire puzzle reflects not a fundamental principle of nature but our own ignorance of basic scientific processes. Sneaking a Look at God's Cards offers the general reader a deep and real understanding of the problems inherent to the interpretation of quantum mechanics, from its inception to the present. The book presents a balanced overview of current debates and explores how the theory of quantum mechanics plays itself out in the real world. Written from the perspective of a leading European physicist, the book looks extensively at ideas from both sides of the Atlantic and also considers what philosophers have contributed to the scientific discussion of this field. Sneaking a Look at God's Cards sets out what we know about the endlessly fascinating quantum world, how we came to this understanding, where we disagree, and where we are heading in our quest to comprehend the seemingly incomprehensible. (shrink)
We consider the problem of whether there are deterministic theories describing the evolution of an individual physical system in terms of the definite trajectories of its constituent particles and which stay in the same relation to quantum mechanics as Bohmian mechanics but which differ from the latter for what concerns the trajectories followed by the particles. Obviously, one has to impose on the hypothetical alternative theory precise physical requirements. We analyze various such constraints and we show step by step how (...) to meet them. This way of attacking the problem turns out to be useful also from a pedagogical point of view since it allows one to recall and focus on some relevant features of Bohm's theory. One of the central requirements we impose on the models we are going to analyze has to do with their transformation properties under the transformation of the extended Galilei group. In a context like the one we are interested in, one can put forward various requests that we refer to as physical and genuine covariance and invariance. Other fundamental requests are that the theory allows the description of isolated physical systems as well as that it leads to a solution (in the same sense as Bohmian mechanics) of the measurement problem. We show that, even when all the above conditions are taken into account, there are infinitely many inequivalent (from the point of view of the trajectories) bohmian-like theories reproducing the predictions of quantum mechanics. This raises some interesting questions about the meaning of Bohmian mechanics. (shrink)
We apply the distinction between parameter independence and outcome independence to the linear and nonlinear models of a recent nonrelativistic theory of continuous state vector reduction. We show that in the nonlinear model there is a set of realizations of the stochastic process that drives the state vector reduction for which parameter independence is violated for parallel spin components in the EPR-Bohm setup. Such a set has an appreciable probability of occurrence (≈ 1/2). On the other hand, the linear model (...) exhibits only extremely small parameter dependence effects. We investigate some specific features of the models and we recall that, as has been pointed out recently, if one wants to be able to speak of definite outcomes (or equivalently of possessed objective elements of reality) at finite times, one has to slightly change the criteria for their attribution to physical systems. The concluding section is devoted to a detailed discussion of the difficulties which one meets when one tries to take, as a starting point for the formulation of a relativistic theory, a nonrelativistic scheme which exhibits parameter dependence. Here we derive a theorem which identifies the precise sense in which the occurrence of parameter dependence forbids a genuinely relativistic generalization. Finally we show how the appreciable parameter dependence of the nonlinear model gives rise to problems with relativity, while the extremely weak parameter dependence of the linear model does not give rise to any difficulty, provided one takes into account the appropriate criteria for the attribution of definite outcomes. (shrink)
We analyse a recent paper in which an alleged devastating criticism of the so called GRW proposal to account for the objectification of the properties of macroscopic systems has been presented and we show that the author has not taken into account the precise implications of the GRW theory. This fact makes his conclusions basically wrong. We also perform a survey of measurement theory aimed to focus better on the physical and the conceptual aspects of the so-called macro-objectification problem.
A brief review of the conceptual difficulties met by the quantum formalism is presented. The main attempts to overcome these difficulties are considered and their limitations are pointed out. A recent proposal based on the assumption of the occurrence of a specific type of wave function collapse is discussed and its consequences for the above-mentioned problems are analyzed.
With reference to recently proposed theoretical models accounting for reduction in terms of a unified dynamics governing all physical processes, we analyze the problem of working out a worldview accommodating our knowledge about natural phenomena. We stress the relevant conceptual differences between the considered models and standard quantum mechanics. In spite of the fact that both theories describe systems within a genuine Hilbert space framework, the peculiar features of the spontaneous reduction models limit drastically the states which are dynamically stable. (...) This fact by itself allows one to work out an interpretation of the formalism which makes it possible to give a satisfactory description of the world in terms of the values taken by an appropriately defined mass density function in ordinary configuration space. A topology based on this function and which is radically different from the one characterizing the Hilbert space is introduced, and in terms of it the idea of similarity of macroscopic situations is precisely defined. Finally, the formalism and the interpretation are shown to yield a natural criterion for establishing the psychophysical parallelism. The conclusion is that, within the considered theories and at the nonrelativistic level, one can satisfy all sensible requirements for a completely satisfactory macro-objective description of reality. (shrink)
The formulation of a relativistic theory of state-vector reduction is proposed and analyzed, and its conceptual consequences are elucidated. In particular, a detailed discussion of stochastic invariance and of local and nonlocal aspects at the level of individual systems is presented.