Philosophical Musings by T L Hurst
by T L Hurst
Philosophy and Quantum Mechanics
In this paper we take a look at some aspects of Quantum Mechanics (otherwise known as Quantum Physics) that are of interest to non-scientists, but seem to be widely misunderstood. In particular, the terms "observer" and "measurement" are potentially misleading. So we start by introducing some key terms...
All quantum entities are fundamentally probabilistic rather than deterministic, and can behave as partices or waves depending upon the circumstances. This is known as "particle/wave duality".
Any property of a quantum entity, such as its position, has a range of values with given probabilities. So, unless a property, such as its position, is measured, it is not meaningful to ask where the entity actually is. It is simultaneously in all the positions. This is known as "quantum superposition".
Note: The term "measurement" does not mean only a process in which a physicist-observer takes part, but rather any interaction between a quantum object and its environment, regardless of any observer.
"Waveform collapse" is the term used to describe the way that the quantum superposition appears to collapse (or "decohere") into a discrete value when a property is measured. I say "appears" because it is far from certain whether quantum superposition and/or waveform collapse are actual physical phenomena. We will discuss the differing interpretations in due course...
The Uncertainty Principle
If one property of a sub-atomic particle is measured, such as its position, other properties, such as its momentum, are uncertain. The principle should not be confused with the observer effect...
The Observer Effect
The "observer effect" is sometimes, mistakenly, interpreted as providing scientific evidence that supports the philosophic view that reality is mind-dependent. That is not the case. It actually relates to the waveform collapse which is assumed to take place when a quantum entity interacts with its environment.
© copyright T L Hurst 2015