Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics

  1. Jun 5, 2015 #1
    What exactly are interpretations of quantum mechanics? Is only one of them correct?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 5, 2015 #2

    atyy

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    In quantum mechanics, a classical observer and a quantum system are needed. It doesn't seem possible to describe the entire universe as a quantum system without an observer. How can this be, since the observer himself can be described as a quantum system observed by another observer?

    Should there be a theory in which one doesn't need an observer who stands apart from the system? What sort of theories can reproduce the successful predictions of quantum mechanics and get rid of the observer who stands apart? The various possible answers to these questions are the different interpretations of quantum mechanics.

    Some jargon: these questions are generally known as the "measurement problem".
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2015
  4. Jun 5, 2015 #3
    I would say there would be only one correct interpretation of QM -- which one, out of the many available now, is very hard to say.

    I would wait for macroscopic superposition to be tested, as well as the Leggett-Garg inequality (as well as experiments similar to the thought experiment in 'Sneaking a Look at God's Cards' pgs 373-376), to see what is left on the table. Also if we can find testable predictions that differ between Bohmian Mechanics and standard Quantum Mechanics, that would be a bonus.
     
  5. Jun 5, 2015 #4

    atyy

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Surely, there have to be at least 2! Unless we count Copenhagen as not an interpretation?

    Or could it be that Copenhagen, and Copenhagen alone is correct - no hidden variables, no retrocausation, no many-worlds?
     
  6. Jun 5, 2015 #5
    What I don't understand is how some physicists say that the many worlds interpreatation is their favorite. Is there any evidence to support it? Why does it seem like they are just picking which one they like rather than which one is most likely to be correct?
     
  7. Jun 5, 2015 #6

    Nugatory

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    All interpretations predict the same results, so there's no way of running an experiment to decide which one is right. Thus, we are free to choose whichever interpretation we find most tasteful - and people are always going to disagree on matters of taste. More than once I've said "De gustibus not dusputandum est", and more than once the mentors have closed a thread because it has degenerated into an argument about whose interpretation is better-looking.
     
  8. Jun 5, 2015 #7
    Copenhagen, as I understand, splits the universe into two: one where quantum rules hold, and the macroscopic world where classical mechanics holds. But if we combine a macroscopic apparatus, which is evolving deterministically, with a microscopic system, then by virtue of that the microscopic system being measured has had its measurement result already determined (because the result is shown on the classical system which has what is going to show already determined at the beginning of the universe).

    Please correct me if I am wrong in saying Copenhagen splits the world into two realms.
     
  9. Jun 5, 2015 #8
    But how is the idea that there are multiple universes a matter of taste? That sounds like an idea that is objectively right or wrong.
     
  10. Jun 5, 2015 #9

    Nugatory

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Here are two hypotheses:
    1) There is one universe.
    2) There are multiple universes, but it is impossible for anything that happens in one universe to ever affect anything that happens or can be observed in any other universe; thus, it is impossible, even in principle, to construct an experiment whose outcome will be different from the outcome predicted by hypothesis #1. Nothing that we ever do will make the other universes show themselves to even the tiniest degree.

    How would we ever determine which of these hypotheses is objectively right or wrong? Everything is completely the same whether #1 is right or #2 is right. The only reason for preferring hypothesis #2 is that it avoids an annoying wart in the mathematical formalism... and as a matter of personal taste, some people find the wart less unsightly than the assumption of multiple universes, while other people find the idea of multiple universes more appealing than this ugly wart.
     
  11. Jun 5, 2015 #10

    bhobba

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    The point with all these interpretations is no one has figured out how to experimentally distinguish between them - and that includes many worlds.

    That being the case the one you choose is purely a matter of taste.

    The value of studying interpretations is it deepens your understanding of what the formalism without an actual interpretation says. This is quite interesting because at first brush you might, for example, think QM isn't deterministic. Yet we have a number of interpretations where it is. QM is actually silent on many things people like to think it says.

    Yet another interesting thing is discussion about interpretations of QM is to a large extent a discussion about the meaning of probability:
    http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/bayes.html

    Thanks
    Bill
     
  12. Jun 5, 2015 #11

    atyy

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    I don't think they are necessarily matters of taste. Some would say that Many-Worlds is falsifiable, because it predicts no deviations from quantum mechanics, eg. Sean Caroll: "There are other silly objections to EQM, of course. The most popular is probably the complaint that it’s not falsifiable. That truly makes no sense. It’s trivial to falsify EQM — just do an experiment that violates the Schrödinger equation or the principle of superposition, which are the only things the theory assumes. Witness a dynamical collapse, or find a hidden variable." http://www.preposterousuniverse.com...ion-of-quantum-mechanics-is-probably-correct/

    Similarly, Bohmian Mechanics predicts deviations from quantum mechanics, in the same way that we expect there to be non-equilibrium deviations from classical statistical mechanics. It's basically as falsifiable as string theory :) Just as there's minute hope for stringy effects like large extra dimensions at the LHC, there are proposals for rather large Bohmian effects: http://arxiv.org/abs/1306.1579.

    There are also discussions as to how one might test theories in which collapse is real: http://arxiv.org/abs/1410.0270.

    So interpretations is really beyond the standard model, and the Bell theorem is analogous to the Weinberg-Witten theorem.
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2015
  13. Jun 6, 2015 #12

    vanhees71

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    2016 Award

    If you take the right flavor of Copenhagen (no collapse, i.e., the minimal statistical flavor!) I also think it's the only correct one we have at the moment. Whether or not QT is complete, I don't dare to decide. I tend to say it's incomplete, because if you follow the minimal statistical interpretation, it doesn't make sense to apply the notion of a quantum state to the entire universe, because you can never validate a probabilistic statement on a system which by definition can be realized only once, which for sure is the case for the entire universe.
     
  14. Jun 6, 2015 #13
    Of course. And it is quite uncertain (and even not very probable) that we have already found it.

    Which is the correct one, remains an open question, which will be probably answered only when a more fundamental, subquantum theory is found. This subquantum theory would have a quantum limit or quantum approximation, and the interpretation which is the closest one to this limit will be the correct one.
     
  15. Jun 6, 2015 #14
    Here I would disagree. Of course, interpretations cannot be experimentally distinguished, but some can be rejected as nonsensical. This is the case of many worlds. SCNR
     
  16. Jun 7, 2015 #15
    why can't bohmian mechanics pilot wave be guided by true random quantum potential? why does it have to be deterministic? how rules would be broken if you combine BM with true randomness?
     
  17. Jun 7, 2015 #16

    bhobba

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    You could probably develop such a theory. Want to work out the details and post it here?

    If you find that hard then maybe that is the answer to your query.

    Thanks
    Bill
     
  18. Jun 7, 2015 #17
    Why not just consider it random a priori? Quantum mechanic like Demystifier treat it as like classical nut and bolt.. that's what car mechanics do.. this is why he believes determinism rule the universe and we could predict every occurrence for the million of years like the name of his 1000th grandchildren.. but can't we just go beyond that and just accept randomness dictates the pilot wave or quantum potential?
     
  19. Jun 7, 2015 #18

    bhobba

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Because that will not work with BM - the particle is guided deterministically by it. You need a detailed theory with it in from the start and associated equation that gives QM. BTW I have no idea how to do it.

    Thanks
    Bill
     
  20. Jun 7, 2015 #19

    Nugatory

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    This would be a good time to remind everyone that original question in this thread was "what are interpretations and is there consensus about which one is correct?". Is the OP still around, and is he sorry he asked?
     
  21. Jun 7, 2015 #20
    There is already something similar - Nelsonian stochastics. And, given the recent interest in epistemic models for the wave function, an interesting variant of it developed by A. Caticha -- Entropic Dynamics, Time and Quantum Theory, J. Phys. A44:225303, 2011, arxiv:1005.2357
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook




Similar Discussions: Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics
Loading...