Recall the famous "Shut up and calculate interpretation". Should it be called an interpretation? The content of the interpretation is "don't interpret quantum mechanics". I argue that for certain purposes it would make sense to distinguish between interpretations (like Many Worlds and Copenhagen) and non-interpretations (like Shut up and calculate), because the real interpretations actually have nontrivial content in that they characterize the(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); mechanicsof the model. What I mean is that Copenhagen and Many Worlds say "this is what the waves/particles/fields are doing, including when we're not measuring them," and thus they're making assertions about the mechanics of these objects, including individual particles. In the other branches of physics besides quantum, physicists use the term "Mechanics" to refer to descriptions that apply to individual particles, whereas they use the term "Statistical Mechanics" to refer to the descriptions that only apply to ensembles of particles. So there are only two options for theories of mechanics: they are either Mechanics or Statistical Mechanics. To make the distinction more clear, from now on I will call Statistical Mechanics by the name "Ensemble Mechanics", and I will call Mechanics by the name "Individual Mechanics".

For some background, consider the development of classical statistical mechanics, especially the contributions of Ludwig Boltzmann. Boltzmann was able to derive all the correct equations of thermodynamics, but much of his work focused on connecting the statistical/thermodynamic descriptions with the underlying individual mechanics. His efforts to relate the statistical equations to Newtonian mechanics were a kind of "interpetation"--he wanted an explanation of "this is what the individual waves/particles/fields are doing", and he actually managed to develop the classical kinetic theory of gasses which relates thermodynamic variables with classical particle motions pretty successfully, even though we now know the real underlying mechanics are quantum.

Back to my main point: is the Ensemble Interpretation an interpretation or a non-interpretation? The Ensemble Interpretation says that Quantum Mechanics is actually only applicable to ensembles of identically prepared waves/particles/fields. So in this interpretation it would be better to call the theory "Quantum Ensemble Mechanics" rather than "Quantum Individual Mechanics". But we could ask the same question as Boltzmann, "what are the underlying individual mechanics that give rise to quantum ensemble mechanics?" The ensemble interpretation offers nothing to answer that question. For that question, it is equivalent to Shut up and calculate. The ensemble interpretation would likewise fail to answer the afformentioned question "what are the individual waves/particles/fields doing?"

However, Copenhagen and Many Worlds state that quantum mechanics is actually Quantum Individual Mechanics; i.e. it is the fundamental rule for what each and every individual particle is doing. So they actually do answer interpretive questions.

For this reason I think the Ensemble interpretation is a non-interpretation like Shut up and calculate.

For the record, though, I am not advocating any interpretations over any others. There is no scientific evidence for or against any of them, so it is perfectly legitimate to believe Ensemble, Many Worlds, Copenhagen, Shut up and calculate, or any of the others. In this post I am only attempting to characterize and group together these different alternatives.

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# Interpretations vs. Non-Interpretations (e.g. Ensemble)

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