Does the MWI require "creation" of multiple worlds?

• A
A. Neumaier
Science Advisor
I don't understand that statement at all. There is no additional interpretation involved. This view simply says that quantum mechanics is a way of predicting probabilities for macroscopic states. There is no additional assumption about measurements.

What I'm claiming is that the result of a measurement is always macroscopic. You produce a pointer pointing in one direction or another. You have a visible dot on a photographic plate. You have a click on a Geiger counter. These are all simply macroscopic facts about the world. There is no need to make a distinction between measurement results and other kinds of macroscopic facts.
What you say here sounds just like my thermal interpretation: Each measurement result is macroscopic, hence a property of the state of the measurement device at the time of measurement.

But which property should it be if the measurement device is described by quantum mechanics (and hence, according to MWI, only by a wave function)? Clearly, this property must be a function of the wave functtion (the only thing that exists in MWI). But what to call measurement result is left unanswered by MWI and requires another interpretation.

You give no mechanism that makes the macroscopic state behave such that measurement is possible - i.e., that it correctly reflects in the measurement apparatus a property of the microscopic state of the measured system. You need to postulate (and this is the extra interpretive step) that the macroscopic state is a classical probabilistic state, and you need to justify why the observed (objective) frequencies, measured on individual systems with their individual states produce the correct probabilities. MWI doesn't do this. It gets (like shut-up-and-calculate) a probablility distribution by Born's rule, but...

It does not justify why this probability distribution is actually observable as relative frequency in the single world experimentally accessible to our culture. Splitting wor(l)ds does not help the least for that!

I think that's true with every interpretation. None of them really tie things down.
This current dilemma is called the measurement problem. Only tying things down can ever resolve it.
of the emergent worlds
No worlds ever emerge - otherwise there would have to be a dynamics specifying how they emerge. The emergence is only in the head of the believer.

Last edited:
atyy
Science Advisor
Given the issue I just addressed in my previous post, this is probably not the best choice of terminology.
No, your previous post is not correct. If MWI does not have Copenhagen observers, then MWI is not a correct interpretation.

The only uncontroversial interpretation of quantum mechanics at present is the Copenhagen interpretation - which of course has the measurement problem. An interpretation of quantum mechanics that is a conceptually viable solution of the measurement problem must contain Copenhagen. It is the same as general relativity containing Newtonian gravity.

A. Neumaier
Science Advisor
The only uncontroversial interpretation of quantum mechanics at present is the Copenhagen interpretation
It is just you who considers it uncontroversial. There wouldn't be the many alternative interpretations if Copenhagen were uncontroversial!

atyy
Science Advisor
It is just you who considers it uncontroversial. There wouldn't be the many alternative interpretations if Copenhagen were uncontroversial!
Wrong. It is uncontroversial that Copenhagen has the measurement problem, which is why there are many attempts at interpretations that solve the problem. However, none of the other interpretations are uncontroversially solutions for all of quantum mechanics. Yet is uncontroversial that quantum mechanics is a very successful physics theory - that lack of controversy is based on the Copenhagen interpretation.

A. Neumaier
Science Advisor
Yet is uncontroversial that quantum mechanics is a very successful physics theory - that lack of controversy is based on the Copenhagen interpretation.
No. That quantum mechanics is a very successful physics theory is based on shut-up-and calculate, which leaves the interpretation completely open, and hence adaptive to the situation at hand.

atyy
Science Advisor
No. That quantum mechanics is a very successful physics theory is based on shut-up-and calculate, which leaves the interpretation completely open, and hence adaptive to the situation at hand.
Shut up and calculate is what is meant by Copenhagen.

bhobba
Mentor
It is just you who considers it uncontroversial. There wouldn't be the many alternative interpretations if Copenhagen were uncontroversial!
Bohr and Einstein were not fools. Einstein did not come up with his own interpretation without reason. Dirac strangely I think had the best view of all, although not actually an interpretation:
http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.485.9188&rep=rep1&type=pdf

I have written elsewhere I have read it a couple of times now and the more I read it the more I like it - I think Dirac is on the right track.

Thanks
Bill

martinbn
Science Advisor
It is the same as general relativity containing Newtonian gravity.
Well, general relativity does not contain Newtonian gravity.

bhobba
Mentor
Shut up and calculate is what is meant by Copenhagen.
Not quite - there is a bit more to it. It's something like the following 6 principles:

1. A system is completely described by a wave function ψ, representing an observer's subjective knowledge of the system. (Heisenberg)
2. The description of nature is essentially probabilistic, with the probability of an event related to the square of the amplitude of the wave function related to it. (The Born rule, after Max Born)
3. It s not possible to know the value of all the properties of the system at the same time; those properties that are not known with precision must be described by probabilities. (Heisenberg's uncertainty principle)
4. Matter exhibits a wave–particle duality. An experiment can show the particle-like properties of matter, or the wave-like properties; in some experiments both of these complementary viewpoints must be invoked to explain the results, according to the complementarity principle of Niels Bohr.
5. Measuring devices are essentially classical devices, and measure only classical properties such as position and momentum.
6. The quantum mechanical description of large systems will closely approximate the classical description. (The correspondence principle of Bohr and Heisenberg)

The link I gave shows Dirac had a more subtle view of 1 than Heisenberg, and some of the others are also open to debate.

Thanks
Bill

No worlds ever emerge - otherwise there would have to be a dynamics specifying how they emerge.
That is palpably false.
The emergence is only in the head of the believer.
That's verging on being insulting. Please stick to analysing the physical theory before implying that its
proponents are delusional !

Last edited:
A. Neumaier
Science Advisor
Shut up and calculate is what is meant by Copenhagen.
Then you should say so, and not call it Copenhagen. Otherwise nobody would guess that when you say Copenhagen, shut-up-and calculate is meant.

The usage of the term ''Copenhagen interpretation'' is very ambiguous, and your particular usage as expressed in the above quote seems to be unique to you.

The Wikipedia article on this says (in my opinion correctly):
Wikipedia said:
According to an opponent of the Copenhagen interpretation, John G. Cramer, "Despite an extensive literature which refers to, discusses, and criticizes the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, nowhere does there seem to be any concise statement which defines the full Copenhagen interpretation."

There is no uniquely definitive statement of the Copenhagen interpretation. It consists of the views developed by a number of scientists and philosophers during the second quarter of the 20th Century. Bohr and Heisenberg never totally agreed on how to understand the mathematical formalism of quantum mechanics. Bohr once distanced himself from what he considered to be Heisenberg's more subjective interpretation.

Different commentators and researchers have associated various ideas with it. Asher Peres remarked that very different, sometimes opposite, views are presented as "the Copenhagen interpretation" by different authors.
And then they list lots of stuff not belonging to shut-up-and calculate as ''basic principles generally accepted as part of the interpretation''.

atyy
Science Advisor
https://physicstoday.scitation.org/doi/10.1063/1.1768652
Could Feynman Have Said This?
N. David Mermin

"...I declared myself to be among those who feel uncomfortable when asked to articulate what we really think about the quantum theory, adding that “If I were forced to sum up in one sentence what the Copenhagen interpretation says to me, it would be “Shut up and calculate!”

In the intervening years, I’ve come to hold a milder and more nuanced opinion of the Copenhagen view, but that should be the subject of another column. ..."

bhobba
Mentor
Well, general relativity does not contain Newtonian gravity.
Martin I think you need to elaborate it a bit more - I think I know what you are trying to say but would rather you say it.

Thsnks
Bill

A. Neumaier
Science Advisor
https://physicstoday.scitation.org/doi/10.1063/1.1768652
Could Feynman Have Said This?
N. David Mermin

"...I declared myself to be among those who feel uncomfortable when asked to articulate what we really think about the quantum theory, adding that “If I were forced to sum up in one sentence what the Copenhagen interpretation says to me, it would be “Shut up and calculate!”

In the intervening years, I’ve come to hold a milder and more nuanced opinion of the Copenhagen view, but that should be the subject of another column. ..."
Ok. So in 1989 there was a second person equating Copenhagen with “Shut up and calculate!” (qualifying it as an uncomfortable forcing into one sentence), but by 2004 Mermin changed his views, as your citation shows.

So since 2004 you are alone with your views - especially since you declared in this thread the collapse to be part of your version of Copenhagen, whereas it is explicitly not part of “Shut up and calculate!”

bhobba
Mentor
The usage of the term ''Copenhagen interpretation'' is very ambiguous, and your particular usage as expressed in the above quote seems to be unique to you.
Indeed it is. As Atty knows even Ballentine got it wrong - or at least didn't express himself well. The 6 I gave is just my view of it - but what a Copenhagenist like Bohr or Heisenberg would say I don't really know.

I actually think it has morphed a bit over the years and Decoherent Histories, which claims to be Copenhagen done right would be a better view of it. But I remember a Copenhagenist that posted here at one time was very against that view.

Thanks
Bill

atyy
Science Advisor
Ok. So in 1989 there was a second person equating Copenhagen with “Shut up and calculate!” (qualifying it as an uncomfortable forcing into one sentence), but by 2004 Mermin changed his views, as your citation shows.

So since 2004 you are alone with your views - especially since you declared in this thread the collapse to be part of your version of Copenhagen, whereas it is explicitly not part of “Shut up and calculate!”
Well, then there is no big bang either!

martinbn
Science Advisor
Martin I think you need to elaborate it a bit more - I think I know what you are trying to say but would rather you say it.

Thsnks
Bill
Well, it is a bit off topic, and I, being a curmudgeon, had to complain.

Of course the two theories in some limiting cases give very close predictions. But they (the theories) are so different that I wouldn't say that one contains the other. An analogy, if you look near a point on a parabola it looks very close to a straight line, but I disagree with the statement that a parabola contains a straight line.

However, none of the other interpretations are uncontroversially solutions for all of quantum mechanics.
1+1=2 will be controversial to some people. So short of quasi-philosophical objections, what solutions does the interpretation referenced in this thread fail to deliver? The content of what MWI says, I mean, not the fanciful name given to it.

martinbn
Science Advisor
1+1=2 will be controversial to some people. So short of quasi-philosophical objections, what solutions does the interpretation referenced in this thread fail to deliver? The content of what MWI says, I mean, not the fanciful name given to it.
My guess is that atyy is referring to solutions of the measurement problem. An interpretation may solve it, but it will introduce other difficulties.

A. Neumaier
Science Advisor
https://physicstoday.scitation.org/doi/10.1063/1.1768652
Could Feynman Have Said This?
N. David Mermin

"...I declared myself to be among those who feel uncomfortable when asked to articulate what we really think about the quantum theory, adding that “If I were forced to sum up in one sentence what the Copenhagen interpretation says to me, it would be “Shut up and calculate!”

In the intervening years, I’ve come to hold a milder and more nuanced opinion of the Copenhagen view, but that should be the subject of another column. ..."
by 2004 Mermin changed his views, as your citation shows.
Later in the paper you cited, he is even more explicit about this:
David Mermin said:
Until quite recently, I had no memory of ever having written such a childishly brusque dismissal of such an exquisitely subtle point of view, much less of having published it in so widely read a venue.
Thus, though Mermin had coined the term “Shut up and calculate!”, he now explictly distinguishes it from the Copenhagen views.

bhobba
Mentor
My guess is that atyy is referring to solutions of the measurement problem. An interpretation may solve it, but it will introduce other difficulties.
That's true. And if that's what is trying to be said then of course I agree.

Thanks
Bill

Last edited:
My guess is that atyy is referring to solutions of the measurement problem. An interpretation may solve it, but it will introduce other difficulties.
Well difficulties are there to be overcome. The implication of atyy's remark is that they are insuperable. I query whether such difficulties exist.

martinbn
Science Advisor
Well difficulties are there to be overcome. The implication of atyy's remark is that they are insuperable. I query whether such difficulties exist.
My view about interpretations changes all the time. Sometimes I think that if a problem exists in some interpretations and not in others, then it is not a problem. And it doesn't matter if there could be or not an interpretation without any problems. In a way one can think of the interpretations of the theory as coordinate charts of a manifold, say a sphere. In some coordinates a point of the sphere will not be covered, in others it will, but in those charts other points will not be, so that may seem like a problem. But in the case of the manifold there is no problem.

bhobba
Mentor
Well difficulties are there to be overcome. The implication of atyy's remark is that they are insuperable. I query whether such difficulties exist.
That's not what Atty is saying - but best if he says it himself.

Formally there are no difficulties with QM - its what it means that's at issue and what the various interpretations grapple with. They all have problems - every single one of them.

I think Dr Neumaier has a good point - QFT may indeed be a better place for interpretations. I do not know enough of his thermal interpretation to comment on its specifics.

As a mentor I must point out this thread is getting off topic - can we please get back to its original intent?

Thanks
Bill

A. Neumaier
Science Advisor
can we please get back to its original intent?
Well, to answer the original question one first needs clear definitions of the concepts involved:
1. What precisely constitutes a world in MWI?
2. Are these worlds just ''points of view'' (independent of reality), or are they dynamical objects in time?
3. What precisely constitutes a split of one of these worlds? What triggers a split?
4. When precisely do these splits happen? Do they happen at all? Is it observer-dependent?
5. For an observer as a quantum object in the MWI for the whole universe, how is its perceived world characterized among all possible worlds?
6. Do different observers perceive different worlds? If yes, why?
7. What object inside a quantum universe described by MWI qualifies as an observer? What as a measurement? What constitutes a measurement result?
Precise statements about such basic terms, all stated in terms of the wave function of the universe - which is all that evolves, are needed since a reference to an external classical world is not meaningful in MWI - its virtue is supposedly that it applies to everything!

Lacking precise statements makes a useful discussion impossible.

Last edited: