What is Interpretations: Definition and 143 Discussions

An interpretation of quantum mechanics is an attempt to explain how the mathematical theory of quantum mechanics "corresponds" to reality. Although quantum mechanics has held up to rigorous and extremely precise tests in an extraordinarily broad range of experiments (not one prediction from quantum mechanics has been found to be contradicted by experiments), there exist a number of contending schools of thought over their interpretation. These views on interpretation differ on such fundamental questions as whether quantum mechanics is deterministic or stochastic, which elements of quantum mechanics can be considered real, and what the nature of measurement is, among other matters.
Despite nearly a century of debate and experiment, no consensus has been reached among physicists and philosophers of physics concerning which interpretation best "represents" reality.

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  1. P

    I Is QM generally believed to be able to describe Newtonian mechanics?

    I have a hard time to grok QM. I wonder if it is my fault. Probably QM and all the interpretations are incapable to explain the world as we observe it (either in Newtonian mechanics, or in Special Relativity), not counting gravitation, also not allowing "objective collapse" (which would be a...
  2. B

    I Many-Worlds and Testable Claims

    Among the most well-known interpretations of Quantum Mechanics is that of the "Many Worlds," in which all possible outcomes of a measured quantum event occur simultaneously in some alternative universe. Now, I realize there is some manner of debate as to whether or not the different...
  3. K

    I Are different interpretations of probability equivalent?

    There appear to be at least three concepts of probability. In my words frequencies in a history (theretical and measured) reasonable expectation propensity to outcomes There may be more. I am wondering whether these are actually different meanings, which could affect how probability is used in...
  4. Morbert

    I Minimal vs Instrumental vs Ensemble

    I've recently had a look back at the review by Home and Whitaker as well as Asher Peres's book "Quantum Theory: Concepts and Methods". Both "minimal interpretation" and "ensemble interpretation" refer to categories of interpretations rather than interpretations themselves. Specifically, you can...
  5. R

    I Multiverse theory -- Why don't strange things happen here sometimes?

    If I have a brittle piece of rock and hit it with a hammer, can a round ball split of in some universe, verses in our universe a piece with rugged ends always form? If so, why do we always, in our universe seem to get "expected" results? Why dont strange things happen here sometimes? Why is our...
  6. S

    Exploring the Limitations of QM Interpretations in Fiction

    I recently finished reading a current novel whose main plot device depended on the Many Worlds interpretation as well as Observer-Created Reality. I wasn't too put off because every science fiction - type story is allowed a certain degree of temporary suspension of disbelief. As I plowed on...
  7. PeterDonis

    A Can the double slit experiment distinguish between QM interpretations?

    This paper claims that the double slit experiment can be used to distinguish between QM interpretations: https://arxiv.org/abs/2301.02641 IMO, the paper goes astray right at the start, when it points out that time is a parameter in the Schrodinger equation, not an operator, so that equation...
  8. Demystifier

    A Interpretations of the Aharonov-Bohm effect

    It was originally argued by Aharonov and Bohm, and by many others, including me in https://arxiv.org/abs/2205.05986 , that the AB effect is most naturally interpreted as the argument that the gauge potential is "real" ontic entity. On the other hand, many, including @vanhees71 , argue that it...
  9. PeterDonis

    A Interpretations of the No Communication Theorem

    Moderator's note: Spin-off from previous thread due to topic change. Not in the sense in which it is used in the no communication theorem. That sense is basically the information theoretic sense, which in no way requires humans to process or even be aware of the information.
  10. C

    I Non-Homogeneous Robin Boundary conditions and Interpretations of Signs

    I have been solving the constant coefficient 1D advection-diffusion equation ##\frac{\partial c}{\partial t} + v\frac{\partial c}{\partial x} = D\frac{\partial^2 c}{\partial x^2}## on ##0<x<L,t>0## with a variety of robin BC's. Namely $$vc + D\frac{\partial c}{\partial x} = J^f ~~at~~ x=L $$...
  11. M

    I Measurement problem in simple experiment

    I’m trying to understand the measurement problem using the simplest experiment I can think of--passing a particle P through a 50/50 beam splitter S, sending it down “path A” or “path B” with equal probability. Each path has a detector that can tell us if P was in that path. The detectors...
  12. J O Linton

    I Spooky action at a distance and various interpretations of QT

    By analysing a simple experiment involving entangled photons I wish to explore which, if any, of the various interpretations of QT violate locality (i.e. involve spooky action at a distance) Consider the following idealised scenario: A source S produces entangled pairs of photons A and B such...
  13. Lynch101

    I Exploring QM Interpretations: Copenhagen & Blockworld

    Reading the very interesting thread that @Demystifier started, I was hoping to get a better understanding of certain ideas. I don't think these questions would be suitable for that particular thread. The first such question pertains to the following exchange between DarMM and Demystifier. Are...
  14. U

    Questions on field operator in QFT and interpretations

    For a real scalar field, I have the following expression for the field operator in momentum space. $$\tilde{\phi}(t,\vec{k})=\frac{1}{\sqrt{2\omega}}\left(a_{\vec{k}}e^{-i\omega t}+a^{\dagger}_{-\vec{k}}e^{i\omega t}\right)$$ Why is it that I can discard the phase factors to produce the time...
  15. nomadreid

    Conflicting interpretations of rosemary oil study

    The journal in question is the International Journal of Neuroscience, which appears to be a respectable peer-reviewed journal. I give a link to a reproduction in a secondary source, with a note that I am not addressing the more subjective "mood" part of the paper...
  16. haushofer

    I Diffeomorphism Invariance, Passive/Active Interpretations GR Insight

    Dear all, in my current week of holidays, where all the Corona-dust settles down a bit, I came across some personal notes I made a while ago about the meaning of diffeomorphism invariance, the difference between passive and active coordinate transformations, and the notion of background...
  17. M

    I Locally mediated interpretations with future input dependence

    Just read this paper: https://arxiv.org/pdf/1906.04313.pdf At first it had me thinking that locally mediated, future dependent interpretations are the way to go. Yet it admits these seem to be rare relative to other types of interpretations. Any good intuition or reasons why this is rare in...
  18. Charlie K Trout

    I Explore Alternative Interpretations of Special Relativity

    A few years ago, a nuclear engineering professor explained to the class that the widely accepted theory between the relationship between space, time, and velocity may be wrong. At the time, I didn't think much about it since he had a lot of out-there beliefs and he seemed to be a bit of a...
  19. J

    I How the Born rule is understood in various interpretations?

    While intuitively we use 1) 3rd Kolmogorov axiom: probability of alternative of disjoint events is sum of their probabilities somehow QM allows to use instead: 2) Born rule: probability of alternative of disjoint events is proportional to square of sum of their amplitudes. This nonintuitive...
  20. S

    I Interpretations of phase space in Dynamical Systems Theory

    In Dynamical Systems Theory, a point in phase space is interpreted as the state of some system and the system does not exist in two states simultaneously. Can some phase spaces be given an additional interpretation as describing a field of values at different locations that exist...
  21. G

    I Equivalence of interpretations in more elaborate setups

    Hi. One of the first things I was told about quantum interpretations was that they are all equivalent, i.e. make the same experimentally testable predictions. This seems reasonable for simple experiments whose mathematical description is straightforward, like preparation – unitary evolution –...
  22. Lynch101

    I Anti-realist Interpretations of QM

    Having discussed interpretations of QM here and elsewhere, to only a basic level, I have encountered proponents of what is described as "anti-realism". This is not to be confused with "non-realism", which might be equated with simple instrumentalism or "shut up and calculate". To try and...
  23. S

    I Do all mental states really exist in some universe in Many-Minds?

    According to the Many Minds interpretation of quantum mechanics (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Many-minds_interpretation), the distinction between worlds in the Many Worlds interpretation should be made at the level of the mind of an individual observer. I have read that, in this case, each...
  24. Lynch101

    I Understanding the Fundamental Difference in Interpretations of QM

    I was originally going to start a thread on individual interpretations of quantum mechanics to try to understand them better, but after reading this article by @PeterDonis it might make more sense to use that as a starting point and try to understand how the different interpretations fit into...
  25. A

    MHB Write on Interpretations of integration (give examples).

    write on Interpretations of integration (give examples).
  26. F

    I Superposition status in the different interpretations.

    It is not clear to me what is the status of superposition in each interpretation. For instance, if I google I don't get much talk about it. Is superposition tied to probability or can be considered as separate.
  27. G

    I Do collapse interpretations respect conservation laws?

    Hi. As far as I know, during the unitary evolution of quantum states, conservation laws are respected. Obviously this can't be true for the measurement process, if we only look at the system and exclude the observer. Now the simple explanation I've heard about this is that in quantum mechanics...
  28. A

    I Interpretations of QM vs. statistical physics as an "interpretation"?

    Personally I tend to believe all (or almost all) of the interpretations of QM are unsatisfactory simply because they tell us something that we already know but do not tell us something we don't know. That is, they do not predict new phenomena or principles or properties of matter, etc. that can...
  29. Quantum Alchemy

    I Why can't there be a Universal Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics?

    Why can't there be a Universal Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics? If you unite Copenhagen and Many Worlds than all other interpretations will fall under the umbrella of a Universal Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. The main problem with interpretations seems to be the role of the observer...
  30. entropy1

    I Is Einstein Causality Proven in Preferred Frame SR?

    If MWI and collapse-theory are both possible interpretations of QM, then both of them are not a fact, right? If MWI is a fact then collapse isn't and vice versa, you could say the least. So, shut up and calculate, i.e. the minimal interpretation, makes no inference about the realness of these...
  31. Demystifier

    A Implications of quantum foundations on interpretations of relativity

    Physicists often discuss interpretations of quantum mechanics (QM), but they rarely discuss interpretations of relativity. Which is strange, because the interpretations of quantum non-locality are closely related to interpretations of relativity. The field of interpretations of relativity is...
  32. Greg Bernhardt

    I Quantum Interpretations and Foundations Guidelines

    Cliff Notes Version Quantum Interpretations and Foundations guidelines All PF guidelines applicable to any forum apply here, plus the following. Questions in initial posts of threads may cite unpublished textbooks or pre-publication papers such as ArXiv, subject as always to review of sources...
  33. DarMM

    Quantum Interpretations of QM in different countries

    More a sociological question. I was talking to a former Japanese colleague by email recently and he mentioned that the Copenhagen interpretation is almost universally accepted there. I already knew Huzihiro Araki and many other researchers from Japan in mathematical field theory take a fairly...
  34. T

    I What makes the interpretations of Quantum Mechanics so important?

    How valid is the statement "It means physics is ultimately concerned with descriptions of the real world" in the realm of QM? Heretic question, what is "real" besides the outcome of the measurement?
  35. A

    I Quantum Interpretations of this optical effect

    I generally stay away from discussion about the interpretations of QM, but just for this time I would like to know what's the point of view from Bohmian, many worlds, thermal and other interpretations of the following: https://arxiv.org/abs/1305.0168
  36. C

    A QM Interpretations as applied to QFT

    [Moderator's Note: Thread spun off from previous discussion.] MWI and the TSVF are both easily generalized to QFT. One only needs to define the decoherence basis for the fields (see https://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/9510021) and then one simply interprets the decoherent histories as ontological...
  37. Auto-Didact

    A Smolin: Realistic and anti-realistic interpretations of QM

    SPOILER WARNING: If you don't want to be spoiled about the book, stop reading now! I just finished the new book. First I would recommend the book to anyone who reads or takes part in discussions on QM foundations. Briefly put, Smolin offers a simple classification of almost all...
  38. A. Neumaier

    I Measurement results and two conflicting interpretations

    The following two examples illustrate the differences between the thermal interpretation and Born's statistical interpretation for the interpretation of measurement results. 1. Consider some piece of digital equipment with 3 digit display measuring some physical quantity ##X## using ##N##...
  39. A. Neumaier

    I The thermal interpretation of quantum physics

    A complete description of the thermal interpretation of quantum physics can be found in my just finished papers (for the bare bones, see Section 2.5 of Part II) Foundations of quantum physics I. A critique of the tradition, Foundations of quantum physics II. The thermal interpretation...
  40. Demystifier

    Quantum interpretations reduced to absurd, in a nutshell

    Let us introduce a new rule. You can criticize any QM interpretation you want, but to avoid too much philosophy the argument must be extremely concise. For definiteness, it may contain maximally 2 sentences, 1 equation and 1 reference. The general rule is - less is more. Here is my take. In...
  41. learn.steadfast

    I Interpretations of diffusion in Quantum Mechanics.

    Recently, I've been told I was wrong concerning the nature of stationary states and diffusion being related. Even though I pointed out to the people involved that I was merely paraphrasing Max Born, who was apparently quoting the same idea as Linus Pauling. No one has been able to tell me...
  42. R

    Drawing the line between the Pilotwave and Stochastic Interpretations

    Greetings… I requested some books that deals with the different interpretations of QM almost a year ago and I read lots of them. My favourite was Laloe's (so whoever recommended it, extra thanks for you). I noticed something interesting in the Bohmian mechanism, a common misconception if I may...
  43. J

    I Quantum Suicide: Exploring Copenhagen & Many Worlds Interpretations

    Is it possible to modify the original quantum suicide experiment in a way in which rather than dying you are put to sleep for someone to distinguish between many worlds and Copenhagen interpretations?
  44. J

    A Are Modal interpretations emprically Lorentz invariant?

    Modal interpretations are a class of realist non local hidden variable theories. However, they cannot be made fundamentally lorentz invariant. However, neither can bohmian mechanics but BH is still emprically lorentz invariant. So are modal interpretation empirically lorentz invariant as well?
  45. N

    B Gravitational Event Horizon: Two Interpretations

    I would like to know which of the following interpretations of what happens when a local observer with a non-zero mass (i.e. not a photon) crosses the event horizon of a black hole: 1. Not only does the falling observer not *notice* anything strange (because his/her clocks run proportionally...
  46. MathematicalPhysicist

    A Is GR fundamentally different from QM's interpretations?

    As far as I can tell QM has several interpretations, but GR doesn't have such a diversity, am I correct? Why is that? Will a theory of QGR suffer also from the disease of QM and will yield several interpretations?
  47. A. Neumaier

    I Classical chaos and quantum mechanics

    It is the resolution given by my thermal interpretation, and this resolution is valid (independent of the thermal interpretation) even without being accepted. Bell assumes that measurement outcomes follow strictly and with infinite precision Born's rule for a von Neumann measurement. But the...
  48. PeterDonis

    Insights The Fundamental Difference in Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics - Comments

    Greg Bernhardt submitted a new PF Insights post The Fundamental Difference in Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics Continue reading the Original PF Insights Post.
  49. J

    A Hawking and Unruh effects -- Differences and interpretations

    Hello, I am a bit confused on the relation between the Hawking effect(radiation) and the Unruh effect. What I understood with my little knowledge is that the Hawking temperature is the temperature that is emitted at the event horizon of a black hole as measured by an observer at infinite spatial...