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Wednesday, December 29, 2004


Mike sent me an incredibly interesting link on quantum objectivity, and the possibility of what they're calling quantum darwinism. It's really quite cool and quantum mechanics is possibly the most elegant painting of the physical world that's been created to date. But I think they're taking it a little bit far.

The Los Alamos team define a property of a system as 'objective', if that property is simultaneously evident to many observers who can find out about it without knowing exactly what they are looking for and without agreeing in advance how they'll look for it.

This is, I think, why most people don't understand physics. Ask yourself: what would you define as a property of objectivity? If we're talking about even things which have semantic definition due to contextual definition (ie: color), one still has to have the belief that the thing named (if not the name itself) would exist absent observation, or at least the collaborative of observation. There have been numerous epistomologies created to say that reality exists only at the cusp of observation, but these are, generally speaking, just a more complex and erudite version of "Nyah, can't prove it." The problem seems to be that the language game physicists use is different in kind than the one most people do, and the line gets blurry when people don't understand that.

Mathematics and physics get so much credit as navigators of truth. It seems a tragedy that they're understood as gospel rather than as the language and describors of what we observe. There's no difference in principle between a mathematical proof that shows pointer states to be significant and "true" in the sense of physics and a linguistic description of a car moving down the street. Both are just another way of elucidating a certain kind of situation, and neither is more "true" than the other in the sense that most people mean it. A travel magazine can be just as "true" as a physics textbook, and it's unfortunate that this isn't more widely taught.

cranked out at 11:45 AM | |

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